How To Power Up Your Training: Tips with Jess Martin

20 Minute Fitness Episode #048

On this episode of 20 Minute Fitness we sit down with Jess Martin, the owner and CFO—“Chief Fitness Officer”—of Stronghorn Fitness! He made the switch to being a powerhouse personal trainer after climbing the corporate ladder for 15-years. Ditching the cubical for the kettlebells Jess now is the proud owner of one Austin’s most loved training facilities. With his infectiously positive attitude, it’s hard not to be inspired by this guy.  Listen on for real fitness tips, knowledge guidance, and a good dose of inspiration.

Three Things You Will Learn

1.) Get A Sneak Peak Into The Methods Of An Experienced Personal Trainer Jess Martin

Jess is a font of information when it comes to the best training practices to boost your well being. If you are unsure on how you should start your training or what training is best suited for your goals, Jess has an answer. Press play to find out Jess’s best advice for reaching your goals.

Weight Loss While On-The-Go and Traveling

2.) Learn What’s So Special About Kettlebells

Jess’s Stronghorn Fitness is ‘Austin’s only kettlebell based fitness solution. Most of us are quite familiar with kettlebells in a sense that it’s a pretty common tool at every gym But do you know what’s so special about them?  You can find out in today’s episode, where Jess shares why they have decided to tailor their workouts to kettlebells.

Find Jess Martin’s Stronghorn Fitness Here

3.) How To Keep Your Momentum Moving!

Everyone has signed up for a class or maybe even a couple and told themselves this is the time fitness is going to stick. However, rarely do we find ourselves six-months later still sticking to that same routine. Jess gives us some advice on how to stay consistent and how to approach training that sticks. Listen to the episode to hear his advice and find out what he means by ‘earn your shower every day’!


This episode of 20 Minute Fitness is brought to you by Four Sigmatic! Four Sigmatic is a superfood company founded by a group of Finnish friends. It is based on their belief that health can be vastly improved through simple dietary tweaks. The easiest way to do this? Mushrooms, the most scientifically studied and proven superfood. Four Sigmatic wants to popularize medicinal mushrooms by incorporating them in their yummy products, like coffee, hot cocoa, and turmeric latte.

For 15% off your entire Four Sigmatic purchase, visit www.foursigmatic.com/SHAPE15 or enter the discount code SHAPE15 at the check-out. 

Favorite Health & Fitness Podcast Of The Week

If you’re looking for some amazing health & fitness inspiration, you should definitely not miss the next episode of The Extra Mile. The Extra Mile is the official Charity Miles Podcast, which is run by the CEO, Gene Gurkoff. And when I say run, I mean literally run, as every single episode of the podcast is recorded outdoors and live. Quite cool, huh?

In every episode Gene interviews a big name, someone influential, someone who is “going the extra mile” for health & fitness. Subscribe to The Extra Mile now and listen to interviews with people, like Kyrsten Simena, U.S. Congresswoman, Ironman and Ultramarathoner or Bob Babbitt, Founder of Competitor Magazine and Challenged Athletes Foundation.

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Full Transcript

00:04 Speaker 1: Hey guys, what’s up? Thank you so much for pressing play on this week’s episode of 20 Minute Fitness. We have a great guest on for today’s podcast, his name is Jesse Martin, and he’s the owner and CFO, Chief Fitness Officer, of Stronghorn Fitness, based in Austin, Texas. Jesse made the switch to being a powerhouse personal trainer after climbing the corporate ladder for 15 years. Ditching the cubicle for the kettlebells, Jesse is now the proud owner of one of Austin’s most loved training facilities. With his infectiously positive attitude, it’s hard not to be inspired by this guy. Listen on for real fitness tips, knowledgeable guidance, and a good dose of inspiration. So without further ado, here is Jesse Martin on the 20 Minute Fitness podcast.

00:49 S1: And you guys just knew that I would sneak this in here, as always, the 20 Minute Fitness podcast is powered by ShapeScale. ShapeScale is a 3D body scanner scale and fitness tracker that is all rolled into one. It digitizes your body composition in photorealistic 3D. And in fact, you can order this insane machine, you can pre-order it on shapescale.com. Again, without further ado, here’s Jesse Martin.

01:15 S1: Okay, and we are joined with Jess Martin. Jess, do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?

01:20 Jesse Martin: Not at all. My name’s Jess Martin, I live in Austin, Texas. I started a fitness company called Stronghorn Fitness, here in Austin, Texas, about five years ago with the idea of basically changing my life and doing something I’m very passionate about rather than something that just afforded me toys and travel and a corporate ladder to climb. And with that, made my life more about seeking things that I enjoy, and living every day with some intention rather than just getting through it and trying to get to Saturday kind of thing. So that’s where I came from. Software was my background prior to fitness, and then started Stronghorn, like I said, about five years ago, and never looked back.

01:58 S1: Gotcha. So what facilitated that jump from the software corporate ladder to owning your own fitness company?

02:05 JM: It was an interesting transition, I’ll say that. It took a little time. I worked a very long time, about 15 years, to get what I thought was my dream role as a… I was a VP of Sales for a software firm. And then I got there [chuckle] and realized it wasn’t my dream so much as it was a nightmare. And so I took some time off, and with family and friends’ support and a lot of self-reflection, I wanted to do something that I had passion about, something I really enjoyed and loved and have for a long time. And I was looking at what in my life are those passions, and I love music, I love singing, playing guitar, piano, anything that makes sound. And I love wellness in all things; in the last probably 15, 20 years, that’s really been a focus of mine is how the body works and how to basically make the body more efficient and work better.

02:48 JM: And so those two things I was holding in each hand and saying how can I make this something that I do every day? And at that time I didn’t think I was gonna be a 33-year-old rockstar, so I decided to do the other, [chuckle] and go the wellness route, and that’s when I started Stronghorn. And it’s been legitimately the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. It’s opened up so many different doors and so much excitement and fun that every day is kind of like the weekend for me. It’s very cliche to say that, do something you love and you never work a day in your life, but I’m living proof of that, I guess.

03:18 S1: That’s awesome. So during your time growing your company, Stronghorn Fitness, I’m sure you’ve trained a ton of people. So what’s your advice for people who are just starting off and are not sure where to start in fitness, or this might be their first time trying out group fitness or anything like that, so what would be your advice to them?

03:35 JM: For people that are just trying to find their journey, I very much advise them to, one, give it some time, explore everything out there. There are so many fitness and wellness and nutrition options. We are constantly inundated with new theories around fitness and training, or everything from a CrossFit gym to Orangetheory Fitness, to just a globo gym like Gold’s or LA, there’s so many different options out there. I always tell people the absolute best workout is the one you’re actually gonna do. It doesn’t really matter who’s providing it, if it’s something you’re enjoying and seeing benefit from, that’s the one, do that. So I very much tell people, even when they come to Stronghorn, they come to me, I want them to try… I would love for them to be a part of our community, but if they’re forcing themselves to do it and it’s not something they enjoy, they need to go find something else. So I almost act as an information resource to a lot of my clients to help them find what best suits their lifestyle, their goals, and all that kind of stuff. So a lot of things need to be taken into consideration.

04:28 JM: The other thing I try to tell people is don’t 180-degree shift your life. If you’ve never worked out a day in your life, don’t start a six-day workout plan. If you’ve never done any sort of recognition of nutrition or diet, what you put in your body, don’t jump into a ketosis diet. You’ve got to ease into things and find ways of a long journey ahead. You’ve got your entire life that you’re supposed to be on this wellness journey, there’s no need to Monday start with a six-day workout program at some CrossFit box and then jump right into eating only proteins and fats. Too many people fall off the wagon trying to change too much at once instead of making smaller steps that will lead them down their journey over time. So basically, I’d try a lot of things, explore the options, and then ease into it. Don’t dive in head first; get in, adjust to the waters, and find yourself a year from now right where you wanna be.

05:19 S1: Right. And so for somebody who might be sitting at a desk for five days a week, commuting, they might live a more sedentary lifestyle. What would be the regime that you would like to see them on? How often should they be working out, should they be doing more cardio? I guess it would be personal, but just in a general sense, would it be more cardio, more weightlifting, what would you recommend?

05:41 JM: Absolutely it is, it’s very much up to that person. I know power-lifters that work 8:00 to 5:00 jobs in an office. I know body-builders that sell software, and they travel two weeks out of the month. So it’s very much up to that person and their goals and what they’re going for. But I talk a lot, we have a lot of corporate accounts, and we work a lot with companies here in Austin and all over the country. And I do a lot of speaking and stuff like that because of my background and because I came from that professional environment, that executive atmosphere where you are very much tied to a laptop for the majority of the day and how you can basically… Not hack your way into tricking the body into staying active and keeping metabolism up, but basically just some healthy habits that you can take, like just making sure you’re drinking lots of fluids, lots of water, not eating the horrible crappy sugar snacks that they provide in most kitchens and trying to basically show some self-control there.

06:32 JM: It’s small things, even parking as far away from the door as possible on nice days, not when it’s pouring down rain. Taking the stairs if you’re only a few flights up. We actually do a lot of challenges in our corporate wellness accounts around just taking the stairs ’cause we manage a lot of buildings’ and high-rises’ fitness centers. And so a lot of really popular challenges are just companies competing internally on what groups can take the stairs the most. Even little things like that, it helps people, when you’re in that office environment for such a long period of your day to break it up and make sure that your body’s staying mobile and you’re not just hunched shoulders, face into the screen, and disappearing into your laptop. So little things like that help a lot.

07:09 JM: And then also just having some regimen, some very much like, “Okay, I’m going to cook meals on Sunday so I don’t have to eat out every meal this week.” That’s a big, big, big thing for me and for everyone that I know that really wants to make a change in their life, is just that simple taking an hour, maybe an hour and 30 minutes on Sunday, to cook some meals. And you don’t have to do it for every meal, you don’t have to box everything up and make it pretty like a body builder, you just need to have a bulk cook session that you can divvy up as the week goes. That would do tremendous amounts for anyone in a professional environment. So things like that, those are a lot of little tips and stuff that we like to make sure people are aware of, along with a lot of other things, too, that we don’t really have that much time to get into. There are a lot of things you can do in an office environment to ensure that you’re not losing your gains or taking steps back when you’re trying very hard to change your lifestyle to become healthier.


08:00 S1: This episode of 20 Minutes Fitness is brought to you by Four Sigmatic, aka the Shroom Guys. Most people are actually unaware of this, but mushrooms are the most scientifically studied and proven superfoods with health benefits like boosted energy, strong immune system, and more glowing skin. Which is why the guys behind Four Sigmatic, a bunch of Finnish friends who actually grew up consuming mushrooms, are on a real mission to make mushrooms popular among everyday people like me and you. How? By simply bringing you functional mushrooms and other superfoods blended into delicious drinks, this way, making the consumption of mushrooms not just convenient but also enjoyable. And you guys should really trust me on this one, because I’ve had the chance to try most of their products. Trying everything from their mushroom coffee, to mushroom matcha with lion’s mane, and golden lattes, I really started to wonder why I was not on the shrooms before. My personal favorite was the reishi chai latte. Besides being absolutely yummy, it really did help with my pretty bad insomnia. So if you’re someone with sleeping issues as well, I 100% recommend you to try one of their blends with reishi, or go straight for their reishi elixir.

09:00 S1: And leaving the best news to the end, the Four Sigmatic team was kind enough to give you a special offer of 15% off your Four Sigmatic purchase. All you have to do is visit foursigmatic.com/shape15, that’s F-O-U-R-S-I-G-M-A-T-I-C dot C-O-M slash S-H-A-P-E-1-5, or you can simply use the discount code SHAPE15 at the checkout. So are you ready to get on the shrooms?


09:28 S1: A large part of fitness routine and group sessions have to do with kettlebells, so do you mind explaining why kettlebells are your equipment of choice?

09:38 JM: Not at all, we love the kettlebells. So we basically chose the kettlebell because when we started we were outdoor workouts. We worked out in parks, in parking lots, office parking garages, stuff like that. And so I was thinking… And I’ve always had an affinity for kettlebells, just because I think they’re awesome and fun and the most universal tool you could possibly use. And they’re very humbling if you know how to use ’em. But that said, the real reason we decided to specifically basically tailor to that and really program around the kettlebell is because it is universally used. It is the easiest gym in one little piece you can take anywhere. And so our members and our clients that come to our park workouts and our outdoor workouts and stuff like that, have their own kettlebell. We don’t have contracts, and we don’t have startup fees and all this kind of crap that you get when you go to big, big companies; we basically say, “Look, if you’re gonna come and you’re gonna do this, we’ll let you test out and play with our kettlebells when you start, and then your commitment is buying your own kettlebell. This is your gym in a carriable piece.”

10:33 JM: And so they bring their kettlebells out, and they graduate, learn new movements and stuff like that. We have tape to let him know what levels they’re at, and then they can go up in their weight and stuff like that. And so basically by the time they’ve been with us for a year, a year and a half or so, they’ve got a couple different weights of kettlebells, and they have an entire gym at their house. And so we’re big believers in teaching people how to fish, and so once we have taught you how to use this gym and how to use this piece of equipment correctly, then you are getting a workout anywhere you want. You can take that kettlebell to a park, you can do it in your backyard, you can go anywhere, you can come to the class, learn new programming, work out with friends; anywhere you want, you’ve got an entire gym and something that fits in one hand, and that’s kind of why we chose that.

11:10 S1: Awesome. So there’s also a little bit of a stigma around kettlebells, and that when you see somebody working out with a kettlebell it looks like that they might rip their shoulders out of their sockets or something. So what’s a good way to prevent any injury with that, or do kettlebells even pose that big of a risk?

11:26 JM: Kettlebells don’t, not any more than any other load that you put your body under. The reason why kettlebell… Kettlebells use momentum for a lot of movements, not all movements, but swings and hip hinges and stuff like that, you’re going to be using momentum. And so that’s why I think it’s kind of stigmatized or even looked at from those that… I don’t wanna say ignorant, ’cause that’s a strong word, but the people that just haven’t properly learned technique or don’t really know what they’re looking at when they see somebody swinging a kettlebell around. It can look a little bit out of control.

11:52 JM: Now, if you’re doing it correctly, and you’ve learned the correct technique and the correct moves, there are steps to how to swing a kettlebell, there are steps to overhead presses, there’s lots of steps to Turkish get-ups. So to utilize a kettlebell correctly, I would highly recommend bringing someone into the picture that has used a kettlebell for a long time, that’s certified for a kettlebell usage. If you learn correctly, it is an amazing tool for strength, endurance, speed, explosiveness, stamina, all these pieces can come from one little chunk of iron with a handle on it. But you’re right, if you see somebody flopping around with one, and it can look pretty sporadic, and a lot of that, I think, has to do with bad technique. But if you saw me swinging a kettlebell, I would venture a guess that it would look like I know what I’m doing because I’m very explosive, I’m very rigid, I’m very controlled with my motions. And so I think people get scared of ’em because there is a lot of movement with those weights, and if you can just learn them correctly you’ll see that they’re very, very safe, just as anything else. And they’re also very good at training your body to be explosive, and to be careful and safe, as you pack your shoulders, and keep your hips tight, core tight, stuff like that, it actually does train and teach the body very beneficial and healthy techniques.

12:54 S1: Awesome. So you mentioned earlier about momentum, and maybe we could talk about momentum maybe in a bit of a different capacity, which is keeping the momentum of training going and being consistent with it. So when it comes to maintaining the momentum of training, what do you find helps the most?

13:10 JM: If you can basically set smaller goals, if you can celebrate smaller achievements, rather than say, “Oh my God, I have to go to Cancun in a month, I need to lose 17 pounds.” Everyone says it, everyone does it, everyone realizes they have a vacation that comes up way quicker than they thought, and that happens. But if you can think further ahead, if you can set small goals, if you say, “Okay, well, I wanna run an eight-minute mile by this time,” and chip away at that, and set those parameters, have a goal. If you want to have 7% body fat, good, good on you, you can do that. But if you’re at 15% right now, don’t just look at that 7% and wait to cut it in half, you’ve got to basically celebrate the 12 and the 10 and the eight and then the seven. So if you can do that, you keep your momentum going.

13:53 JM: My uncle is very fond of saying, “It’s very much easier to keep up than to catch up.” And so basically what I took from that was if you can continue going and continue moving, if you break a sweat every day, if you earn your shower each day, that will keep your momentum going. It’ll keep you basically motivated to continue with that progress. And those little goals that you celebrate help do that. Instead of looking way off in the distance at the finish line, you’re celebrating every mile until you get there, and that’s how you will keep up that momentum, keep up the optimism and the positive mindset that’ll get you to your goals.

14:22 S1: Right. And so looking back at your career in fitness and also your transition in fitness, how do you think your relationship to fitness has changed over the years?

14:32 JM: As I turn 39 this year, [chuckle] I feel like my fitness has changed quite a bit. I’ve moved away from the vanity training and the mirror muscle training stuff of my 20s and early 30s and gone way more into a functional training base, things that would make me fun and explosive and able to move and play with my kids, grandkids, all of that. So that’s become more of a priority for me is being able to basically live a long and adventurous life rather than just see how good I could look when I take my clothes off. So that’s kind of been the shift. I think the biggest shift in my training is pulling away from the view of the typical bodybuilder with over-supplementation, and lots of fake foods, and packing on as much protein as can get through shakes and all that kinda stuff. And your typical just bench press and pull-ups, and then moving more into flow movements, kettlebell movements, more things that are functional training almost, and changing my diet to be where I’m… Less inflammation, and just an ability to move my body better and more efficiently rather than just aesthetically.

15:30 S1: Right. And do you mind if you expand on the topic of functional training a little bit more?

15:36 JM: No, not at all. So when you take those kind of training, those two outliers, basically, the bodybuilding world and the functional training, there’s not much function in packing on a couple hundred pounds of muscle and not being able to scratch your back. That looks cool to some people; not everybody thinks a ginormous man looks neat, but what that is is it looks good on stage. When you put the lights on it, you put the tanning oil, and you grease up, and you basically depleted your body of water, you look like Adonis, but you don’t function like Adonis, you don’t function very well at all, actually, in fact, you’re quite sick. You don’t feel good on stage, you’re dehydrated, you haven’t eaten correctly, everything’s kinda falling apart in your body at that point. But you look a certain way and you’re judged on aesthetics. The functional training piece of that doesn’t worry about what it looks like as far as aesthetic, the form is the important part. The ability to utilize your body long into your elder years is way more important.

16:25 JM: So functional training takes the saying, okay, I don’t care what this muscle look like as long as I can pick up this, or push this, or throw this, or move this way. It’s way more about mobility and functionality than it is about how it looks from afar. And so that’s where the functional piece versus the vanity piece comes in. And like I said, when I first started, that’s all I cared about; I wanted to look as good as possible with as little body fat and as much muscle as I could get. That’s the aesthetic training. Now it’s more, okay, well, I wanna be able to squat down and pick up my grandkids at some point when I’m 70. And in order to do that, I don’t need 200 pounds of muscle on my body, I need to be able to squat down, open my hips, keep my chest high and pull up and not throw my back out. And so that’s the functional aspect, it’s just training more for the adventure of life rather than the look at me, look at me of life.

17:11 S1: Well, that was very insightful, Jesse, thank you so much for joining us today to speak with us. So finally, where can people find you and also Stronghorn Fitness across the internet and also an Austin, Texas?

17:21 JM: Of course. Well, we’re in Austin, Texas, so if you’re here, come say hi. You can find us at stronghornfitness.com, you can find… I think all my handles are Jesse, J-E-S-S-E, John, J-O-H-N, Martin, so @jessejohnmartin. That’s all the social medias and all that fun stuff. And then also @stronghornfitness as well.

17:39 S1: Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Jesse.

17:41 JM: Thank you, I sure appreciate you having me.

17:43 S1: Yeah, no problem. And again, thank you so much to Jess for joining us for this week’s episode of 20 Minute Fitness. Again, we really enjoyed talking to him, and we hope that you guys enjoyed listening to him. If you wanna find out more info about Stronghorn Fitness, and if you’re based in the Austin, Texas, area, be sure to check him out. His info will be linked in our description, along with our show notes. And if you have any ideas or suggestions on what we should cover next or who we should interview next, feel free to reach out to us on Twitter @shape_scale, and give us a follow on Instagram @shapescale. Again, thank you so much to Jess, and I hope to see you back here next week for next week’s episode of 20 Minute Fitness. Bye.


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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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