Tracy Markley is a Fitness Specialist and Educator whose career in the fitness industry has spanned over two decades. She holds numerous specialty certifications, including several for those with medical conditions and chronic disease. She has studied the brain and the neurological system, and she has had great success working with seniors and special populations in stroke recovery, neurological challenges and fall prevention. Tracy has been nationally recognized for her work helping stroke survivors worldwide.
Tracy is the founder and owner of Tracy’s Personal Training, Pilates & Yoga; she has written six books and two more are in the making. She is the author and creator of the CEC Course: “Stroke Recovery and Exercise” and is a guest speaker at several stroke recovery support groups. Tracy is also the host of her own Radio show “Health and Fitness with Tracy” with KXCR FM radio on the Oregon Coast.
Tracy’s journey to success wasn’t without taking a few detours along the way or, as she likes to call it, re-routing. But that’s what makes her climb to greatness even more remarkable.
The Journey Starts Here…
Tracy Markley’s journey in the fitness industry began in the late 90s when she felt a strong sense that she wanted to teach fitness. “Exercise has always made me feel good,” says Tracy. “I never did it for appearance sake, but for feeling good mentally and emotionally.”
As what would become a theme throughout Tracy’s career, she made the decision to trust her instincts. She enrolled in a Fitness Specialist program at Orange Coast College in California while simultaneously working full-time as a secretary at a pediatric office in order to pay for her education. She was also able to pick up some extra hours at a gym her teacher owned in Costa Mesa. She spent her time there washing towels, cleaning equipment, tending to members and training a few clients under her teacher’s watch — getting the full gym experience.
A few months before she graduated from Orange Coast, Tracy received an inquiry from a personal trainer who was looking to sell her studio. “I went to meet her, and she had the weight rack with all the weights, treadmill, bike, balls, muscle posters, bench, etc.” says Tracy. “She also said that some of her clients will try me out as a trainer, too.” Once again, Tracy’s gut was telling her to go for it. “I still had a month or so to go before I graduated, but I did it.”
A Thirst for Knowledge
In the first couple months after opening her studio, Tracy met clients with lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, breast cancer and back injuries. “I thought, there is no way I can help these clients without more knowledge,” she explains. “There was no way I was going to pretend I knew how to help these clients and fake it.” She researched found a company that had certifications and CEC courses on all these dynamics and more, and she started taking all of them. She knew the more she educated herself, the more she could provide them with the best care possible.
“Always learn more” is the principle she has lived by throughout her fitness career. “I feel if we fake our knowledge and make our clients feel we know more than we do, we will limit their success and their recovery, which leads to limiting their life. I find that unfair and unkind.”
Things were going well until 2008 when Tracy became ill. “My world and business changed,” she says. She worked when she could but spent most of her time in bed, even shutting down her studio for seven weeks straight at one point to try and recover. She dealt with these health issues until 2010.
“During the time I was ill, I did not notice the economic challenges that were going on,” Tracy explains, referring to the Great Recession and its aftermath. The fitness industry as she once knew it was now different. Her competitors were lowering their prices to try and keep clients, new fitness trends were beginning and more franchises were coming about. She knew she needed make some changes to stay afloat.
“I decided in order keep my business going strong I would need to move to a storefront in a larger space so I could have Zumba, Barre and my yoga studio as well as continue my private training,” says Tracy. Not long after moving, however, she went through a tough divorce and her stepdaughter was battling bone cancer. She found herself overcome with heartache and grief. “I was exhausted mentally, physically, spiritually, financially and emotionally,” she says. “The lease where I just moved was having issues. I had nothing left in me to fight for my business with everything else going on, so I shut my doors in 2012.”
A New Beginning
Tracy was born and raised in California and never thought about living anywhere else. But in 2013, her inner voice spoke to her — this time, it was telling her she needed a change of scenery. She packed up and moved to the small town of Florence, Oregon where her mom and stepdad were living. While working at a local gym, she received a call from a woman asking if she could train her brother, Gary, a 68-year-old artist who had suffered a stroke. “The day they walked into the gym, they were walking towards me, (Gary) with a walker and three people with him,” she says. “They were laughing and he appeared to have such love and support with him.” It was at that exact moment when her intuition told her she had found her purpose.
The time they spent training together was an incredibly special journey for both Gary and Tracy, and he wanted to share his story to help others. This led to Tracy’s first book, The Stroke of An Artist: The Journey of a Fitness Trainer and a Stroke Survivor. Her book was read all over the world, and she was starting to receive recognition for her knowledge in working with stroke survivors. She got messages on Facebook, letters and emails asking for help. She also began a Facebook Stroke Recovery Support group that now has over 3,100 members.
“Even though I train clients at all ages and circumstances, my extra passion has been shifted the last few years to help educate stroke survivors, caregivers and fitness professionals on stroke recovery,” Tracy explains. This realization led to another book, Stroke Recovery, What Now?: When Physical Therapy Ends, But Your Recovery Continues.
In 2018, Tracy was asked to be on the Education Advisory Board for the MedFit Foundation and to write the CEC Course: “Stroke Recovery and Exercise,” which can be found at PTontheNET. She taught this course live at a MedFit event last February at UC-Irvine, and she was also set to speak on stroke recovery at IDEA 2020, which was cancelled due to COVID-19.
When Tracy reflects back on her career, she realizes the best thing she’s ever done is trust her instinct, no matter what it was telling her. It was the driving force behind buying her first business, getting more education, moving to Oregon, writing her first book, etc. Although her career has been re-routed a few times, it has led her to where she is now, which is exactly where she feels she needs to be.
As for her future, those plans are shifting with the world changes right now. Someday, she hopes to become a radio show host for a bigger radio station. And more books and speaking engagements are on the horizon. You’ll be seeing, and hearing, more of Tracy Markley in the coming years… as for where and when, she’ll follow her instincts.