‘‘I need to get back to the gym,” the woman said, looking woefully at the wrist she’d fractured when she fell during a workout. If anyone could understand the weightlifter’s sense of urgency, it was Dr. Courtney Shinost ’15, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) graduate. She has a keen understanding of the importance of conditioning and how much an injury could set an athlete back because she began her career as a strength and conditioning coach and is an active weightlifter.
In making this professional pivot, Shinost didn’t so much as abandon her first career as she let it evolve into a new one. “To see patients from the first day, and say, ‘I promise it will get better,’ and then see them get back to the things they love is amazing,” Shinost said. “Moving into physical therapy feels like a natural evolution.”
Shinost launched her career with a position in research with the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, where she investigated how the stress hormone cortisol affects the body during intense episodes of exercise during training for military special operators. She went on to work as a strength and conditioning coach at the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Pendleton, where she tailored programs to meet mission-specific needs of operators. “The program allowed me to focus on how these personnel needed resiliency, both physically and mentally,” she says.
While the job was satisfying, Shinost soon felt like she’d gone as far as she could as a strength and conditioning coach. A co-worker in the Navy, who is a physical therapist, encouraged her to give the field a try.
At All Star Physical Therapy in Lake Elsinore, California, she works in outpatient orthopedics with patients who are 13 to 95. She has been credentialed as a clinical instructor and still keeps a toe in the fitness world by serving as a peer reviewer for the Tactical Strength and Conditioning Report.
“These are two professions that are on the same spectrum,” Shinost says. “We shouldn’t look at it like it’s strength and conditioning on the left and physical therapy on the right.” Her evolution will only continue: She ultimately hopes to become a faculty member to give back to the professions that have fueled her own path.