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How I Overcame My Fear of Heavy Lifting and Hit 1 Million Pounds on Tonal

Tonal member Rhysa Huston Sisco changed her mindset, started training smarter, and saw her strength skyrocket.

By Rhysa Huston Sisco as told to Karen Iorio Adelson

Like so many women, I’ve been told to eat less and move more to get lean. I’ve had that mentality since I was a teenager. For years, I was working out five or six times a week—sometimes twice a day—and not seeing any results. It just wasn’t working. 

Last year, I started learning more about fitness online and I realized I was doing movement, but not training. My workouts weren’t structured to gradually increase in intensity and challenge me. There was no progressive overload to push me closer to my goal. If you’re doing the same thing over and over, your body doesn’t have to adapt. 

The idea of lifting heavy was a big mental shift. I used to only lift 2- to 3-pound weights in my workouts. I was hesitant to start lifting heavier because I was scared that I would get bulky. My goal was to get toned and I thought that the way to do that was by losing fat and not necessarily building muscle. 

I was going to give myself three to six months to try something new and see what happened. I was working 10-hour shifts as an occupational therapist at a children’s hospital and didn’t have time to commute to a gym. That’s why Tonal appealed to me. 

Tonal member Rhysa Huston Sisco with her Tonal.

I suffer from three chronic diseases—Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia. Six weeks before my Tonal arrived, I had a hysterectomy to treat the endometriosis. That was the moment when I could have given up. It would have been easy to keep sitting on the couch, but lifting weights had shifted my mindset to believe that I could do hard things. Tonal helped me regain strength through the recovery after surgery. 

Once I fully recovered, my strength skyrocketed. After six months and seeing great results, I was hooked. I love that Tonal’s programs continued to challenge me by increasing the weight as I started building strength. Getting stronger reduced my back and joint pain. I rarely have fibromyalgia flares anymore. At 33 years old, not only do I look better, I feel better. 

After my recovery, I wanted to go out and do more things, like hiking, taking long walks, and spending time with my dogs. I have more energy, which is also the byproduct of just feeling like I look better. I have more confidence in my body now. 

Tonal member Rhysa Huston Sisco enjoying a hike.

Even though my weight has actually gone up, I feel so much stronger and more powerful. The scale wasn’t telling me if I was losing fat or gaining muscle, so I started using different metrics to track my success. I look at my progress photos, my measurements, and how I feel in my clothes. 

My transformation inspired me to leave my job in occupational therapy and start my own health and fitness coaching company, Curls and Curves Fitness. As a therapist, I was already an expert at helping others build habits and routines, and coaching lets me combine that with my passion for fitness. I work with amazing women who, like me, were feeling lost and are now getting where they want to be through exercise and nutrition

I recently hit my 1 million pounds lifted milestone on Tonal and I want to keep building my strength. I’m so proud of myself for changing my attitude toward heavy lifting. I’ve gone from working out nearly every day to working out 3 to 4 times per week and seeing much better results. 

As I tell my clients, unless your goal is to get bulky, you’re not going to get bulky.

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