Navy veteran and figure competitor Shayla Cooley is hot on the Memphis fitness scene. After overcoming cancer, this 35-year-old mother has become a kick-butt fitness trainer and PiYo instructor, helping herself and those around her stay healthy.

What inspired your love of fitness?

I was sick and tired of being “the fat friend.” I started exercising and posted my journey on social media. Before I knew it, I was getting scale pics from friends that lived in the other side of the county that I hadn’t spoken to in years telling me how I inspired them to change their lifestyle. There is nothing more inspiring than knowing you are a positive influence for so many people. That also became my accountability.

My workout routine includes fasted cardio three to four days a week at Orangetheory Fitness. I lift weights about five days a week at Orangetheory and LA Fitness, and I teach PiYo two evenings a week at the YMCA in Cordova.

My favorite fitness accomplishment is placing in NPC Figure competitions. In my first one I placed 1st in novice and 3rd in the open. In my most recent one, I placed 1st in the open and 1st in masters (over 35). I love the challenge of pushing myself to my limits, and I’m much more successful when I’m working towards a goal.

My favorite part of my body really depends on where I am in the offseason. I would say my shoulders. I maintain a fair amount of muscle there. Shoulders are unisex and look great on everyone!

I’m inspired by the people around me, especially by the people in my class who are so dedicated to their success. That’s what keeps me going. It’s also important for me to be a positive influence on my 11-year-old daughter, though she hasn’t completely taken to healthy eating.

What is your biggest health challenge?

I’ve had several over the years. I survived cervical cancer and had a hysterectomy when I was younger. With celiac disease, I have to eat healthy to reduce inflammation in my body, otherwise my joints hurt. Due to a skydiving accident, I have arthritis all over as well. If I don’t take care of myself, then I ache a lot more. The most beneficial thing I can do is exercise. Overall, I’ve had 12 surgeries and have always come back better and stronger!

What’s your nutrition approach?

I have celiac, so I am always gluten-free. In the offseason, I’m a fan of the ketogenic diet. Otherwise, I stay to stay consistent with meals similar to my competition diet but more flexible with cheat days and higher carb meals before and after workouts to support muscle growth.

My No. 1 healthy habit is drinking a ton of water. I hate drinking my calories. Even when I’m not competing I easily drink 1.5 gallons of water each day.

I can’t live without my yoga mat. In a pinch I can get by with just that. PiYo incorporates strength, HIIT, flexibility, and core. I can get a total body workout in a limited space.

I never leave home without my water bottle or my eyebrows and mascara. I love Wunderbrow because it’s completely sweat proof!

How do you stay motivated to work out when you’re “not feeling it?”

I phone a friend!

When I’m not working out, I love to be outdoors! I love to hunt, camp, and take out my four-wheeler.


By Amy Goode. Photo by Tindall Stephens.