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“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda tells Luke, in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s one of my favorite quotes of all time. After 25 years as a physiologist, I know this Jedi wisdom applies to physical exercise. You either do—or do not.

Silence your inner bully and find a compassionate voice as your daily exercise companion

It might be walking to the store or taking the stairwell at the office. Every choice to be more active is great. Do it again tomorrow and the next day. Next to “There is no try,” my favorite quote comes from Nike, “Just do it.”

Many people blame a lack of equipment or bad weather, but they are are never the real problem when you slack off. The answer always lies within you. (See Ornish Living article Getting the Motivation!)

Know Your Driver

When I was in my twenties, I competed in baseball, basketball and tennis tournaments. I loved the competition—and I loved being in great shape. I was fast, could jump high, and had so much endurance I could play sports for hours and still want more.

Then, life changed, as it so often does. At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with severe arthritis and herniated discs in my neck. I could still play tennis, but my doctors decreed that both baseball and basketball put me at risk of a spinal cord injury.

Over the next five years, I kept thinking I needed a new wintertime sport to replace basketball. In the spring, I’d ramp up to prepare for summer tennis and the tournament season. Tennis was my big dose of competition! But in the fall and winter, weeks and even months would go by when I didn’t exercise much, if at all.

By then, I’d worked in healthcare for a decade, and seen exercise help thousands of people with heart disease. Yet I was still getting bored and slacking off when I didn’t have the thrill of competition.

Meditation Made the Difference

Nearly ten years ago, I began meditating for a half hour a day, and over time built up to an hour. I found this routine easy to maintain. And the regular dose of stillness made me see what I care about most: a long, active life with my wife and children.

After about six months of regular meditation, I was back to a consistent exercise routine, year round, knowing that longevity was my goal. I’m doing everything I can in order to play sports with my kids, and maybe grandkids, too.

  • My routine is much like what I recommend to my clients:
  • the gym three times a week for 45 minutes of aerobics and 20 minutes of strength training.
  • I also enjoy walks and play tennis one to two times a week for fun.
  • I am physically active every day in some way.
  • I still compete in the occasional tennis tournament, and train more intensely for those. I’ll confess that writing “tennis for fun,” makes me want to grit my teeth. I’m that competitive.
  • My meditation time helps me accept that my exercise doesn’t have to be as strenuous or focused as it was when I considered myself a competitive athlete.
  • I had knee surgery in March. For almost three months, I had to stay off my knee. But I’m already coming back. I know I will return to my old self. I know longevity is my goal.

Think About Your History

When you’re struggling with motivation to exercise, it’s important to think about your history. How have you pursued exercise goals throughout your life?  I needed to change the story in my head about Phil the competitive athlete and focus on Phil the Dad. If you’ve encountered heart trouble, your life story now includes those scary moments. You get to be the author of your next chapters.

Don’t ever linger in self-blame. Silence your inner bully and find a compassionate voice as your daily exercise companion. (See Ornish Living article, Turning Mistakes Into Motivation) You can grow the passion, determination, and focus that come from moving each and every day.

My kids, now 11 and nine, practice martial arts. We have fun playing basketball, baseball and Frisbee. I’m looking forward to playing driveway basketball with grandkids and cheering them on at tournaments.

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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