In the summer of 2018, Laine Wascher was at a gym in San Francisco training Chongyuan, a client of his for three months. Mid-workout, Chongyuan paused to look over at Wascher and asked, “Why are you always dancing like that?”
Wascher instinctively knew what his client was referring to, and replied: “Oh, I’m not dancing. I have Tourette’s syndrome.”
Crudely depicted in popular culture as an affliction that creates obscenity-screaming misfits, Tourette’s syndrome, in reality, is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary, intermittent tics — in Wascher’s case, flexing and twitching of the hips, shoulders, head and neck that flare when he’s excited or stressed, and sometimes, vocal outbursts of random words. “I can feel a little part of my brain just telling me don’t do it,” says Wascher. “I don’t care if society has no problem with it, but I just don’t want to let it out.”
In the reason why Wascher has strived his entire life to suppress the tics lies a little-known truth about Tourette’s: the jerks are downright unpleasant. He equates it to a full-body convulsion that happens when you have a massive sneeze — but imagine coping with that every minute of every day, as the tics barge in unannounced.
Despite this, Wascher describes his approach to conquering Tourette’s with a candor devoid of self-pity. Now a personal trainer based on the Upper West Side, Wascher is on the cusp of his 30th birthday, when he plans to loop around Central Park 30 times on a bicycle. Riding a bike is often seen as an insurmountable challenge for someone with Tourette’s — which is exactly why Wascher is doing it.
Pushing The Limits
Wascher says the risk of falling of a bicycle due to these “herky-jerky” tics is imminent. He recalls how the neck jerks spiked in his teen years, when every time his head touched a surface, he had to bang his head against it.
“It got to the point where I would tic, my back would crack and I would fall down,” says Wascher. “And I got a slipped disc in my cervical spine due to jerking around my head so much.” On top of this are what he calls an “Easter egg basket” of neurobehavioral conditions that accompany Tourette’s, from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Major Depression Disorder.
At the age of 25, Wascher found his calling and salvation from the pain. “I sat down one day and put on a piece of paper all the things I love to do,” he says, noting that working out and helping people topped that list. That same day, Wascher was offered a part-time job at a local gym, through which he realized that personal training ticked all those boxes and allowed him to pass on what he learned from a lifetime of living with Tourette’s: “To teach people that they are worth more than what they give themselves credit for.”
Personal training also gave Wascher a way to find inner calm. “When I’m doing my training or working out, I have to focus really hard to not [tic],” he says, adding that after completing a workout, the tics he subdued are immediately expressed. “[But] every time I focus on not ticing, I get better at controlling it.”
After working at a gym in San Francisco for three years, in October 2020 Wascher fulfilled his childhood dream of moving to New York. In May 2021, he launched Train Limitless LLC — an outdoor, one-on-one, mobile personal training company.
Wascher trains at parks around the Upper West Side with his Warrior Wagon in tow — a cart with exercise equipment, training mats and blankets — and a holistic approach that includes nutrition, mental wellness and lifestyle choices. Wascher says his goal is to “make fitness tangible, something you understand and feel you can achieve, to the point where you can take your fitness into your own hands and be successful long term.”
He does that in two ways: by maintaining personalized attention in keeping his client count below 15 — including gleaning how they feel before and after a workout and consistently messaging them to check in — and via his mobile app that helps clients keep track of their workouts and exercise at home with Wascher’s own instructional videos.
Wascher says his clients have never showed any negative reaction to his tics, which he hopes in turn inspires them to overcome their own fitness challenges. This, however, was not the case when his tics manifested in fifth grade — a teacher pulled him into the principal’s office after seeing him have a tic, accusing him of a sexual, humping motion, and classmates would egg Wascher on to tic again, treating him like a sideshow.
“When I was 12, I started accepting it [after] I videotaped myself eating dinner with my family,” Wascher reminisces. “I wanted to see what I looked like because I didn’t know why kids made fun of me.” He says that was when he started biking around by himself. On a bicycle, Wascher felt the bliss of solitude; he could be alone and free, without judgment or mockery.
So the bike loops Wascher is planning to do around Central Park on his birthday on November 10 is like coming full circle for him. To celebrate his 30th, Wascher isn’t getting sloshed with his buddies or attending parties; rather, he says he wants to do something for himself. As with personal training, he sees the bicycle challenge as a benefit, because “I’ll get stronger at controlling my tics.”
Wascher realized this would be no small feat when he did the numbers — he picked 30 laps to commemorate his 30th year, which totals 183 miles and 9,000 feet of elevation, that he plans to complete in 12 hours or less. Wascher aims to prove that age is just a number and to send a message to kids and adults with Tourette’s that “disabilities exist to be overcome” and “to never accept the perceived limitations that come with having a disability.”
Wascher also wants awareness and acceptance of Tourette’s to be more widespread. He remembers how after Chongyuan asked him why he was dancing, a colleague said that it was rude of the client to point it out. Wascher says he thought otherwise: “They should! More people should be comfortable to say hey, are you okay? And hopefully, the other person is open enough to explain what’s going on.”
Laine Wascher’s contact information: