What kind of Therapist do you want to be?

When I first started practicums (which feels like ages ago), my first supervisor told me to “work under as many different therapists as you can” to see different styles and ways of working alongside different clientele and focuses. Since then I’ve worked in numerous clinics under different ATs and even a Chiro/AT. I’ve attended extra seminars and conferences, and begun my own training and movement client base under the supervision of my mentor. I took that advice to heart and tried my best to learn and observe a variety of treatment styles, even if they didn’t always match up with my own philosophies. What better way to learn and grow your own ideas then to experience other’s ideas?

Recently, after a discussion on different treatment styles, philosophies, and options,  I was asked by a young patients mother what kind of Therapist I wanted to be. After close to 4 years observing, practicing under supervision, and interning… you’d think I’d have a fluent answer to give. Yet, I struggled with my answer. It’s not that I don’t have an idea or a perception of who and what I’m becoming as a professional, but it was how to describe it.

The thing with the profession I’m in is that pretty much every successful and practicing AT/Kinesiologist I’ve met has the same vision for what we do. Varying ways to get the same thing done. Yes, personalities and treatment styles are different.. but the atmosphere and goals are generally the same. Some may focus more on manual/soft tissue work while some my focus more on movement modalities. Some attend conferences and seminars on one thing, while others attend with interest in another. But at the end of the day, they all want their patients to get better, be better, and live better. They accomplish this with patient education, continuing ed for themselves, evidence based treatments, and knowledgeable exercise therapy programs.

So.. what kind of therapist do I want to be?

Early on I recognized I had a love for solving a problem and improving performance. This is one reason I fell in love with biomechanics and movement correction. Not only do these areas benefit athletes of all levels, they are practical and useful to general population clients as well. I’ve always had a thing for teaching and empowering people, which has blossomed as I’ve progressed into this career choice. The past month or so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a client progress from being unable to walk without the support of crutches and deal with two legs that just would not do his bidding to being able to walk across the room standing up straight, unsupported. His renewed positivity and insatiable drive to keep improving is inspiring and motivating to say the least. Every patient or client I have that realizes their own ability to improve themselves is something that inspires and motivates me. I’ve realized more and more lately how blessed I am to have found a career that enables me to empower others, and also brings substance and meaning to my own life. This is something I’m very grateful for.

Of course there are days where I’m tired, I’m unmotivated, and I’m nervous for my upcoming certification exams. Some of those days I still end up working with clients, or doing my jobs.. and I always come out of the day feeling better and a little more motivated. Leading up to my exams this fall, I am both nervous, and excited. I know I have a solid base to support me and I have a preparation plan leading up to the actual exams. More then anything I feel undeniably ready to take this next step in my career path. As someone who is always about 5years ahead of herself, this exam is only a doorway to the next thing.

I want to be a therapist that is inspiring, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. I want my clients to leave sessions feeling like they have the tools to help themselves. I never want to stop learning, or lose the ability to adapt to each patient and work in a style that best suits them. I want to be a chameleon therapist that can fit into anyone’s mindset, see through their eyes, and change their perceptions on their body, health, and lifestyles if needed. I want to promote my profession and help change the way the world views healthcare. I want to help athletes better themselves and be the best they can be. I want it all, and I’m determined to get it.

This week I completed my interning hours and finished my last university course. 1200 hours plus some in clinic and field on top of 4 years in University, all leading up to this fall’s exams. I have an excellent support system behind me, and an every better vision for who I want to become. I think it’s a question every aspiring AT should ask themselves… what kind of therapist do I want to be? The way to finding the answer takes blood (usually other’s), sweat and tears.. but as any journey often is.. it’s worth it. Here’s to the next step in this adventure!

Re: 2014… An open letter to myself

I usually do a Top 10 of the year to bring in the New Year, but this year I thought I’d do something a little different. In place of a list, here is a letter written to myself on the past 12 months. 

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Dec 31, 2014

As 2014 comes to an end, you are reliving countless moments from the year past. Most of them good, some of them not so much. 2014 began for you with fate halting you in your tracks (quite literally), with a broken leg and a ambulance ride (this post has more detail). You probably won’t ever forget that night.

The year continued as your leg healed and your eyes were opened to new things and new experiences. 2014 was a busy year for you, in almost all areas. You began work on your own brand with Katmah Training, starting out with a strength and conditioning class for riders- and, now at the end of the year, you find yourself promoting biomechanics and position assessments, booking group clinics for riders on biomechanics, and working on your own research project. Not a bad progression. As spring came and your leg continued to mend- you had to deal with some fear around getting back in the saddle. By refusing to let fear control your season, you pushed through and got yourself through one of the toughest competition seasons of your life which brought true meaning to the saying “sweat, blood and tears”- and even made the transition from hunter land in the the jumper ring (why you chose to do this while recovering from a broken leg and nerve damage is still up for question).. all the while having great support from your teammates and now close friends M and L, your coaches, parents and boyfriend. As the show season ended, and your fear became less- you faced another hurdle when you made the decision to sell your long-time teammate Will (see When you know, you know for more on this). This meant letting go of yet another fear and letting yourself let go of the belief that taking a break from the sport meant giving it up forever, or that it made you any less of an athlete. Again- the support you had from those close to you was outstanding. Without these people- what you did this year probably wouldn’t have been possible. One of 2014’s biggest marks was likely showing you how much you appreciate the people in your life.

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Academically, you faced the most challenging year yet. However, you surprised yourself with your dedication to your studies and the profession of athletic therapy. You realized you’ve found your calling, and you began to see your own potential. You took on a leadership role in your student association, and a few teaching assistant roles. Early in the year you even applied to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for their AT-student internship, but fate had it that you were meant to stick around home this year. Instead you began your own research and focused your in class work towards the equestrian sport. In the field you spent the spring covering the MB Winter Games (click here for more on that experience), and football. Summer brought working at the Winnipeg Folk Fest, the Morris Stampede, and then more football, basketball and hockey in the fall. You were the main therapist with your football team this year, and got to see a truck load of injuries. Unfortunate for the kids, but excellent for your confidence levels in the field (this and this are good reads on how your football seasons went. )! You even got published again by CATA with your post Meet Your Athletic Therapist. As an executive of the student association, you were also lucky to attend the first annual Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health Fundraising Gala. This event inspired you and kept you in love with the ever growing profession of kinesiology in Canada. The passion of those involved in it is slowly but surely making it a well-respected part of the health care system.

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Other then being swamped by football, you were also working in the clinic(s), manning the student association, teaching, and taking the four final AT courses, and then hockey. While the entire year had it’s ups and downs, the fall took a lot out of you. While the summer made you feel like you were living a double life, being both the athlete and the therapist, the fall flew by until sh** it the fan for about 2 months straight. This is usually how you experience burn out, and you’re finally starting to understand the pattern. First your car got broken into (and all of your ID and medical supplies stolen). Then you got some marks back that demonstrated a clear case of burn out, and your leg began acting up more then necessary. Then your car got towed (you hoped it’d been stolen). Following this, and numerous breakdowns, you headed into final exams while simultaneously facing the end of your first major relationship. Oh, and then your car broke down and completely died. Ya think the universe was sending clear enough message? This post gives a longer summary. Here, again, you got a front seat view of how much support you have within your different circles. M and L, your riding teammates, didn’t just stop being your friends when you left the sport- they stepped up in a big way for you this fall and winter. Your parents were endlessly supportive, as well as all your friends and colleagues at school. Even through closing the chapter on your relationship, J remained a big support and friend for you too.

When you look back at 2014, it’s easy to see that it was a year of learning (as every year is) for you. Learning took place in new areas. You were forced to deal with many emotions and feelings you either hadn’t given time for (love), or had locked away (fear). You proved your ambition within your career, and that is paying off looking into the new year. Before the year ended, your research took off and you began to form your own biomechanics program for riders. While it’s in the early stages, it will come in handy for the few clinics and talks you’ve been booked for early in 2015. It was very much a year of growing pains, in pretty much every aspect of your life- whether it be sport, career, or personal life. After getting through December full of exams and focusing on your research before taking some time off around Christmas, you road-tripped out to Lake Louise with your cousins. You definitely couldn’t afford this excursion- but your head thanks you for it. It was a great way to hit reset and bring in the New Year.

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As the clock nears midnight, you’re sitting in the Fairmont Chateau watching rich people in velvet suit jackets get progressively more confident on the dance floor (it’s as entertaining as it sounds). You have a fresh mindset on many things, and are looking forward to 2015 as a exciting year for you. Right now you have plans to work the Scotties tournament, the National Badminton Championships, and are starting in a few new clinics. You will continue with hockey, now with a younger student shadowing you, be a teaching assistant in two new classes, continue your own research, and come spring return to you beloved football team. You are done course work now, with just two humanities left to finish- which means your schedule is much more flexible and coordinated to your AT life. You will return to MORFit, after a month off, continue running your own business, and tutoring. With a little more wisdom when it comes to scheduling (we think) you will get back into the gym and yoga on a regular basis, because you know it’s what you need– that time for you– to stay sane and keep the Universe off your back. Since you aren’t riding competitively anymore, you need to find other ways to keep your body moving and your mind settled. Hopefully you’ll make it to this years CATA conference in Halifax, and surely you’ll find some new adventures to fill your summer with. This will be the first summer without a heavy training and competition schedule to keep you busy- but also the summer before you challenge the national certification exams.  After reflecting on 2014, you’re grateful for all the things it’s shown you- and are welcoming 2015 with a smile!

For future reference- practice gratitude everyday, it’s one of the things that kept you going through the low points of 2014.

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A confidence parallel

You may have noticed a theme of confidence in this summer’s posts (although few). Be it from recovering from my riding accident 6months ago and dealing the residual fear of getting back in the saddle, to transitioning into the jumpers from my oh so comfortable hunters- I am seemingly constantly confronted with the trials of where my confidence levels are on any given day.

My last post focused on how much I was beginning to regain confidence at Beach Party in the jumpers, after a good 3 days of making decent decisions and having decent rounds as a result. After that show I took some time off to do other things. I worked Folk Fest as part of the first aid team (which was awesome), dealt with an old back injury that acted up which took me away from riding for another week,  interviewed with a therapist I will be doing some clinical with, covered the Morris Stampede (professional rodeo) with a professor as a member of the sports medicine team (also awesome), applied for a related scholarship, covered some football, celebrated 6months with the guy, got my back back on track, did some clinical work at MORfit… my first two assessments in I don’t know how long, and finally got back into the saddle for a few rides and lesson before Heart of the Continent which starts this week. My lesson was quite good, although I did struggle with my head a bit during. Thankfully, even though my brain was nervous- I was able to put that aside and tune into autopilot. This made our lesson go quite smoothly, and M&C were quite happy.

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This has been one of the first summers my career/school and riding have really collided. I’ve been trying to find a balance, but in all reality for the majority of the earlier summer riding took precedence. The closer it gets to fall, the more AT focused things I’m beginning to do.. but I’m glad I’ve had the opportunities in AT I’ve had the past few weeks as they kind of reset my mindset towards where I’m at with riding.

Through doing all those other things outside of riding the past few weeks, the more athletic therapy sided things, made me see the other side of confidence in my life. It seems that my career and my sport have switched sides on me. In the past, athletic therapy related ordeals have taken some serious guts for me to accomplish due to a lack of experience and confidence in the area while riding has been something that comes easily for me with success following my experience and confidence levels in the ring. This summer every event I’ve covered as an AT or responder has been refreshingly fun, easy, and not like work at all. At Folk Fest I found myself labelled as the chief wound dresser, after impressing a few people early on with my roller gauze abilities. Morris Stampede brought me using soft tissue release techniques that I’ve never actually had the chance to use in real life since learning them.. but I still rocked it out.

I’ve clicked into a groove in the field, and excel at every chance I get in the clinic. The two clinical assessments I did for Claude were the first in 6-8months, but I found myself running on autopilot and picking up on things I’d read about or seen talked about at the CATA conference. I didn’t stumble through my questions, or forget what came next in the movement assessment.. I just did my thing and did it pretty well.

How nice it is to be able to do something so autonomously with confidence. All this took me the past year and a bit of working my butt off in class and clinical, and taking myself out of my comfort zone every chance I got. When I started this program I was somewhat shy, quiet, and although eager to learn- completely terrified. I see myself now turning into a calm, confident, knowledgable young professional. I guess that’s where I should be at as I enter my final year of the program before challenging the national exam.

When you stack that feeling of confidence within my budding career up to my long time riding career and my current feeling of not much confidence at all… it clearly shows the effects of a transition year. I most definitely underestimated the switch to the jumper ring as being simpler then it is. While I was plagued by a few unfortunate injuries early in the season, between having to ride very differently around a longer more aggressive course and being on a horse who has just as much experience doing this as I do… I have my work cut out for me. Beach Party proved to me that I am on the right track. But, just like the steps I had to take as a student AT to build my confidence and as a result boost my abilities- I have to do the same and put in the time in the jumper ring.

My goals for Heart of the Continent this week are to remain focused on staying calm, sitting up, keeping my leg on, having fun, and doing what I know how to do.. which is ride. Because while I may be a newbie to the jumper ring, I have been doing this crazy sport for over half my life- the skills are in there somewhere.

In a more general “state of my life” update, I am being run kind of crazy between work, riding, KSA organization, trying to get my current apartment subletting, dealing with subsequent no shows to the scheduled apartment viewings, working with my CMU Basketball teams, prepping for my football team to start up again, and the school year to begin. On top of Heart this week I’m moving in the middle of it, and working evenings. I’m also currently working on a proposal for a directed study on the biomechanics of a rider and how strength training can improve that (I know, I know.. I’ve been on this forever). In the midst of this I’ve had to chase the show boots I ordered in June across the country as I still haven’t received them…. long and frustrating story short.. they got on a plane today for express overnight to Winnipeg and should be here before I start competing Thursday. Here’s hoping I get to wear my boots for the last couple shows of the year!

Writing this all down I’m not surprised I had to take a “sick/mental health” day this morning to both recoup and get packing done for my move later this week.

The remainder of the time leading up to Heart… which is like 16 hrs at this point.. is going to be spent putting my game face on and not stressing about every other thing going on in my life. The move will happen with the help of my man, friends, and parents. My apartment will get sub-letted asap. KSA will be organized in time for fall. I will organized all the paperwork and training schedules for all three teams I’m working (after Heart). I will survive, and August holds some much needed weekends off and chill time before the last year of my BSc. I can do this!

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Triaging my own schedule.. Am I doing it right?

The past few weeks in a nutshell:

Answer student questions in first responder class, work with kids at horse connection, work the desk at MORfit, go to evening classes, ride, triage football kids, answer football parent’s questions on why their kid is concussed or how they broke their wrist (among other things), answer football coach’s questions as to which kids I actually told not to practice (2/6 actually sitting out…), ride, answer anatomy student’s questions, apply ice to football kids, ride, work the desk at MORfit, read religious papers for my online humanity, design workouts while in business class, teach those workouts to my class, schedule meetings for KSA, chat with enthusiastic faculty members on their ideas for KSA, try to track down a key for my KSA office (with no luck…), write panicked reading reports on readings I half did, try to remember to write things down in my schedule, more football, more desk work, chart, chart, chart, research injuries I’ve never seen before but am dealing with, apply ice, prescribe rest, attempt to get tensor bandages back from athletes, refer, explain to parents why I’m referring..again. Ride. Jump. Run. Get myself back into a lifting routine. Sleep? Eat?

I ran into a fellow AT student the other day, when I was ignoring the pressing need to finish a paper- and instead shopping. As I asked how her spring was going, I found myself looking into a mirror.. “I’m.. it’s.. overwhelming..”. Between football, work, spring courses, and our own personal athletics… Things get interesting for most AT students in the summer. I’m forever fighting back the guilt over not being able to fit in extra clinical shifts to bump my hours so far this summer- but honestly the thought of adding one more thing to my already overdone schedule is impossible.

As the main Trainer with Murdock this year, I’m on my own at practices (the ones that don’t interfere with evening classes..). What this means is that I’m learning how much I know, how much I don’t, and how much I am limited in practice. My team is amazing for making me feel absolutely loved and an integral part of the team. The coaches have told me more than once that they would fold without me and Nikki there. Any request I have is met, the best example was when I asked the coaches to ask one of the kids to carry my table out to practices for me.. the response was the coach walking into the dressing room and yelling “Hey guys- if this table isn’t brought out to the field today by one of you, the entire team is running quadruple what we usually run.. Got it? Good.” and then calmly walking back to me and stating “Someone will get it done for you!” before heading to the field. That’s a moment to warm any AT’s heart.

I’ve really noticed the difference in my abilities now compared to last fall. It was pretty common for me to spend every drive home after practices or games in full sob mode as a result of being horribly overwhelmed. And that was during a season of next to no injuries… This year, I have yet to be phased.. and on average I have a line up of players waiting to see me. The most eventful things I’ve dealt with so far has been a growth plate fracture to the radius, a couple solid concussions, a broken pinky, and numerous bumps and bruises.

As much as I’m loving every second of this- I’m also seeing how the clinical side of AT suites me much better. On field my job is to treat to the best of my ability, and make the decision on whether the kid is going back into play or not. If not, referring onto further medical attention or telling them to rest and apply ice. In clinic I get to figure out what’s causing the problem, and what’s the best way to fix it.. and then actually help fix it. Much more satisfying. Field is exciting, and challenging- but it doesn’t vary much. This is why I’m doing my best to read up on the injuries I see on the field, so when I get those kids in a clinic someday- I have a good idea of how to best help them rehab.

So that’s football. What about my athletics?

Well those have been going pretty awesome. I’m still running 5ks with no problems, and getting closer to my regular speed. The last couple weeks I’ve started back into lifting- as my back has begun acting up again, and the best remedy for that has proven to be barbell dead-lifts and squats.Also, I like to practice what I preach.

IMG_6362Riding has been spectacular. The last couple lessons I’ve had have been flawless, and so much progression has been obvious to me and M&C. After our last lesson I received a “you did not too bad today…. and by not too back I mean really good!” from M. If you know M, you know that means something. Our first competition is coming up in 3 weeks, where I will be competing in the jumper ring. Height divisions have yet to be decided. Will has been jumping phenomenal, and I’m excited to see what this season holds for us. 

As overwhelmed as I am a lot of the time.. its very neat to see the little pieces of my life clicking into place gradually. The business I’ve began working on has showed continuous progression in a short amount of time, and all my years of patience and hard work in my sport is showing some exciting results. Both these things combined are bringing exciting opportunities to me, and catching the attention of some local supporters (more on this soon).

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This week brings much of the same, with football most evenings, work, midterms (to write, and to mark…), papers to write, social events to attend, and training to do on myself and on my horse. This weekend brings the National CATA (Athletic Therapists Assoc.) conference, which I am very excited to be attending- even though it disrupts my usual Saturday routine of replenishing my sleep bank.  Spring courses are almost half done- and I am perpetually behind (curse you online courses!). With the weather improving I will be starting my other summer job soon, hopefully after my teaching assistant work is nearing end- and show season will soon be in full swing for me.

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Tuesday night rambles

To continue my trend, check out where I was a year ago!

Usually, on a Tuesday night, I’d be in bed by now. But since I somehow ended up consuming WAY too much caffeine today.. I need to do some typing to burn some energy.

This nice weather we’ve been having is making me want to kick into gear on the riding front- unfortunately school is getting in the way! I’ve been really upping my work-outs to compensate. And watching a lot of youtube videos, like this one. And studying.. of course. But seriously.. counting down the days, minutes, seconds, until I can get riding!

I had my first shift at the new job yesterday. I am working on a casual basis, so any shifts I have right now are as covers for other employees- I don’t have a permanent shift yet. Which is actually perfect because it basically means I can pick and choose which shifts I want. What student with my schedule would complain about that? It became very apparent yesterday that I am going to learn a BUNCH from this job. Whether it be in interacting with clients, managing a business, or, of course, everything else related to the fitness field. Only had one embarrassing moment yesterday (surprising for me), where my boss was going through a mock start up program (new members are guided through a basic fitness program by the staff on duty) with me (where I was guiding him through the program) and I couldn’t figure out how to work the treadmill. Awkward. Thankfully he switched roles with me and helped me out. He seems very committed to thoroughly training his staff, and helping them gain knowledge in every way he can in this career path. Looking forward to my next shift on Thursday, where I’ll be flying solo for the first time! Eek!

Today I got some more news on my health (or lack of) diagnosis. I had a voicemail from my GP letting me know that my CT was clear, and my appendix was/is healthy and there is no need for it to be removed. Great to know I was literally minutes away from having an unnecessary surgery. I owe the anaesthesiologist who put a halt to the procedure a big thank you! Only downside to this is that we still don’t know whats causing my symptoms. At least now that is ruled out. I am meeting with my GP tomorrow to move onto the next step- a referral to a gastroenterologist (spelled that right the first time, heck ya!). Can’t say I’m too excited about meeting with MORE doctors. This has sure been a year full of them. But, I don’t control life; I control how I react to it. So, we are going to keep thinking positive and take it as it comes.

In my last post I think I mentioned I had a pretty off week of exams, two marks around a C+ in courses where I should have been getting much higher. Crediting that to bad symptoms of the mystery ailment, and bad head space because of it. The week after that I wrote three more exams. The marks for two of which I got back, and both were A- (prevention and care of athletic injuries, and intro kin)! That definitely is a boost! I feel pretty good about the last one I’m waiting for too.

In other news, I really just want it to be riding time. 5 more weeks! Let the count down begin!

Here are some fun pictures, just for fun!

Sunrise on Ness Ave

Sunrise on Ness Ave

Zoo day anyone?

Zoo day anyone?

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I'm sure the staff at Value Village love us..

I’m sure the staff at Value Village love us..