Stephanie Holbrook talks massage therapy, kinesiology, and the importance of back rows

Stephanie Holbrook sat down with us to drink coffee, tell us about growing up in Campbell River, and tell us a little bit about herself, her family, and the Victoria Marathon…

Stephanie Holbrook sat down with us to drink coffee, tell us about growing up in Campbell River, and tell us a little bit about herself.


You’re from Campbell River?

Yes, I came to Victoria to study massage therapy. But before that I lived for a year in Kelowna  and then I moved to Vancouver and finished my degree in kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. Kelowna is nice but it has no ocean! Then I moved here to Victoria to  study with the West Coast College of Massage Therapy. It was really nice moving to Victoria because I have a lot of friends here from Campbell River.

You feel connected to the ocean?

Growing up in Campbell River, the ocean was ever-present. But I’m also a recent BEGINNER surfer… well I’m trying. I started surfing on the Gold Coast in Australia, in Surfer’s Paradise, and North Stradbroke Island – Straddy. I haven’t been surfing much in Sombrio or Jordan River. I hope to go surfing in Tofino soon.

What were you doing in Australia?

I was there backpacking the east coast with my friend Charlotte. My partner, Riley, is a talented surfer and a dual citizen. He’s from Kamloops. And has an Australian Passport. [laughs] Riley was accepted to do a Masters of Clinical Counselling program at the University of Queensland.

Have you always been interested in Massage Therapy?

I grew up in a family that does triathlon. My whole family is full of triathlon nerds. Many of our family vacations revolved around triathlon races. So growing up in that culture really helped me understand that athleticism is partly about having a support network. For me studying kinesiology and then massage therapy is a natural extension of that.

Your family vacations were races?

Yes! And this weekend me and my family are running the Victoria Marathon, some do the full, some do the half. My Nana and I are doing the 8km. We do every year! In my family Thanksgiving has always revolved around the Victoria Marathon. The men are in charge of making dinner, or at least they seem to help more than usual [laughs]. And the women are running all morning.

Stephanie Holbrook's family at the Oak Bay Marathon in 2019, with three generations of women.

This year we have three generations participating. My mom and sister are doing the half marathon. My nanna is 89 years old, and she wants to be involved so she and I are going to walk the 8km. My grandfather passed this year – he was very active. Our family culture of activity is related in part to his enthusiasm for activity. He played violin, fiddle, until his last days. He was a logger and an arbourist. He passed in his 90s and even at 88 he was climbing in trees and cutting the limbs around our yard. He was really into push-ups and he would do them to feel vital.

Stephanie Holbrook and her nana on the beach.

Do you have a gym that you like to go to?

There’s a gym in my apartment building and it’s super convenient. I like to do indoor cardio because exercising outside can activate my asthma. I do stair climber, and HIT cardio – so spin bike or treadmill. I also do strength training. Since I’ve become an RMT I can tell if I slack off because I’m more likely to have pain. Massage Therapy can be very physical, so staying active and strong is critical. I do a lot of dead lifts, planking, interscapular strengthening rows, and squats.

So you exercise so you can work?

Hah, well not just that, but that is the reality of many people’s jobs. Work is physical and staying active is really important.

I also do continuing education as part of staying current. I do courses, and I have a solid reference library. I am constantly reading up on behalf of my client work. And the College of Massage Therapy BC also has requirements for us to stay registered. I love learning about body mechanics, and maybe I’ll do more studies later in physiotherapy. It’s part of what is fantastic about working at a multi-disiciplinary clinic like Arbutus. I love being surrounded by so many health nerds!

Do you have a favourite body part?

I don’t think I do! I will. Let me think about this.

Do you have a favourite body part to treat?

Well, people don’t realize how treatable low back pain is. I love it when people come to me and they don’t know if their pain is treatable, and I can help them. Part of massage therapy is making sure patients go home with exercises, stretching and strength training, or postural recommendations. Some of the many benefits from massage therapy is as much about the follow up. Symptom relief, and pain relief, are really great for sure. But the self-confidence that people get from doing follow up training is really significant. Activity is empowerment. And it fills me with joy to be part of that.

I love it when patients are eager. I can always work with eager. When people don’t have enthusiasm for home activities, and home care, it’s my job to inspire them to feel eager about exercise and movement. Human bodies come in all kinds.

What’s a thing that not everyone knows about you?

I sing! I have sung with a band at Canoe Club, Ok Charlie, as a guest singer a couple times. I haven’t had the time to start a band, but maybe now I will! I just sang at my good friend’s wedding. I have always been a singer. And then I became the anthem singer for the Campbell River Storm. I love walking out on the ice on the red carpet.(laughs) I have taken lessons, but mostly I just love singing. I sang for the Victoria Grizzlies for a while too. The first time ever I sang for them, the team owner was getting me a jersey to wear, and we realized that they were playing Anaheim, so I practiced the American anthem for half an hour in a sweaty change room. It was scary – but it went great.

Thank you, Stephanie!

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Posted by Arbutus Team

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