Weightlifter-owned gym combines science, nutrition and just the right machine
Valentino Robles played basketball during his high school days in Pasco.
Tino, as most people know him, never thought much back then about lifting weights.
“I hated lifting weights back in high school,” he said. “I liked being skinny and agile.”
But lifting weights – and helping others learn how to lift them – has become his life’s work.
“This is my passion. I’ve been lifting weights now for 20 years,” he said.
Tino, now 40, and his wife, Rubi, own Power Athletics Compound, with two locations in the Tri-Cities – at 1856 Terminal Drive in Richland, and the newest location, at 5102 W. Okanogan Place in Kennewick near Kamiakin High School.
The Richland gym, which has 5,000 square feet, is in the middle of being remodeled, but will reopen soon.
The new Kennewick gym is two stories tall, with more than 12,000 square feet filled with almost every piece of equipment an athlete or bodybuilder could want.
Tino said the new building, which held a soft opening in November, cost $1.8 million to build, and the equipment is worth $4 million.
Pacific Athletics Compound promotes itself as a gym where science meets strength and conditioning, offering specialized training equipment.
Some of the machines can take some of the pressure off athletes’ joints while still providing a solid workout.
PAC offers one-on-one training, group training and nutrition guidance.
For $55 a month, members have full access to the entire facility. For an added cost, Tino will develop a menu plan that focuses on nutrition for each athlete – something, he says, that’s incredibly important.
“Nutrition is about 80% of the process,” he said. “If you eat correctly, it can take care of 99% of your problems. But a lot of people don’t think about it.”
His mentor is bodybuilding legend Dave Palumbo, and Tino sells Palumbo’s supplements at his gym.
Tino puts in long workdays, while his wife, Rubi, 39, works a full-time job and helps coach some of the athletes.
Serena Sloot, a nurse practitioner, is the team’s medical director who offers both in-person and telemedicine consultation for health, wellness and hormonal optimization. She has her own office at the Kennewick gym.
The gym also employs a few staffers who work the front desk.
Tino got into lifting weights at the age of 20.
He admitted the bulky guys with the big – sometimes oversized – muscles made him chuckle.
One day, he happened to go up to one of them, with a genuine curiosity. He asked the man how he went about getting the physique he had.
The guy didn’t like the question, he said.
“He gave me the middle finger and told me to get the hell out of the gym,” Tino said. “I took it as a challenge.”
Ever the competitor, Tino developed a chip on his shoulder from the lifter’s reaction to his question. It took him some time, but Tino started eating better and lifting weights.
“I grew from 140 pounds to 270 pounds,” he said. “I then went back to that gym, and that same guy asked me, ‘How did you do it?’”
He has since become hooked on lifting weights and bodybuilding – and helping others learn.
Starting the business
Tino admits he has a weakness – and a passion – for weightlifting equipment.
Over the years, he collected enough that in 2015 he decided to start a gym.
That was when PAC in Richland, located by the airport, began.
“I’ve collected a lot of pieces of equipment,” he said.
Whether he finds something sitting in someone’s garage or storage unit, gathering dust, or the latest line equipment in Europe, Tino wants it.
“I had tried to get a loan from the bank after I started the first gym in Richland,” he said. “Five months after I opened in Richland, the bank gave me a loan.”
He started the plan for the Kennewick gym in 2018, when he had enough equipment to fill another gym.
“The income was good to start that gym, but the pandemic slowed things down, put us almost eight months behind schedule,” he said.
Now that the Kennewick gym is open, Tino is considering opening more gyms. He said he has another 40 to 50 pieces of equipment stored in a warehouse.
“It’s my weakness, but it’s also my passion,” he said. “The plan is to expand to another gym in Boise, Idaho. We were shut down here for eight months (with the pandemic), but they never shut down in Boise.”
Equipment is one of the things that gets Tino excited.
“I’m willing to spend any dollar amount to get a piece of equipment I want,” he said.
The other thing he loves?
On a recent Thursday night at 9:30 p.m., Tino is out in the middle of his gym, surrounded by 23 women – all prepping for upcoming bodybuilding or fitness competitions.
This isn’t their first time here. They know what to do.
Tino counts to five slowly, as the women are at different stations, carefully lifting weights, and holding the weights at certain points while Tino yells out the count.
Tino watches their form, making sure everything is done correctly.
At a certain point, everyone switches to a different station, and the exercise gets repeated.
This goes on for an hour, it’s done four nights a week, and Tino says as many as 34 women will show up any night.
“I love coaching,” Tino said. “Anyone can read a 38-page manual, take an online test, and if they pass it they get certified to be a fitness trainer. My background is different.”
Tino studied human physiology, anatomy and hospital pharmacy at Washington State University in Pullman.
He has a bachelor’s with a minor in human physiology/anatomy.
“I love what I do,” he said. “It’s all about how you feel about yourself. My passion for the human body is strong, and how the body functions.”
To this point, he says, PAC has 700 memberships, and Tino has another 300 clients that he coaches for competitions – both in-person and online.
“I get a lot of clients from out of state who I help train,” Tino said.
And recently, PAC signed a deal with the Tri-City Rush of the American West Football Conference to help the football players stay in shape.
It’s all part of Tino’ plan to help people live a better life.