From Olympian to Clinician: My Journey

Growing up if you asked me what I wanted to do when I left school I would have said play sport. You can imagine I was a bit surprised when I did finally finish school and my parents gave me the ultimatum of either getting a job, or going to University. This did not exactly fit into my plan of being a professional athlete but they were quite persuasive. Naturally, rather than work, I went to University and studied Sport and Recreation’ whilst training with my goal in the back of my mind.

In 2008, my original plan came to fruition and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to represent New Zealand in basketball at the Beijing Olympic Games.

I can still say it was the best two weeks of my life. It was an honour to represent my country on the biggest sporting stage and compete against the best athletes in the world at the time. Competing aside, just being a part of the spectacular show that the Olympic Games are was something in its self. It was surreal to be bumping shoulders with athletes I admired, it’s not every day you see Kobe Bryant or Raphael Nadal at the dinner table.

As well as being a childhood dream come true, competing at the Olympic Games presented me with new playing opportunities. Immediately after the Olympic Games I went on to play basketball in Belgium on a short contract. Next stop was Australia where I spent seven years playing in various teams around the country. I had a fun time travelling around Australia and I met some great people, but I quickly learnt that it is almost impossible to be a full time professional female basketball player in Australia. I had to find a job, and quickly. I worked a number of part times jobs over the years and learnt to live off the smell of an oily rag. I tried to utilise my undergraduate degree where I could, but ultimately, I did whatever I could find to fit in with my sporting commitments. You can imagine the amusement a Kiwi working in a ‘fush’ and ‘chup’ shop provided.

Toward the end of my basketball career I started to think about what I wanted to do once I finished playing. I have always had an interest in Exercise Physiology through my prior study, my personal experience with injury rehabilitation and involvement with Exercise Physiologists to enhance my sporting performance. By chance, around the time I was contemplating my future, I met a very passionate Exercise Physiologist who is a leader in his field and working with my basketball team. After this encounter, I was inspired and started to look at what I needed to do to become an Exercise Physiologist myself. I enrolled in postgraduate studies in Clinical Exercise Physiology and I have not looked back since.

What I enjoy most about being an Exercise Physiologist is helping people to improve their quality of life through exercise intervention, whether it be reaching a fitness goal, rehabilitating an injury, losing weight or just simply becoming active. Recently I have started working at Absolute Balance and I am enjoying once again being immersed in a high-performance environment and learning from passionate health professionals who are experts in their fields. At Absolute Balance, everyone’s story is different but we share the common vision of making exercise the ANSWER to all health conditions.

If you have any exercise rehabilitation/physiology related questions or would like some additional information, one of our great team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists will be happy to assist you. Email us at


Lisa Wallbutton (AEP,ESSAM)