STORIES THAT MOVE YOU:
“I CAN WRITE MY OWN STORY”
After being diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease at 13, TRX Training Club® trainer Tara Lynn Emerson chose a path of strength.
“I am such a girly girl.”
Tara beams through the screen, the Google Meet interface doing nothing to diminish her glow, her apple cheeks radiating bubbliness. Completely unabashed, her blonde locks take on a life of their own, swishing this way and that as she talks. “I like wearing pink. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted bows. Fifth grade I wore a purse every day. My outfits—they’re all neon, bright colors, florals. I’m that girl.”
The immediate impression one might get of Tara is that she’s warm, full of energy, and yes, a total girl. And what you see next is that she’s extremely fit—she’s been a TRX Suspension Trainer™ instructor since 2015, and even though she’s almost 40 (allegedly), exudes a youthful, athletic exuberance that knows no age. Taking in her confidence, her contagious smile, her strong shoulders, the last thing you’d ever associate with Tara is that she has a neuromuscular disease that affects her balance and muscular development. A condition that has no cure, would limit her ability to run, to balance on our own two feet, and as stated by all the medical literature, would force her to rely on a walking aid by the time she reached her 30s.
As a young teenager, after having some minor trouble with sports—her tennis coach said “there’s something that’s just not hitting…”—Tara was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT)—a degenerative disease that affects the nerves, resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy. For many, symptoms start in the legs and later in the hands, first losing sensitivity to heat, touch, or pain; later on, there’s trouble with fine motor skills. Balance, especially on one leg, becomes precarious, resulting in tripping and falling. Because the peripheral nerves are affected, there’s a loss of muscle mass in the lower legs, and an inability to grow it.
“When I found out I wouldn’t be a great athlete, I was crushed.” She said. And it’s easy to see why— from a young age, Tara had grown up around sports and movement. Her father was a coach and while she wasn’t into sports, she loved dance. Her father eventually convinced her to join the tennis team with a new outfit as a bribe. “I will buy you any outfit you want,” he said. “Sold,” Tara said.
But, after receiving this diagnosis, Tara couldn’t see a future in tennis or dance. With the long laundry list of “can’ts” and “don’ts” from the doctor, anyone else in her position could have easily, and understandably so, fallen into a deep pit of despair. Tara is not like other people.
“I looked myself in the mirror and told myself, ‘you can spend your entire life thinking you can’t do this Tara… or you can focus on what you CAN do.’”
“You can live as a victim of your limitations or you can find what you can do and make that the story.”
Mind you, she was 13.
“I was a little ahead of my time” she joked.
She became obsessed with the gym. A common occurrence with her neuromuscular disease is that when there’s damage to nerve endings, she doesn’t have a good sense of where her feet are in space. The fear of falling was always in the back of her mind; she figured, if she strengthened her hips and core, she’d be less likely to have issues. She picked up every last fitness magazine of the time and poured through them.
“I’m stubborn. When I get my head into something, something I want to accomplish, I'll do everything to get it done. That’s grit. It’s the warrior mindset.”
It wasn’t until she discovered the TRX Suspension Trainer™ in 2015 at a convention in LA that she found an adaptive tool that could strengthen her entire body without any fear of tripping or falling. She was also immediately transfixed by how effectively it targeted the core and leveraged balance (or stability) training so well.
“I hear it all the time from people I train—’I have bad posture,’ ‘I have bad knees,’ ‘I have a bad back”... to all of them, I say, ‘your core your core your core!”
For fitness fans out there, you may very well know the appeal of training with TRX. But to anyone unfamiliar, it’s possible the greatest aspect of TRX training is how it really forces your body to stabilize in space, which fires up not only large muscles, but small muscles you never knew existed, and more importantly—forcing all of them to work holistically together as a whole.
“My legs are not as stable as others. Standing on one leg is really important for someone like me because proprioception matters when we're talking about nerves. When I balance with TRX it helps me communicate with those smaller muscles in my ankles and hips… meanwhile if I was in a yoga class standing on one leg, it’d be incredibly scary. When using a wall, it almost gives too much help. TRX is this happy medium where the straps stabilize but they move so it creates work for you.”
When Tara started teaching TRX to her clients and in classes, its intrinsic adaptability became more apparent. She realized that elite athletes were benefitting alongside people in their 60s—all in the same class. They were all doing the same moves, adjusted in a way that worked for them. It was an equalizing force, where everyone was on the same playing field.
Tara can’t help but smile from ear to ear when describing this.
“As someone who legally qualifies as ‘disabled,’ seeing that lit my soul up. That’s the beautiful thing about TRX—in a class with all different kinds of people, you do what you can and you do it well. Unapologetically.”
For all the strength she possesses—and we’re talking beyond mental, but also physical (have you seen her Instagram?)—and despite the fact that she’s strong she’s avoided the use of a walking aid entirely, Tara isn’t immune to the self-doubt we all have.
“I want to be a leader, but I know I'm still limited and I wish my body could do more things. Sometimes I suffer from Imposter Syndrome.”
Rifling through her punchy, lively Instagram Reels where she knocks out endless pushups, creative core moves that look seriously tiring from any vantage point, it’s easy to see Tara in only one light: strong as all hell. But it goes far beyond fitness for Tara. It’s about changing lives. Getting people to see themselves in a different light.
“My dad is a retired coach, he’s in his 60s, and he still invites neighborhood kids over and teaches them tennis for free. It fills his soul.”
“I will coach for the rest of my life.”