REPs Registered Professional Overcomes Adversity

We are inspired to share the story of REPs registered exercise professional and Ryding2Health owner Melanie Ryding who has confronted head on a life changing disability to overcome adversity and thrive. 

While the world focused on Covid-19, Melanie found herself with some very different health worries in 2020, resulting in her being in hospital having multiple surgeries in a failed attempt to save her left leg.

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Melanie Ryding started from small beginnings to become the successful exercise professional she is today. For 17 years she was a schoolteacher, but after a change of pace she gave it all up and took the step to gain a qualification and embark on a career as a personal trainer.

Starting as a mobile PT she soon found the travel stood in the way of client time, so set herself up a ‘home base’ studio. Fast forward to 18 months later and Melanie was again on the move, this time to larger premises and staff. These days Melanie runs her business Ryding2Health out of custom-built premises with two fitness rooms, 3 massage rooms, and a team of 4.

A business success story? Absolutely. One without challenges? Not at all. Melanie’s business has always been run in a collaborative way with her team, as opposed to leading from above. Melanie has always had a team based approach, including her staff in all elements of the business. This approach had proved to be a contributor to the business success and continued to help grow the business into 2020.

While the world focused on Covid-19, Melanie found herself with some very different health worries, resulting in Melanie being in hospital having multiple surgeries in a failed attempt to save her left leg. Melanie’s straightforward attitude has pulled her through some trying times. When you speak with her you would think her journey was not a hard one, as she remains positive and retains her famous sense of humour. But Melanie was terrified at the time. She said “I truthfully did not know if I would even be able to return to work as I knew it. I was fully prepared for the possibility that I would need to remove myself to a back office admin role and restructure the business systems and processes once again”. As an active and fulltime personal trainer and group trainer, facing a life behind a desk was an unpleasant option.

But Melanie soon discovered that being an amputee personal trainer was not a common sight in her hometown of Invercargill, or anywhere. She has not let this stop her. Melanie was not just keen to get back to her normal life, she was determined to make it happen. “I immediately started working on ways that I could get back to a modified form of my previous life. I entered Challenge Wanaka (as a team I am the swimmer) before my amputation (I did it in the 5 days between the decision & the surgery). My surgeon was 100% behind me in believing it was possible. I had already entered and completed two other swim races prior to this”.

Next on the list was a return to her role as a personal trainer. Melanie had passed her clients onto other trainers at her studio in preparation for her time off post-surgery. Starting up as a trainer again as an amputee was a concern for her. “I was worried my disability would be a problem, but it in fact isn’t at all”. Melanie’s trademark humor came into its own at this stage when she challenged clients to exercise on one leg and how difficult they found it.

While client perceptions of Melanie’s ability have not been an issue, it has been a challenge from others involved in her health care who had suggested she retrain into a more sedentary profession. While these comments have not changed Melanie’s attitude to her abilities, she worries about others in the same position.

She also has made some observations about the perception of disability by the general public. “Apparently a disability should be physical, easily visible, you need to be perhaps decrepit, of a certain age, or some other thing. According to the general public, there is no way that a personal trainer can be disabled”.

Melanie’s openness with her journey has had a flow on effect to her clients and beyond, who are getting their view of disability challenged through watching her experience. “I have been open and honest about this whole thing from the outset, and I did not want our clients to feel afraid to talk about it with me. People just do not get enough exposure to disability in the community”.

Melanie’s aim throughout her journey has been to start a conversation. With her signature humour and openness, she has created an opportunity for those around her to learn without embarrassment. The ripple effect will create a positive change not just in her community, but throughout the industry. She is more than an inspiration, she’s an awesome woman!

From REPS NZ Media release 16/3/21

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