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Getting to know Ashley Fradette

We met up with Ashley recently to drink coffee and talk shop. Here’s our interview, getting to know Ashley!

How’s it going?

It’s going really great! I’m really enjoying physiotherapy. I love working in Oak Bay. I love helping folks and using my hands on people and seeing change. I also love the diversity. There’s a large range of clients here, and also activity levels! I treat a bit of everything, from elderly folks who are running triathlon to young people in martial arts.

Do you treat non-athletes?

Yes, there are loads of people here who aren’t necessarily athletes. Actually, sometimes they don’t identify as athletes but they definitely share the same qualities as one. My dad, for example, is a machinist. His hands and forearms are so strong from years of working his trade. He has Popeye forearms and tough hands! At home he’s always working on some sort of project or renovation. He’s built a couple of our houses by hand. I think the strength and skill required to do what he does is incredible, but he doesn’t necessarily see himself as an “athlete”.

Where did you train?

I did my undergraduate degree in Kamloops and then I moved to the coast six years ago. After living in Victoria for three years I got hooked on the idea of physiotherapy. I moved to Vancouver and graduated with my Masters from UBC.

How do you navigate boundaries?

Carefully. That’s a very interesting topic. What we do is very hands on and sometimes treatment movements require close contact, or a quick manipulation. I always tell people in advance what the treatment will be like. Successful navigation of boundaries is what allows us to build rapport and form a very trusting relationship with our clients. As front line practitioners we can see people with all kinds of histories and experiences so it’s important to evaluate each situation independently.

Do you do sporty things?

Yes, I do! Currently I’m playing intramural soccer, I play slow pitch in the summer, and I enjoy running and cycling recreationally. Recently I biked over to Salt Spring Island and camped over night. That was fun! I love the freedom of being able to take off on your bike and go camping. I also love hiking. Last summer I hiked the West Coast Trail with a couple of friends from physio school. What an amazing trip that was. Actually someone on the trail that week broke her arm! So we splinted it for her with drift wood.

Wow, you’re the best person to have on the trail!

Yeah, well we have the training to deal with injuries, and had our tensor bandages and first aid kits. So we helped take care of the situation along with a nurse who also happened to be on the trail. Even outside of broken bones, we’re good to have around! [laughs] At the end of a long day of hiking we would tend to take care of each other, giving each other traction and caring for our feet. In the evenings we would have regular stretch sessions like physio nerds.

Do you ever feel like your sports count less than the other practitioners?

Oh my goodness yes. Some of the practitioners at Arbutus are very intense athletes! [Laughs]

But I’m happy with all of my recreational activities. I guess I take the approach of doing a little bit of everything! I’ve also been going to Body Dynamics downtown. The trainers there are awesome and I love their classes. We do things there like overhead car tire jumping jacks and burpees. It’s very cool.

That sounds like intense athleticism!

Yeah I guess so! [Laughs]

Are there certain kinds of injuries that you see in weightlifters?

I guess weight lifters might get more shoulder or lower back injuries than let’s say a soccer player might, but they also get common injuries like sprains, strains, or tennis elbow for example. And you don’t need to be a weight lifter to have a shoulder or low back injury either. I’ve treated low back pain in a firefighter and a mechanic; shoulder injuries in a baseball player and gardener. Lumbago can present in a desk worker or a gymnast; repetitive strain injuries can present in a nurse or a runner. You never know what type of person is going to walk into the room, and I love that.

Have you had injuries?

Yes, I have had injuries. That’s partly how I became interested in physiotherapy. I was doing some half marathons and long distance running and I was training for a marathon when I developed a repetitive strain injury in my hip. So I can absolutely relate to how your life can be affected by an injury.

Injuries can be complicated that way. I strive for successful rehabilitation, and sometimes this means modifying a client’s activity or finding a suitable alternative for them that still allows them to be successful in meeting their fitness goals. My mom for example, has always enjoyed running and training hard at the gym. She was still running frequently when she was diagnosed with a back injury which made running too painful and put her at risk for further injury. Giving up running was hard for her, but she has shifted her focus to strength training at the gym and loves to mountain bike. She has MS and she is an absolute rock star.

Sometimes in life you make choices and move in the direction of activities that promote wellness, which looks different for every individual. My mom can kick my butt at the gym and mountain bike for four hours but she can’t run a marathon… and she’s okay with that.

Do you miss the interior? What was that like?

It’s too beautiful here on the Island to miss the interior! I grew up in Williams Lake and think it was a great place to grow up. I still have lots of family there and try to get up to visit when I can. I grew up riding ATVs, my grandparents had snowmobiles. My grandparents and I both lived on lakes so we did lots of ice skating in the winter and swimming in the summer. We used to clear a big rink every year. One year it froze perfectly without any snow and we could skate for miles.

Snow and ice on Williams Lake
Snow and ice on Williams Lake.

Do you have a favourite body part?

I’ve always liked the Sartorius muscle. I like the look of it, and it’s the longest muscle in the body. It’s also called the tailor’s muscle.

Where even is that?

It starts in the hip, technically the anterior superior iliac spine, and wraps around your thigh to just past the knee. It’s pretty cool.

Do you have a favourite colour?

Huh. I’ve never been able to answer that question! Let’s move on. [Laughs]

Favourite food or restaurant?

Mmm, I like to eat, and I love to cook. I love steaks. Ooh, medium rare steak with blue cheese and a red wine reduction, double stuffed potato, and grilled asparagus. Yum. I also like a good tuna tataki, but I’ve only made it once. The tuna tataki at Ebizo is my favourite. I also love the spicy mussels at Tapa Bar.