Zoe Leahy moved from the bush to the beach to achieve her goals of working in sports and exercise.
Currently a final-year exercise science student, Zoe cites her rural upbringing and her large family as a big motivator for her passion for sports and exercise and her choice to move to the Gold Coast from her home town of Goondiwindi to study a Bachelor of Exercise Science at Griffith University.
“I’m the youngest of five children in my family, so I have always been on my toes and active,” she says.
“I took a liking to swimming, netball and cross country early on and had great success, and then ventured into triathlon which I still love and compete in around my studies.
“It was a no brainer for me to study a degree related to exercise and the physiology behind it, and as one of my older sisters studied Exercise Science here at Griffith, I knew based off her experience that it would be a great program for me.”
During her degree, Zoe has had the opportunity to intern with several organisations that have developed her understanding of how her theoretical skills can be applied post-graduation.
“I was very fortunate in November 2019 to begin an internship with the Gold Coast Suns Football Club. I assist in the Performance Analytics and Technology fields and have already gained invaluable experience at the elite sporting level,” she says.
“Another big learning experience has been with the Queensland Academy of Sport where I’ve been working with the strength and conditioning coach in their triathlon programs for the past few months.
“And during the COVID-19 closures, I have been gaining practical hours by taking other students through virtual exercises classes to ensure everyone is continuing to be physically active and keep their brain firing during stressful university periods, like exams.”
Placements are a large part of the Exercise Science program, and Zoe says that finding balance among the mix of classes, placements and her own personal training is one she has perfected over the years.
“My degree is obviously very practical, so I get the opportunity to use world-class facilities such as the health laboratories, aquatic centre, athletics track and strength and conditioning facility every week,” she says.
“For the majority of my degree, I’ve continued to train and compete full-time in triathlon, but it wasn’t easy at first, and I didn’t reach my full potential in my studies that first year.
“But I’ve made sure to reverse those roles this year and I’m fully dedicated to a strict university schedule that balances my studies with daily movement to put myself in a good headspace.
“This is usually a run or an online session with my gym in the mornings and then I finish my day with a cruisy bike ride or walk down to the beach.”
Zoe says this level of activity not only helps her maintain a positive mental health outlook, it also connects to her degree. She encourages those interested in Exercise Science to get as hands on as possible during their studies.
“Get involved in as many practical opportunities as you can to enhance your skills and confidence,” she says.
“I am loving my final year of Exercise Science as it is where you apply your learning from your previous courses and prepare for life as a professional.
“This practical work has not only made me more competent in my final year but it has also given me an idea of what path I want to take next. After gaining experience in many fields, I have a strong desire to apply for Physiotherapy but I’m also very interested in the field of research.
“I’m excited to finish my program and see what path I take in my steps into the profession.”