AHA 2017 Lifestyle Change Award: How one surgery turned Rachel Riley’s life around

For the 13 years she worked at the FedEx Hub, 46-year-old Rachel Riley never worried about her fitness. Her job was physically demanding, and she regularly worked out during the day before her shift. All that changed when she transitioned to a position at the company’s corporate office, where her day became more sedentary.

“I stopped going to the gym regularly and just started making excuses when I got to thinking about getting back into the swing of things,” she says.

It wasn’t until she underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff that Rachel made the decision to improve her health through regular physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.

“I first started going to PT Squared for physical therapy following my surgery,” she says. “After my four months were over, I realized I didn’t want to lose the progress I had made with my therapy, so I signed up for six months of personal training.”

Rachel began with the basics and was slowly able to increase her amount of cardio.

“When I first started, I ran maybe five sets of stairs and was winded the whole time. Now, I can run 25 sets of stairs and actually talk at the same time.”

Rachel’s dedication to fitness is what led Krista Robinson, owner and physical therapist at PT Squared, to nominate her for the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle Change Award, which she received in May of 2017.

“She has changed her eating habits and looks totally different,” Robinson wrote in her nomination. “Except for her smile!”

Rachel modified her diet to incorporate smaller meals throughout the day and snacks. In the two years since she made a commitment to get healthy, she lost 44 pounds and nearly 30 inches.

“Before, I wouldn’t eat a snack because I wasn’t hungry, but then I would eat too much at mealtimes,” she says. “Now, I eat breakfast, and then two to three hours later, I need to have a snack.”

In addition to the weight loss, Rachel also noticed a significant drop in her cholesterol.

“Before I started working out, my doctor wanted to put me on cholesterol medication, but he agreed to give me a chance to lower it naturally. After about six months, I went back and my cholesterol had dropped 50 points.”

Rachel plans to continue her training and even hopes to add a few extra days to her workout routine.

“When I first started, it was tough, but I did it,” she says. “I just feel so much better now and have taken control of my lifestyle.”

Photo by Tindall Stephens


The Memphis Chapter of the American Heart Association Mid-South Heart Walk & 2nd Annual Red Dash 5K will be held Saturday, April 28, at Autozone Park at 9 am.

For more information, visit WW2.heart.org or call 901.248.7954.


 

Lori Pope is the Communications Director with the American Heart Association’s Greater Southeast Affiliate

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