Wonder Women

When a courageous client meets an intrepid trainer, superheroes are born.

By Judy Minich
Dec 4, 2018

CLIENT: Kim Emery | PERSONAL TRAINER: Tanya Roark | LOCATION: Balance Health + Fitness, Sarasota, Florida

“She’s the real Wonder Woman,” says Tanya Roark, an ACE-certified personal trainer, speaking of her client Kim Emery, “one of the most amazing women you could ever meet.”

Dig a little, and you’ll find there are really two superheroes in this story—a client overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and a trainer willing to power through to help that client reach her goals.

Meet the Client

Kim grew up as an athlete—“the stereotypical first pick on the playground,” she says—but her knees started to give out in her 30s. She gained weight, and visits to her doctor were discouraging. Kim believed the athletic phase of her life was gone forever—until this “former athlete” met Roark.

It was quite a turnaround, for Kim and her physician. During a medical appointment the following year, he told her, “My job is to keep athletes like you competing.” That meant the world to her. “Athletes like me! Something so special that I thought was lost forever, I found again because of Tanya.”

Roark recalls their first meeting, about 6 years ago. “Kim walked into my office for a consultation,” she says. “She was 46 years old and weighed almost 400 pounds. She was dealing with rotator issues, a reconstructed ankle and, of course, her knees.”

Program Development

With those challenges in mind, Roark began gathering information on Kim’s goals, needs and medical history. “I modified everything based on orthopedic limitations,” says Roark. “We first worked on strengthening the smaller, stabilizing muscles, followed by isolating the larger muscles around her knee and ankle joints. In the beginning, the program was filled with smaller weights and more repetition. As Kim lost weight and got stronger, we varied [and increased] the rep range.”

Roark also coached Kim on how to choose the right foods and identify when her body needed to refuel. As Kim progressed or plateaued, Roark made cardio, weight training and nutrition modifications. “Each week I would evaluate her to see what to progress or change.”

The Transformation

Kim committed to the program 110%. She lost almost 220 pounds the first year, improving her leg strength so much that she was able to do lunges, squats and even tire flips.

In 2018, she completed both knee replacement surgeries. Soon after, she had a double mastectomy. “She crushed all of it,” says Roark, adding that Kim also completed a 100-mile bike ride, even after being hospitalized with multiple pulmonary embolisms.

Kim describes her experience with Roark as “life-changing. I not only got back [the athleticism] I had lost; I gained so much more.”

For trainers working with clients who are similarly challenged, Roark offers this advice: “Listen to your clients and make sure they have realistic expectations of their own ‘timeline’ [for] success. Gather as much information about your clients as you can, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally, as [these factors] all play a role.”

Kim’s success speaks to the transformative powers of meeting clients “where they’re at,” using corrective exercise techniques and training, and helping them rediscover their inner superheroes.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected], and you and your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of Fitness Journal.

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Judy Minich

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