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An Interview with RKC Instructor and Gym Owner Robin Sinclear

Robin Sinclear RKC Instructor

Dragon Door: How did you get started in fitness?

Robin Sinclear: After I graduated from college, I finally figured out that I had some athletic abilities. I’d never participated much in high school athletics other than cheerleading. While I was in college, I idolized some of the famous female bodybuilders of that time—Rachel McLish and Corey Everson—who were also writing books. I devoured their books, came up with my own programs to follow, and played around with it all as a hobby.

I decided to finally get up the nerve and compete after having kids. I did pretty well at a little local show, and from that point kept competing in women’s bodybuilding for quite a while.

Then, I tried a women's Tri-Fitness obstacle course and realized that the bodybuilding-style training I had been doing—with split training and all that stuff—wasn’t the best for developing athletic ability. I’d also started experiencing lots of aches, pains, and health issues from the strict dieting. It takes a special kind of crazy to willingly stand up on a stage in a bikini to have your body judged and compared with other women!

So, I decided to focus more on athletic performance because I liked competing, but needed to find a healthier outlet than bodybuilding.

Dragon Door: Who introduced you to kettlebells?

Robin Sinclear: In late 2006, my chiropractor told me about a kettlebell class his wife was taking. It sounded really interesting, and at the time I’d never even heard of a kettlebell. But, since he said she really loved it, I checked it out. Luckily the kettlebell studio owner was an RKC! I learned some great basics from the start and fell in love with the training right away. It was so different than the bodybuilding training I'd done before. I instantly felt stronger! I became an RKC in February of 2008, and have been training almost exclusively with kettlebells, barbells, and bodyweight exercises ever since.

Dragon Door: How did you go from kettlebell class participant to RKC instructor and gym owner?

Robin Sinclear: My business partner and best friend, Traci and I were both members of the same kettlebell studio. The studio owner decided to go back to school to be a firefighter and closed the facility in 2011. We were all pretty devastated and didn’t know where to go for our training.

While there were a couple of kettlebell studios in town, none of them were run by RKCs—we tried a couple of them, but they were not focused on form and it made us cringe! I tried CrossFit for a while, but these different training styles just didn't feel like "home" to me.

Traci and I decided to try opening our own place, and started by inviting the people who we used to train with at the old studio. Our first gym opened in late 2012 in Traci’s garage, and it took off. Even though we started out with just a handful of friends, we ended up with 30 clients in that 400 square foot space, and figured out very quickly that we needed to expand.

Just this past March, we moved to a 2,600 square foot building, and in the last 2 months we've more than doubled our clients in that time period. We’re super excited about how the gym is growing, and attribute much of our success that both Traci and I have an RKC foundation.

Dragon Door: People seem to instinctually know good coaching! Your bio states that you’ve worked as a paramedic and are now pursuing a nursing degree, too...

Robin Sinclear: I was a paramedic for about 22 years before deciding to go back to school to be a nurse. I am actually still waiting to get into a nursing program, but since our gym is doing so well that idea doesn’t sound as appealing anymore! I really love what I'm doing right now with our gym!

Dragon Door: What do you like the most about your gym and training others?

Robin Sinclear: All of it! First of all, I love working with my best friend—both of us get along really well. We have somewhat opposite personalities, which I think our clients appreciate. I’m a little bit more regimented and I write the programs. She has a more bubbly personality so we offset each other very well.

It’s great training clients because every day I see them accomplish a PR or get a first pull up, or that they’re moving better than before.

Many people come to us with a past shoulder injury, and within a month they’re already moving better—it’s very gratifying to see. It almost reminds me of my paramedic job, but in a very different context.

Running my own business is also empowering. It’s really something to be proud of because it requires a lot of time and effort. But you can do it your way. We’re running our gym very differently from the kettlebell studio where we originally trained, and we’re doing really well with it. Our clients like it too.

Dragon Door: How is your gym unique?

Robin Sinclear: I think some kettlebell trainers out there have a bootcamp/militaristic style, and we’re nearly the opposite. We’re very welcoming and have tried to create a family atmosphere in our gym.

We have instructor-led small group training—you don't just walk in and train on your own. Both Traci and I are there for almost every class, which means two trainers for the price of one! We also like to experiment with blending different training styles, and aim to use the best of everything we enjoy. I think our clients enjoy it too. Of course I have my RKC, but also have a CrossFit certification, FMS, and a bodybuilding background. I get to take little bits of knowledge from all of that when writing programs and training people.

Dragon Door: What’s your advice for an RKC looking to start a studio or gym like yours?

Robin Sinclear: Start small. Don't be intimidated into thinking that you have to open a big gym and pay a high rent to start out. We started by just converting a garage, then built our client base on our reputation and word of mouth. We’ve tried to be very smart about not overextending ourselves by buying lots of equipment.

I think it’s very important to build up experience coaching people with different bodies, personalities, and challenges. Also, listen to your clients’ feedback. Don’t have a big ego and don’t say your way is the only right way.

Dragon Door: Programming is often a challenge for coaches, but it sounds like it’s one of your strengths. In addition to blending your areas of expertise, what else can you tell us about how you create programs?

Robin Sinclear: I’m pretty intuitive about it. For about the first year that I was writing programs, I wouldn’t use a workout for our groups until I tried it and saw how I felt when I woke up the next morning. I’d see how tired I was, or which body parts were sore before building the next day’s plan.

Over time, a pattern emerged and I came up with a method based on it. I’m constantly reading, and finding what has worked for other coaches too. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, especially since the foundations of the RKC exercises are such a great base to work from—I don’t have to make up a bunch of crazy stuff, we can just use those basics to build great foundational strength.

Dragon Door: What’s your favorite basic kettlebell exercise?

Robin Sinclear: I am a huge fan of the Turkish get-up, and I love pressing. Right now I’m trying to get the Iron Maiden lifts under my belt, and so far I have the press but am still working on the pistol and pull up. I’m hoping to try the challenge in October at the RKC-II with Andrea Du Cane. I am excited about the RKC-II and have wanted to do it for a long time. Now that I have my own gym, I’m really inspired to go for it. It’s a little bit of an intimidating prospect, but with all of the changes at Dragon Door and after assisting at the RKC I don’t feel as intimidated and am really excited about certification workshops with Dragon Door now.

Dragon Door: What do you like most about the get-up?

Robin Sinclear: It really teaches people how to leverage their strength, and how to use tension throughout the whole movement. Taking it slow and working through each piece helps people in so many ways. Even though it’s a full body exercise, it does more than just work the whole body at once. It teaches people the basic skills they need to get strong—how to stack their joints, use leverage, tension, breathing, and focus. That’s what I really love about the get-up.

Dragon Door: What sets you apart as an RKC instructor?

Robin Sinclear: Something I do a little differently is to work on even more ways to modify exercises for people at various levels of athletic ability. Even though our training is in small groups, we have individualized modifications and training that fits their needs.

If someone has a mobility restriction or other issue preventing them from doing the program as it is written out that day, we modify it so that they are doing an alternate move which will help them improve. That's always my goal—I don't want anyone to feel like they can't do our workout, or that they aren’t up to par if they can’t do exactly what’s on the day’s agenda. I work with our clients to get them to where they can see the "light at the end of the tunnel" and how they can get there. Skipping over an exercise entirely isn’t good for their confidence, and it won’t help them improve as an athlete.

Dragon Door: Do you have any standout clients in terms of transformation and/or lifestyle change?

Robin Sinclear: There are so many! Right now I have a client who is training for powerlifting meets. We’ve taken her deadlift from the low 200s up to 295lbs. That’s really motivated her, which is great as she struggles with body image, but she has found her niche and is empowered by it. Now she’s in the gym nearly every day doing something that moves her towards her goal of lifting over 300lbs.

And we have a special class for teenage girls. My business partner, Traci is also a dietitian and works with clients who have eating disorders. Our focus with the teen group is teaching them to appreciate what their bodies can do more than how they look. We want them to learn that they can be strong and athletic, and that all the crazy BMI measurements they’re doing these days in public schools don’t matter. What matters is being strong and confident.

One of our girls started with us when she was only 12 years old. She was in recovery for anorexia, under-weight, and weak. Now, she just turned 14, and is working very hard to be strong. Last month, she competed in the Tactical Strength Challenge we hosted and completed 12 pull-ups, 85 snatches with a 12kg kettlebell, and deadlifted 185lbs! We couldn’t have been more proud. The best part is seeing her confidence and personality really come to life. That means more than any measurement!

RobinSinclearRKCInstructor thumbnailRobin Sinclear is the co-owner of Velocity Strength and Fitness in Chico, California. Her website is She can be reached by email at or by phone at 530-520-2297. Follow Velocity Strength and Fitness on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.