🔦 Staff Spotlight 🔦 – Yolanda van Vugt, Auckland/ Taupo

The culture of progression, passion and authenticity behind Specialised Health drives all of us to provide quality Exercise Physiology services in the compensable space. We support claimants in achieving their return to work and life goals through specialist exercise and lifestyle prescription while recognising the importance of open communication with all parties involved in the rehab process. We share knowledge with a passion and are made up of exceptional individuals.


Yolanda van Vugt

Exercise Physiologist and Content Manager


Yolanda has been with us since December 2019. She studied at the University of Auckland – completing her Undergraduate degree majoring in Psychology and Sport & Exercise Science (2014), then returning after a gap year to complete her Master’s degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology (2017). Yolanda worked as an exercise physiologist in several different private practices around Auckland, before settling into work with Specialised Health in the Life Insurance space. She has also recently moved into the Content Manager role at Specialised Health, and enjoys the mixture of exercise physiology work and content creation.


Why did you choose the Exercise Physiologist career path?

I’d always known that I wanted to do something in the rehabilitation world, but when I first began my undergraduate science degree, I had my eyes set on Psychology! Sport and Exercise Science was my second major purely to keep options open. It wasn’t until my final semester when I enrolled in a Movement Neuroscience course that I actually started to envision a career for myself in Exercise Physiology. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I  took a year off to work, travel, and figure out what I wanted in life. I knew that when I returned for postgraduate study, I wanted to do something meaningful, and working directly with clients. So with the help of a recommendation from a good friend, I decided to try E.P.!


What are your Ninja Exercise Physiology skills?

I find Chronic Pain conditions incredibly fascinating. To me, it is the perfect interplay between my 3 biggest areas of interest – Neuroscience, Psychology, and Exercise! My background in Psychology is also helpful for work with Mental Health clients!


Do you exercise?

Of course! Throughout my life, I have swum, cycled, and run, at a social / semi-competitive level. I have decided that 2021 is the year to combine all 3 and do my first Triathlon! I also enjoy gym-based exercise, I’ve dabbled in CrossFit, and I take weekly Pilates / Stretch classes for a group of older women.


Tell us about your most inspirational client

One of my mental health clients from last year stands out to me as a particularly special one. A frequent sufferer of panic attacks – to the severity that he was fearful of leaving the house by himself, let alone getting his heart rate up while exercising! Over our time together I watched him develop his confidence in himself and his physical abilities. While there were the usual ups and downs that come with the rehabilitation journey, his positive attitude, determination, and willingness to try were incredibly inspiring to me.


Food –  All – This is why I exercise so much! Big-time foodie over here, particularly for home baking, Mexican and Thai. 

Exercise –  Trail running. No better feeling than losing yourself out in nature! 

Fact  The brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy at rest. (Does that make you think twice about what you are putting into your body??)

Myth Buster  –  That we only use 10% of the brain at a time – in fact, most of the brain is active most of the time!


Have you learnt anything new recently?

2020 was a good year for learning important life lessons! The value of acceptance – particularly around those things that you cannot control, the need to take time out – for your own self-care / mental health, spending time with loved ones – and the beauty of appreciating the little things!  Last year I also joined a Rotary group (lock-down proved to me the value of getting out to meet new people and being active in my community!)


Do you have a life outside of Exercise Physiology? What are your Work/Life Balance Tips?

I do! I love getting outdoors in nature, travel (I squeezed in a trip to Japan last year just before the Covid madness started!), reading books, getting creative (mostly through painting and writing), spending time with friends and family, and enjoying yummy food!

My top tips for ensuring a work / life balance:

– Commit to getting into a good sleeping routine, even on weekends. I promise that getting out of bed on a Monday morning will be much easier!

– Keep your workspace and your personal space (or at least sleeping space, if working from home) separate.

– Learn to prioritise effectively. Not all of the things on your to-do list are as pressing as they seem – sometimes you need to just prioritise yourself!


What are your current goals? 

  • Complete my first triathlon this year
  • Learn to play the guitar!

Contact Yolanda

Area of service: Auckland, New Zealand (soon to be Taupo!)

Email: yolanda@specialisedhealth.nz