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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

The buzz on caffeinated gum

Can caffeinated gum improve performance in Warfighters?

Caffeinated gum is a quick and efficient way for Warfighters to consume caffeine in order to improve physical performance and maintain cognitive capabilities temporarily during situations that demand vigilance. Because the caffeine is absorbed through tissues in the mouth, it enters the bloodstream faster than foods, beverages, and supplements do. In addition to the rapid absorption of caffeine, caffeinated gum offers other benefits such as being lightweight, compact, and providing caffeine in an appropriate amount when needed. However, caffeinated gum might not always be the best choice depending on your situation, needs, and preferences. Read more...

Olympic lessons for career-defining moments

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
It’s time for the Summer Olympics! What can you learn from Olympians about performing when facing a career-defining moment?

Olympians can teach the rest of us how to perform our best during career-defining moments. While we all can’t compete in the Olympic Games, we can relate to those instances when the pressure’s on and it’s time to perform.

What helps Olympic athletes meet or exceed expectations? Successful team members train together, receive helpful support from friends and family, develop sharp mental skills, stay focused, and honor their commitment to the task and each other. Teams that fail to meet expectations lack experience and have problems bonding. And they tend to face planning or travel issues, problems with coaching, distractions, and commitment issues. Often the best you can do is set routines that guide your attention to actions—within your control—whether you’re an Olympian or someone who values achievement.

Just like your career-defining event only happens once or a few times during your career, athletes know the Olympic Games are unique, rare, and unlike other events. They understand what they’re doing is important. And they’re in the public eye, facing new distractions everywhere.

They’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time preparing and planning for these big events too. It’s natural for an athlete to think, “This is the first time I ever...” Being a “favorite” can come with even more pressure and thoughts such as, “Don’t screw up!”

Nearly all Olympic athletes experience nerves. However, they can experience “butterflies” as excitement to some degree, rather than nervousness. Facing nervousness can be more effective than fighting it or pretending it’s not there. When Olympians or you—during career-defining moments—shift focus to little action plans within your control, gold medals and big successes can be wonderful by-products.

Co-parenting after divorce

Divorce is a big adjustment for many kids. Learn how to co-parent after your marriage ends.

Divorce often means big changes for a family. When kids are involved, it’s essential to put their needs first and help them feel secure.

Children are less likely to feel stigmatized or “labeled” by their parents’ breakup since divorce is more common and acceptable today. Still, the changes that go along with it often result in some stress and pain for a family. Children might experience sadness, worry, regret, and longing for the family to remain intact. After learning that their parents plan to divorce, most kids go through some short-term behavioral or emotional issues too. However, most adjust well to their new family structure and tend to improve their behavior over the long term. Read more...

If the shoe fits—Part 1: Wear patterns

Filed under: Gear, Running
What’s your wear pattern? Learn how to find the right running shoes.

There are so many different kinds of running shoes out there, it’s hard to know which ones you should be wearing. Although there are many factors that affect injury risk, choosing the correct shoes might help prevent running injuries.

The military once recommended buying shoes simply based on your arch height: flat, normal, or high. And some exchanges still use the arch-height system to categorize their shoes. Arch height can influence your foot strike, but it doesn’t always accurately indicate running style.

You can ask the pros at any specialty running store to help you choose the correct shoes. But there are other ways to figure out what “kind” of runner you are and which kinds of shoes are best. However, if you’re already wearing shoes that have been fitted for your running style—and you’re not experiencing any serious injuries—then keep running! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Find your wear pattern: Use the chart below to compare your wear pattern (on the sole of your shoe) with what you’re already wearing. Look at the inner side of your shoe (sides facing each other). Motion-control and stability shoes typically have gray (or different color) foam near the midsole to heel: The foam should feel harder than what’s on the outsole. Shoes with harder foam covering a larger area—highlighted in yellow on the chart below—provide more stability and/or motion control. 

 PNG for Running Shoe Wear Patterns

Tip: Wear your running shoes for running only! Wearing them for other activities can change the wear patterns and cause them to wear out faster.

This is the first in a series of HPRC articles with guidelines to help you choose the best running shoe. Part 2 will provide tips and tricks to help you get the perfect fit.

World Hepatitis Day

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Hepatitis, Nutrition
World Hepatitis Day is on July 28. Learn about raising worldwide awareness to influence changes in disease prevention, testing, and treatment.

On World Hepatitis Day, millions of people help raise awareness about preventing and treating viral hepatitis. The disease—inflammation of the liver caused by virus—results in 1.4 million deaths worldwide each year. Over 5 million Americans are infected with the most common forms: Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. And an estimated 4–17% of veterans don’t know they’re infected. However, unless you or someone you know has the virus, you’re a healthcare provider, or travel internationally, you probably know little about this disease.

Left untreated, hepatitis can damage your liver, a vital organ that filters blood and produces important proteins. Jaundice—yellowing of the skin and eyes—is a major symptom. Other symptoms can include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal issues. It’s harder to diagnose hepatitis because many of these symptoms are common to other ailments too. The good news is that vaccination, early testing, diagnosis, and treatment can help save lives.

Take the necessary steps to prevent hepatitis. Practice safe food handling. Wash your hands well or use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer. Avoid blood-to-blood contact: Don’t share razors or needles. If you decide to get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the facility uses sterile needles. Check with your doctor about available vaccines too.

If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis, then follow a healthy-eating plan to boost your liver health. Work towards achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight. Being overweight is linked to fatty liver, which can put you at higher risk of cirrhosis. Limit alcohol because it also can lead to serious liver disease. Eat a nutritious diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Coffee consumption can lower the risk of liver disease progression and cirrhosis. And it can help improve your response to hepatitis treatment. So, drink it if you like it. And check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements because some can further damage your liver.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page to learn more about viral hepatitis. Remember to help raise awareness about World Hepatitis Day too. And ask your healthcare provider about getting tested if you suspect you might be infected. Seek treatment early.

Image of World Hepatitis Day 2016 infographic

Mental flexibility beats forced positivity

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Feeling anxious or down? Find out how awareness and mental flexibility is more important than thinking other, specific thoughts.

Forcing yourself to “just think positively,” especially if you’re feeling sad or anxious, typically doesn’t work. New perspectives can be wonderful, but they can’t be forced. Typically, it isn’t specific thoughts that can make you feel better; it’s the flexibility to recognize that there’s more than one way to look at a situation.

Remember: Thinking about something doesn’t always make it true. For instance, you might believe, “My NCO thinks I’m incompetent.” Instead, you might take comfort in thinking, “My NCO pushes hard, but he knows I’m good at what I do”—if you really believe it. Still, it could lead to an internal debate: “He thinks I stink. No, he knows I’m good. He thinks I’m a loser,” and so on. But recognizing there are many ways to interpret your NCO’s behavior can be helpful, as you simply move forward and do what’s needed.

You’re not burying your feelings and you aren’t fighting them: You’re using this mindfulness and acceptance-based approach to become aware of thoughts and feelings, let them fade into the background, and focus on what’s important. It’s tempting to fight negative emotions, but the fight itself often makes things worse. Picture someone saying, “Don’t be anxious/sad/mad/frustrated,” and you’ll likely feel the emotion that much more strongly as you either try to push it away or cling to it. Be present: Tune into your feelings and face what’s happening. Let the experience come and watch it go.

Mindfulness in daily life might seem simple, but it’s not. Practice the skill and enjoy slowly becoming better at it!

CHAMP hosts workshop on steroids

A recent workshop on appearance- and performance-enhancing substances emphasizes that anabolic steroid use is a major health problem.

The Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) hosted a workshop last week (July 21, 2016) on appearance- and performance-enhancing substances. Subject-matter experts from Harvard University, the University of Missouri, and the Department of Defense spoke about androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) and how the use of AAS has emerged as a major public-health problem, particularly among young male weightlifters. The exact number of military members using AAS is not known, but there is known use, and it might be higher than expected. The panel discussed the impact of AAS on military readiness—potential risks and potential benefits—and the need for more research in this area.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has some good resources on AAS, particularly their short- and long-term effects. And for information about other performance-enhancing substances, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS)

Exercise and breathing in summer

Exercising outside on hot, humid summer days might do more harm than good. Find out how to beat the heat!

Exercising outdoors can be uncomfortable and sometimes unhealthy when it’s hot and humid, but there are ways to work out through the weather woes. You’re more likely to breathe faster and deeper and through your mouth—bypassing your nose’s natural filtration system—on hot days. You also risk greater exposure to air pollutants (such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and ozone) that can inflame your respiratory system. However, the risks associated with not exercising at all are far greater than the risks of exercising outdoors.

So, plan ahead before exercising outside. And limit your exposure to pollutants, especially on days and in conditions when pollution is bad.

  • Avoid exercising in heavy-traffic areas, such as along highways and during rush hour.
  • During warmer months, exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when ozone levels and temperatures aren’t as high.
  • Check the domestic or international air-quality ratings to determine when it’s safe to exercise outside. Limit your time outside on Code Red and Code Orange days. Environmental conditions on these days aren’t healthy, especially for children, the elderly, and those with existing respiratory conditions.
  • Exercise indoors when the air quality indicates high ozone and particulate levels.
  • Before any demanding physical activity, limit your carbon monoxide exposure by avoiding smoky areas and long car rides in congested traffic.

Free summer fun for military families

Take advantage of free admission to national parks and over 2,000 museums and nature centers this summer. Grab your kids and go!

Plan some indoor and outdoor adventures with your kids this summer and enjoy free admission to national parks and museums across the country. Hiking, camping, and learning activities are good for their minds and bodies. 

The amount of time children spend outdoors is steadily decreasing. Kids now spend more time inside—staring at screens—and less time outside. Your feelings about outdoor recreation likely impact how much time your kids spend outside too. Still, children who camp and hike tend to have more positive attitudes towards nature and the environment. Those who enjoy the outdoors tend to enjoy it as adults too.

Kids get more exercise at parks and playgrounds. So, shake things up by taking them to any national park: Free annual passes are available to current U.S. service members and their families, as well as Reserve and National Guard members.

Military families also can enjoy free admission to over 2,000 nature centers and art, science, history, and children’s museums through Labor Day. Museums encourage active learning and impact kids’ social and mental development. Little ones especially enjoy hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, and new learning experiences with their parents at children’s museums. And it keeps them on the go.

Pack water and snacks, plan your route, practice safe sun, and get out there!

Free summer meals for kids

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Some children and teens are vulnerable to hunger and poor nutrition, especially during the summer months when school is out. Learn how the Summer Meals Program keeps them healthy.

Some children go hungry during the summer months, especially those who receive free meals during the school year. Poor nutrition makes them prone to illness and other health issues too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to fill this nutrition gap—by providing free meals to eligible kids and teens (up to age 18) at summer meal sites—through its Summer Meals Program.

Sites include schools, community centers, libraries, parks, playgrounds, and faith-based centers. Some also offer activities, games, music, and crafts to help kids learn about the benefits of healthy nutrition and physical fitness. Check out USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder or call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 to learn more. Follow the USDA’s Eat Smart to Play Hard recommendations and take the “Family Challenge” to stay healthy too.

  • Drink smart to play hard. Avoid sugary drinks and drink water often.
  • Try more fruits and vegetables. On “Try-day Fridays,” eat a new fruit or vegetable, or enjoy one prepared in a new way.
  • Limit screen time to 2 hours each day. Read books, play board games, or work on art projects instead.
  • Move more—at least 60 minutes each day. Go outside for a family walk or hike. Or cool off at a public swimming pool.

Reward your family’s healthy moves with a picnic or visit to a local park. And have fun experiencing new ways to feel your best this summer. 

 

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