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How Mother of 4, Jessica Pino, Kills It with Kettlebells

Jessica Renee Pino San Jose RKC Double Kettlebells

Dragon Door: How did you first get involved with fitness?

Jessica Renee Pino: I started as a gymnast at 3 years old and went on to compete at an elite level until I was 15. In high school I played basketball, track and field, and volleyball. After high school I was into kickboxing. But, ever since middle school I had a passion and love for fitness and athletics—I would even follow bodybuilders and fitness competitors. After graduating high school I married young and had four kids right away. So, I didn’t get into a fitness career because I was busy with the kids.

At 30 years old, I was pregnant and about to deliver my fourth baby and began to think about my life. I wasn’t doing what I loved, or following my passions. So, I went back to school about six years ago and took anatomy and kinesiology classes. I soon found out about kettlebells, starting training with them and loved it. The Hardstyle aspect of kettlebell training reminded me of gymnastics. I am a nationally-ranked fitness competitor and was Miss Bikini New Mexico in 2010, and the first female in New Mexico to be published in Oxygen Magazine.

Dragon Door: How long have you been working as a trainer?

Jessica Renee Pino: I've been a certified trainer for six years. Currently I have combined my gym, Solfire Fitness with Dwayne Davis’s Functional Fury. I teach classes along with one-on-one training sessions with individuals. I had my own gym for years, but it had become routine, now I’ve been able to see some new faces and new styles of training. My clients are really enjoying it.

Dragon Door: Do you train a particular demographic?

Jessica Renee Pino: I train both men and women, but I would say there are probably more women than men. I also train different age groups, from individuals in their twenties up to people in their seventies.

I also train people with different health challenges—MS, osteoporosis, as well as mentally challenged individuals. We’ve seen huge improvements. One 72 year old woman who has been training with me consistently for three years first came in after being diagnosed with osteopenia. But within three years of strength training with me, it has gone away. She just recently tested negative for it which was great to hear. Another client is borderline diabetic and just with our training, we’ve kept her under the threshold of being officially diagnosed with diabetes.

Dragon Door: How do you think kettlebell training is most beneficial for your special populations clients?

Jessica Renee Pino: I think it’s the combination of strength and cardio training, and how it builds the functional strength they need for their everyday lives. It helps my older clients (and those with health challenges) get in and out of their cars, carry groceries, do yard work, or other tasks at home. It is huge for them.
Jessica Renee Pino RKC San Jose Get-Up

Dragon Door: What’s your advice for coaches and trainers who want to work with special populations?

Jessica Renee Pino: Definitely do your research. If someone comes who’s needs are outside your experience and training, be humble enough to refer them out. If you are confident that you can work with and help them, do your research, learn about their illness, medications and side effects. You need to be able to help them on a deeper level than just leading them through a set of swings. Many medications have side effects that include weight gain or water retention, so it is important to have detailed background information on those clients.

And use your resources, if you know another coach who has trained a client with similar issues, reach out to them for advice. At the San Jose RKC, I learned that Dan John works with individuals who have MS. I had so many questions for him—even though I’ve been coaching and certified for over six years. Even with my experience I still feel like I’m very young in the industry with a lot to learn.

Dragon Door: Are your classes primarily kettlebell-based?

Jessica Renee Pino: Yes, my classes are kettlebell-focused, but I do incorporate bodyweight exercises along with some non-traditional things like sleds, tires, and plyometrics. Every class has a different focus—on some days a class may be slower paced but with heavier lifting, or it might be faster paced with timed combinations and plyometrics. I also have a class which kicks butt with the fundamentals—we work the foundations of kettlebell technique and get a lot of benefits from kettlebell training alone.

Along with the twelve classes I teach a week, I’ve started teaching half of a combined class with the owner of Functional Fury, Dwayne Davis. It’s half kettlebells and half functional strength training, but it’s all functional movement based.
Jessica Renee Pino RKC Fitness Figure

Dragon Door: How did you decide to go for your RKC? Did you do the HKC first?

Jessica Renee Pino: I did! I was already registered for my RKC, but noticed a few weeks prior to it there was a local HKC workshop too. I decided to do the HKC for the knowledge and practice, then a couple of weeks later went for my RKC in April of 2010.

Dragon Door: I didn’t realize that you'd been certified since 2010. So, you were recertifying at the San Jose RKC?

Jessica Renee Pino: I was coming back to the RKC. I originally did my RKC I and II along with CK-FMS, and Primal Move. Then, when the split happened I was at another gym which went the other way and I followed along. But, that direction and philosophy just didn’t match mine anymore. I had been watching and keeping up with my friends in Dragon Door and the RKC and felt like it was a better fit for me.

I could see that Dragon Door was really emphasizing instructor training—teaching people how to become good coaches. The RKC is focused on teaching us how to coach our clients and puts the focus on teaching—instead of how much an instructor can lift or do physically. Because I am in this industry to help other people, I believe it's important to know how to coach and teach properly. When I go to certifications, I want to learn how to coach, not to just how to press a heavier kettlebell—that’s not as important as learning how to better help my clients.

This is why I felt the need to message John Du Cane. He's a brilliant businessman and I wanted some advice with my gym. He was very compassionate and we had an hour-long phone meeting a couple of days later. It was really nice to talk to the CEO himself. He remembered who I was and that I was a single mom. He was able to give me some honest feedback and I let him know that I wanted to come back to the RKC. I was considering the San Jose RKC with Dan John. Dan John is a brilliant instructor and if he was teaching there, then I needed to make that happen.
Jessica Renee Pino and Dan John at the San Jose RKC

At the RKC San Jose we had an amazing group of instructors, Dan John, Chris Holder, and Chris White along with their assistants, Robin Sinclear and Seth Munsey. I knew 100% that I had made the right decision to come back.

Dragon Door: In your opinion, what makes a good coach?

Jessica Renee Pino: Along with knowledge, I feel that a coach needs to be able to do all or at least some of what they are teaching. A good coach also builds a connection with their students and clients, and understands how to interact with them on a physical and emotional level. I want my clients and my students to come in and then feel stronger and confident when they leave—and I want them to come back the next day.

Dragon Door: What was the biggest thing you learned at this recent RKC?

Jessica Renee Pino: One of the biggest things I relearned was how to program the kettlebell movements so that the workout builds to enhance strength, performance, speed and agility for everyone from our everyday clients to professional athletes. It was also great to be reminded that you can get great results just from kettlebells, you don’t need to do 100 other things. Just adding mobility drills with a combination of kettlebell exercises is so beneficial for your students. You can also do certain movements in small doses and see huge gains from them.

Since I hadn’t been to a Dragon Door certification until recently, I hadn’t had anyone help me with my own technique. Running Solfire Fitness by myself hasn’t left me with the time to go to workshops to further my education for the past two years, so it was great to go to the RKC, learn new things and be reminded of important things too.

Even though I remind my clients daily to keep snapping their hips and crushing their glutes, after we worked on the hip hinge at the RKC, my swings felt better than they had in two years. It was great to remember why I like kettlebell training so much, and that I can benefit from doing just a few kettlebell swings in a row. The RKC weekend reminded me why I fell in love with kettlebells in the first place!

Dragon Door: Which kettlebell exercise or drill is your favorite to teach?

Jessica Renee Pino: Squats are my favorite and they’re also my favorite to teach along with the swing. As complicated as the swing can be for some people to learn, I love to teach it because when they do get it, it’s so exciting—for them and for me.

Dragon Door: Obviously, you have a very busy life running a fitness business, and spending time with your four children. Since many people tell trainers and coaches that they "don’t have time to workout", how do you make sure to have the time to keep fit and stay healthy?

Jessica Renee Pino: I schedule it into my day, and if for some reason that doesn’t work, I make sure to train just a little with my classes. Obviously when I train with my class I don’t do as much because I'm also watching their technique. I also won’t normally train with a group unless they’re pretty advanced, though in an intermediate or beginner group I might do a set of swings then walk around checking on everyone’s technique before doing another set of swings with them. Sometimes I’ll lead a workout and they have to follow me.

But, it has been a challenge to fit in my own training. There’s a misconception that if you run a fitness business, then you can work out whenever you want, but it doesn’t happen that way. You might actually end up training less than anyone else who comes to the gym. It’s been a challenge to stay balanced.

Dragon Door: Are your kids old enough to train with you?

Jessica Renee Pino: My 15-year old daughter trains with me and loves fitness, it’s her passion. She wants to compete in fitness competitions and would love to get into fitness modeling. She’s had the technique down for kettlebells since she was eight years old! She also does some Olympic lifting, but loves the kettlebells. My 13-year old boy is involved in football, baseball, basketball, and I have run a few baseball and football camps for his teams. Because of their age group, we focus on teaching correct movement, control, and building strength with bodyweight exercises. The parents love it. I have a nine-year old boy who loves baseball and is very strong. He loves to workout and we do push-ups, pull-ups , and he's good with kettlebells as well. Then my eight-year old girl is extremely athletic. She plays baseball with her brothers, ice skates, and loves to workout. She has the kettlebell technique down and loves do to a modified version of our class workouts doing swings with a ten pound kettlebell.

Dragon Door: What are your next goals for your own training and career?

Jessica Renee Pino: My next goal is to go to an RKC-II early next year. Now that I have combined my gym with Functional Fury, I want to increase our membership base, and lead some youth sport specific camps. I also want to become more involved in the Dragon Door Community.

Jessica Renee Pino RKC thumbnailJessica Renee Pino trains individuals and groups at Functional Fury in Albuquerque, NM. She can be contacted by email:, her website: or on Facebook: SolfireFitness and Jessica Renee.