I recently started listening to Podcasts. I don’t know why I missed these all my life. There are some incredible podcasts, some inspiring stories and some remarkable hosts. I listened to a No Meat Athlete podcast called “Is it ever okay not to do your best”? and it really sparked a cord within me. I always believed in doing more then what is required of you. I always take so much pride when people say “Meagan works so hard”. That is more important to me then people noticing that I won a few gold medals. And after listening to this, and some more podcasts, I feel more enlightened then ever and more motivated to push beyond what I thought my limits were.
When I was a child I always knew I wanted to go to the Olympics. I told everyone I knew that I was going to go to Salt Lake City. Which of course was highly optimistic and didn’t work out but that was okay with me. I was going to work harder and go to the Olympics in 2006 in Turin. Another highly optimistic “dream”, albeit that one was remotely possible, I finished 4th in Canada and the top 2 girls qualified for the Olympics that year. Okay, no problem. I dusted off the snow from my bum (I fell a lot at Nationals that year) and I brainstormed how I could make myself a better skater so that I would go to the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
Again, another disappointment. So close, yet so far. I was injured that season and in so much pain. But I went for it. When I woke up in the morning, and couldn’t step out of my bed. When I cried as I took a hot shower, wondering how my body would manage a throw triple lutz and a level 4 lasso lift. Then I’d close my eyes and imagine Vancouver. I’d imagine the Olympics. And visualizing the Olympics could get me through anything. My mind was so powerful. I worked as hard as my body allowed and I still came up short. 3rd at Nationals. And once again, only 2 qualified.
Okay. This one was a bigger blow. I seriously considered giving up on that elusive dream of the Olympic rings and moving on with my life. But every time this thought passed my mind, something pulled me back in. I’d imagine never having to train a long program again. Then the thought would come “But I love to push myself through a long program and feel accomplished when it all ends”. Then I’d tell myself, ok, if you stop now your body doesn’t have to be in pain anymore. “Oh, but I love feeling these pains in my body. They are telling me that I’m alive and I have the ability to push myself through anything”. And so, I continued. First thing I had to do was find a way to be healthier. Keep my body free of injuries and my mental game strong and fierce.
When I was a child I would reading skating books and study the best in the World. I’d learn from their stories. What did they do to reach the top? Elvis Stojko had the mental strength of a warrior. He rose to every challenge and he faced every adversity straight in the eye, with a wink. I needed to become as mentally tough as Elvis, my 8-year-old self decided. Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan ate, lived and breathed figure skating. They didn’t care about missing school dances, or parties with their friends. They were dedicated to their goals and didn’t take their eyes off the prize. I would become as dedicated as them. Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao overcame extreme poverty and every single skating season they took the advice of judges and skating officials and showed improvement in every area of their skating, until they became the very best. They never stopped improving, so I needed to make sure my main goal was to always find a way to keep improving, just like they did.
If you want to become the best at something, you need to look at the people who’ve done well in the past. When I was younger and I looked at these champions, and I saw they were all committed to their goals. Nothing could ever take them off the path. No disappointment, no injury and no external factors. Elvis skated at the Olympics with a torn groin and never said a word about it until the Olympics was finished. I learned from him that you should never have an excuse and only allow those in your immediate circle to know about such things.
So after my Olympic disappointment in 2010, I was thinking of every possible way to “reinvent” myself, as a skater but also as an individual as well. I changed my diet around this time. I became more dedicated to a wholefoods diet (I had already been vegan). I began studying holistic nutrition, and learning about ways to improve my skating performances and my body through food. I credit nutrition to helping heal all those lower back injuries I was experiencing. I began eating breakfast in the morning that was prepared with the intention of giving me energy and nutrients to train hard and focus. Then at night I always made sure my dinner included a lot of recovery type foods to help my body recover in time for another training session the following day. I stopped drinking alcohol as much. Ok, I sound like I drank a lot. But I stopped “partying” I should say. I didn’t need that garbage in my body and when I imagined my idol, Aliona Savchenko, I figured she wasn’t wasting precious time having a drink on a Saturday night.
I needed proper sleep patterns to ensure I remained healthy. And I started looking at fellow skaters again for inspiration. Sasha Cohen spoke in an interview once that she suffered from the same injury in her lower back that I was experiencing and she found that pilates and yoga helped her heal from this injury, so I decided I had to start pilates and yoga. I wanted to be a top level skater like Sasha, and if this helped to heal Sasha, then it was going to also help to heal me. Notice a pattern here? I basically developed a career by copying champions. They were more experienced then I was, so I looked to them to be examples for me. And by following the lead of great champions, I was able to turn myself into a champion as well. In 2014 I finally did qualify for the Olympic Games. I even won a silver medal with Team Canada. It was a remarkable experience but the journey to get there is what has made me into the person I am today.
So, how do you reach your highest potential? First and foremost, you can’t have bare minimum behaviours. You always need to go above and beyond what is required and expected of you. When I’m at the gym and my trainer tells me to do 8 reps, I do 10. If my coach asks me to do one more triple lutz, I do 3. My coach told me a few years ago that I needed better lift positions, I needed to be more flexible. So I started doing deep stretch classes multiple times a week. I always do just a little bit more, I go beyond what is the bare minimum. Secondly, you can’t make perfectionism your goal. The goal has to be to pour yourself into something and reach beyond what you thought your limits were. You need to wake up in the morning, meditate and set a beautiful intention for your day. To go to bed at night and feel proud of what you accomplished. And I feel like it’s important to appreciate everything as your day passes. To appreciate where you are now. And be grateful for it.
At Worlds this season after the short program, I knew we weren’t going to win a medal. I knew the goal of winning a 3rd World Title was over. So before the long program, I set the intention of gratitude. I decided to be grateful that I was at the World Championships and that I had the opportunity to do what I love to do. I felt grateful that my body was healthy, I felt grateful that I had so much support from the amazing Finnish audience and I even took the time to feel grateful for my beautiful pink skating dress. This made me feel so peaceful and centred when I took the ice, that I just got carried away in the moment and I enjoyed every step of it. I didn’t win a medal. I didn’t even finish in the top 5. But I felt like I won in that moment. Because it was the first time in a long time that I took my starting position feeling so calm. It’s all about the small victories.
Now, as always, I am looking to grow. How can I be a better skater? What new skill can I master? Can I lift my leg higher in that position? Can I loosen my muscles and body a bit more so I don’t skate (and live) with so much tension? How can I educate myself more away from the ice? I recently registered with Alive Academy where I will study Sports and Fitness Natural Nutrition. What new class can I learn from? I’ve now added gyrotonics to my training program and it’s allowing my body to open and move in ways that I didn’t think was possible. How can I do my part to help animals? I’d like to spend my summer volunteering at my local animal shelter.
We can all live our highest life. We just need to take the first step. It’s a leap and all it takes is a little bit of courage. Courage to go outside of your comfort zone. Courage not to care about what others think of you. And courage to push through discomfort.
Find our fire and light it. We all have greatness in us. And it’s such a shame if we do nothing about it. At the end of the day, be proud of yourself. Be proud of your efforts. You don’t need any other recognition then that.