We recently sat down with Zoë, a practicing kinesiologist who is also a member of Arbutus’s front-end admin team, for a heartfelt conversation about family, clinical practice, and how walking is exercise, too!
You’ve been going to school while working at Arbutus
Yes and after six years at UVic, I am finally graduating. It’s super exciting but also scary, I’ve spent 24 years of my life going back to school in September! I’m excited about the ceremony and getting photos with friends.
I’ve worked at Arbutus for four and a half years. We have created a kinesiology program at the clinic, so I’m excited for this new kin1 practice. It makes me really grateful for the kind of family and community that we have at the clinic. And I love that I get to put into practice all the things I’ve been learning in school for the last six years.
How did you get into kinesiology?
I came to UVic thinking I wanted to do marine biology, actually, but I took an intro bio class and did not enjoy it at all. I didn’t want to learn about things that didn’t have bones in them, they weren’t interesting to me!
I grew up playing sports and being super active. I played competitive soccer growing up and was in and out of physio and conditioning clinics on a weekly basis. I found the rehab world really fascinating. I think that’s what pushed me in that direction. I think another part of my interest in kinesiology was my family history. My family had some health scares when I was in high school and I really wanted to help them.
What’s next for you after school?
I’ll mostly be working, but in September my Mom and I are going to Italy! I’m so excited! I’ve never been. In high school, I went on an AP art history trip to Spain and that was amazing. I’ll have to pull out my art history textbooks again! I love art history and history in general. Historical architecture is a little bit mysterious: so many people have walked the streets in some places.
Do you like to travel?
I definitely love to travel and it’s something I want to do more of! When I think of travelling, I think of going across the pond to Europe and Asia. But, growing up, we did a lot of little, local road trips and that’s travel too! We have a family house in Sechelt, so I spent a lot of my summers on the sunshine coast, it has a special place in my heart. Or my family and I would go across the border to Oregon, and every year we would do a big road trip down there to visit my cousins. While I was in school, I explored the west shore of the Island and all the beaches, plus Tofino and Ucluelet for little getaways.
You play the flute?
Yes! I love all kinds of music! I literally always have music going whenever I’m anywhere. It’s something I grew up with. My parents had music playing at all times at home. My best friend and I are going to Seattle this summer to see Taylor Swift and I’m so excited for that road trip! And I grew up surrounded by people who played music. My mom plays the guitar and so does my brother. I played the flute for about eight years, all the way from grade six to twelve! I actually competed at the Royal Conservatory of Music and one time, I placed first for my instrument. I was lucky enough to go to the Chan Centre at UBC and get a little medal. I don’t play much anymore, I probably pick my flute up once a year, which I think would probably break my flute teacher’s heart!
How do you stay active?
My favourite thing to do on a day off is to go for a walk along Beach Drive with my coffee and listen to a podcast. Most of the podcasts I listen to are about an hour, so that’s how long I will walk. Podcasts, walking, and coffee are my three favourite things. I think everyone should walk! It’s easy on your joints and it’s a really good, low-intensity form of exercise, but still really good for your heart. It doesn’t feel like you’re exercising!
What podcasts do you love?
Conan O’Brien has one called ‘Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,’ which I love. One time, he interviewed Michelle Obama. It’s my favourite episode! My other favourite one is called RealPod, by Victoria Brown. She was a varsity volleyball player at USC and her platform is all about life after being a college athlete. She focuses on eating disorders and body positivity, and there are lots of mental health conversations. I find it super relatable and down to earth. It feels like talking to your big sister but with lots of good resources. I recommend it to everyone!
What’s great about walking?
I think walking is super undervalued, we should be doing way more of it. It’s great for people who know they should be doing aerobic activity but don’t love running. Me included! I thought I needed to run to keep my heart healthy, but walking is a great alternative and is easier on your body as well. Plus, it gets you outside. I am walking’s number one biggest fan!
Tell us more about infradian rhythms, what are they?
I’m curious about the gap that exists in research, specifically around women’s health and exercise. A lot of research being done on health, wellness, and exercise has been done on men or post-menopausal women, so the data isn’t always relevant to people outside of those groups.
Women actually have two rhythms: a circadian rhythm and what’s known as an infradian rhythm which is based on our menstrual cycle. But we live in a world based on circadian rhythms, so the world doesn’t sync up (to menstrual cycles)!
The emerging science suggests that these infradian rhythms can help people identify better times for us to be doing certain workouts or eating different foods, when we are most productive or when to be social. If we can tailor workouts and other physical activities around those rhythms, we can actually have better results. There’s a book I’m reading called In the Flow by Alisa Vitti where she dives into this area of research and it is so fascinating.
Whenever I find out about research being done on this topic, I get really excited. It feels like this big secret that nobody is talking about, but I’ve finally learned it and I need to share it!
How did you get interested in this topic?
A podcast! Dhru Purohit interviewed Alisa Vitti on his podcast, and I think the exercise portion of their conversation really spoke to me. As a woman, it’s very common to always feel like we need to lose weight or our bodies need to be smaller, so we’re always trying something different, blindly listening to the airbrushed celebrity trainers on our screens. But sometimes, we don’t stop to think about whether or not these workouts are what’s best for our individual bodies. For example, you can do a HIIT workout every day for a week because a magazine told you to and you get frustrated that you still haven’t lost weight or feel better. But maybe we should be taking a step back, listening to our bodies, and making an informed choice about how we are exercising.
I reflect on all the women I know that are unhappy with their bodies and do all these crazy things to change them. It would be so nice to say to them, “Don’t worry! Listen to your body and do the exercises that work for you!” We should be happy with the bodies we’re in.
I’m really passionate about women’s health and women celebrating their bodies. It’s so important that we fuel ourselves well and exercise in a way that makes us feel good. I think if I wasn’t going into clinical practice, I’d want to focus on women’s health in medicine.
Why is it important to be a filter for scientific research?
One thing that stressed me out in my education was seeing so much use of big words with patients, that they didn’t understand. Our job as clinicians especially is to be a filter for all the big, scientific information and to take the time to sit down and describe things in a way that makes sense to the patient. In academia, we forget that we have all this knowledge that isn’t common knowledge. We assume everybody knows things that most don’t know.
Patient education is super important and making it digestible is key, especially for patients that are in chronic pain. They’ve often been into so many offices and received so much information, it can be overwhelming. That’s one thing I want to work on when I’m in my own practice: making sure patients understand what’s going on in their own bodies.