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Shannon Kennedy talks rowing, Olympics, and not making sourdough

Two women wearing red and white uniforms rigorously rowing on calm water with tall grass in the background.

Shannon worked in Sports Medicine, and took shifts on an orthopaedic trauma floor before deciding to come to Arbutus Physio. We are very grateful that Shannon met up with us to talk shop. Shannon told us about rowing, training for the Olympics, and not making sourdough if you don’t want to.


You’re still quite new to Victoria! What brought you here, and what have you been up to lately in your off time?

Well I came here after doing my BKIN at the University of Toronto and my MPT at Western in London, Ontario. I’m from Toronto so I loved the big city, and Western was great for my physiotherapy education. It had small class sizes, and we were a tight knit group. They have a reputation for their focus on orthopedics, and sport and manual therapy as well, which was right up my alley.

I’m a rower, though, and the national training centre is here in Victoria at Elk Lake! I came over a year ago to do some workouts with the team. Other opportunities came up and I’ve stayed on. There are other things I love about Victoria too — it’s such a beautiful place, and [laughing] the water doesn’t freeze here.

Some of my favourite things to do here are hiking, wandering through downtown, and… Yonni’s donuts are also really good. I’m really into those. I also love just getting on my bike and exploring. All your typical Vancouver Island things!

How long have you been at Arbutus? 

It was actually March before I started with Arbutus. Whether or not I stayed in Victoria was performance and training dependent, and so I focussed on rowing for the first eight or nine months. It didn’t make sense to register as a physiotherapist with the college here until I knew I was staying.

So you’re also an amazing athlete! Can we talk more about your rowing? 

[Laughter] Thank you. The short version is that I was a middle distance runner for ten years of my life. It was my first passion. I eventually had to stop, though, because of recurring injuries. I knew that if I wanted to stay in high performance sport I would need to choose something else.

“Row to Podium” was available in London and provided an opportunity for transitioning to rowing from another sport. I went and did the testing, and I got into the training program in 2015. I’ve been going full steam ahead ever since! The program is now called “Nextgen” and they have training “hubs” across Canada.  That’s where I get my coaching, nutrition and strength and conditioning support etc… from and I’ve also been able to do some training with the senior team since moving to Victoria, which has been great.

I’ve heard a rumour you are training for the Olympics! 

The 2024 Olympics would be the big goal! I went to  the Pan Am Games in 2019, which was great multisport games exposure, and I’ve wanted to be in the Olympics since I was a kid.

Four women in matching red and white team jackets pose in front of a cut-out of the Lima Pan Am Games 2019 mascot smiling.

And you mentioned you’ve had some of your own sports injuries? 

Yes, most of those were with running. When I dreamed about the Olympics when I was little I thought I would get there through running. However, in my early 20s I had continual stress fractures for four years, and I was in a constant injury cycle that I couldn’t seem to break. 

It led me to rowing, though, and those injuries were definitely part of developing my interest in physio. My mom is also a physiotherapist, so I was always aware of it as a career pathway, but having my own injuries really got me engaged in biomechanics and sports injury prevention. I’ve always had an interest in the human body and how it works, and ironically I now have a special interest in running injuries as well.

You’ve worked in acute care and sports medicine as well, how do those experiences inform your physiotherapy practice?

Yes! Sports medicine was primarily what I was doing, and I had similar clientele with that as I do at Arbutus. In terms of acute care, I would pick up casual shifts on an ortho trauma floor. That gave me a good awareness of the healthcare system, how those processes work, as well as exposure to different types of fractures and trauma. If clients come in for recovery from surgery, for example, that experience is definitely helpful. 

Across the board the core principles are the same. Clients come in with goals, and it’s about determining the best path forward to make those goals a reality.

Awesome! And what’s keeping you moving these days? 

It has been a weird time for sure! For me it’s been tough. Normally the summer is our main competition season, and so it has been difficult redefining goals in that sense. Part of the inherent drive involved in being a high level athlete is a bit of an addiction to finding your limits and seeing what you can do, so I’ve been doing that in different ways and reframing the year. It is also an opportunity to work on other aspects of performance for example, technique, without racing pressure, and that has been a source of motivation. It can be hard some days, but knowing that in five years I want to be at the Olympics there is still a lot to do! 

Two women wearing red and white uniforms and visors rigorously rowing on calm water.

What would you say to your clients and other athletes who are working to keep moving and taking care of their bodies right now? 

A big part of it is taking it day to day. I like to chunk it into small goals and challenges instead of thinking too far ahead. I would also just say: it’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect, it’s okay to have days on your couch. This is the time to slow down, and do what feels best for you in the moment. [Laughs] You don’t have to make sourdough if you don’t want to!

Four women stand on the beach with their backs to the camera looking out over the ocean and towards the mountains in the distance. They also have a medium sized do with them on the left.