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Powered by Tonal: Runner Daniel Tyson Breaks Out of His Gym Rut

man standing next to tonal smiling

For 20 years, Daniel Tyson, 44, from Philadelphia, thought he was working hard in the weight room, but he never really saw any gains. As an avid trail runner, Tyson knew the importance of strength training, but without any real plan or guidance, he barely saw change and ultimately felt stuck in a rut. On top of that, he avoided lower-body weight training because he thought it would negatively impact his running. 

Tonal changed all that. While visiting family during the pandemic, he jumped straight into working out on Tonal. At the time, he was focusing on lower body strength to build up the muscles around his knee after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. Tonal’s programs helped him feel more confident in training his legs, so he wasted no time ordering a trainer of his own. After decades of stagnation, Tyson started to see real results and that newfound strength translated into his running performance. Here, he shares his story.     

 Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I grew up in the Philadelphia area and have lived in the Manayunk neighborhood of the city for almost 20 years. I am an avid Philadelphia sports fan and a supporter of Liverpool in the English Premier League. After work, I usually run or bike in Philadelphia’s beautiful Wissahickon Valley Park, which has over 50 miles of trails and is practically in my backyard. My wife and I try to get to the shore as much as possible, and we especially love Cape May, New Jersey, which is where we were married.

How did you come across Tonal and why did you decide to buy one? 

All credit for discovering Tonal goes to my sister-in-law, who was an early adopter! When we drove down to stay with her family in Florida in the early months of the pandemic, they already had a Tonal installed. 

I hadn’t lifted weights in over two months and jumped right into Raising the Barbell with Coach Nicolette. I was immediately hooked, and that first month on Tonal is still my record for the most workouts. 

After that, it was a no-brainer to order a Tonal of our own. While waiting for ours to be delivered, I did a few workouts per week with movements learned from Tonal, but it just wasn’t the same. Once Tonal was installed, I dove back into where I had left off with Coach Natalie’s Pep in Your Step. 

What was the first day like with Tonal?

The variety and diversity of the movements are incredible. I loved the circuit-style set rotation within each block, how challenging the workouts were, and the recovery moves (a totally new concept for me). 

I had lifted weights in the gym for over 20 years and thought I was working hard, but quickly realized I had never put in as much effort and exertion with strength training like I was with Tonal. I had been stuck in a very predictable routine, wasn’t making any gains, and barely maintained. I had never been completely soaked in sweat lifting weights at the gym. Tonal and the coaches really made me work!  

a man running on a trail

Tell us about where you were at the start of your journey and where are you now?

In fall, a few months before the pandemic, I ran my first 50-kilometer trail, but in the weeks following that race, I tore the meniscus in my right knee. I most likely didn’t rest enough. 

Instead of surgery, I rested for six weeks and worked on my mobility and bodyweight leg-strengthening exercises. I had never really done lower body workouts in the gym because I thought it would negatively impact my running. This physical therapy was really my first attempt at strengthening the muscles around my knee. 

As the pandemic grew more serious, I stopped going to the gym but felt strong enough to get back into running. 

Fast-forward to strength training on Tonal: Still nervous about my knee and with almost no experience of lower-body weight training, I dreaded all leg exercises during the first few workouts. But you don’t learn unless you try, and slowly but surely, I gained confidence in leg exercises and started to see and feel results. 

For the majority of 2021, I trained for a 100-kilometer trail race. I was running 60 to 70 miles per week and was strength training on Tonal as well. I knew gaining muscle while burning this amount of calories per month would be impossible, but I wanted to continue to gain strength. And it worked! 

My Strength Score went up by 150 points while I was in race training. I’m especially proud that I was able to get my lower body Strength Score up over 1,000. I don’t stress over Strength Score, but as a measurement, it is certainly satisfying to see that overall I’ve been able to double it from 544 to 1088! My body composition changes have been noticeable, too, with a significant transfer from fat to muscle. My weight has stayed relatively stable since I started using Tonal, which is remarkable considering that I’ve run over 1,300 miles so far this year.

The convenience of having a Tonal in my home is priceless. There is no excuse not to get in a workout, and it is very rare that I skip a planned workout. I never had that discipline when going to a gym. 

How has being stronger impacted different areas of your life?

Being physically stronger and feeling better about my body composition certainly boosts confidence! But the lessons I learned from sticking with a long-term running training plan and maintaining a regular schedule of Tonal workouts have also made me a more disciplined person. It has helped me carefully consider long-term planning and expected results at work, my financial goals, and other areas of life.

What obstacles did you face on your journey, and how did Tonal help you overcome them?

The biggest thing Tonal helped me overcome was breaking out of a rut in strength training and overcoming an indifference to lower body strength training. I did the same exercises, sometimes adjusting rest or reps, over and over with no results. It’s difficult to get results when you don’t have a plan, and working with a trainer at the gym always seemed intimidating and expensive. 

The coach-led programs on Tonal are incredible. They mix up movements, add Chains or Eccentric dynamic weight modes, adjust the resistance in small increments, and then there’s the unique feel of digital weight — all of which forces your muscles to behave differently, creating an incredible workout experience. The results speak for themselves with measurable strength gains, especially in my legs!

What is the biggest unexpected benefit you’ve received from having Tonal in your home?

The most unexpected benefit is the coaches. They are all national treasures! As I rotate through their programs, I appreciate the different styles each coach brings to the table. Their willingness to interact with the Tonal community online is also remarkable. The first time Coach Nicolette responded to a comment I made on one of her Instagram posts, I was starstruck and almost fainted.

a man standing in front of mountains smiling

What’s the one piece of advice or the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your transformation that you want to share with the rest of the community?

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen! I saw a lot of incredible changes in dropping fat and increasing muscle, and I am in the best shape of my life. 

Over a year of Tonal later, I still don’t think I’ve plateaued in any movement. I moved a million pounds in my first 100 workouts, added 1.3 million more pounds by my 200th workout, and am on pace to move over two million more pounds by my 300th workout. 

What does being your strongest mean to you? 

Strength is such an interesting concept. Becoming physically stronger is satisfying and certainly builds confidence, but mental strength is just as important. 

It takes strength to think about ways we can improve in all different areas of life. Outside of physical and mental strength, strength of character is vital in this day and age. Being strong enough to stand up for what is right, help people in need, have empathy, and admit when you are wrong — all take strength that we don’t witness enough in society today. We have to be willing to be strong in these areas and work at it, one day at a time.

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