A relentless work ethic was key to the Chicago native’s transition from corporate man to fitness guru.
You can tell a lot from the books on a person’s nightstand, and Tonal coach Joe Rodonis is no exception. His current favorite, Legacy, by James Kerr, is a history of the world’s most successful sports team, the New Zealand All Blacks. It chronicles the legendary rugby team’s journey through adversity to get to the top and stay at the top. “There’s one, very simple quote from the book that sticks with me,” Joe says. “Champions do extra.”
Joe brings this mentality to every workout and uses it to motivate those around him. Can you do one more rep? One more set? One more movement? Five more minutes? As a coach, Joe asks, can you do just a little bit more every day? And can you carry that mentality into your work, your relationships, and the rest of your life?
“We don’t have to be perfect,” he says. “But we can all do a little bit more.”
We chatted with Joe, one of the new New York-based coaches, to learn more about his fitness background, what motivates him, and how he will motivate you.
Let’s start back at the beginning. Did you have a role model growing up?
I really learned the importance of work ethic from my dad. He was a general contractor, and he put me and my younger brother, Chris, to work at job sites. At the end of the day, he’d pay us based on perceived effort. If he thought Chris worked harder than I did, I’d see him give Chris a bigger pile of cash. I learned the lesson early that sometimes you just have to work hard. Don’t complain and do what you have to do. And it applied to sports, too. My dad would spend hours with me in the yard after baseball and football practice, hitting me ground balls or throwing passes. He would say, ‘If you want to get better, we have to practice,’ and it was as simple as that. It wasn’t about how talented I was. It was about how much I wanted it.
What is your athletic background?
As a kid, I was obsessed with sports, and played baseball and football. As a teenager, I even had a bench press set up in the living room. I always had a natural curiosity about sports and fitness, that was just so obvious. As recently as four years ago, I was doing a lot more endurance training, and I was about 40 pounds lighter. Now, I do a lot of strength training and football-style conditioning, and I’m always involved in some sort of physical activity. I love to hike, bike and play beach volleyball, and basically do anything outside.
What was the biggest challenge of moving from the corporate world into fitness?
My biggest challenge was self-doubt. I was on an upward trajectory, 10 years into a career in corporate America, and I decided to step into something completely unknown. I asked myself a lot, ‘‘Should I revert back? Should I quit?’ Overcoming those mental battles and sticking with it was hard, but I had this vision of being able to educate people and share fitness information through my lens. It sounds cliché, but just believing in yourself is really what it’s all about.
What motivates you?
My goal is to be a “sword of truth” for others, because for a long time, I struggled to find the truth for myself. I remember trying to do internet research on the diets and workouts of some super-fit celebrities, and thinking, there is no way this is how they’re eating and exercising. There was never a clear path, and there were no straight answers, so I took it upon myself to go to the source so I could understand what the truth was. Now to be a source for others.
What is your vibe as a coach?
I’ve been told that I have a “big brother” energy. And it’s true, I enjoy a good dad joke. But I feel like I’m equal parts chill and intense. I have an easy-going, go-with-the-flow kind of energy, but when I work out, it’s controlled chaos. I want to go crazy. And I want to have fun. I want people to feel really comfortable so they can learn and grow and fail and embrace all of that.
Why should we take your class?
You should take my class because I’m going to get you to believe in you. I’m going to help you commit to yourself and keep the promises you make to yourself. That’s something that has helped me out so much. I think people are capable of much greater things than they realize, and I see that every day. My whole mission is to use training as a catalyst for you to improve in every aspect of your life and unlock something mentally, so that you can carry that confidence with you into the rest of your day.
What does strength mean to you?
To me, strength is more of a reflection of your mentality. Are you ready to accept change and challenge? Are you curious? Are you ready to learn? Because if you have that mentality, you’re going to grow. I feel strongest when I’m being pushed. When I feel like I have a challenge in front of me that I’m a little bit nervous or scared about. When there is something unknown but I step into the space anyway. And you do it, you find a way to figure it out, and you do something you didn’t think you could. Or maybe you fail, but you push past a barrier that you had before. That is the best feeling in the world to me.