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How Coach Joe Rodonis Helped Me Get Fitter Than I’ve Ever Been

Tonal member Katie Dunford stopped overtraining with cardio and is now crushing advanced workouts, achieving her goals, and inspiring others.

By Katie Dunford as told to Karen Iorio Adelson 

For years, I thought that spending hours each day running or cycling was the best way to get in shape. Instead, it left me under-fueled and constantly injured. It wasn’t until I gave up that routine and embraced strength training that I started to feel my best.

Now, as a 41-year-old mom, I’m celebrating my one-million-pound milestone on Tonal and my journey is just getting started. 

Growing up, I was not athletic at all. I was a band geek—I played the bagpipes in high school. I got into dancing before my daughter was born, but I stopped after becoming a mom. I put on a lot of weight and wasn’t taking care of myself. 

I realized I needed to make a change a few years ago so I started indoor cycling and running marathons and half marathons. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was severely overtraining. I didn’t know any better. I was also probably eating under 1,000 calories a day. After six years of doing only cardio, I was down to 120 pounds at 5’9”. 

We initially bought our Tonal for my husband and I wasn’t interested in it at all. About a year ago, though, I started learning more about the benefits of strength training and got curious about Tonal. At first, making the switch from doing cardio for hours on end to strength training wasn’t easy. It almost felt like a breakup, like I was walking away from everything I knew. 

But training on Tonal ended up being such an eye-opening experience. Before, all I thought about was being small and skinny, but when I heard Coach Ash Wilking say, “Take up space, don’t shrink yourself,” it was just a totally different mindset. With the Tonal coaches, I feel empowered to listen to my body and fuel my body. Now, I feel like a total beast. I weigh more now, but I know most of what I’ve gained is muscle because I’m only 13 to 14 percent body fat.

If I could go back in time, I would have started working out on Tonal way earlier. I sleep better now and have less stress and anxiety. I used to think every workout had to be taxing and painful, but now I’m training smarter so I don’t get injured all the time. The Tonal coaches have shown me that I can make real progress without running myself into the pavement. 

All the coaches are incredible, but Joe Rodonis’s let’s go get it done style really resonated with me. That’s the coaching I need. I just want to dial in and see the progress. When I work out on Tonal with Coach Joe, I feel like he’s actually in the room training me. That puts me in the mindset to not cut corners and not waste my time or his. He makes me not want to stop, quit, or cheat in my workout. 

I started messaging Joe on social media and he’s been incredibly supportive of my journey. I wanted to do his Power Build program but I was nervous because it would be my first advanced-level program and I hadn’t done many of the moves before. He told me that I could do it and that gave me the confidence to take on the challenge. Now, I’ve done Power Build multiple times, as well as Power Build 2 and Divide and Conquer: Level Up. I can even do plyo pushups, which I never thought I’d be capable of doing. 

“With the Tonal coaches, I feel empowered to listen to my body and fuel my body. Now, I feel like a total beast.”

Coach Joe told me, “Never be intimidated, always be inspired,” and that’s something I’ve taken to heart in my own training and in how I interact with the rest of the Tonal community. I’m very active in the Official Tonal Community on Facebook, raving about the coaches and my favorite programs. I find it inspiring when people post about choosing strength training over cardio or message me telling me they want to get to where I’m at. I want to cheer them on and be that inspiration for them. 

Hitting a million pounds lifted on Tonal is a win that motivates me to keep showing up and keep going. I want to prove what I’m capable of and show other women they can achieve their amazing goals, too.

The appreciation between Katie and Coach Joe Rodonis goes both ways. Here’s what Joe has to say about Katie’s impressive progress: 

“I love how she has been going about her training. Everything has been very methodical.  She’s been listening to the coaching, making the right adjustments, and has seen incredible progress in her strength, performance, body composition, and energy levels. 

She’s gone about this entire process the right way. It’s been months in the making—being consistent with her schedule, never quitting, getting the appropriate rest, not overtraining, and dialing in her food. It’s been very fun to watch.

Plus, she’s a very positive and supportive person. I notice that she has her own communities that she champions and helps other Tonal members stick to their goals and try new things that scare them.”