Personal trainer. Yoga and spinning instructor. Acro yoga student. Rock climbing enthusiast. Triathlete. Not to mention wife of an ex-football player and mother of four athletic boys. To say that Melanie lives an active life is a bit of an understatement. To say that this 46-year-old Plainfield resident is in amazing shape is to belabor the obvious.
“I love it,” she said. “I love every minute of working out.”
So when, in the middle of leading a group fitness class, Melanie felt something in her hip snap, it was more than a little cause for concern. “If something happened and I couldn’t do this anymore, it would be devastating,” she said.
Fortunately, Melanie knew who to call: the sports medicine team at Hendricks Regional Health.
A passion for action.
Melanie and her twin sister were born in Taiwan and adopted by a missionary couple who were living and working there. “They weren’t looking to adopt twins,” Melanie said. “But the nurse at the hospital put one of us in my dad’s arms and one of us in my mom’s arms, and they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll take two.’”
After a couple of years, the family moved back to the U.S. The girls went to high school in Indiana, and Melanie graduated from Taylor University. While still in college, she met her husband, Henry, who played football for a rival school, Olivet Nazarene.
But Melanie wasn’t always so athletically inclined. “I actually loathed working out. But when my children were young, I decided I needed to be able to keep up with them. Over time, I got in good shape and started teaching classes.”
Melanie also started running—and, eventually, she heard about someone who’d done a triathlon. “What really drew me to triathlons was the idea that it was more than I thought I could do.”
She decided to compete in her first triathlon—the inaugural Tri Indy—after the birth of her fourth son. The feeling of accomplishment was amazing. “I was 35 when I did that first triathlon,” she said. “I had a long-term goal of doing Tri Indy for 20 years.”
That goal was threatened by a mysterious pain in Melanie’s hip. “I was in pain, and I knew something was wrong. My hip hurt every time I stood up, every time I sat down. It hurt when I was standing, when I was moving and when I tried to sleep. I just lived with it for nine months, hoping it would get better.”
Racing to beat hip pain.
But the hip pain didn’t get better. Finally, with her 10th Tri Indy approaching, Melanie sought help. She made an appointment with Dr. Robyn Fean, a Hendricks Regional Health sports medicine physician.
“Melanie’s case was a little complicated,” said Dr. Fean. “She’s a personal trainer, and she’s very strong. She’s got a lot of knowledge that most of my patients don’t have, and she’d already tried a number of things that seemed reasonable, but she wasn’t improving.”
Dr. Fean ultimately diagnosed Melanie with weak medial gluteal muscles. “I thought she could see one of our physical therapists to work on strengthening some of those stabilizing muscles—the smaller muscles we often forget to work on.”
Melanie chose to see Keith Groppel—a Hendricks Regional Health physical therapist who’d previously worked with one of Melanie’s sons after a football injury. “I knew that Keith was an ultra-marathoner and had an athlete’s mindset. He’d understand my goals of wanting to compete.”
Keith told Melanie she could run her triathlon—and to come see her after she’d done it. “Dr. Fean diagnosed Melanie with gluteal tendinopathy. It was a chronic irritation or inflammation. Doing the triathlon wasn’t going to cause permanent damage. I wanted her to do some stretches I thought would help.”
“And Melanie is an athlete. She was probably going to do the triathlon regardless of what I told her,” Keith said.
After the race, Melanie continued working with Keith. “Weak glutes are the culprit for many injuries for athletes, and Melanie had been compensating for them for nine months,” Keith said. “Basically, she’d been cheating. So we worked on some stretches and exercises to help her reverse that condition.”
“My biggest challenge in physical therapy was humbling myself. I needed to start from the very beginning to build back my strength. I’d been doing advanced exercises, and now I had to do them differently. And my ego definitely took a hit,” Melanie said.
Reaching new heights.
But the blow to Melanie’s ego was short-lived. Physical therapy with Keith turned out to be exactly what she needed to get back to living without hip pain. In 2018, Melanie once again competed in and completed Tri Indy: her 11th annual triathlon in a row.
Today, Melanie’s continuing her work as a trainer at the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center in Plainfield. She’s more than achieved her original fitness goal of being able to keep up with her athletic family. “Now they have to keep up with me,” she said.
Melanie’s also found a new passion: acro yoga, a physically demanding combination of yoga and acrobatics that requires an amazing mix of strength, flexibility, stamina and raw determination. “When I saw it, I immediately knew I wanted to try it,” she said. “I could take what I was already strong at and get stronger.”
And Melanie credits Hendricks Regional Health and her work with Keith as making a big difference in her life. “I wouldn’t hesitate to send a friend, a client or a family member to see Keith because of the personal care you get at Hendricks. When my family needs health care, Hendricks Regional Health is where we go.”
Breathe deep. Dig deep. You can do it. Request a sports medicine appointment: