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Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju, Olympian, RKC, Holistic Health Coach, interview

Fatimat Olukoju, RKC

Dragon Door: You've had an amazing athletic career, how did you get started?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: It started such a long time ago! I got into running because I was running away from poverty and an early arranged marriage by my parents in Africa. Running was my ticket to get out of that whole mess. A missionary came to our village in Nigeria who helped me find my goal—my reason for why I was running away. And that was how I started running competitively at 16 years old.

Dragon Door: What was your path from there to the Olympics?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: Prior to the Olympics, I had gone to the Commonwealth Games and won, much to my surprise! That win boosted my determination, and I thought I could get to the Olympics someday if I just kept on trying. I also surrounded myself with people who had been there and done it. From there I went to the World Junior Championship in Bulgaria where I won again, further strengthening my belief that I could get to the Olympics. When awesome people are around who have been through it, they rub off on you! This is something that the RKC has, too. It’s like a ripple effect, when we’re around people who have accomplished our goal, we want to be like them. The motivation was there even when I wanted to quit. But I kept trying—you can only fail when you quit training—and I hate to fail!

Dragon Door: And then at the 1996 Olympics, you won the silver medal in the relay?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: Yes in the 4x4—it's a four man team. And in the individual event I was 5th in the final, which is 400 meters. But, I had missed out on two previous Olympic Games. The first time was political, they thought I was too young to be an Olympian—even though I qualified. And I injured myself a couple of months before the second one. I was getting older and age wasn’t on my side—but I finally made it to the 1996 Olympics.

Dragon Door: After the Olympics, how did you transition to your fitness career?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: In 2000, I went to another Olympics in Sydney, but I had many injuries and wasn’t completely healed. Because of the injuries, I didn't perform well and was knocked out of the second round. So I came home and tried to train again, but at that point I was just tired. I still had injuries so I retired.

I went to college and majored in Social Work. I was a social service worker (child protective service) for a few years, but just got tired of taking kids away from their parents. It was emotionally draining. So, I called it quits and was home with my babies for a few months. Eventually, it dawned on me that I could coach. I already knew how to coach and had done it before. So, I took some classes and got my personal training certification—and I’ve continued educating myself ever since. It all started with one client and built up from there. With my background and credibility, the results and testimonials have kept me coaching for almost five years now.

Fatimat with Medal and RKC Dragon Door: When did you open your fitness studio, Village Fitness Coach, Inc.?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I started off coaching in the parking lot of the church because I could not afford the studio. But, I saved up and eventually moved into the studio last September.

Dragon Door: I know for a fact that a lot of serious training can happen in a parking lot!

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I second that!

Dragon Door: In addition to coaching exercise and sports, you are also a certified holistic health coach, what all does that entail?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I went to holistic school in 2013 because of my mom. At first, she was on one medication but within six months she was taking five different medications. She was dying a slow death and I wanted to educate myself about how to use food and workouts to help her. After a year at the holistic school, I got my certification. I want to keep learning more about food—it can be our medicine, or it can kill us. No matter how awesome your fitness program is, you have to balance it with nutrition. Nutrition is a huge part of it all, and going to holistic school was money well spent.

Dragon Door: When did you earn your RKC certification?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I went to the RKC in June. I was a big fan of kettlebells even before I heard about the RKC! I trained with kettlebells for my last four years as a track athlete. But, I wish I could have used them during my whole running career because it made a huge difference in my running.

Dragon Door: Which kettlebell exercises do you think are the best for competitive runners?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: The swings, get-ups, and deadlifts. The swing is serious cardio, but instead of running you're resting your legs, so there’s no pounding from running on the ground.

Dragon Door: And you recently went to Max Shank’s new mobility workshop. How did you learn about it?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I had heard good things about Max Shank even before the RKC. His gym is only about an hour away from me, so was excited that he was teaching the RKC, and I finally got to meet him. When I heard he was offering a mobility course, I went because he was amazing teacher at the RKC. He broke everything down to where an elementary school student could understand it!

Dragon Door: Who do you usually train at your studio?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: About 90% are working class women. Some are skinny and weak—"skinny fat"—or they might look fit but they don’t feel fit. Others are overweight from childbirth and have tried everything. Many times they’ve almost given up—but then they find me. And now their goals are a reality because they are seeing results. My youngest client is 20 and my oldest is 69.

Dragon Door: What are you favorite kettlebell drills to teach?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I think everybody needs to know how to deadlift, and how to strength their hips. Once they have that strength, then they can swing kettlebells. My third favorite kettlebell exercise to teach is the Turkish get-up. When they first see me get up and then back down, you can see them thinking "wow" by the looks on their faces. Then, when they are able to do it right, it’s just priceless.

Dragon Door: What are you working on in your own training right now?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I had hurt my shoulder, and I am better now. But, I still need to strengthen my upper body, it's weak even though my legs are super strong. So, I am just trying to get my upper body stronger, stay in shape, and be mobile. I was a flexible athlete, so I want to maintain that flexibility and mobility.

Dragon Door: What's next for Village Coach Fitness?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: I want to grow and maybe outgrow the current studio. I am also looking forward to getting my RKC-II next year.

Dragon Door: Judging from what you said, I think you'll love the RKC-II, and it will definitely encourage you to keep working on your upper body!

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: And I just want to say that the instructor, Max is awesome. There are many great instructors in the RKC, and the better they are, the more they can help us be better coaches for our clients.

Max makes the material easy to understand—and will not just tell us how to do something, he shows us how to do it too. When something goes wrong, he doesn’t call you out, but he will give you a solution. That's what I like about him. While he has a lot of knowledge, he doesn’t brag about it either.

Dragon Door: What do you think makes a good coach?

Fatimat Yusuf-Olukoju: A good coach listens to the problem. Though we sometimes don’t have the answer to every question, we shouldn't be afraid to say that we don't have the answer, but will find out. The fitness industry is a continuous education—the learning never stops. On all three days of the workshop, Max encouraged us to keep learning. While I am an Olympian, and don’t need kettlebells to coach every client, I wanted to add more knowledge and tools to my toolbox. I have never stopped learning. The day I stop learning will be the day I close down and get out of this business.

FatimatWithMedalAndRKCShirt thumbnailFatimat Yusuf-Olukoji, RKC, owns Village Coach Fitness, Inc. where she trains groups and individuals. She can be contacted through her websites at and, Facebook:, or email: