Janice Patton is one of the devoted Soaring Spirit Movement members on Facebook.
When she started a special Facebook group, Waneek Horn-Miller wasn’t exactly in the best of spirits.
“I was feeling super isolated, getting down and stressed and so, as I always do, I exercised,” she said.
“I started to think about how much all this was impacting our collective mental health and so I actually started the group to do for myself what I have been doing as a job for a long time: motivate and support, and help in some small way to make a difference by helping create a community to help each other’s spirits soar,” said Horn-Miller.
Called Soaring Spirit Movement, the Facebook group is picking up steam, with close to 300 members at the time of writing this article – not including her three young children who follow their ista in her workouts, all under 10.
And it’s inspiring locals and non-locals alike. It’s not every day an Olympic athlete shares their workouts, thoughts and fears with a bunch of friends and relative strangers alike.
“I asked a few friends – Native and non-Native – to send me videos; Olympians, gold medalists and the like, along with hoop dancers and Native athletes – basically people who have inspired me, when I see them on social media and in life being healthy and positive,” said Horn-Miller.
“I asked them to send me a short video and playlist of their favourite songs. And the video is just to share what they are doing, and how they are coping and some words of encouragement.”
Horn-Miller has also set some goals for the group; distances or length of time to walk or run, and cool tunes to go with.
Plenty of locals have picked up on her lead, and posted videos and photos, updates and inspirational life events centred around getting out and getting active.
COVID-19 has slowed everyone down and forced people to talk; which also means families are spending more time together, like Coreen Delormier and her three daughters.
“Being a part of this group is a great motivator for me to get outside with my daughters and work on staying in shape,” she said. “I have a hard time to do home workouts because I work better in a group setting. I like that all levels can be in this group and everyone is very encouraging with their posts and beautiful pics being submitted from all over!”
The group encourages, but also challenges people to outdo themselves each time they post.
“By being in this group, I’m setting personal goals for myself,” said Delormier. “My first goal was to try to run 5KM straight without stopping. I have accomplished that and now I’ll try to increase my time. Eventually I would like to run a 10K.”
So what it is about the group that drives her and her posse – running six feet apart – around various parts of town?
“It’s motivating, it’s positive and uplifting to see so many people setting goals and supporting each other,” she said. “What is really cool is that you get to see how Waneek has pulled together so many people and we are liking or commenting on their progress or photos and we don’t even know each other. My ultimate goal is to stay in shape and keep my family active.”
Janice Patton was a homecare nurse for many years before starting work at the Turtle Bay Elders’ Lodge day centre in 2018, and, as a frontline worker, still has to get out there and work regularly.
But she finds time to contribute to the group and get active.
“I immediately wanted to join in for a few reasons,” she said. “Number one, this group will keep me accountable to myself, and the motivational words from Waneek and Keith always inspire me! Having a goal to work toward is also a motivator during this time of intense stress and uncertainty in the future.
“Running/walking helps me to unload my stress and makes me feel good about myself,” said Patton, who posted her first 5KM on the page on Saturday, and on Wednesday night posted about her strong urge to sleep after a rough day of work, but how she was motivated by the group, and after 15 minutes on the treadmill, burned off 500 calories over a solid 50 minutes working out.
“I see other people posting their runs, walks, bike rides….sharing photos, and because I work all day, I say to myself, ‘I gotta get my workout in today.’ So if I’m not walking/running outside I’m on my treadmill.”
To Patton, the group “keeps you accountable,” and is “good motivation and definitely a good stress reliever.
“And she has good tunes.”
Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.