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The China Connection, Cami Pipkin, RKC Team Leader, Owner of Human in Motion Fitness Studio

Cami Pipkin Hiking
Dragon Door: How did you get started in athletics and fitness?

Cami Pipkin: I played soccer all through school and was lucky to learn about weight training early on. I trained with a personal trainer when I was 14-15. Looking back now, I think weight training while playing sports in school played a role in why I had no injuries. In that sense I feel very lucky that I was exposed to training at an early age.

I didn't take on fitness as a career right away. But, after work I went straight to the gym for two hours every day. One of my first workout partners was Heidi Okuno, who lived in Arizona at the time. (She is still a personal trainer in Colorado at a Jim's Gym). We worked out together for about two years. She really taught me a ton about the structure of training, developing my body, and coaching. This was also when I began to become interested in fitness as a career—Heidi really helped me develop my foundation in weight training. At the time we were more concerned about looking like fitness or figure competitors. Functional training was still new to the industry.

Then, I met Ruben in the gym and saw that he was training in a way that seemed to be 5-10 years ahead of what everybody else was doing. He was working with functional movements and his clients were in excellent shape. I hired him for some sessions to enhance my personal knowledge as well as my own physique. That's when I started to bring in the functional side of training into my own program. I was getting so much more from my weight training by adding more core strength, developing the smaller muscles, working on balance and becoming more well-rounded in my approach to fitness.

Long story short, Ruben and I moved to China together seven months later. Most people thought we were crazy and others were incredibly supportive of our new adventure. There was something inside that just said yes, let’s go, let’s do this! It’s still one of the best decisions I think we ever made and here we are still in China, twelve years later, living the dream!

Since moving to Beijing I have been super fortunate to continue my fitness education through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the Institute of Human Performance as well as other leading education providers. I think of Ruben and Juan Carlos Santana as my mentors in the field, they have created a dream team for me to learn from over the years!
Cami Pipkin and Ruben Payan at the Great Wall

Dragon Door: How did you get started with kettlebells?

Cami Pipkin: I always saw the kettlebells in the gym, but they were one of those things that I didn’t want to touch until I knew how to use them. First of all, I didn’t want to look silly using them because I didn't know what I was doing—and I didn't want to get injured!

As a hands-on learner, I have to fully experience and learn something new before teaching it to my clients. After a few years, Ruben and I brought the RKC to China. Ruben had decided to bring out the best of the best in the fitness world. Our philosophy has always been to bring up the level of education around us. Providing the most advanced knowledge, training techniques, and tools for our clients and fellow coaches is important to us.

The RKC is definitely the best of the best. My first real experience using kettlebells was when Andrew Read came to teach the RKC 1 at our studio. Since just eight of us were going through that first course, we each got a lot of individual coaching. Before the RKC, the only experience I had with kettlebells was the kettlebell swing—which I wasn’t really doing correctly before the RKC. Spending those three days was life changing for me. The RKC was all about technique. It was a real eye-opener to realize what I was physically capable of doing when going through the movements properly.

At first I thought there was no way that I could snatch a 14kg kettlebell overhead 100 times—but it was all about the technique and the breathing. I loved it. After training with kettlebells for just a few months I saw my strength increasing. My pull-ups, squats, and other movements were getting stronger from practicing some of the basic kettlebell movements. I was sold, and knew that all of my clients’ programs would start integrating these movements too.
Cami Pipkin and Ruben Payan Clients At Gym

I realized I could get a phenomenal workout in a short period of time. Kettlebell training is right to the point, uses multi-joint movements and hits everything—ground force reaction, your core, glutes, back, everything—I just love it, it's a great tool. Kettlebells will be here now and in twenty years from now. They’re so functional, and I see the long term value in them for my clients, and for myself. Since that first RKC, I’ve earned my RKC-II, and the sky is the limit!

Dragon Door: What are your roles in the fitness business you have with Ruben in China?

Cami Pipkin: I am co-owner of the studio we started together in 2008. I manage the studio and the staff and also do one on one coaching. Ruben travels a lot, so it’s nice to be at home base watching over day to day operations. I love the personal relationships. I have been blessed with training amazing clients of all fitness levels. We train people from all over the world at the studio, I feel very fortunate to be here in China working with them.

I’m new to group lecturing, but since we’re the #1 studio in all of China, people want us to educate them. We’re often invited out to instruct groups, so I do that too. Before moving to China, I was deathly afraid of public speaking—I’ve definitely come out of my shell since then. The more I can teach, the more I can give back while I’m here. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Dragon Door: What are some of your goals—both personal and professional right now?

Cami Pipkin: No matter how long you have been in the fitness world it’s important to keep a fresh perspective in the industry. It’s constantly evolving, so I try to continually educate myself on the newest techniques and tools as they hit the market.

I also want to continue developing my group training and public speaking skills. The RKC will definitely help me with that life skill. Since I was very young, my dad always told me that being able to speak to the public and motivate groups of people is one of the most valuable life skills anyone can have. The more comfortable you are with public speaking, the more you can share knowledge to people on a larger scale, that is what I want to do with teaching HKC.

Dragon Door: That's exciting!

Cami Pipkin: Can you hear the dogs in the background? Animals are definitely my other passion. I'm also the unofficial local re-homer and the stray collector. We have three little rascals we’ve collected from the bushes and streets.
Cami's Three Dogs

Dragon Door: What’s your favorite kettlebell move from the RKC?

Cami Pipkin: Definitely the snatch. At first, it was one of the hardest movements for me because it is all about technique. I like it because it is challenging but awesome for overall strength. I also like the swing since it is the foundation and something you can integrate into a workout every day. And the get-up is great too, I love to use it as a warmup for my clients. The get-up gets everything absolutely fired up right away.

Dragon Door: Since you’ve had a long career in personal training, what do you think has been essential for your success?

Cami Pipkin: My clients feel like they're family when they're training with me. I want them to feel like they’re at home when they walk into the studio. I’m not only there as a coach but as their friend. I love the relationships I have developed with my client family because they are built on trust. Training with kettlebells and all other tools in the gym require trust.

I’m thankful to have a role where my clients trust me to teach them all of these really cool modalities. I get to watch them grow and their physiques change—they just light up! Two of my clients have become coaches, in fact we’ve had multiple coaches come out of our studio, and that’s awesome!

Dragon Door: That’s always a sign that you're running a great studio! Are you training a particular demographic?

Cami Pipkin: When we first opened the studio it was only Ruben and I and we were training mostly expats because of the initial language barrier. But as our company has grown over the years and our team has diversified so has our clientele. We train a very diverse community. I love that our clientele is international—there’s no standard size, shape, personality, language, color, or religion—we’re a total melting pot. Because we’re training people from all over the world, we’re always learning about different cultures and ways of training. I wouldn’t trade that for anything! We have built lasting friendships with people from all over the world.

CamiHikingThumbnailCami Pipkin, RKC Team Leader can be contacted at . Follow her on Instagram: @onepowerfulbutterfly.