Tag Archives: fitness

Tips for Staying Positive during Uncertain Times

Relaxed adult man breathing fresh air in a forestCurrent conversations about COVID-19 are pervasive. Whether you’re talking to your fellow Sailors in-person about the latest updates or connecting with friends and family digitally, concern about the impact of COVID-19 remains widespread across the globe. Uncertainty and ambiguous situations can often produce negative emotions, but there are many healthy ways to cope.

If you are finding yourself with limited mobility or feeling a heightened sense of stress, you are not alone. Consider these activities and related NavyNavStress blog posts for improving your health and well-being:

Reach out to your support network. Since social distancing continues to be recommended by federal public health professionals, it is important to determine new and creative ways to connect with your loved ones. Consider setting up regular times to video chat with your friends, plan virtual dinner dates with your long-distance partner or organize a digital happy hour with your friends or colleagues. You can also do a workout routine with a shipmate over a video chat and send funny photos or memes to your friends to let them know you care. For more:

Maintain your healthy habits. If your typical work and family routine feels disrupted, remain flexible in upholding your established activities. Go on walks for fresh air and cook meals with your family. Reframe this uncertain time as an opportunity to even develop new practices to improve your well-being. Be kind to yourself and others when adjusting to new schedules. For more:

Practice mindfulness. With the news changing every day, it may feel like you’ve lost a sense of control over your psychological and emotional wellness. Take time to push pause and cultivate gratitude for the little joys in life. Relish in small, positive tasks like reading a book or writing a letter to a loved one. You may have more time to dedicate to activities that fall by the wayside during your normal daily responsibilities. For more:

To learn more about mental health in the time of COVID-19, check out the following posts:

For the latest military-centric updates on COVID-19, visit the following resource hubs:

For additional holistic health and wellness tips, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Is it SAD or the Winter Blues?

Sad smiley emoticon face drawn on snow covered glass

If you find yourself feeling down during the coldest months of the year, you’re not alone. Whether on a ship or working shore duty, it can be challenging for Sailors to get outside and reap the benefits of natural sunlight, especially in winter.

Many people face the “winter blues” – a generally mild sadness that’s usually linked to something specific, like stressful holidays or reminders of absent friends or loved ones. The winter blues are unpleasant but usually short-term in duration. More severe sadness that sticks around longer may indicate that you are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and not just the winter blues.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about five percent of Americans suffer from SAD, a form of depression that can last 40 percent of the year and is usually most severe in January and February in the U.S. SAD is a clinical disorder that must be diagnosed by a professional.

SAD, like other forms of depression, can be debilitating, with symptoms that may affect every aspect of daily life. Some common symptoms include fatigue, mood swings and changes in appetite. The effects of SAD are typically seen in the winter months when there is less sunlight (though this may vary with geographic location) and symptoms usually improve with the arrival of spring. Whether it’s SAD or the more-common winter blues, there are steps you can take to help yourself and your shipmates.

Why Winter?

We all have an internal biological or circadian clock. This 24-hour “master clock” uses cues in your surroundings to help keep you awake and to help you sleep. Our circadian clocks are highly sensitive to changes in light and dark. When days are shorter and nights are longer, the body’s internal rhythm can be altered, and lead to changes in two specific chemicals, melatonin and serotonin.

At night, a gland in the brain produces and releases melatonin, a chemical that helps you sleep. Changes in season and sunlight can disrupt the normal levels of melatonin, contributing to disrupted sleep patterns and mood changes. Serotonin is a brain chemical affecting mood, and reduced sunlight can cause serotonin levels to plummet.

Lack of direct exposure to sunlight can also lead to deficiencies in Vitamin D. Strong associations have been found between vitamin D deficiency and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Many who are Vitamin D deficient don’t know it,” said CAPT Tara Smith, Ph.D., clinical psychologist assigned to OPNAV N171. “it’s very hard to get outside the skin of the ship and feel the sun on your face underway, and even in Iraq you’re completely covered. Although it’s a sunny 135 degrees, you’re not getting any sun on your skin.” Being Vitamin D deficient can contribute to sadness, especially in winter.

Beating the Blues

There are several treatments used to help those suffering from seasonal mood changes. For SAD, these can include talk therapy, light treatments, vitamin regimens or medications. Although symptoms of the winter blues usually improve with the change of season there are a few ways you can help your body adjust:

  • Optimize your sleep. Fatigue can affect mood, performance, memory and judgement. Aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, preferably at the same time each day. If you can’t get that amount of uninterrupted sleep, compensating with a nap has proven benefits. Crew Endurance, developed by Naval Postgraduate School with collaboration from Navy’s Operational Stress Control Program, offers practical tips, research and operational tools for promoting adequate rest.
  • Choose foods that help to balance your mood. Studies indicate people who suffer from SAD may have lower levels of serotonin in the winter months. A balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can provide a natural source of serotonin. Try a breakfast of steel cut oatmeal, bananas and eggs for a mood-balancing boost. Check out this post for additional tips.
  • Go for a workout outdoors. It may be chilly, but exercising outdoors when possible during daytime hours can help you soak up some Vitamin D even when it’s not particularly sunny. Plus, physical activity improves your mood, helps you sleep, increases endurance and helps you navigate stress. Round up a few shipmates and go for a run around the flight-deck, try a group fitness class on your installation, sweat it out on the yoga mat or get fit with interval training.

When to Seek Help

It’s important to recognize that SAD is a serious condition and is characterized by the same symptoms as other forms of depression. Signs may include a sustained feeling of depression that occurs most days and most of every day, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, low energy and feelings of sluggishness, hopelessness or agitation. Sometimes, symptoms may start off mild and progress in severity over time. Symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency can mimic SAD, but also include issues like joint pain. If you suspect a Vitamin D deficiency, a simple visit to your Primary Care Manager (PCM) for a blood test can determine your levels, Smith said.

No one has to try and navigate seasonal depression or SAD alone. Reach out to a mental health provider at your command, installation or nearest military treatment facility, or seek confidential non-medical counseling from Military OneSource. If you feel hopeless or are thinking of suicide, get immediate help through the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1.

For more information on psychological health and navigating stress, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

Think You Need Equipment to Exercise? Think again!

Think You Need Gym Equipment Blog Image

Editor’s Note: In honor of Navy Fitness Month, LCDR Heath Clifford of the Navy Physical Readiness Program has provided Every Sailor, Every Day with the second installment of how to exercise with limited space and gym equipment. Learn how to work out on a time, space and equipment “budget” and check out the newest minimalist fitness workouts below!

It has been well documented that one of the best ways to alleviate stress is through exercise.  Sailors face many challenges in balancing family life with the Navy’s current operational tempo.  In this crunch for time, all too often physical fitness is placed on the back burner.  Combine the lack of time and limits of space and equipment, Sailors find it difficult to maintain an adequate level of fitness especially during periods of deployment, causing stress levels to soar.  Utilizing input from over 750 Sailors, in 2009 Navy Subject Matter Experts worked closely with Athletes’ Performance Institute (API) to develop a program that would combat these barriers.

What is Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System?

The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) is designed to provide the Navy with a “world class” training resource for fleet Sailors.  Using the latest sports science methodologies, NOFFS combines both human performance and injury prevention strategies, resulting in safer training while yielding positive human performance outcomes.  The exercises used in the NOFFS system are designed to replicate the activities Sailors conduct in their operational duties: lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying.

The NOFFS contains four specialized series tailored for use on submarines, surface ships, large decks, and for group physical training.  Designed specifically for real-world space and equipment limitations, these four categories provide Sailors three different levels of exercises that are based on current fitness and capability and can be used safely without supervision or direction.

A Pentagon of Parts.

The training session will consist of 5 training components:

  1. Pillar Preparation: consists of your hips, torso and shoulders and represents the foundation for all your movement.  “Pillar Prep” primes these critical muscles to prepare your body for the work ahead- helping to protect you from injury and boost your performance during your training session.
  2. Movement Preparation: lengthen, strengthen, and stabilize your body.  “Movement Prep” consists of a series of active and dynamic stretches to help you to move.
  3. Strength: strengthen the movements needed to perform on an operational platform.  Close attention must be payed to the quality of your movement.  Select a resistance that you feel challenged with for the number of reps prescribed (body weight to bands).
  4. Cardiovascular Fitness: boost your endurance, leg strength and speed through a variety of interval training options.  The movements in this component are designed to target and develop your energy systems while efficiently burning calories.
  5. Recovery: a critical component to any training program, recovery brings balance back to your body, helping to relieve tension and the associated aches and pains while enhancing your body’s response to the training.

Break a Sweat!

The following is a challenging total body workout from the Surface Ship Series to be utilized in a confined space environment with limited equipment.  All 5 training components are addressed in this workout.

NOFFS SUFACE SHIP SERIES – LEVEL 1

Pillar Preparation (1 circuit/6 reps)

  1. Pillar Bridge (hold 30 seconds)
  2. Glute Bridge (hold 30 second)
  3. Y’s – Deck
  4. 90/90 Stretch

Movement Preparation (1 circuit/4 reps)

  1. Mini Band – External Rotation
  2. Reverse Lunge, Elbow to Instep – Kneeling
  3. Lateral Squat – Alternating
  4. Knee Hug – In Place
  5. Drop Lunge
  6. Inverted Hamstring w/ Support

Strength

Circuit 1 (x2/8 reps):
1.       Glute Bridge (reps)
2.       Push Up (Standard)
3.       Squat w/Mini Band
4.       Y’s – Bent Over (Bands)
Circuit 2 (x1/8 reps)
1.       Lateral Squat – Low Alternating
2.       Overhead Press – ½ Kneeling (bands)
3.       Lateral Pillar Bridge (30 sec hold/each side)
4.       Straight Leg Lowering – Alternating

Cardiovascular Fitness:  Perform each movement for 15 seconds and immediately transition into the next movement for the duration of the circuit. Rest 90 seconds between circuits, then repeat the circuit.

  1. Reverse Lunge – Alternating
  2. Pillar Bridge w/Arm Lift
  3. Lateral Lunge – alternating
  4. Forward Lunge, Elbow to Instep – w/Rotation
  5. Plank Running
  6. Single Leg Balance – Alphabet
  7. Split Squat – Alt. 5 sec Holds
  8. Drop Lunge – Alternating

Recovery (no equipment needed):  Hold each stretch for 2 seconds while exhaling, then relax back to the start position and continue for 10 reps each.  DO NOT BOUNCE through the end range of the stretch.

  1. Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch
  2. Knee Hug – Supine
  3. Leg Cradle – Supine
  4. Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch – ½ kneeling
  5. Triceps Stretch
  6. 90/90 w/Arm Sweep

Learn More:

NOFFS continues to grow in popularity fleet-wide. CFLs are being taught introductory courses within the 5-day initial certification course and can also receive short course certification through the CFL 2-day seminars.  For more information on the complete NOFFS Series, including exercises videos, visit https://www.navyfitness.org/fitness/noffs-training or download the NOFFS app online.

About the Blogger:

LCDR Heath Clifford, OPNAV N17 CFL Program Manager, is a certified Aerospace Physiologist by the Aerospace Medical Association with 14 years’ experience as a Naval Aerospace/Operational Physiologist with expertise in Exercise Physiology and Water Survival Training as well.  He is an avid swimmer and outdoor enthusiast and believes that nutrition, sleep, and fitness are the foundations of mission readiness and operational success.

5 Benefits of Working Out with a Buddy

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post provided courtesy of Guard Your Health. More information and tools are available at www.guardyourhealth.com.

We all know that staying fit and exercising is important. We also know that staying motivated to work out on a regular basis can be hard.

That’s why finding a good workout buddy is one of the smartest fitness moves you can make. Working out with a buddy can give you:

1. Motivation

When you work out by yourself, it’s easy to lose motivation. A buddy will support you and cheer you on to help you reach your fitness goals.

2. Accountability

It’s easy to bail on your own workout. But it’s much harder to ditch a workout when you know you’re going to be letting someone else down. Having a reliable workout buddy will help you stick to your goals.

3. Friendly Competition

As humans, we like to be competitive—even if it’s just good, friendly competition among friends. A buddy will challenge and push you to do more than you might do alone.

4. Companionship

Working out can be boring, especially during long cardio sessions. Having a buddy to talk with while working out will make the time go by faster.

5. Workout Variety

A buddy can share new exercises or workouts so that you can switch up your routine. This will keep your workouts fresh, as well as keep you motivated to try new moves.

So who qualifies as a good workout buddy? Here are some tips of what to look for when choosing one:

  • A good attitude. You want someone who is encouraging and positive.
  • A compatible style of motivation. You may need a drill sergeant to get motivated, or maybe a cheerleader.
  • Similar schedules. You want someone who is dependable, as well as available to consistently work out with you at the same times.
  • Similar fitness goals. You need to share similar fitness goals to be effective workout partners.
  • You want someone who makes working out enjoyable and even fun.

Finding a workout buddy can be as easy as looking around the gym during your workout, or calling a fitness-minded friend.

Want More?

Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of Guard Your Health (www.guardyourhealth.com), a health and medical readiness campaign for Army National Guard Soldiers and their families sponsored by the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon’s Office. Guard Your Health provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the information, motivation, and support to overcome challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their units. To learn more about improving your health, visit the Guard Your Health website, like “Guard Your Health” on Facebook, and follow @ARNGHealth on Twitter. For more tips to max your APFT and stay mission ready, subscribe to FitText, Guard Your Health’s text message program, by texting FIT to 703-997-6747.

Seasonal Self-Care for Military Families

red autumn in the park

“Sweater weather” is here, but there’s more to the fall season than overhauling your family’s wardrobe by swapping bathing suits and sandals for warm jackets and boots. Though cleaning is typically associated with the spring, the fall season is synonymous with change and is an opportunity to clear out the excess and the negative from our lives, tune-up our engines and start fresh. As you notice the leaves starting to change color, the sun setting earlier and the days getting cooler, take a look at how your family’s schedules and routines may have transformed since the summer months as well. The fall season is a good time to evaluate, adjust or establish self-care strategies for yourself and your family to help everyone keep an even keel leading into the holiday season.

In the post Being There for Others Starts with Being There for Yourself, self-care is described as “your oxygen mask for everyday life and unpredictable moments alike.” It includes tending to basic needs that may sometimes fall by the wayside during busy times, such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. Self-care also includes coping skills and strategies to help you regroup and decompress. Good self-care can be challenge for many and is unique for everyone. Check out these ideas to get your entire family on a path to restoring, revitalizing and recharging your self-care routines this fall:

  1. Give Your Fitness Routine a Facelift. Exercise is an overlooked but important type of self-care. Our daily lives are often dictated by schedules and sometimes run on auto-pilot. When things pop up and throw us off course, workout time may be the first thing to go. But exercising isn’t merely a tool to promote physical health or just another item on the to-do list. Your workout can also serve as a daily escape from routine and challenges. If you can’t make it to the gym to take your usual run on the treadmill, move your run outdoors to enjoy the fall foliage, cooler temperatures and convenience that nature has to offer. While building your workout into your regular routine is ideal, switching it up will help you meet your goals without causing your fitness gains to plateau or your schedule to spin out of control. Whether you get in 30 minutes of cardio at the gym or on the trail, you’re still caring for your mental and physical strength. Check out other workouts you can try here.
  1. Make Good Zzz’s a Priority. As we adjust to winding the clocks back an hour, make an effort to help your family build better sleep habits. Creating a sleep-ready environment, following a consistent and relaxing sleep ritual, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime (such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine) are all examples of healthy sleep habits that you and your family can incorporate into your self-care practices. A good night’s sleep is so vital, that even slight deprivation beyond the recommended seven to nine hours can negatively affect performance, memory, mood, judgment and healthy stress navigation. In fact, research demonstrates that after only one day without sleep, even young, healthy service members lose 25 percent of their ability to think clearly [1]. For more sleep tips, check out Human Performance Resource Center’s Sleep Optimization section for strategies, apps, assessments and tools.
  1. Make Time for Play Time. Even though it is sometimes dismissed as unproductive, “recess” is just as essential for adults as it is for kids. Play is important for many aspects of our lives, boosting creativity, improving relationships and connection with others, fostering problem-solving skills, improving brain function and fueling emotional well-being. Rather than adding to your sensory overload from electronic gadgets, find unstructured activities that allow you to unplug while having fun and enjoying yourself. Fall provides the perfect backdrop for investing in some play time. Carve or paint a pumpkin with friends or family, jump in a pile of leaves, go apple-picking, attend a local fall festival, or go hiking.
  1. Practice Gratitude. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to share what you’re thankful for; start now to cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout the year. New Small ACT Selfie signs with a seasonal twist are now available, providing you and your family with the opportunity to jot down what you’re grateful for, take a photo with the sign, and submit to navysuicideprevention@gmail.com for publishing in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery on Flickr and Facebook. To keep the practice going, create a gratitude jar and place it in a high-traffic area in your home with small strips of paper and a pen or pencil nearby. Encourage everyone to write down one or two things for which they’re grateful and take a moment to reflect on what life would look like without those things. Whenever challenges arise or anyone needs a motivational boost, pull a strip from the jar.

The onset of the holiday season often sneaks up on us, placing increased demands on our time, wallets and relationships, as well as our physical and emotional health. This year, don’t let taking care of yourself fall by the wayside; make it a priority for your entire family so that you can each find simple and healthy ways to navigate stress, restore a sense of Controllability and enjoy all that the season has to offer. Practicing healthy self-care habits is one way to be there for yourself, your family and Every Sailor, Every Day.