The Truth: How I Developed Lean Legs

Sure, I’m a personal trainer, but that’s not it!  I work out multiple times a day: spinning, TRX classes and the weight room, but that’s not it! The justification for my thin legs might be perceptible to a bystander as “she must be a workout nut,” “she must be a vegan,” “she probably runs a lot,” but trust me, that’s not it!

For most of my adult life, people have told me they would love to have my lean legs. I usually feel blindsided by this, overt my eyes, swallow a lump in my throat, hold back tears and then kindly say “thank you” because they have no idea and telling them that I hate my legs would come off the wrong way. My legs are lean and my calves are thin because I was born with a major flaw.

I live and breath fitness, but the truth is that cycling, squatting and lunging will never develop my lower legs in size or shape. My legs are skinny because I have a hereditary neuromuscular dystrophy in the Charcot Marie Tooth Disease family (referred to as CMT). CMT causes progressive muscle weakness and atrophy, and certain loss of sensation in the feet, the lower legs, the hands and the forearms. It also often causes contractures (stiffened joints due to abnormal tightening of muscles and associated tissues). The contractures make it look like I’m limping, but I like to call it my CMT “swagger.”

To the average person, my legs appear thin and perfect. To doctors and those like me who suffer with CMT, my lower legs are weak and atrophied and most days standing up straight and balancing on my own two feet is a challenge. In my teens, running fast or for a long period of time became difficult due to the progression of the neuromuscular damage in my lower legs. I had lost sensation in my toes and experienced regular numbness in my feet. I wasn’t ready to give up on being an athlete though, so I found something that didn’t put too much strain on my lower legs. Indoor cycling became my new workout high of choice and there began my wonderful journey of being fit, flawed and fierce.


Indoor cycling made me feel capable again; as I sprinted up massive hills towards my fitness goals on my spinner bike with a group of other unstoppable spinners to the electronic beats of Darude’s “Sandstorm.” Being in the pack intimately led to me being the pack leader years later and becoming a very passionate spinning instructor. Spinning had saved the fierceness in my soul. I would be forever indebted.

My flaw is not visible to everyone. They see a fitness professional with a slim figure, who works out everyday and isn’t like them. Yet, my struggle, my fight and my story is not overtly obvious and like many I wasn’t dealt a perfect hand in life. I’ve been blessed to meet many people and hear other’s fitness story; those who have their own unique imperfection and have fought to remain fit and fierce always inspire me. Many of us have flaws and often other cannot see it because they aren’t always obvious to the eye. I know very fit people who struggle with diabetes, scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. It’s a struggle for them to fight through a tough workout and also battle their own unique obstacles jointly.

I hope this blog brings you some comfort if you feel as though you’re struggling with something that no one else can see. I hope you feel inspired to chase an active life where your sweet spot and your sweat zone align. For me it was in spinning but for you it may be dancing, paddle boarding, Pilates or hiking.

Embrace your flaw, find your fit and live fierce!

Join the movement. Stand to end CMT.

Not all illnesses and diseases are clearly visible. Like and Share if you or a loved one have a disease many people don’t easily see.

@cmtausa #StandAndGiveMe5 and #EndCMT

Tara Emerson is a  Carbon38 #Team38 Trainer and ACE CPT, Spinning and TRX Instructor at Revolution Fitness in Santa Monica. Find her on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, and use her #Team38 personal link or code TARAEME50 for her discount when you shop Carbon38.

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