Like many people, Jake Olson realized at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that something was missing from his life: a TRX Suspension Trainer. “It was right in the middle of when everything just got shut down and all the gyms were shut down. I love working out and was in a bad place with not being able to work out,” he said. Since he used TRX at the gym, his girlfriend suggested he get one for home. But, when Olson tried snagging one online, he discovered that everyone else had had the same idea: it was backordered for weeks.
Trying to surprise Olson for his birthday, his girlfriend reached out to TRX founder and CEO Randy Hetrick to see if he could help.
Olson, a former University of Southern California football player, is not your typical 23-year-old. He lost his eyesight at age 12, played on the varsity golf team in high school, and became the first completely blind person to play in a Division I football game at age 20. Now a USC grad, Olson runs a talent-booking platform he started in college, Let’s Engage, and the Out of Sight Faith Foundation, an organization he created in high school to connect blind children with technology.
You never know what’s going to happen when you send a cold email to the CEO of one of the world’s best-known fitness companies. To Olson’s delight, Hetrick responded. Olson and Hetrick bonded over their love for USC—both are alumni and Hetrick’s son is currently a student there—and Hetrick was so inspired by Olson’s work with Out of Sight that he donated another 50 TRX Suspension Trainers to the foundation.
While he had used the Suspension Trainer for strength and conditioning work in high school and college, quarantine offered Olson a different type of TRX experience: the Suspension Trainer became his home gym. “It was the only thing I had to work out with, which was really special,” he said. According to him, the Suspension Trainer offers visually-impaired people freedom and stability. “It is something you can use right away and not really worry about hurting yourself.”
Beyond the “for anybody” aspect of Suspension Training, Olson finds TRX liberating because it delivers full-body fitness anywhere.
Even before COVID-19, the gym was not the safest place for blind people to venture solo. “Unless you can be assured that you’re the only person in there… walking around—even via cane or guide dog—can kind of be dangerous,” Olson explained. For many blind athletes, the solution is to go to the gym with a workout partner, but that also demands advanced scheduling. “If someone else isn’t available, then you’ve got to really scramble,” he said.
Olson believes the Suspension Trainer offers blind athletes freedom to exercise on their own terms. “Just knowing, this is my space. I can use this to do whatever I want. I don’t need to worry about anyone else around me. This is my time, my desire to work out, and I’m just going to do it in my way. When you can’t see, those moments are few and far between, but the moments you do get like that are really special. And I think that’s what the TRX provides.”