Ottawa’s Lianne Laing finds new lease on life in post-TV career

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Podcaster and former TV broadcaster Lianne Laing. Photo by Caroline Phillips

For Lianne Laing, her decision to step away from her coveted television hosting gig wasn’t easy.

But, much like actor Bill Murray’s TV weatherman character in Groundhog Day, every workday was feeling exactly the same as the last, until she knew it was time to roll the credits on her nearly 20-year career in traditional broadcasting. 

Never mind that her position came with a six-figure salary, free wardrobe and a high community profile. 

“I was unmotivated; I was uninspired,” she explains. “It’s like I was stuck on repeat.”

Laing was also tired. As host of CTV Morning Live Ottawa, she was up each morning at 3:30. Most days, her head didn’t hit the pillow again until 10:30 p.m. Toward the end of her TV career, she developed a severe case of shingles. The painful rash, she believes, was a sign that her demanding schedule was taking a toll on her health.

"Saying the words out loud, ‘I’m going to leave my job,’ was terrifying."

“Saying the words out loud, ‘I’m going to leave my job,’ was terrifying,” recalls Laing, who hosted her final show on Nov. 10, 2017.

Today, the 44-year-old married mother of two is happily hosting a podcast, Living Your Life with Lianne Laing, in an effort to educate, inspire and motivate listeners on topics relating to health and wellness. 

Laing has enjoyed a strong and steady growth in her listening audience since launching her show in January 2018 at Extension Marketing studio. She’s featured more than 100 high-profile guests and experts and is now looking to turn her passion project into a viable venture through advertising and public speaking engagements.

The podcast, she adds proudly, “is a true reflection of the impact that I’m hoping to make.”

Looking back, there are a few things Laing wishes she’d done differently to better prepare herself for her leap into entrepreneurship. 

The former elite gymnast says she approached her new career much like an individual athlete, when she should’ve taken a team-building approach. For example, she only recently became a member of the Women’s Business Network of Ottawa.

 

“I should have joined it right away,” says Laing, who is very open to sharing the lessons that she’s learned.

She also wasn’t prepared for the isolation that comes with working from home alone. 

“I was in my pajamas at a computer, trying to figure out what my job was and how to apply my skills and build my brand and my company.”

After years of hosting a television show that everyone wanted to be on, she was now the one having to reach out to potential guests. She found her fear of rejection was holding her back. “My kryptonite has been making the ask and being prepared for 99 ‘no’s to get the ‘yes,’” she explains.

Meditation brings benefits

One of the greatest tools she’s picked up along the way is meditation. She credits her daily 30-minute sessions for getting rid of anxiety and improving her sleep. 

“It really helps me to be more mindful and present,” she says.

Laing was born and raised in Ottawa, graduating from Sir Robert Borden High School. Growing up, she trained more than 20 hours a week in gymnastics. Her hard work paid off; Laing competed nationally, won championships and earned herself a full scholarship to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she graduated with two business degrees.

Laing was fresh out of school when she started working as a sports anchor for what was then CHRO-TV in Ottawa. She had first crossed paths with her future colleague, Ken Evraire, while helping her mom with media relations for the 25th anniversary of her business, Corona School of Gymnastics on Colonnade Road South. Evraire must have been impressed by Laing because he connected her to his TV station boss, Richard Gray, who offered her a job.

“Every day was a learning experience,” Laing recalls of those early years in sports reporting.

Eventually, sweeping changes at the station meant Laing was reassigned to the morning show. She disliked waking up in the middle of the night, but for many years she enjoyed being part of the four-hour-long program.

Healthy living has always been a priority to Laing, but she became even more motivated to inspire others after her father died of a heart attack two weeks before her wedding day. 

Jeffrey Laing, who had toiled away in the Ottawa restaurant industry, was 57. 

“I think that’s why I’m so passionate about getting people to realize that they need to wake up and take care of themselves, because my dad was constantly talking about what it was going to be like when he was able to golf every day and enjoy the life he’d been working for,” says Laing. 

“If you don’t take care of yourself now, you might not get there.”

Five things to know about Lianne Laing

1. Laing’s maternal grandparents survived Nazi concentration camps and the Hungarian Revolution (escaping their homeland by foot) before immigrating to Canada, penniless. 

2. Her mother Agnes Laing (née Klauber) has been a great source of inspiration. She founded Corona School of Gymnastics from humble beginnings in 1972. Today, the school has thousands of students and a staff of 70.

3. Laing and her husband, well-known sport artist Tony Harris, first met at GoodLife Fitness on Queensview Drive. They shared a conversation while stretching on the mats. That chat left a lasting impression on them both. Harris, who lived in Montreal, finally managed to get a message to Laing three months later offering to return to Ottawa to take her for dinner. She agreed. They have two daughters: Andie, 15, and Jamie, 12. 

4. Laing supports numerous charities. She’s an ambassador for Tremblant’s 24h and the Ottawa Senators Foundation and former board chair of the Snowsuit Fund.

5. She ascended Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2014 with the Dream Mountains Foundation while also reporting on her climb. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Laing, who suffered from altitude sickness.