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How Strength Training Made My Knee Pain Disappear

Thanks to Tonal, Ted Friedl never misses a leg day and tackles his weekend to-do list on his farm without feeling wrecked.

Tonal member Ted Friedl working out on Tonal and with a horse in his barn.

By Ted Friedl as told to Karen Iorio Adelson

Moving to a farmhouse in a rural town was a wake-up call: I needed to strengthen my knees.

When my wife and I moved from Madison, Wisconsin, I did most of the heavy lifting. That left me limping with my knees inflamed. We have a horse barn and live on eight acres of land, which requires a lot of maintenance. The knee pain made it tough for me to do weekend projects on our property. 

I’d been going to the gym and lifting weights since I was in my 20s, but I never did a lot of leg work. As my legs got weaker, lower-body exercises got even harder. I’d do a few squats, and my knees would hurt for days because the surrounding muscles were so weak. 

Getting to the gym became too much of a hassle when we left the city. It was a 30-minute drive each way, and it was especially hard to get motivated during the Wisconsin winters when the temperature outside could be 20 degrees below zero. When the pandemic hit, my exercise routine had already been tapering off, and I didn’t work out at all for a year. 

Because I work from home as a software engineer, I spend most of my time sitting, and my knee pain was getting worse. During that time, I read Atomic Habits by James Clear, and I realized I could apply some of the strategies in the book to getting back in the habit of exercising. 

Ted Friedl working on his farm.

One of the main points I took away from the book was that the best way to make a habit stick is to make it easy—that gave me the idea to start working out at home. I knew having Tonal in my house 50 feet away from my office would make working out friction-free. 

Before my Tonal arrived, I joined the Official Tonal Community on Facebook and was impressed to see people older than me who were able to do more than me. I thought, I want to do that.

I’m not new to strength training, but Tonal has still taught this 57-year-old dog new tricks. I used to focus on upper-body lifting and hadn’t really been instructed on anything else. I had my way of working out, but I was also stuck in my ways. Besides finally adding in a leg day, I’ve learned so much more about flexibility, mobility, and core strength from Tonal’s coaches.

A lot of what I do around the house is core work: moving bales of hay, cleaning horse stalls, and carrying around ladders, lumber, and equipment. I’ve learned from doing those tasks that If you don’t have a strong core, you’re going to hurt your back. 

As I did more workouts, I felt my glutes and leg muscles developing and my knee pain improving. I no longer have knee pain when I’m walking around or when I’m doing squats. The programs on Tonal have been great for me. I love not having to figure out what I’m going to do when I work out every day. The cueing on form and what you should be feeling during an exercise is so valuable, even for someone like me who has some lifting experience. 

"I’m not new to strength training, but Tonal has still taught this 57-year-old dog new tricks." - Ted Friedl

As a result, tackling my weekend to-do list doesn’t leave me feeling wrecked. Recently, I hauled a 32-pound spray can while I was weeding my garden, and climbed an 18-foot ladder in our barn. I feel so much stronger and less worried about getting hurt than when I did these same tasks last summer. I had a lot better control of the ladder while positioning it than I had in previous years. That was one of my first realizations that something different is going on with my body. 

I also have more energy and endurance. Spending 10 to 12 hours on my feet over the weekends used to leave me tired and in pain by Monday. That’s not happening anymore. I see people my age limping while walking from their cars after a short trip. That used to be me. When it comes to strength, if you don’t use it, you lose it, and Tonal is keeping me going strong. 

The stairs in our home were once a constant reminder that my knee pain was progressing. We’ve invested so much time, money, and effort into making our home a happy place for us and our animals, and I was worried we’d have to start the process all over again looking for a one-story home. Now I walk up the stairs smiling, confident I’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of all those weekend projects for years to come.


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