CSI helps patients ‘find inner athlete’

When Dr. Danielle Mitchell tells her patients she used to be morbidly obese, their jaws drop.

Mitchell, who recently opened Chattanooga Sports Institute and Center for Health on North Access Road, seems to be the definition of fit, but she was actually overweight most of her young and young adult life.

She said she can still remember how the kids in her third-grade class made fun of her.

“Before I made my lifestyle change, I was 250 pounds,” she recalled.

That change came after Mitchell, a med student at the time, glanced at her own patient chart and balked at the diagnosis of “morbidly obese.”

She finally decided to do something about it and took her doctor’s advice to join Weight Watchers. Already a marathon runner, she was inspired by the Ironman triathlon, which involves swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running a full marathon, or 26.2 miles.

“I just remember thinking ‘I’m going to do that one day,’” Mitchell reminisced, smiling. “When I started training for Ironman the weight just flew off.”

Now, she’s training for her sixth Ironman, being held in Chattanooga this September. Not only did Mitchell end up studying general medicine, she also studied sports medicine and now uses her wide spectrum of professional and personal experience at Chattanooga Sports Institute.

That means that patients of any age can go to her for everything from a common cold to the flu to a sprained ankle to problems with training and exercise.

“I’m kind of the best of both worlds; I help people discover their inner athlete,” she said, explaining that her practice often attracts patients who have similar issues to living a healthy lifestyle that she had.

One wall of her waiting room is covered in photos of her success stories — locals who beat the odds of obesity and even addictions. Most are pictured finishing their own Ironman race or on a bike or at a half marathon.

In the center of all the photos is one word: Believe.

“Exercise is powerful,” said Mitchell. “All the people on the wall in one way or another are inspiration. You have to believe in your ability.”

The practice is a fully integrative practice with both conventional and alternative medicine, she said. Born in Utah, Mitchell studied medicine on the West Coast where there is more of an emphasis on alternative medicine alongside conventional medicine.

Laser therapy is already offered at the center, and Mitchell hopes to bring in a massage therapist and a physical therapist in the future.

Chattanooga Sports Institute & Center for Health is located at 4206 N. Access Road and can be reached at 875-1005. For more information visit chattanoogasportsinstitute.com. Walk-ins and appointments are both available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.