FINDING STRENGTH: Bryant employee, through disability, empowers others

Tyler Rollins, center supervisor for the Bryant Parks Department, uses a resistance band to demonstrate a  workout from his new fully adaptive fitness class at The Center at Bishop Park. After becoming paralyzed  approximately 3 years ago, Rollins started the class to help others with disabilities to remain active and build  a sense of community. SARAH PERRY/The Saline Courier
Sarah Perry
Staff Writer

In the blink of an eye, a Bryant man’s life was forever changed when approximately 3 years ago a fall and spinal injury caused him to become paralyzed. 

Tyler Rollins, who was a scout sniper in the Arkansas National Guard, knew that his life would never be same. 

Nine and a half miles into an obstacle race as part of off-duty training in Oklahoma, Rollins fell and shattered his sixth vertebrae. 

“I was paralyzed instantly from the chest down and in both of my hands and my right forearm,” Rollins said. 
He had been active his entire life. He ran track in junior high school and at the time of his accident, he was working at a rock climbing gym. He even had a 80-mile backpacking trip planned.  

“Literally, in the time it takes to take a deep breath, I was paralyzed and that was it … life was over,” Rollins said. 
His initial reaction, once he woke up from surgery, was that he would have to live the rest of his life in a bed.

“I had no hope because I’m not going to rock climb again and I’m never going to get to go oversee and deploy. All of this stuff is over for me,” he said, reflecting on a difficult time for him. 
Then he saw a different situation when he attended rehabilitation in Denver where he played wheelchair rugby, went fly fishing and ventured into the community for outings. 

“I got to meet so many people who had been there and done that … my whole mindset changed … I’m going to change all that perception for people around me. I’m going to do everything I can,” Rollins said. 
Rollins, who is 85 percent paralyzed, later became active again. 

“I’ve been doing fitness stuff my whole life. Since my injury, 3 1/2 years ago, that never stopped,” Rollins said.

He completed a 9-week training course in adaptive fitness in Dallas and completed another 9-week training course to go skiing in Lake Tahoe. 
For the last six months, he has also taken part in adaptive CrossFit with his coach, Kym James, at Legacy Athletics in Benton.  
Recently, Rollins began his own pilot fitness class at The Center at Bishop Park for others with disabilities. 

“I always thought it would be cool to have my own gym to do this stuff eventually … I’ve been around the block with adaptive fitness, so I wanted to bring it to Central Arkansas,” Rollins said. “Since I’m already advocating and trying to do stuff for people with spinal cord injuries, I might as well start a fitness class since I work at a recreation center.”
F.A.S.T Fitness, which stands for fully, adaptive strength training, will focus on the mind, body and spirit “to gain strength and endurance in all three aspects.”

“Living with a disability, your spirit gets broken very easily and very often,” Rollins said.
Along with providing a way for people to be active, Rollins also hopes the class provides a sense of community for attendees. 

“Building community and mental and spiritual resilience to things is just as important to me as being able to lift heavy weights or push yourself all day,” he added. 
The classes also help people with regular aspects of life. 

“Life never gets easier, you just get stronger,” Rollins said, giving the example of his struggle to lift a laundry basket. 

“It’s difficult to lift that laundry basket, but since I’ve been working out and doing CrossFit, there are functional movements that have allowed me to just throw my laundry basket up and it just gets easier when your stronger,” he added. 

Each of the F.A.S.T classes will begin with a few minutes of meditation allowing attendees to focus and let go of the stress of the day. Following a calisthenic warmup, the class will include a circuit-type workout before a cool down and stretching. 
The classes last a little less than an hour and is open to people with varying fitness levels, including someone who has never worked out to someone who is well versed in fitness. 

Workouts are also designed so that attendees need “as little equipment as possible.”

The program has been offered at The Center for a couple weeks, but turnout has been low. 
Along with people not being familiar with the classes yet, Rollins said it is also difficult for people with disabilities to attend events. 

“Transportation is not always the easiest thing and there is another layer of discomfort with getting out,” Rollins said. “I know, for me, initially it was hard to commit to going to things just because I knew people would think I was different.”

According to Rollins, there are several people living in Saline County with disabilities, especially spinal cord injuries. 

Programs, such as the F.A.S. T. Fitness class, cater to a demographic that the department does not normally serve, according Parks Director Chris Treat. 

“He brought some of those needs to our attention,” Treat said. 
This new fitness class is just one of the many plans Rollins has to improve accessibility in the department.   

“Without programming there is no need for people to try anything new,” Rollins said. “If we design programming, specifically for the purpose of inclusiveness, then we are a lot more likely to get a better turnout.”
He would love the department to feature recreational programs as well for people with disabilities who are not interested in fitness. 

Rollins, who is also the president of the United Spinal Association Arkansas Chapter, has worked in the department for about 18 months. 
For those who would like to attend the  F.A.S.T Fitness classes, there are a couple options. 

First, individuals can purchase a monthly disabled membership for $10. This membership includes the adaptive fitness classes and other classes, as well as the other things offered at The Center. Rollins suggests purchasing this membership since individuals have access to the therapy pool. 

“That therapy pool is fantastic,” Rollins said. 
Day passes are also available for $6 for adults and $4 for youth or seniors per day. 
For more information about the F.A.S.T Fitness classes, individuals can contact Rollins at ‪501-943-0444 or

Even though the class is open to anyone, he suggests people contact him when they are planning to attend, so he can tailor the class for their needs and abilities.