Kidney donor credits workout for successful recovery

Dan Riordan completed fitness challenge three months post-surgery


In early 2018, Dan Riordan learned that his father's health was rapidly deteriorating due to a chronic kidney disease. That fall, when his father's kidney functioning dropped to just 13%, Riordan knew what he had to do.

The Highlands Ranch resident was one of four siblings to offer to donate a kidney.

“I was the match, essentially,” said Riordan, 44, a fitness buff who has always enjoyed running.

After six weeks of recovery and three months easing back into training at Orangetheory Fitness in the Central Park development of Highlands Ranch, Riordan successfully completed the Dri-Tri, a fitness challenge consisting of a 2,000-meter row, 300 body weight reps and a 5K run.

Orangetheory Fitness, a high-intensity, interval-training workout franchise, sponsors the biannual event, and funds raised go to a local charity.

Riordan credits the structure and tight-knit community at Orangetheory Fitness for his success: at his six-month checkup, his remaining kidney was functioning at 67 percent, whereas many people in his situation tend to fall below 50 percent, he said.

“They said essentially, it's because you are in shape,” Riordan said, sitting on a piece of workout equipment next to Denise McDougall, head coach at Orangetheory Fitness in west Highlands Ranch, 1493 Park Central Drive.

Originally from Wisconsin, Riordan moved to Highlands Ranch four years ago to pursue a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at the University of Denver. He also works at the university as an adjunct professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning Sciences.

On Dec. 27, his father's birthday, Riordan underwent surgery to remove his kidney at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. His father's health has since drastically improved.

“The siblings joke that it's tough to beat that birthday gift,” Riordan said.

The two-hour surgery left Riordan with a major incision cut through his stomach wall. For the next six weeks, his only activity was walking.

Then he returned to Orangetheory Fitness. The workout uses body monitors and colored zones to track peak performance. Coaches offer one-on-one assistance throughout the hour-long class, which combines cardio and strength training.

“Initially, it was tough to see how far my fitness level had regressed, but I could see I was making progress,” Riordan said, adding that he knew the Dri-Tri would be a great motivator.

Two months ago, he and his wife welcomed a baby, another reason to keep his physical health in check.

Riordan's story embodies the mission of Orangetheory Fitness, said McDougall. The coaches are trained to safely help all people — even those with physical limitations — reach their fitness goals.

“We are a family,” McDougall said, “and we are a community.”


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