In this series, we will be interviewing the people behind your local favourite businesses in Squamish. Today we are interviewing Susan Shalanski, owner and physiotherapist at Reach Physio. Sue is a long term local who has been a trailblazer in the health and wellness practice in our community. Enjoy this interview of a local gem and learn why Susan and her team at Reach Physio are Adventure Approved.
Photo By Glenn Tachiyama Photography tachifoto.net
Tell me a little bit about who you are and where you came from?
I grew up in Edmonton and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to live in a small town in the mountains. Originally I thought Jasper would be where I would move to, however, in 1998 I moved to Squamish for a post grad physio work practicum, with the intention of testing it out for a year. That was 17 years ago.
How did you first hear about Squamish?
As I was researching my options for where to take my post graduate physio studies, I came across Squamish. Squamish at that time didn’t have the same great reputation as now, but I heard that the mountain bike trails were really good. So I made the move from Cranbrook and applied for a job. My interview at the time was more a question of ‘when can you start’, than an interview. My “potential” boss was smart and took me for a drive around town to see the hidden gems of the area and I was impressed with the views on a stunning bluebird august day.
Did you get to enjoy some of the great mountain biking trails?
Before I first moved to Squamish, I thought I was a good mountain biker. I wondered why the trails in the old guide books were so short in distance on the map. I quickly realized when I hit the trails, that they were in fact short, steep, and vicious. Mountain biking in Squamish was a very humbling experience. In fact I spent many days simply taking my bike for a walk on the trails.
What are some of the best changes you have witnessed in our town in the last 17 years?
The demographic of the people I work with patient-wise has completely shifted. The patients 17 years ago were mostly tree fallers, pulp mill, saw mill, and other industry-based jobs. Now I can relate more to the clientele, as they are like me – they are here for the Squamish lifestyle and want to sustain their health and lifestyle as they get older. The community has shifted to be more lifestyle-based, rather than industry-based.
What is your favourite activity to do in Squamish?
Originally it was mountain biking, however in the last 6 years I have been trail running more than mountain biking. I enjoy it so much I started a trail heads meet up group (click here for more information). This was because I realized more and more people who were moving here were interested in running and hiking, and I wanted to share the love of trail running with them.
How did you get into trail running?
I got into trail running because regular hiking started to feel a bit too slow! I just love exploring the mountains at a speed where you don’t need a backpack. You cover a lot of ground, but go light. I also started a trail running meetup group to help show more people this great sport. ( You can find more information on Susan’s’ trail running group by Clicking Here)
What are your top Squamish trail running trails?
For a short run I enjoy the loops in the smoke bluffs and will do a smoke bluffs Crumpit Woods loops. Or I will do a quick run up to Cat Lake, by going up Cheshire Cat and down 57th. When I am in the mood for something BIG I will trail run up the 3rd peak of the Chief via the Squaw, or do an Elfin Lakes run in the morning.
Tell me about what you do for work?
I started working as a physiotherapist in Squamish 17 years ago. Back then physio in private clinics felt a bit like an assembly line. As I learned more skills as a physiotherapist, I wanted to be able to spend more one-on-one time with my clients. I saw a real need in the industry to have more of a personal connection with our clients in order to help with their recovery. Susan Chappell of Squamish Integrated Health opened up an opportunity to treat patients the way I envisioned – and I teamed up with her to share a small house for treating our clients. Our practice grew organically through word of mouth recommendations, because we were providing a service that patients really wanted. This marked a big shift in how I practiced and gave me the opportunity to launch my own practice. In 2009 I leased our own space and launched Reach Physio.
What makes Reach Physio a Local Favourite?
We also all have personal experience with the injuries that come from an active lifestyle. Everyone on our team is extremely active in the sports that they treat people for. Seeing as we are all movers, we want to get people back on board to enjoy their sports. Our staff at the office have all chosen to work there for the one–on-one and private nature of how the clinic is set up.
Reach Physio also participates in a lot of community-based initiatives like promoting a healthy lifestyle focus with 30 day challenges people recorded activity online and completed their 30 day activity they were entered into a draw. This was an initiative that was more focused on teaching healthy lifestyle habits, rather than injury recovery.
How do you manage to balance your hard work while still enjoying the outdoor lifestyle in Squamish?
When I am out walking the dog, or hiking or trail running, I listen to audiobooks and Podcasts. I really enjoy learning and expanding my knowledge, and if I can do this while getting exercise I am really in my element. I make sure I get exercise everyday – I would hardly say that I am balanced, but I do make it a priority. My schedule allows for me to work late for commuters, which leaves me the morning to get the playtime in before I head to see clients. I also love to have walking, hiking, or mountain biking meetings.
What is your ideal Squamish Adventure day?
Last summer was an Echo Lake hike – a pretty darn ideal day. A group of ten really wonderful people canoe and meet up with Murray Valhalla Pure. There are so many things to do around of here – taking the gondola up to the singing pass trail, and discover more and more hiking trails before ending the day at the Brewpub.
What is your vision for the future of outdoor recreation in Squamish?
I am excited to see more people coming here, and I want to see more people moving to Squamish for the outdoor lifestyle. I am excited to share the love of trail running with more and more people who are new to town and meeting fellow “play” mates.