There’s a word we toss around a lot in our society these days – inspiration. With the rise of the hashtag, all sorts of new and luscious as well as annoying expressions have taken shape and become part of the zeitgeist. I’ve been reading a few articles lately on the word “empowerment” and how it’s now being used to sell products to women. I found that fascinating. As a word nerd myself I love to explore word usage and how it changes and I also have to stop myself from falling for clichés and overused expressions. As a writer, that’s a constant battle. So, how does this relate to working out? Staying healthy? Climbing? Well, I think we all have ideas that we cling on to, words we need to hear that keep us going, and expressions that inspire us when we’re down in the dumps. I’m a huge fan of quotes. I’m a sucker for them. Not the cheese ball ones, but the really meaty ones. Maybe it’s the copy writer in me that loves it when a huge idea can be boiled down to just one sentence. I mean I spend huge parts of my work life doing just that. Which brings me to my point and my post – inspiration. That’s a word I’ve been thinking about lately and one that still hasn’t lost its effect on me, though it’s used a whole ton. What inspires me? What inspires you? How can I inspire myself and others? What does inspiration really mean and how does it relate to my health and life goals?
Forgive me as I start off [white and] nerdy, but Merriam describes inspiration as:
something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
: a good idea
That’s pretty broad if you think about it. All it takes is…a good idea? A good person? In that case anything and anyone could theoretically be inspiring. And that’s not at all a bad thing. As a creative type myself I am always looking for inspiration and I find it in many ways. I have an Aphrodite soul that is constantly looking for muses. So, this post really applies to how we are inspired in all areas of our life, not just fitness. What makes us tick, what gives us a boost, what helps us finish the last 4 kms of a half marathon, what gets us through our toughest days…So without further ado here are five things that inspire me. This is not at all comprehensive, but it’s a place to start.
- Olympic athletes
This one should be fairly obvious but I have to say, since I was a little kid I have been obsessed with watching the Olympics. My family and I would basically have the TV on for two weeks straight every two years and we couldn’t stop watching. When I was 8 years old I was lucky enough to go to the Calgary Olympics with my family and was completely blown away by the energy of the whole event, how it brought people together and the pure magic of it. Fast forward to 2010 and perhaps some of the best weeks that I can remember when my city of Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and I was in pure heaven. Then…as if I wasn’t lucky enough I happen to be living in Germany when London hosted the summer Olympics and was able to stay with my cousin and go to a few events. Whenever I watch the Olympics I always think, “is there any sport that I could still do?” And not even in a non-ironic way, although kind of because…you know, it’s the Olympics. Maybe archery? I am a pretty good ping-pong player…and thus begins my usual thought process post-Olympic viewing. I am just so inspired by the athletes’ dedication, incredible levels of fitness, their physiques, strength, power and mental strength. They give up everything for a chance at a win. What a crazy life to lead, but I’d like to believe that the process is just as important to them as the results.
Music is simply something I can’t live without. I started playing piano at the age of 6, began the saxophone at the age of 15 and eventually got a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology. But it’s not just that, it’s that I can’t go through a day without listening to music, I can’t go for a run without my playlist, I can’t wash the dishes without that special energy that only music gives me. I’m an arts marketer and promote world music and jazz concerts for a living and the thing that gives me the most joy is discovering a new artist who is special and has that “je ne sais quoi” quality. I get a charge that runs through my body and makes me want to listen to their music non-stop for days on end. I may have to write a post dedicated to music that inspires me the most but that’s also like choosing my favourite child. It really depends on the time of day or day of the week. 😉
Needless to say, there is nothing quite like music to get you going physically. That’s one of the reason I love music as an art form – it moves the mind and the body in a very deep and very personal way. So even if I told you my favourite music to workout to (Stromae is top of the list at the moment) it may not work for you. As a runner you can get playlists that have the exact beats that you want to run to depending on how fast you want to go. Strangely enough the music that inspired me to finish one of my half marathons was German rap. Seriously. Particularly the rap of German/American rapper Casper. He has this gritty voice and awesome depth to his music that somehow makes you dig deep.
3. Strong women
I love strong women. And I don’t just mean physically strong although I do have a special place in my heart for those women. I love women who show me what it is to be strong, and what it is to overcome obstacles. For example, Rebekah Gregory, a runner who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 and two years later came back to run and finish the marathon. Below is a video of her crossing the finish line. I dare you not to cry.
For anyone who hasn’t run a race I’m telling you now – marathons are HARD. Okay I haven’t actually run a marathon yet although it’s on the to do list, but I have run four half marathons and those were hard enough. I just can’t imagine what it took for her to go through that horrific trauma, heal, learn to live life without a leg, and then learn to use a prosthetic one, overcome her fears and triggers that running a race again would no doubt bring back and then go back to the scene of her trauma and run that race. I just can’t imagine it but I have the utmost respect for her and others like her who have met life’s biggest challenges head on. That is so badass. She is just one example but there are so many women around the world who inspire me every single day to do more, be more, try harder, be more grateful and support one another. Women are often pitted against each other in life, but women are so much stronger when they stand with each other and support each other. So I’m sending a general “THANK YOU!” to all the strong and amazing women out there, including my own mom, my sister and my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother is sadly no longer with us but she was an amazing woman who never complained and was full of love for everyone. My grandma Louise had hip replacement surgery back in 2010, then on the way out of the hospital had a heart attack, almost lost her arm due to this, made it through that, regained a lot of her strength, had another fall more recently where she broke her arm, made it through that and is still with us at 90 – if that’s not strength I don’t know what is. You all truly inspire me. I think I may need to dedicate another post to this one too.
I’m lucky enough to have grown up on Vancouver Island, which to me, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And now I live in a city (Vancouver) that is steeped in natural beauty. All I have to do is look out the window right now and I see the North Shore mountains. Even so, there is a difference between seeing nature and being in nature. When I get burnt out by city life, I take to the mountains or nature. My mom told me that when I was born she had my star chart done up and although I just follow astrology for fun, I do remember her telling me that it said I should always be close to the mountains or the ocean. I’ve lived in places where I was far away from both and it was hard. I longed for one or the other every single day. When I lived in Hamburg I was surrounded by water (Hamburg has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined) which was wonderful and close enough to the ocean to keep me sane. But there is something about being in the quiet of nature that not only inspires me but brings me back to myself. My mom, Star Weiss, wrote a book called “Havens in a Hectic World – Finding Sacred Places” which explores the spiritual geography of British Columbia and how people find their own sacred spaces and places of worship here. Did you know that BC is the most secular province in all of Canada? And why? Nature. Many of the people in my mom’s book found their sacred places in the beauty of nature, whether it be a waterfall, a mountain peak, or a labyrinth traced in the sand, we all have special places in our lives that help us to re-centre, fill us with inspiration and restore and heal us. What’s your sacred place?
I’ve always had a bit of a gypsy soul. I have vivid memories of long car rides with my family where my mind would wander off and I would envision myself in distant lands. As soon as I turned 18 I was out the door and living in the UK for a year. In 2005 I returned and lived there again and then in 2012 I hopped on a plane and lived in Germany for the next two years. There is something so liberating about travel and it doesn’t have to be a huge trip. Sometimes all it takes is getting out of our usual spaces and out of our comfort zones and being somewhere else to shake us up, help us see things in new ways and inspire us with new ways of living, new foods, new cultural habits and different scenery. I have a constant longing in my soul to explore. And don’t get me wrong, travel can be really really hard (and we all know it is often very expensive.) Long travel days are the worst, being somewhere that you don’t speak the language is incredibly humbling, and constantly being worried about where your next meal will be, where the next bathroom is, am I safe etc. can be wearisome. But, it’s always worth it. Some of my best days in life were while I was traveling, like our last day in Portugal last fall when we discovered an amazing beach thanks to our climbing guide and spent the day bouldering and swimming and sun bathing until the super moon filled the sky and we felt an intense joy, love for each other, and gratitude. Moments like that make all the hard parts of travel worthwhile.
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” ~ Sir Richard Burton
So I’ll leave you with this question, “what inspires YOU?” Feel free to answer in the comments. I’d love to know! And of course I’d be pretty remiss if I didn’t end this with an inspiring quote.