Shelly Heneghan - Physiotherapist, Pulmonary Rehab Program

Shelly finished 2nd overall (1st in her age category) at the Fresh Air Cherry Blossom triathlon in Kelowna in May and 2nd in her age group again at the June Shawnigan Lake triathlon. More recently she was delighted to finish the Victoria Half Ironman in less than 5 hours, securing a podium spot in her age group. With results like this we figured she’d be a good person to speak with ahead of a sunny summer in Vancouver!

How did you get to where you are today?
I’m from Ireland and I studied Physiotherapy in the UK. There weren’t many jobs in Ireland after graduating, so I decided I might as well work and travel at the same time. I moved in 2010 to Vancouver and worked as a rehab assistant while I was doing my exams. I started working as a physiotherapist (PT) in Aug 2011.

I started at SPH in the surgical rehab unit but moved on to cover a maternity leave on the surgical floor, work on medicine, in orthopedic outpatients and now I’m the Physiotherapist (PT) working in the pulmonary rehab program.

What does a PT have to do with pulmonary rehab?
We run an 8 week program focused on exercise and education for patients with chronic lung diseases’. Our goal is to educate them about their lung condition, and to improve their exercise tolerance, independence and quality of life.

Patients are often afraid to carry out activities and exercise because of the severe breathlessness they experience, but staying inactive will make things worse.  We help patients become fitter, control their breathing and we provide education and information regarding life with a chronic lung condition.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is having the ability to help people.  I love working with our patients; helping them with their conditions and seeing them improve is very rewarding. Every day brings something new and I’m learning constantly, which keeps things interesting.   When you love what you do, it’s fun to come to work.

What brought you to PHC?
I’d read a lot about the history of SPH and I liked that it seemed to be a community in itself as well as a great place to work. All of the units I’ve worked in have fostered excellent team environments and there have always been lots of opportunities to learn from those around me. A big part of what keeps me here is the team I’m working with; they’re an incredible bunch of PTs.

Would you say your competitive spirit influences how you do your work?
Well I definitely am not one to sit around, I like to go-go-go. I’m aiming this year to get certified as a respiratory educator to be able to deliver more expertise and advice to my patients. I guess that competitive streak never leaves you, I put everything I have into my work just like I do in training.

Have you always been an athletic person?
Thanks to my dad, I grew up participating in track and field at a very young age, focusing on middle distance running, cross country and the high jump. I continued to play Gaelic football through college and I decided to get back into running at the age of 25 in the summer before I moved to Canada.  Running injuries led me to take up biking and swimming as an alternative to stay fit, but once I was injury free, I decided to give Triathlons a shot.  

How do you squeeze all your training in around work and other commitments?
It hasn’t been easy. I train 15-18 hours a week so it has been pretty hectic. Most days start with an early morning training session, with a full day of work squeezed in before a second training session. Three days a week I’m up at 4:30am to get to swimming practice at 5:30. My weekend is where I fit in my long bike rides and long runs.

It was tough being tired both at work and at training, so as of the beginning of June I decided to begin working part time at SPH. Now I have Tuesday and Thursday to focus on higher volumes of training.

Do you have any advice for somebody who is just starting out with a fitness routine?
Choose something that you think you will enjoy. I’d recommend chatting with somebody in the sport/activity of your choice before you get started. Jot down some goals for yourself, start with little ones and continue to progress as time goes on. If it’s not fun, it might not be the right activity for you and you might need to try something different. I couldn’t do triathlons if I didn’t enjoy them.

What goals have you set for yourself?
I’m aiming to qualify for the 2016 Half Ironman Worlds and to place in the top 10 at the 2015 International Triathlon Union (ITU) world age group races in Chicago in September and to qualify for the ITU world age groups in Mexico in 2016.