updated 11/03/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/30/2013 AT 11:50 AM ET
“In the beginning – like when we did the jive – there were times we would run through the dance and after we were done I would literally just lay on the ground,” Riley tells PEOPLE about her six-hour rehearsals with dance pro Derek Hough.
“I am genuinely shocked I am doing as well as I am,” she says. “But I’m the type of person that if I feel something is going to defeat me, I am going to want to do it [even more].”
With such confidence, Riley has not only given herself the strength to reach the top seven but has also inspired women across the country to take their first dance and exercise classes.
“It is awesome that people are so touched by me just dancing on a television show,” says Riley. “This is just something I did for fun, and it is helping a lot of people.”
The dancing is helping her, as well. As a result of her lengthy rehearsals, Riley is noticing her clothes are fitting differently and her arms getting smaller. Riley says weight loss is not something she is focusing on – but she does enjoy shopping more now.