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Tonal Talk Tonal Talk: Adaptive Athletes on Tonal

Travis Gaertner and Ryan Herrick are a part of a growing community of adaptive athletes who build strength using Tonal. In this Tonal Talk, with Kate Telge, our Community Manager, they share their story and how Tonal is helping them achieve their goals. 

Travis feels that being born without his limbs has been a blessing. “It’s forced me to adapt quickly from day one and take what life throws at you and turn a lot of those situations into a blessing and a positive.” 

“You grow up with kids running around all the time, and you’re running with kids around the neighborhood. Me being in a chair or missing my legs at the time and using prosthetics, if I were to compare myself to everybody else, that wouldn’t work out well for me. It would be pretty discouraging. So, what I had to do from a young age was learn to use myself as my benchmark. You know I’m not going to be the guy running around, but what does it mean for me to be my best?” 

“Physical activity has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. For people with disabilities, it’s even more important to stay active and physically fit. In some cases, if we lose our fitness, it’s going to be much harder to be independent.” 

Travis Gaertner

Ryan became a quadriplegic when he shattered the C7 vertebra in his neck after an accident a couple of years ago. He bruised his spine and was paralyzed from the chest down. “I owned a business, was going on vacations, doing everything I wanted, and living the dream. Going from that to suddenly not being able to feed myself or go to the bathroom was a huge eye-opener. From the very beginning of this, I’ve trusted the process. I know there’s a plan for me, and I just need to trust the process.” 

“It’s been two years, there have been days where I’m upset, but for the most part, I’ve been able to keep a pretty good mindset. I want to breathe positivity. I wake up each morning, and everything’s a challenge, so I can make everything negative, but that’s not me. I want to wake up each morning with a smile on my face and for other people to look at me and see that joy and know that if they find themselves in a chair, they can still live life to the fullest.”

“I almost took this injury as a challenge when it first happened. I wanted to see what I could get back to help other people see that if you put in the work, you can go home and be independent, and you don’t need somebody helping you all the time.”

Ryan Herrick 

While their stories are different, Tonal has been a great way for Travis and Ryan to train for their individual goals. For Travis, that means athletic conditioning for hand cycling in the Paralympics. For Ryan, it’s about building up his strength to be as independent as possible and hopefully walk again. 

Travis learned about Tonal from his sponsor at Life Fitness. “He told me about Tonal because he thought it would be perfect for my athletic training. I was limited in the gym because I couldn’t pick up heavy weights, get into position and then lift them. With Tonal, I knew right away that I would be able to lift more and do more exercises than I’ve ever done and tailor them to what I’m trying to do on the handcycle.” 

“As soon as I heard about things like [Smart Handle] buttons and that I would have the ability to get myself into position without weight on, [I thought] wow, that’s huge for somebody with a disability.”

Travis Gaertner

Ryan discovered Tonal about a year ago when his insurance started canceling his therapy. “I began setting up a home therapy room and was looking up cable crossovers because I’m able to do a lot of stuff with that equipment in the gym. I was going to buy a really old bulky one when I came across Tonal. Like Travis, I noticed the [Smart Handle] button that turns weight on and off. Being able to get in position and push that button, that’s like having my therapist right next to me. Realizing that I could do everything I want with this machine without a therapist, I was sold.” 

Pro Tip: If you’re in a chair or an adaptive athlete, watch the video from the 28.00-minute mark to see Ryan and Travis share how you can use Tonal for different lifts. With Tonal, you can get into position without being under load and use our Smart Handles and Smart Bar to turn the weight on once you’re ready to go.

Training with Tonal also means that Travis and Ryan can be creative with their workouts and adapt them easily. Travis likes the fact that he can prep for his circuits. “I do more circuits than single blocks, but it does require some advanced planning for your workout build so that you have minimal setup time between your exercises and can get your rest in. I find it more of an engaging workout, but again it’s not for everybody.” 

Ryan enjoys setting up different days for different muscle groups. “I like to do as much stuff as I can in one muscle group. So one day, I might hit my back and biceps, and then give it a break and maybe do some stretching, yoga, or meditation on Tonal. Then hit my chest and triceps another day.” 

“Tonal has changed the way I lift and exercise. It has opened up a world of opportunity for me. This is one of those rare products that exceeds advertised expectations.”

Travis Gaertner 

Both Travis and Ryan are cultivating their strength with Tonal in their own way. Travis says that being our strongest is exactly that. “It’s your strongest and best, and nobody else’s. So you need to work to define that and stretch past your specific limits. Get creative, and don’t limit your thinking.”  

For Ryan, being strong is about waking up every morning and just doing it. “From the beginning, I wanted to be independent and not need somebody for absolutely everything. I’m pushing my body to the limit to see what I can get back, and hopefully, someday, get up and walk a little bit, maybe with a walker or something like that. So that’s my goal with Tonal.”

Pro Tip: If you’re in a chair or an adaptive athlete, watch the video from the 22.50-minute mark to see how Ryan and Travis have gotten creative with Tonal to suit their goals. 

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tonal Talk is a weekly Facebook Live interview series highlighting stories of real strength from within the Tonal community.