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Hatty Skinner talks about being a nature nerd, knitting mittens, and why having a positive outlook helps with healing

During our conversation with Hatty, we learned about why she loves to sleep under the stars and some of her favourite facts about the human body.

How do you like living in Sooke?

It’s so pretty, and I love the commute! Usually, when I’m leaving work it’s at sunset which is my favourite time of day. It’s also nice to have a chance to relax on the way home and on the way in. I’m near the Galloping Goose trail system and, while I’m saving for a bike now, I go for walks on it all the time. I’m definitely not a city person. I feel really at home here, it’s small and quiet. Before Victoria, I lived in Winnipeg and it’s not as nice out there as it is here. It’s really hard to go outside when it’s -50!

The coastline of Sooke, BC at dawn.

How did you end up going to physio school in Manitoba?

I grew up in Ontario and had been there since I was a kid (but I was actually born in the UK!). During my undergrad in Ontario, I decided to go to physio school but it’s very competitive, so I applied to all the schools in Canada and I was accepted to the University of Manitoba. I decided to give it a go, and thought, “It’ll be an experience!” I didn’t really know much about Manitoba at that point, to be honest. But this all happened at the peak of COVID and I was excited to get outside of Ontario and see something new.

The summer before, I had driven through Manitoba when my brother and I did a month-long road trip through Tofino. I remember it being very hot and there being a lot of mosquitos! When I got to Winnipeg for school, it was a bit of a culture shock in a way. It’s a big city and culturally, very different from anywhere I had lived before. I appreciated that there was more diversity there. And I ended up being the only person in my class that was from out-of-province!

What was it like working in a trauma centre?

It’s an experience I definitely won’t forget. There are so many different walks of life in the city, including a mix of immigrant/settler communities and Indigenous populations, we saw everyone come through the centre. It was very eye-opening for me, especially coming from small-town Ontario.

It was very tiring work on all levels, but it was also some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I felt like I was making a difference and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I have huge respect for people who work in acute care, it’s a very emotionally intense job.

On the positive side, seeing some of the patients turn around so quickly was incredible. In the hospital, there was this general understanding that the patients with the best outlook were always the ones to go home fastest. 

How did you get into kinesiology?

When I was a kid, I used to ski a lot. One year, we went to the Swiss Alps (I think I was 16?) and I had a knee injury and tore my meniscus. It happened on the first or second day! Eventually, I saw a physiotherapist and made a pretty decent recovery. But what really interested me was the idea that this physiotherapist was solving a problem for me. He could figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix it. I thought that was interesting and that I’d love to be able to do that for other people, too.

I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and biology, too. My parents bought me my first anatomy book when I was four! I find anthropology really interesting too, especially the evolution of the human body. 

But I love history and geography also. I’m a huge geography nerd! I love learning about all kinds of things.

Hatty sits on a mountainside in Montana wearing a teal ski jacket and white helmet.

What’s one thing you’ve learned that blew your mind?

One thing I tell people a lot, my basic spiel, is that our bodies have evolved to be active. Prehistoric humans were endurance creatures on their feet all day: we are more efficient than any other species at long-distance running. Our bodies literally didn’t evolve to sit still! I tell clients that when I’m trying to motivate them to move more. I love educating people on things like that.

What’s fun about the clients that you work with?

They’re so motivated and they genuinely want to get better. Those are the easiest people to work with! Colwood is an active community and everyone is aware of the benefits of being active. I have a few younger parents and younger adult clients, and even some clients in their 80s who still do power walking and running. The diversity is really nice.

What fascinates you about geography?

I don’t know when that started! Since I was a kid, I’ve loved maps and learning about other countries. Maybe part of that is because I’m an immigrant and I travelled a lot as a kid. At the time, my perception of the differences between England and Canada was mostly centred around the types of snacks each country had.

What do you appreciate most about travelling?

The landscapes, for sure. I did a French exchange in high school and remember seeing the French Alps for the first time, they blew my mind! I had never even been to the Canadian Rockies and they were similar. I remember feeling a little claustrophobic actually, because they were so tall. Most recently, I was in Iceland with my stepdad (we went after I finished my undergrad). It felt like another planet, the geography was like none I’d seen before, with the lava fields and ice formations. It was also a lot greener than I expected.

The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Southeast Iceland.
The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland.

You’re a Game of Thrones Fan?

I’m a fan! And, they filmed it in Iceland, so I was nerding out about that while I was there. I’m not usually into sci-fi or medieval fantasy stuff but the show is so well-written! I watched it while I was in physio school and it was a nice escape.

Do you have any favourite places to find new research in physio?

I sometimes use Instagram to find physio research from qualified professionals.

You’re a nature nerd! 

I love anything that involves nature and being outside. Hiking and camping are my favourites. There’s just nothing like sleeping under the stars. I love quiet, being in the forest, being in a tent. When I was a kid, my sister and I would sleep on our trampoline with some quilts, maybe that’s how I got comfortable with sleeping outside.

Vancouver Island is definitely one of the best places to hike. I did the Juan de Fuca in August with some friends from Winnipeg, it took us about four days and was a grind, but it was good fun. Plus, we saw some orcas! They’re one of my favourite animals and they were 40 feet away. That was probably the highlight.

Since then, I’ve been doing little hikes nearby, like East Sooke Regional Park. I’d really like to go to Strathcona, which looks amazing, or Panorama Ridge on the mainland.

Hatty and a girl friend pose behind the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail sign in the forest.

What do you do when you’re not hiking or doing kin?

I’m an avid knitter! I’m pretty good at making mittens. And, I like to paint acrylic landscapes. I’d like to start getting into sewing and embroidery because I like to fix things. I think it’s a useful skill. 

Hatty's colourful white, yellow, green, and red hand-knitted mittens.