Filed under: Performance
Many people only think about performance nutrition in terms of what to eat just before or after a competition. However, the effect of nutrition on your training and performance starts long before. Performance nutrition really begins during training, when you consistently fuel your body with the proper amounts and kinds of calories and nutrients. The nutrition information in this article is meant to provide a solid foundation to help you train for sporting events, military operations, training events, or rucks lasting longer than 60 minutes. Read more...
Hills: They can cause your heart to race, lungs to hurt, muscles to burn, and brain to ask, “Why am I doing this?” But running hills is one of the best ways to get in shape, as long as you run them correctly. Your form is important for running uphill, just like it is for running on flat ground. Running uphill with bad form can cause unnecessary fatigue and perhaps injury over time. But there are a few things you can do to maintain proper form and boost your performance:
- Lean in from your ankles. That is, resist the urge to bend over or lean in at your waist, which puts all of the stress on your quadriceps (rather than getting help from your glutes, hamstrings, and lower leg muscles). It will cause you to fatigue sooner too.
- Swing your arms. Use the forward motion of your arms to help propel you up the hill. Exaggerating your normal arm swing a bit can help, but just make sure your arms are swinging front to back and not coming across your body.
- Drive your knees. Think about lifting your knees just a little bit more as you’re running uphill. This also will help propel you upwards.
- Shorten your steps. Your form might naturally change from midfoot strike to more of a forefoot strike when you’re running up hills, especially the steep ones. Shortening your stride will help keep you more upright and efficient when pushing yourself up the hill.
Strengthening your core and lower body can be particularly helpful for hill running. Planks, pushups, and vertical core exercises will help you maintain an upright posture. Lunges, reverse lunges, squats, and box jumps strengthen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings while also improving power. Calf raises and foot slaps will improve your lower leg strength and stability too.
Whether you’re on a treadmill or Heartbreak Hill, practice good form for optimal performance.
Posted 19 April 2017
Knowing your strengths is as important as knowing your weaknesses when it comes to optimizing performance. Strengths aren’t just those skills that make you perform well. They also make up the best of who you are. Most people are comfortable talking about their own flaws, but might not be as willing to explore their strengths and who they are at their best. Your strengths often reflect your values and how they show up in your daily behavior and attitude. You know you’re operating from strengths when they feel personally authentic, energize rather than exhaust you, and fuel your motivation from within.
If you want to discover your strengths, take the Character Strengths Test on the Values in Action (VIA) Institute on Character’s webpage. But discovering your strengths is just half the battle. The other half is learning how to bring them more fully to your role as a leader, parent, or friend. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Figure out how to creatively use your strengths every day. Doing so can make humdrum things more exciting, or it can help transform tasks that you might not enjoy doing. For example, maybe you really dislike morning PT. If you have the signature strength of “social intelligence,” perhaps you can shift your lens to view your morning workout as a time to connect with others and build friendships.
- Are your strengths getting in your way? The best of who you are can get you into trouble too. Part of using your strengths more effectively comes with thinking about the ways in which they aren’t working. For example, if you have the strength of “humor,” you might have noticed what happens when you crack a joke that’s inappropriate or ill-timed. Try to raise your awareness about how your strengths show up in those situations.
- Examine beliefs that might get in your way. People have beliefs about what they should or need to be in order to fulfill different roles in their lives. For example, you might believe that you can’t bring your character strength of “kindness” while in uniform because others might take advantage of you. You might want to think about whether those beliefs are indeed accurate, and ask yourself what benefits you might see if you try to be more of who you really are.
You probably spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways you need to improve yourself. That’s partly due to negativity bias, and because it’s healthy, functional, and contributes to your growth. To fully optimize your performance, don’t just focus on how to fix your weaknesses: Try to use your strengths to help cope with transitions, recover from illness, and handle other things too. Doing so enables you to be your best version of yourself—no matter where you go.
Military families play an important role in supporting Warfighters. Partners, children, and extended family members can strengthen their service member’s performance optimization by supporting total force fitness. Try these tips to help encourage your Warfighter’s health, well-being, and performance.
- Keep open lines of communication, despite the distance. Contact with family members during deployments helps service members feel supported and less lonely, so they can focus on the mission at hand.
- Be a team. Your family is stronger when you face life’s stresses together. A Warfighter benefits from knowing his or her family is a safe and consistent haven to return to, where—as a team—you’ll make it through tough experiences together.
- Offer helpful feedback. Spouses, significant others, and family members can provide vital feedback that enables thoughtful reflection on their Warfighter’s performance in uniform and at home. Colleagues and acquaintances might notice things that are going well and praise your Warfighter’s performance. Yet Warfighters are likely to depend on their families to help point out struggles or where there’s room for improvement.
- Move more. Physical fitness is critical for your Warfighter’s performance and readiness, and exercise often is a required part of daily activities. Plan time in your family schedule for your Warfighter to get his or her regular exercise. Working out on a regular basis is likely a high priority for Warfighters, and it’s a duty that shouldn’t be overlooked. Exercising as a family can help create an appreciation for the kind of physical fitness your Warfighter’s job requires.
- Fuel up for peak performance. Proper nutrition is vital to your Warfighter and other family members. Weekly meal planning can help ensure that your loved ones are properly fueled every day. Cooking together can bring your family closer and help relieve stress too. If your Warfighter is deployed, consider sending a care package with gum, spices, or favorite healthy snacks. And tell your loved one about favorite meals you’ll prepare upon her or his return!
Sleep lays the foundation for the health and well-being of service members and their families, but for many, it’s hard to get enough sleep to maintain optimal performance. Sleep loss impacts many domains of optimal functioning—whether you’re at home, at work, or on a mission. For example, trying to drive a vehicle on an empty tank of fuel isn’t a good idea, but many people routinely “operate” themselves on little or no sleep. In general, sleep deprivation can compromise your cognitive function, ability to manage emotions and handle stress, relationships with others, and physical and nutritional conditioning. Read more...
“Spring forward” isn’t just for your clocks! It’s the perfect time to ramp up and renew your health and wellness habits and practices, so you can perform your very best. Make sure to turn your clocks one hour ahead on Sunday, March 12, to mark the start of Daylight Saving Time for much of the continental U.S. Although you lose an hour of sleep, here are 6 ways to leverage the longer periods of daylight and spring your “performance” forward.
- Reset your sleep habits. Adjust your bedtime gradually in 15-minute increments each day leading up to the time change. For example, if your bedtime is 10 p.m., try going to sleep earlier the week before so that you can handle the time change when it arrives. And take naps to help make up for any sleep debt. If you’re not fully adjusted when Sunday arrives, remember that it’s okay to use naps to adapt to your new schedule.
- Make the most of mornings. The impact of the hour of sleep you lose will be temporary, but you can plan carefully to minimize its effects. The good news is you’ll be waking up to brighter skies, which can help you feel more alert and awake. Try to start your day with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation or yoga. Or simply set intentions for how you’ll approach your day.
- Change up your exercise routine. You adapted your exercise routine for the winter, and now is a good time to switch things up. Take a look at your current routine. Are there different activities you can try to test the boundaries of your physical fitness and improve your strength, endurance, and skill?
- Head outside. The warmer temperatures and longer days mean more opportunities to connect with nature. Exercising outdoors can calm your nervous system, help you recover from stressful events, and improve your overall well-being.
- Reevaluate goals. Your mind loves clear markers in time, such as adjusting the clock forward, to signal new starts. Review the goals and resolutions you set for yourself at the start of the year and use the after action review (AAR) process to conduct a quarterly assessment. Adjust or set new goals accordingly.
- Spring clean. Mess causes stress. Refresh and renew your home, but don’t stop at the ceiling fans and baseboards. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator and make space for new spring vegetables and fruits to boost your diet. Toss or donate unused items and clothing to unclutter your physical environment too.
Maintain optimal performance and make the transition smoother with these tips. For more information on sleep and performance, visit HPRC’s Sleep Optimization page.
In a Human Performance Optimization (HPO) Spotlight video, Army veteran Anthony Radetic discusses optimizing his performance as an elite athlete after becoming an incomplete paraplegic. He served as a helicopter pilot until he was injured in a motor vehicle accident that left him in a wheelchair.
Anthony talks about how he came to embrace competitive sports despite his injury. He discusses building his confidence and stamina to professionally compete in hand cycling, monoski racing, and jetski racing events. Anthony also describes how his mission changed after his injury, and how he learned to refocus himself to reach his optimized performance at home and during competitions. Check out the video below to learn more about his resilience.
Whatever you want to accomplish in 2017, those New Year’s resolutions are a good thing. Setting goals can help you achieve optimal performance. Use the tips below (based on recommendations from the American Psychological Association) to help you actually achieve those goals.
- One at a time. Trying to do everything at once can lead to burnout. Tackle one issue at a time instead: Break your goals into pieces you can build on.
- Start small. Pace yourself to go the distance. You might be eager to get started, but begin with the more manageable goals and build up to the really challenging ones.
- Share. Talk about your goals and progress with your family and friends. They can be your biggest supporters. It might help them understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and it even might interest them enough to join you.
- Ask your buddies. Getting help is a sign of strength. It can help reduce the stress of trying to reach your goals. If you’re struggling with one aspect of a goal, seek out advice and support. You also can get help from HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills, with evidence-based information that can help you progress towards your goals.
- Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection is an ever-moving—if not impossible—target, so don’t waste your time chasing it. Performance optimization is about being your best, not perfect. If you make mistakes, recover and get back on track—don’t abandon your goals. Learn from your mistakes instead, and you might find it brings your goals even closer.
For more information on how to become your best, check out HPRC’s Ten Rules of Engagement for performance enhancement.
Compression garments come in a variety of sleeves, socks, shorts, and full-body suits. The amount of pressure, or compression, they provide depends on the type and size of the garment. Compression garments help push blood toward your heart and prevent it from “pooling” or collecting in the compressed areas. Compression sleeves also are used in clinical settings for those with lymphedema, where blood circulation is poor, or to prevent blood clots.
But can they increase your performance and decrease your recovery times? Compression garments have been shown to help blood flow to working muscles during exercise, but that necessarily doesn’t translate to better performance. Most studies look at compression socks during running, and most evidence suggests no difference in athletes’ performance levels during runs when compared to those not wearing compression socks. In addition, there’s no decrease in recovery time or blood-lactate levels.
Still, those wearing compression socks report “feeling better” and “less tiredness” in their legs during their runs. They also feel less sore following the exercise bout. And while there might not be an actual benefit of wearing compression gear, if you feel better wearing it—either during or after exercise—then keep doing what works!
Creatine supplements are popular among athletes and Warfighters trying to enhance their strength and muscle size. Unlike many other supplements, there is considerable evidence that taking creatine supplements might result in greater gains in body mass and strength when combined with resistance training. However, not all athletes or Warfighters will experience the same benefits from consuming creatine supplements, especially those focused on endurance training. And although there are few safety concerns associated with creatine, it’s still important to use it under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Read more...