Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Rachael Blankenship, RN
Nurse’s love for travel is the key to her wellness.
A picture can speak a thousand words. For #healthynurse Rachael Blankenship, RN, a photo taken of her just before her 52nd birthday sent a very clear message. She needed to make a change.
As a birthday gift to herself, Rachael sought out a bariatric specialist to help her develop a plan to get healthy. She taught Rachael how to incorporate simple practices to guide her health journey. Rachael began to:
- Be prepared so she always has something healthy on-hand to eat
- Eat balanced meals that include protein, carbohydrates, and fat
- Prioritize exercise by dedicating an hour each day to being active
- Set small achievable goals to stay motivated
Rachael realized she’d always set grandiose goals in the past. But now she was achieving small goals each day, such as preparing a balanced meal or completing four 15-minute exercise sessions. These little victories helped her feel like she was making progress, even if she wasn’t yet seeing changes to her body.
“I had always been able to lose weight pretty easily, but I was never able to maintain it before,” Rachael says. “That was the frustrating part. I would get bored with how I was exercising or fall back into my old eating habits because it felt too much like a diet. But this time it was different. I needed those tiny steps and everyday celebration moments to keep me going.”
And physical changes did come. That year, in 2020, Rachael lost 45 pounds. Eating healthy played a significant role in her weight loss, but her journey to wellness truly began when she decided to “travel.”
Rachael has always been passionate about travel, and she is creative. But she never thought those traits would come together to form the driving force behind her wellness transformation.
An hour of exercise daily seemed doable to Rachael — after all, most people spend that much time watching television or scrolling through social media. But she knew her workouts needed to be fun. Her exercise couldn’t feel like a chore. She was looking for a game or a challenge to keep her motivated.
After some brainstorming, Rachael decided she’d travel, but do so virtually. Not only was this practical during the pandemic, but it allowed her to use her imagination. She’d set a goal; choose a destination; and calculate the miles she’d need to “travel” to get there. She racked up those miles any way she could:
- Biking outside
- Exercising on her home gym equipment which includes a stationary bike, rowing machine, and an elliptical trainer
- Geocaching with her husband, a recreational activity using GPS coordinates to hunt for hidden “caches” or treasure
- Walking or hiking outside
She aimed to be active at least an hour a day, always focusing on virtually reached her destination. Her mentality was that every step counted — though she only counted her Fitbit’s active zone minutes.
“That first year, I set a low-mile goal to keep it achievable, but after six months, I blew that out of the water,” Rachael says. “As my physical fitness improved, I was able to get further. I’d look at a map and say, if I go X number of miles, this is where I’ll be.”
Sometimes Rachael uses Google Maps to feel like she’s actually at her destination. “I go to the street level view, and I look around and imagine that I’m really standing right there,” she says. “I have fun with it, and it’s been the key to staying interested.”
By the end of the year, Rachael “traveled” from her home in Tampa, FL, to somewhere in the middle of western Texas. After two years, she’s “traveled” nearly 3,500 miles, or 145 miles a month, and doesn’t intend on stopping anytime soon. That’s the equivalent of going from Tampa to the Redwood Forest in California. Now she’s thinking that as a reward, whenever she virtually gets somewhere on her bucket list, she may take an actual trip to that place.
Spreading Wellness at Work
Rachael’s “travels” have become a staple in her daily life. And she’s found a new love for real life active adventures, seeking out new places in Florida to go hiking or biking.
Through it all, her excitement has been contagious. Rachael shares her adventures with coworkers — both her virtual mapping and the local places she’s discovered. As a result, her coworkers have made changes in their own lives, adding in exercise and enjoying their own physically active adventures on the weekends.
“We all work virtually, but we’ve now built a relationship with each other beyond work because of our shared passion for traveling and adventure,” Rachael says. The team shares pictures of the places they’ve hiked or biked or visited. They’ve even started to meet in person for weekend trips. “It keeps us motivated. We keep each other going and lift each other up.”
Rachael believes that wellness is personal and that every person needs to find what works for them. She recommends:
- Embracing wellness as something just for you.
- Competing only with yourself to be better today than you were yesterday.
- Prioritizing your health and finding a way to hold yourself accountable.
- Having fun and getting creative because wellness should never feel like a chore.
Rachael Blankenship, RN, is a utilization management nurse at Humana.
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