Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Thomas.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Heather. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have always been fascinated with the human body, movement and physiology from a young age. I grew up playing many sports and was a kinesthetic learner. Always interested in the health-care field and athletics, I was initially drawn to orthopedic surgery and athletic training.
I went on to play basketball in college where I majored in Biology and minored in Psychology. I had a wise Biology adviser and during a meeting with her she shared with me that after taking inventory of my personality, talents, interests and life goals she thought I would be an excellent physical therapist – and asked if I had ever considered it. Despite a few sports injuries growing up I had never been to a PT. So I was challenged to look into it and that night I went on a google binge searching physical therapy and clinics. A clinic popped up with a database of diagnosis, interventions and outcomes. I stayed up geeking out on all this information. That night I thought, “wow, physical therapists really know the human body and movement in such detail and understand ways to facilitate healing to help people… I find this all so interesting. If this is what a physical therapist knows, THAT is what I want to do.”
So I balanced my time playing basketball, working on campus and my involvement in various clubs and student life, and began volunteering at a local clinic to focus my sights towards PT school. I went to APU and got my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. There, I had a wide range of interests and was grateful to glean knowledge from rotations in acute care, pediatrics and neurology. Directly after graduating, I went into a post-graduate residency program in orthopedics at Kaiser Permanente. This step was so critical for me. As a life-long learner who is passionate about providing the best possible care for my patients, that journey fed my desire to be stretched in my thinking and treatment practices. In the program, I was mentored weekly by seasoned specialists and was constantly challenged to think about my thinking. They assisted in recognizing clinical patterns, helped to refine and expand my hands on manual skills and accelerated my growth. Following that year, I became an orthopedic clinical specialist and was hired on staff full time.
A new phase of my professional career was marked with the personal transition into motherhood in 2015 when my daughter was born. What a life-changing experience!! Becoming a mom has always been a hope and dream, and to be present for my kids a priority. So I went back to work as a part-time per diem in order to spend more time raising my little one. This new role at Kaiser gave me the opportunity to work with many patients at various clinic settings and interact with therapists at all our locations in Orange County. That gave me insight into different treatment approaches and diverse manners PTs treat that I don’t think I would have had otherwise.
During this time in 2017, another project and passion came forth which was the first taste of entrepreneurship. Together with two of my best friends, Michelle (owner of United Yoga Studio) and Marina (owner of Connect Studio Space) we created a Yoga Alliance Certified 200 hour teacher training at United Yoga Studio. I began doing this on the weekends while continuing my clinical job. This process of creating content was really fun, energizing and extremely challenging. It also fulfilled a passion of mine to educate others, and for them to have an experiential knowledge about the human body on a deeper level.
At the beginning of 2018 we were blessed with our second child. During the joys and challenges of motherhood my interest in pelvic floor continued to come up. I often found myself talking with other women about all things pregnancy and motherhood. I had the opportunity to provide community education classes at yoga studios and a chiropractic office on various topics related to pregnancy and the postpartum period. To deepen that knowledge, I took Herman & Wallace courses and became a certified pelvic floor provider.
Around this time, the complexities of balancing work, these passions and my family grew. And although I enjoyed being able to create quick and meaningful impact with patients, I really missed seeing a patient along their journey. So I knew I was ready for change and my next step needed to have that. I began really dreaming about what I envisioned for my life and life work. I desired to be with my family in the capacity I’d like, wanted to have time to pursue teaching/educating others, be able to incorporate all aspects of wellness into my treatments and spend more time with my patients.
I honestly never thought I would want to open my own clinic, but the path unfolded very clearly to do so. It was very challenging to step out of my comfort zone – especially in areas business and administrative work. But it has been exciting and invigorating to create and provide the type of environment and care that bring a sense of holistic wellness – for me and my clients. And to have the ability to educate and inspire women to seek care for problems they did not know could be helped, and help facilitate vibrant pregnancies.
As a perfectionist and goal-oriented person I have so many hopes, dreams and visions for how I want my business to grow and projects I want to tackle. But a huge part of this entrepreneur journey is having the balance I’ve sought. So it keeps me excited and anticipating the road ahead, but also staying grateful and present in the now where I am so stoked to be providing quality care to my clients.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Yes and no. Overall the path has been relatively smooth so far. When I left my job in January, I took it one step at a time. Most of the greatest struggles seem to be self-inflicted – the moments of fear, doubt and questions. Basically, when we get in our own way. Other things I struggle with are my weakness/growth points. As of now, my practice consists of just me so learning new systems, business and administrative work has been challenging. My passion is treating clients and connecting with people so when I find myself hitting roadblocks with administrative details or sitting behind my computer it is a challenge.
I am grateful for my support system- especially my husband who has always encouraged this process and challenged me outside of my comfort zone. And also my close friends – a few who are also entrepreneurs themselves and warned and prepared me for the trials and triumphs.
In the moments of struggling it is important for me to be reminded of the WHY. Focusing on the purpose of me stepping into this calling. And during these moments something would happen that would be affirming – a new client calling out of the blue, a blessing, a little nod, a yes keep going this is the right path.
Please tell us about Physiofly Physical Therapy & Wellness.
About my practice:
At Physiofly, I provide individualized physical therapy and wellness treatments through a whole-body interconnected approach. My aim is to facilitate active awareness to your entire kinetic system, while also incorporating the impact of your mental and physiological state on your bodily experiences. I stand out in my ability to listen and see each person, meeting them where they are. There is always a catalyst for someone to pursue healing and wellness, and the reason you are in my office and how it has been affecting your life matters. What is it that is limiting you from doing what you want or need to do or what is just bugging you – what are your goals? Whether it’s wanting to walk your dog, be at peak performance for the next season, have pain free sex, a vibrant pregnancy and recovery, not pee when picking up your kiddo, get out of bed without back pain, work without chronic annoying neck discomfort – whatever the case – we find it and I partner with you as we focus on practical steps towards your definition of wellness, so you can be “Fit for your purpose”!
After gathering your history, I perform a thorough assessment of the human system- because everything is connected! Often clients find I ask questions and perform tests they’ve never had as it relates to their circumstances. I do so to learn what is the state of the neuromusculoskeletal system but also how is your sleep, nutrition, self-care, emotion, mindset – which are all factors we know to impact our physical state. Emphasis is placed on understanding the sources, or the roots of the problem, not the manifestation or symptoms of it.
The treatment is then tailored to your needs, and I bring a blend of my expertise, the patients experience, current research and alternative approaches to the table in each treatment session. Breathing, posture, manual hands on techniques, and facilitating movement are all key elements of each treatment session but are unique to each situation. Efficient and meaningful movement is a harmony – and similar to coordinating a symphony – we turn up and down the volume of different muscle engagement as necessary through relaxing tense muscles, lengthening short muscles, strengthening the weak, and neuromuscular reeducation for uncoordinated motion. The goal is always more than simply providing an exercise routine to perform, the art of my craft is retraining and integrating movement strategies into your daily life.
Patient education is crucial to lasting outcomes. I break things down and explain in common language, simple terms and relatable concepts. Clients often have this moment when things click and they are able to self identify certain positioning and movement throughout their day that may be more problematic or helpful. Through this clients feel engaged, know and experience their body differently, and are able to connect the dots and make incremental change.
And who do I treat? While I have been told from a marketing standpoint I should specify a “target market or niche”, I truly do see all types of patients- anyone looking to maximize their movement capabilities and minimize inefficiencies or pain! On the other hand, I do have specializations. For one, I am an orthopedic clinical specialist and love my athletes, weekend warriors, yogis, office workers, etc.
I am also a specialist in women’s pelvic floor dysfunction, pregnancy and postpartum recovery – this is a population I am extremely passionate about serving. I get excited to educate women and offer simple tips on how to take better care of ourselves. Unfortunately, the message that women mostly hear is that pain or discomfort is to be endured, nothing can be done or that the problems will spontaneously resolve. I provide a service that can help women be more comfortable, feel confident and connected in their bodies, and thrive through pregnancy, delivery and start off postpartum on the right foot. For those with pelvic floor pain or dysfunction, they often feel like they are the only one – and their condition limits them in huge ways while they suffer in silence. They are not alone – as syptoms such as leaking and pain with sex are very common and there is hope for healing. I work with them through a similar interconnected approach I provide all of my patients.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Such a good question. I continue to reevaluate this. Well, I was raised on basketball and John Wooden quotes so I go back to my roots and his definition of success. I’ve had this quote with me throughout my life – written on my corkboard in my room in high school, a basketball in college and actually on my desk at work for years…
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
Interestingly this is a wide definition is there is still so much room for further defining “what is the best?” and “what are you capable of?” And I think the part of this that resonates with me is the importance of having peace of mind. While of course, I have a business plan and goals – I am still learning about business and metrics and all that… But, success to me is do I have clients that are consistently walking in my door booking out my schedule. Am I facilitating their wellness in such a way that they are returning. Do they feel such a direct impact on their daily lives and ability to do the things they enjoy as a result of what I have to offer that they tell their people and want their friends and family to experience the same.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Oh, I love this question because I feel like there are so many others that deserve the credit. Buckle up this is a long list.
My number one is my husband Dave. My goodness without him I probably would have not felt the freedom, the confidence and the need to open my own clinic and make my mark. He keeps me grounded, motivated, and comforted that this exactly what I should be doing.
The strong friendships and support system I have, especially my Mastermind group Michelle (owner of United Yoga Studio) and Marina (owner of Connect Studio Space). We have been masterminding weekly for over a decade… Since the days I worked slanging lattes and stayed up late studying in grad school to now as we all have multiple kids and business. They keep me grounded but also remind me that the sky’s the limit. They are my ultimate hype file friends (check out Marie Foleo hype file friend if you don’t know what this is) and shoulders to cry on empathizing with the struggles of entrepreneurship.
Jane Mascaris (owner of Blooming Chiropractic). She is a mama and owner and exemplifies the balance I want to have raising my kids and raising my business at the same time. A seed was planted when I gave a postpartum recovery workshop at her office and a few months down the road a simple question in an email and a comment that she had a room for rent in her office was just the opening and timing for me to take the leap. She is always so encouraging and helps keep it simple and reminds me to bring it back to what’s important – the community I am serving.
My parents Ray and Diane, stepmom Shannon, siblings and their spouses (Shawn, April, Brittany, Thomas and Tyler)… who of course raised me into the woman I am, and also encouraged me in this next chapter of my life. Thomas generously helped me get my business license and write a business plan.
My brother and sister-in-law Brock and Natalie who skyped in from Germany for brain-storming sessions… And have been telling me for many years- like MANY years – to start my own business. My out of state in laws- Elizabeth and Michael- on family email chains thoughtfully helped me decide on a business name and rooted me on.
My close friends – especially Mary, Marina, Chelsea, Andrea (owner of Somadoc Movement Therapy) – who were soundboards for ideas, sources of knowledge, encouragement and inspiration.
All my mentors, colleagues and managers that I had while at Kaiser- they gave me such great support when I left and it was there that I built my strong foundation.
And definitely my clients. They make it all possible! It seemed like every time I had doubts or fears start to creep in I would get a text or call out of the blue asking for an appointment – even one before I had announced or put it out there I was starting a clinic. And especially my “original client” and close friend Keith, who I have treated over many years. Even back in PT school he believed I would get to this place and has spurred me on towards it.
- Address: Costa Mesa, CA 92626
San Dimas CA 91773
- Website: myphysiofly.com
- Phone: 949-409-1411
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: drheatherthomas