This article was originally published by Tara Mogan Blom, MMC, ABC, on LinkedIn.
Basketball has been part of my life since I was 10.
My father, who also loved the game, spent many, many weekends helping me perfect my free throw, jump shot and, yes, even a hook shot. We played thousands of rounds of “HORSE” (or “PIG,” if short on time), which included such criteria as “from the corner of the foul line, close one eye and stand on one foot…”
I reached 5’10” by my freshman year of high school. Back then, tall girls were rare at my high school. I skipped junior varsity, securing a spot on the varsity team out of the gate.
Coach Turner conditioned the team with “suicides.” These are full-throttle sprints from the baseline to baseline and every line in between. We ran dozens of these in any given practice, until someone dropped or coughed up blood. She was a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” kind of coach.
Although basketball was a mixed bag of lessons learned, nearly 35 years later, it’s still my happy place. I associate it with memories of my late father more than the grueling workouts. It’s also a favorite go-to for strategic communications planning. Here’s why:
- It makes my brain work better. Harvard Health reports that exercise reduces inflammation and releases chemicals that enhance brain cell health, improving thinking and memory.
- It boosts my confidence. Now I realize my lungs aren’t in the shape they used to be, even though I opt in for sprints or running stairs as part of my training now and then. But when I can still hit a nothing-but-net jump shot and an occasional hook shot at my age, it reminds me of how capable I am, on and off the court.
- It improves my mood. We all fall into a foul mood now and then. A single round of high-impact exercise improves mood and relieves depression and anxiety, according to Cleveland Clinic.
- It clears my head. Basketball is a technical sport. Once I start shooting, my mind focuses on things like body alignment and follow through. I imagine a formidable defender waiting to block my shot as I maneuver around or pump-fake and score while they’re off balance. The tangled mess of stress that was in my head before I started playing fades away, clearing a path for new ideas.
- I have more to give. Most professional communicators work long hours, including nights and weekends, especially when managing crisis communications or media relations. It’s easy to sacrifice time for self-care. I can’t give my clients 110% if I don’t have it to give. Exercise, especially basketball (for me), minimizes distractions that come from lethargy, illness or injury, which often result from poor self-care. I can’t remember the last time I took a sick day.
Many of my best game plans come from intense workouts. Fresh ideas flow while cooling down, driving home or when I hit the showers. I keep a pen and notepad nearby to rack up those points for my clients.
Whether your “happy place” is basketball, running, skiing, dancing, yoga or long walks with the dog, motivate yourself to get moving. When you feel better, you perform better for yourself, your loved ones, your clients and your community.
Tara Mogan Blom, MMC, ABC
A strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and certified holistic coach, Tara Mogan Blom, MMC, ABC, is the founder of DGA Communications. She is an accredited member of IABC, serving as a member of the IABC Catalyst Subcommittee.