Life

Lianne Laing’s Latest Challenge

“As a competitive person, I wanted to feel challenged, inspired, and motivated. I needed a new purpose in life. By taking this leap, I knew that I would find it.”

That’s Lianne Laing—athlete, media personality, wife, mother, and community activist—talking about the spiritual uplift afforded by her latest professional transition. After a two-decade career in television, taking her from ages 22 to 42, the former sports anchor and host of CTV Morning Live is now leading the philanthropic charge for one of the city’s greatest sources of pride, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

In some ways, it’s hardly a change; after all, Laing has always been eager to serve the greater Ottawa community and beyond. “As soon as I started working in television, community involvement was critical,” she reminds us. “I was a board member of the Snowsuit Fund for almost 15 years and an ambassador for The Ottawa Senators Foundation. I was also on the board of the Youth Services Bureau. I probably worked with every major charity there is, hosting events or being part of other initiatives.” Combining her athletic prowess with her need to give, Laing even once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money.

Photography by Nicolai Gregory, Hair & Makeup by Salon Fiorella

The new job, which takes her charitable instincts to new heights, is more in tune with her current lifestyle. At mid-life, the still impressively fit Laing is on the brink of 22 years of marriage, which has given her two bright, busy teenagers. No more getting up at 3:30 A.M. to sit in a make-up chair and look over a script for Laing. Now, she can be more available for her family and herself. 

Laing grew up in the city, rollerblading on the 416 before it was open to traffic and learning how to handle a car on Colonel By Drive. She left for UMass/Amherst but boomeranged back as soon as her studies were over. “Ottawa has always been home,” she says appreciatively. “I have seen this city grow in all aspects, from infrastructure to amalgamation, from new businesses to expanding communities. Despite the reputation for being a boring government town, there are restaurants, events, and people who contribute to making it a great place to live.”  

It was a place she got to know even more intimately through her stint on local TV. Even then, though, Laing was planting the seeds for career no. 2. The former gymnast (who started at age six) went back to her passion for health and wellness. She started her own lifestyle podcast, Living Your Life with Lianne Laing, hosted a European wellness cruise, and continued with media consulting and speaking engagements. Then, she was approached by the Heart Institute Foundation. They instantly recognized the full value of her winning admixture of health-based acumen, refined communication skills, and sincere interest in community welfare.  

“My initial reaction to the offer,” she confesses, “was ‘NO!’ However, the more I thought about what I could bring to the role, the more excited I got. It combined all my skillsets and passions, which I could use in exciting new ways.”

The real lure, though, was the opportunity to continue to tell stories. “I get to tell patients’ experiences, celebrate the success of our brilliant doctors and researchers, and promote all the wonderful things the UOHI has to offer. The Ottawa Heart Institute is world-renowned. That really helps in moving our projects forward and earning the trust and investment of fellow Ottawans.”

Laing will be helping to raise money and awareness to help the over 225,000 patients who come through the institute’s doors every year. “As a health and wellness advocate,” says Laing, “it’s critical for me to share the message that 80% of heart disease can be prevented with physical activity and healthy choices. Plus, heart disease is the number one killer of women worldwide. I want to get the information out there about how we present our symptoms differently and how our risk factors are different than men’s.”  

As you can see, she’s already knee-deep in her new capacity, demonstrating her signature enthusiasm, educational instinct, and dedication to the greater good.  

While Laing may have suffered pre-performance jitters before her recent reinvention (an industry hazard among athletes), she urges others who are considering major life changes to simply go for it. “There is no right time,” she advises. “You just need to put one foot in front of the other and take the leap. I constantly feel that I am juggling fire and knives while balancing on a tricycle. But you need to accept that sometimes things are going to fall and crash and that that’s OK. Lead with passion and don’t be afraid to do the hard things.

You’ve always been passionate about healthy living but started focusing on helping others live better in 2018, when you launched your own wellness initiative. Tell me more about your work in inspiring others to live their best lives?

When COVID hit and I was writing my “Fit At Home” column for Ottawa At Home magazine, I knew that people needed help to stay motivated. I began showing people on Facebook Live how to work out from home without the use of a gym or big equipment. What started as a very temporary project to lend a helping hand turned into a 2.5-year endeavour. I hosted live workouts at 7 AM Monday to Friday and created a community of people who came together and inspired each other. I am incredibly proud of this group that helped change each other’s lives. I feel very lucky to have played a part in this.  

What are three of your favorite wellness trends right now?

As I’m getting older, I am realizing the workouts and lifestyle choices I made in my 20s, 30s and early 40s no longer work the way they used to. I used to be hardcore in the gym, but my body doesn’t adapt the same way. These days, I realize that despite a daily morning workout, my lifestyle keeps me sitting for long periods of time. I am big now on aiming to get in my 10k steps and for the first time in my life, I am trying to drink water. I’ve always known this was important but never applied it. I also meditate and practice gratitude. Honestly, I think that has probably been the biggest game-changer for me. 

You are a mom to two teen girls. What advice do you have for parents who are managing the challenges that come with teenagerhood, especially in 2024?

Ask me on any given day and my answer will be different. Phones, social media, TikTok, fake news, online shopping – none of this existed when I was growing up, so I’m just trying to present the best reflection of my actions for my girls. I am grateful that we talk about everything, and they feel they can trust me and come to me with anything.  I take that as a win.  

You and your husband Tony have been married for almost 22 years. What’s your favourite thing about him?

After 24 years together, I still look forward to long car rides together because I love his stories and realize we still manage to learn new things about each other. We were both elite athletes and still love being active together. He’s also the best father to our daughters and their best qualities are a reflection of him.

What’s some advice you can share to others who may be in a similar position, tasked with taking a leap of faith?

When you know you know. Your gut always tells you and the key is to listen to it and trust it with your life. I was already sensing that my light was diminishing on TV and I knew I just wasn’t as motivated. I also knew change, as terrifying as it was, was my only option. To prepare for the transition out of TV,  I went back to my mindset as an athlete, with visualization and preparation. 

I knew I had a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. I knew I was coachable and that my skills were adaptable. I think others need to trust in their abilities and to understand that they know more than they think they know. That their own life experiences will come into play, and their skillsets can be used in a variety of ways. It all comes down to putting in the work.

@liannelaing

Photography by Nicolai Gregory, Hair & Makeup by Salon Fiorella

 

By Dan Lalande

Photography by Nicolai Gregory

Hair & Makeup by Salon Fiorella

 

 

 

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