KITWANA JOHN - Certified Personal Trainer, Founder of Movement Runners and Lululemon Ambassador
Updated: Apr 12
I met the awesome Kitwana John also known by his nickname, Kit when we were teammates on the same dragon boat racing team in California a couple years ago. We had practice every Sunday morning in Long Beach and I'll always remember being so sleepy on the drive to practice but the minute I arrived, Kit's wonderful and welcoming personality, humor and enthusiasm would wake everyone right up and get us all excited. His energy is beyond infectious.
Outside of dragon boat racing, Kit was instrumental in organizing a run club that would meet outside of the Nike store in Santa Monica. Running is not my thing, but I gave it a try and honestly I just loved the camaraderie of all the wonderful people and had THE BEST TIME!
Besides being an incredible Certified Personal Trainer, Motivator, Coach, Photographer and Lululemon Ambassador, Kit is the founder of Movement Runners which is a 501c3 non-profit based in Los Angeles, California. I love following Kit and Movement Runners on their Instagram. Kit and his runners are so inspirational. On his Instagram, Kit shares everything from his daily training sessions with clients to run club meet ups, marathons, trips and post run hangs. I'm truly jealous of all the fun they have every time I check out what they are up to on Instagram!
I have been wanting to catch up with Kit in between clients and training and we finally had the chance to do so. (Kit and Movement Runners have a marathon coming up this Sunday from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica.) Enjoy our chat below where you can get to know Kit more as he shares some wonderful advice and inspiration!
Hi Kit! How are you doing today?
I am doing amazing! Thank you for asking!
What's on tap for you today?
Today is a chill day. I'm training 3 clients in the morning then a 'lil bit of laundry, lunch at 1pm and then clean up.
Have you found it hard to stay motivated during the pandemic and what are your tips for someone who might be struggling with this?
I'm not going to lie....yes, some days are definitely tougher than the others. Honestly, my advice is to just take it one day at a time. I have found that if you ease into the days rather than thinking so much ahead, it helps you to become more present.
How did you discover your passion for fitness and what made you want to be a certified personal trainer?
I discovered my passion a long time ago...so long ago that it's like a blur! I've always been active ever since I can remember. My parents had me taking karate at the age of 6 years old and I have been active ever since!
I got into running in my early thirties when a friend invited me out to run when running crews were starting to make their mark in Los Angeles. Then a few of the clubs I went to moved out of the area or stopped meeting and I realized I could do this in my community and help so many get healthy and have fun doing it.
As I've gotten older, I realized that it was even more important to stay active for health issues. I knew that I wanted to help people and help them get more familiar with being active, so I got certified to be a Personal Trainer.
Did you have a role model(s) when you were younger or when you were beginning your career that you looked to for inspiration?
My role models are my parents. They have always been very active and outgoing! My friends liked to hang out at my house after school and my Dad would talk to us about life along with things we needed to be
mindful of as young Black men.
I was born in South Central Los Angeles. I would always see my mom helping out the homeless when I was younger and always wondered why she did it. In my teens I saw so many people in need so I decided to carry on her legacy of giving back.
My mom would drop extra food off that we had at home before taking me to school she would always drive down skid row and give those extras meals that we had from home. She actually never said much about it but it was all her actions that stood out. I saw what she was doing (at the time I didn’t understand why) but as I got older I realized some people are just less fortunate. So if you are fortunate to give back Do It! It’s that simple. So definitely it was her actions that spoke to me.
What was your journey prior to Movement Runners?
I was in the military for 6 years; 2 years in the Coast Guard and 4 years in the Army. After the military, I went to nursing school and was in the medical field for over 10 years. While I was in the Coast Guard I was stationed on an 82-foot patrol boat that had had a crew of 12. We all had several jobs to be in charge of because it was a small crew. We all had to learn each other’s jobs just in case something would happen to a crew member. Once you learned a job or trade, you were ready to learn the next.
Being in the military taught me how to be punctual and ready for any and everything. Most importantly it taught me how to be flexible and have more than just one plan of attack. Sometimes plan A turns into plan x y z. In the military, you’re constantly active and have to be ready for anything at any time. I loved what I did but I always felt like something was missing and thought I could help many more individuals.
There was nonstop or studying and learning all the time on new things and new ways to survive as you had to be ready for all types of emergencies. We traveled very often but not too long because it was a small boat so we would need fuel, water, and food. We were stationed in Eureka, California where we would then travel to San Francisco and sometimes all the way down to San Diego by water.
When did you start Movement Runners?
I started Movement Runners about 6 years ago. Starting my own running crew started from a small idea of asking myself “maybe, I can do this”? I mentioned it to a few friends just to get feedback, one person in part was Claudia Martinez. She said if anyone could pull it off it would be me after which I was then confirmed It was a must that needed to try it. Another friend of mine Jesse Clements actually made a bet with me that I should try it and he would back me up. So I set a date and invited 35-40 people one Sunday, 38 people ended up showing up. We all ran, had a great time and after the run, a few asked when the next run would be? I honestly told them this was just a one-time thing and I said we could try meeting up once every other week. That later turned into every week, then twice a week, and then led to signing up for races and marathons and the rest is history.
Is there somewhere we can buy Movement Runners merch?
I make most of my T-shirts at home, so I usually have my clients or my runners come to the house and purchase them from home. You can also hit me up on my Instagram if you are interested in Movement Runners merch!
What is your favorite and least favorite way to workout?
I cannot say that I have a least favourite way to workout. I love it all!
I know you have a pretty sweet sneaker collection, has fashion always been a part of your life? What's your favorite part about fashion?
I just feel that if I have the right tennis shoes and look good, the workout will go a little bit better. I get a little bit more motivated when I put on a cool pair of shoes!
What do you do to take care of yourself, mentally?
Even though I'm always with people in workout groups, I do like my alone time to process things and get back into my mindset.
What effect do you think social media has had on the fitness world?
Social media plays a big part in the fitness world, because people have options... Before social media, it was kind of hard to connect to figure out where to work out, where to run, where to meet people to do these things and now it's pretty easy because of social media.
How did you start building your platform and gain the awesome following that you have?
I honestly started with the amazing group of friends that I had and everything started growing from there. It’s about more than running, we are a family. Yes, we run together, but we also get together for birthdays, weddings, funerals, and check-in on each other.
"Our motto is “All Races, All Paces”. Everyone is welcome and encouraged, doesn’t matter if you are an experienced runner with multiple marathons under your belt or a novice who has never done a 5K. We got you. I’m proud to say last year we had over 50 runners do the L.A. Marathon and many were first-timers. It was FUN!"
What kind of responsibilities do you think come with having a platform?
I would say, keeping everyone safe.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own brand / fitness page?
I would tell them to go with their first gut instinct. Don't second guess yourself and just go for it!
What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur? What is the hardest part?
That is a really easy question and the answer is... you get to choose your own hours, but the hardest part is making sure that you use your time wisely.
What advice would you give to someone who is unhappy in their career?
I would tell them to stop immediately and write down on a piece of paper all the gifts that they have and how they can make money from those gifts and talents.
If you could ensure that your followers got one message from your social media, what would you want it to be?
Train your mind to see the good in EVERYTHING!
Movement Runners has done a lot of community/volunteer work to give back. Can you tell me abit about that?
We actually do a monthly Skid Row outreach every third Saturday of the month where we give out water, hygiene kits, and socks. The Sneaker drive is definitely a group effort, it’s everyone coming together and bringing shoes they don’t wear anymore that are still in good condition and giving them to someone in need. This year, we were blessed to get a donation of shoes from Hoka and Front Runners LA donated some brand new New Balance. We also collect clothes to give out during the Sneaker Drive as well.
For folks in the LA area how can they be a part of these clothing and sneaker drives if interested?
Honestly just reach out to me on social media. My house is an open house to drop off and we usually do it once a month (every last Saturday of each month) and it’s as easy as just coming on out and helping out as it usually takes about 45 minutes tops.
What's next for you, Kit? I hear you have a Marathon coming up?
We have a marathon scheduled for this Sunday, March 28th from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica which is 26.2 miles. I cannot wait to see how these runners will do!
If you would like to come to the marathon on March 28th to cheer, donate water, snacks or swag for the runners, check out Kit's contact information below! We ask that you please wear a mask.
Be sure to follow Kitwana John and Movement Runners,
on their Instagram:
Kit's portrait photos by: Adam Davis