Motivation tips from Canada’s fittest women

Whether you’re going for gold or trying to stick to a gym routine, a little pep talk never hurts. We talked to some of Canada’s top athletes for advice on staying motivated

1 / 5
kaylyn kyle

Athlete: Kaylyn Kyle

Sport: Soccer
Top tip: Set realistic goals

A member of Canada's women's national soccer team and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, midfielder Kaylyn Kyle says that stepping onto the field is "kind of like a drug-it's intense, it's exciting. Playing games and showing the world what I have to offer is a huge honour."

To boost your fitness level, Kyle says it's important to set goals: "Don't set them too high, because it's disheartening if you don't make them. Set short-term goals, and once you achieve them, you can set new ones."

If you do experience a setback, accept it and move on. Kyle offers a personal experience: "We went to the World Cup this year and lost all of our games. Obviously it's disappointing, but that's what makes you a better person and player-you take those opportunities and learn and grow from them. It's a live-and-learn process."

Photo courtesy Chris Coulter

2 / 5
Athlete: Silken Laumann

Athlete: Silken Laumann

Sport: Rowing
Top tip: Insist on some me-time

Silken Laumann captured the nation's hearts when she fought her way back from a devastating injury-sustained during a training session just 10 weeks before the 1992 Olympics-to win bronze in women's single sculls rowing. Today, she's an author, a busy motivational speaker, and Kids Champion for GoodLife Kids Foundation

Laumann is also the mother of four children (ages 11 to 15). She knows first-hand that it's often difficult for women to set aside personal time, but points out that doing so pays huge dividends. "When, as women, we honour ourselves and [decide] that we're worth it, that we can be a priority in our own lives-we're doing something actually profound, and it affects our sense of worth," she explains. "It helps create positive boundaries in your life because you have to say to other people, 'I'm worth it, it's worth it for me to take two hours for myself and do something that's good for me.' Women are notorious for not honouring themselves."

Photo courtesy Beth Hayhurst Photography

3 / 5
Athlete: Hayley Wickenheiser

Athlete: Hayley Wickenheiser

Sport: Hockey
Top tip: Pick activities you enjoy

Hayley Wickenheiser has four Olympic medals to her name (one silver, three gold), so she knows a few things about achieving athletic goals. The hockey superstar says it's essential to find activities you like. "That's the number one thing. If you do something you're not happy doing every single day, it's not easy to continue."

Wickenheiser also suggests mentally preparing for adversity, so you won't be knocked completely off your game. "Know that there are going to be difficult periods. You're going to have plateaus and times when you think you're not making progress," she says. "The human body and mind are way more resilient than we think. So never give up-we can always dig deeper than we think we can."

Photo courtesy Dave Holland

4 / 5
Athlete: Mary Spencer

Athlete: Mary Spencer

Sport: Boxing
Top tip: Don't dwell on setbacks

In 2012, for the first time, women's boxing will be part of the Olympics. Canada's brightest hope for gold is Ontario's Mary Spencer, already a highly decorated athlete: World champion three times, national champion eight times and Pan-American champ five times.

The fierce middleweight fighter recommends finding a workout that's fun and interesting, rather than focusing solely on getting into shape. "That's important, but it doesn't always motivate, so choose something you can look forward to."

When asked about coping with setbacks, Spencer shares a quote, one that meant a lot when she lost a fight at the national championships: "'The greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do," she says, then admits with a laugh, "I heard that on an episode of Criminal Minds!" It worked-Spencer stormed back to win the next two bouts.

Photo courtesy spencerboxing.com

5 / 5

Athlete: Maureen "Mo" Hagan

Sport: Personal fitness
Top tip: Find a fitness buddy

A physiotherapist, fitness instructor and VP of operations at GoodLife Fitness, Mo Hagan has been helping people get in shape and feel great for nearly three decades. She's also quick to point out that despite the nature of her day job, she needs a little motivation herself. 

"The biggest thing is to connect with somebody you can use as a coach, support or motivator, someone who makes you excited to exercise," says Hagan. "I have a personal trainer-even me, as a fitness professional, I have to connect with a person on a regular basis to keep myself accountable and keep feeding my motivation."

Another great motivator is keeping a journal; when exercise makes you feel great, write it down, then re-read it when you're feeling discouraged, says Hagan. "Psychologically-honest to goodness-your heart rate starts to rise, you get this love feeling in your belly, and it fires up your energy, your chi, and you'll say, 'You know what, I'm going to the gym!'"

Photo courtesy Jim Hocking / Off Broadway