Stroke Recovery What Now?
Tracy L. Markley
Independently Published (2018)
Tracy L. Markley was the 2021 IDEA World Personal Trainer of the Year. She is the owner of Tracy’s Personal Training, Pilates, and Yoga Studio and has been working in the fitness industry for over 25 years. She is a certified Fitness and Biomechanics Specialist, BOSU® Master Trainer, personal trainer, dance & group exercise leader, AFAA Group Exercise, FiTOUR pro-trainer, Reiki master-teacher, as well as a Pilates instructor and RYT 200-hour yoga instructor.
She is an educator and has authored and created two CEC courses for fitness and therapist professionals: Stroke Recovery Training and Functional Anatomy 101. Links to these courses can be found at her website.
Tracy is an award-winning author of 12 books, four of which are on stroke recovery. She created and manages a stroke support Facebook group with over 5,500 members. She personally trains clients worldwide via Zoom. Her books and videos have helped many people, including hundreds of stroke survivors and caregivers worldwide. In 2020, Tracy was awarded the Second Place Medical Fitness Professional of the Year Award with the Medift Foundation, and she was also one of the three finalists for the 2020 IDEA World Personal Trainer of the Year Award. She has been in several magazine articles and has written fitness articles for newspapers. She writes a monthly health and fitness article for the Live, Love and Eat Magazine. Tracy is the host of the radio show, The Health and Fitness Show with Tracy, on KXCR FM radio on the Oregon coast. Her show can also be heard on her podcast channel that is found on several podcast platforms.
Tracy is available for speaking events, book signings, and training. She can be reached through her website and social media. Her books are available on her website and on Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/tracymarkley and www.tracymarkley.com
Hi Tracy, welcome to Reader Views! Tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in health and fitness?
I have always liked to do physical things growing up like gymnastics and I loved physical education classes. They were fun for me. I exercised to feel good. When I was in my late 20s, I decided I wanted to teach more to others. I found a Fitness Specialist program at a college not too far from my home. It was a two-year program. Right before I graduated, I got a call from a woman who wanted to sell her fitness business. She was a personal trainer who rented her space at a chiropractor’s office. I was working full time as a secretary at a pediatric office, and they let me change my hours so I could come in early and still work full time. I then did part time training after work and on Saturdays at the space and the business I took over from this other trainer.
Some of her clients wanted to continue training with me and others left when she left. I found that as I was gaining new clients that most clients had a challenge. For example, I met people with Lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, people just leaving their physical therapy and more. The fitness specialist program I took was wonderful and very solid, but it did not get into each ailment we may meet with clients in debt. This made me search for more education. I found a nurse who had certification programs in exercise and fibromyalgia, arthritis, osteoporosis, and more. I soon became the trainer that was known as the “physical therapist trainer” even though I was not and am not a physical therapist. I just had to know the best I could to work with clients and not fake it. It would be unfair to fake what I know to help someone else. This led to years later becoming a specialist in stroke recovery of all ages, balance, and fall prevention with seniors.
Can you share a bit about your writing journey?
I always wanted to be a writer. I wanted someday to write a book on muscles and the core of the body. When I was training a stroke survivor in Oregon, it was a wonderful, intriguing and educational journey for me and for him. He wanted his journey shared to help others. This became the first book I wrote. After this book and my next book, Tipping Toward Balance, A Fitness Trainer’s Guide to Stability and Walking was read by people all over the world, I was contacted on the internet, emails, and phone calls asking me to share more on stroke recovery. I also began a stroke recovery support group on Facebook. At this time it was around 500 people, now it is over 5500. And surprisingly that is a smaller group. There are thousands of stroke survivors searching for more help to gain a stronger recovery. I found that many survivors’ physical therapy ends long before their recovery is over. Many are seeking help from gyms and trainers and were finding many trainers do not hold a strong knowledge in training them. This led me to write Stroke Recovery What Now?
So, what is Stroke Recovery What Now? about?
This book shares a bit of knowledge about strokes and certain kinds of strokes. It shares more about the human body and what muscles need to get stronger and functioning before others can. For example, a stroke survivor may have a dropped foot or a foot that turns out, and the walking gait is unbalanced. This begins with getting the core, the hips, and the glutes in balance and strengthened in order to get the foot from turning out. I teach things like that and the common sense and basics to help stroke survivors and caregivers understand how they can continue their recovery. I say knowledge is power. The more they know, the more they can help themselves, but also the more they know, the better they will know how to find a trainer or fitness professional with the education to help them.
What was your inspiration for writing Stroke Recovery What Now?
This was inspired by what I experienced survivors and care givers asking for in the support group. I also had a woman who was 80 send me an email about her 82-year-old husband who had a stroke and how she was unable to find good help. She shared with me the horrible experiences they had. They lived in New Jersey, and I was on the Oregon coast at the time. She asked if they could come stay in my town and train with me every day for 30 days. It was heartbreaking and amazing at the same time. I felt honored she thought of me after reading my first two books and trusted me to travel 3000 miles. At the same time, I had to get a book out to share what I knew with hopes it would help other survivors and fitness trainers learn more too. That ended up leading to me writing a CEC course for the fitness industry called “Stroke Recovery Training”. It was a goal of mine to be an educator, and that course accomplished that goal. I hold a very strong passion for fitness professionals to learn and not fake they know something, because that will limit a stroke survivor’s recovery and that is not fair to the life of a survivor.
What is the first thing that needs to happen after having a stroke?
If someone has a stroke, they need to call 911 and get immediate medical attention. This is important for any type of stroke, even a mini stroke. It is essential to get medical care.
What does recovery look like? Is there a roadmap?
Stroke recovery is different for each survivor. Stroke is a brain injury. Each person is affected differently and their brains recovery at different time frames and levels. The only way to know how far a recovery can take place is if they are getting care by knowledge professionals.
What about nutrition? Is it important after a stroke?
Getting proper nutrition is very important, as well as staying properly hydrated. The brain is trying to heal, and it needs to be cared for. I say brain care. In my book Your Brain, I share more on brain care.
The brain is the engine to the body, and it needs cared for, and that is with proper rest, if possible, eating well and drinking enough water. If a brain is just partially dehydrated, it can affect cognitive skills and if someone has a brain injury and is dealing with a level of dehydration, it’s a double whammy on the brain and will slow down recovery. Strokes affect cognitive skills, so they don’t need the brain trying to recover from two things at once. It is too much.
What would you say is the most common misconception about strokes?
The biggest misconception is the recovery time. Many professionals tell survivors that after 6 months or after a year that they won’t make any more progress. This is not true and has caused many to give up and lose hope. I see recovery continuing for years and years. There is no limit. The limit is sometimes the brain won’t recover certain things at all or as much as wished for, and or poor directions and therapy/training.
Who will benefit from reading Stroke Recovery What Now? Is it informative for both the patient and family members as well as other supporting caregivers?
This book is good for fitness and physical therapy professionals as well as caregivers. It is also a good source of information for people who struggle with balance, walking gait, and things such as MS and others.
What kind of research was involved in putting this book together for publication?
Many years of experience and my studies of human movements and science behind movement and the spinal and core structures. Listening to neuroscientist talks and learning from survivors as well.
One of the many things our reviewer was impressed with about your book was your down to earth presentation and tone. What were the challenges in writing a text that is informative without “dumbing it down” so to speak?
Thank you for that. Survivors tell me they like that my books are easy to understand. I was happy about that. It was easy for me. I think it’s’ just my personality. I teach and write so that it is easy to understand. I want my clients of all kinds to understand and learn. I show muscles and explain what movements they make so it makes sense to why the need to do certain exercises. Stroke recovery is not a cookie cutter, or a handout paper to follow.
I also feel life has enough hard times and caregivers are exhausted and survivors are struggling. It just needs to be put out there and not complicated.
What other kind of feedback have you received about Stroke Recovery What Now?
I love that I get messages from survivors telling me how the book helped them and they pull it out when they exercise. One woman I never met in person, but she follows my videos and books in Portland OR, calls me God’s Stroke Angel and that brings me to tears. Happy tears. But most of them like that it is easy to understand for them. And that was my goal. I want to help them.
Do you have any success stories you can share?
Yes. One is from my first book. The Stroke of an Artist: The Journey of a Fitness Trainer and a Stroke Survivor. He was the gentleman in Oregon that wanted his story shared to help other survivors. He was told he would never walk again. Which is common, but many do walk again, with proper care and instructions. I met him when he was in a walker and as time went by, he ended up standing of BOSU balls and balance discs and walking as if he never had a stroke. His journey was amazing. I was with him when he got the sensation back in his hand. He was doing an exercise where he was holding onto the BOSU ball and he stopped and said that he could feel his hand now. I asked him “What do you mean” and he said that he knew he held onto the items but he could not feel himself touching the items. We then went over to the fridge and I got him a cold water and he said he felt the coldness. Up until that point since his stroke he could not feel the hot or cold sensations in that hand. It was wonderful and fascinating to be right here when it happened. This was almost two years after his stroke. He was told he would not have any more recovery at 6 months post stroke and that was not his truth. He worked hard and was with me at the gym practically daily.
Here’s another success story. There was a man who was 86-years-old man when I met him who had an arm that would not move at all and it was blue. The arm therapist told him it would never move again. He was in a wheelchair. As he continued with me and practiced standing and walking as he held onto a bar on the wall, we got his core and postures stronger. Posture is essential. Once his posture was better and his shoulders, head and neck were upright and not rounded over, his arm began moving a small bit. In time, it was not blue at all. The arm was begging to swing, and he could hold on with that hand to the bar and more.
My dog was a therapy dog, and they loved each other. When my dog walked by him, he was starting to reach for the dog on his own. So instead of instructing him to try to move the arm, I would say reach out to Wasabi. That was my dog’s name. It worked. Each brain is different. For this man telling him to reach for my dog instead of lifting the arm worked. That process does not work for each one. I must get to know each survivor differently and I go with how they flow with communication. That is an example of how the cookie cutter fix does not work.
As a certified personal trainer and biomechanics specialist, yoga instructor, (just to name a few of your day jobs), it sounds like you have a pretty full plate! Do your programs work in tandem with your books?
What I teach in my books and courses, and how I teach my clients about muscles and why they perform specific exercises, are used with all my clients, but it’s not set as a specific program. It’s more that I use the education and knowledge to help train a client, even if they are not a stroke survivor, to train each with their specific needs.
Basically, if I have 4 clients with back issues, my knowledge helps me to know that although they have the same muscles and need the training to get the core and spine and posture balance in strength, each client may have their own program of specific exercises and stretches that meets their pain and injury. It is based on their specific injury or weakness.
And that is the same if all 4 came to yoga or a Pilates class. Each would have their own individual limitations as to what poses/movements they should or could do.
What resources do you provide for readers wanting to take the next step after reading Stroke Recovery What Now? to the next level?
I have a number of different resources available on my website, such as private and group educational and training programs, fitness memberships, professional educational courses, Zoom classes, etc.
If they need a professional to help them find someone to work with there are some things they should know when they interview that professional. The professional should know muscles and movement. That is a must. If they don’t know what muscles participate in walking, standing and or arm movements, there is no way they can help a survivor regain strength and the brain to have pathways and recovery for a movement.
In 2020, when the pandemic shut everyone down and survivors could not go to therapy, I made videos on your tube to help them, and many asked me if I would write a book on arm recovery. So, I did and then I was asked to write the one on leg recovery, so I did. I had survivors that had to stop training with me too, due to the pandemic closures and safety for them and all involved.
Of all the books you’ve written on different areas of health and fitness, is there one area that’s your passion?
My passion is muscles. To teach where they attach and what movements they perform and how posture and spinal strength are essential in all training as well as senior fall prevention and clients such as stroke survivors. I always wanted to make an anatomy type book. I did that this year, too. I also turned it into a CEC course so fitness professionals can gain a deeper knowledge of muscles and movement besides just the basics that many programs teach.
So, what’s the next step in your journey? Are there plans for additional books?
I am almost done with my next book. It is being formatted now.. It is called Random Feel Good Comments and Quotes. It is based on a journal I made when I was in my early 20s trying to keep myself feeling positive and hopeful through hard times. I had to be my own cheerleader, so I made this and read it almost daily for a long time. I told myself one day I should make it into a book. And this is the time. It is 30-plus years later.
Tracy, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing about yourself and your work!
Thank you for acknowledging my Stroke Recovery, What Now? book and saying such kind things to me about it. Thank you for interviewing me and I hope people get my books to help themselves or others they know.
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