Fitness Fridays: How Stepping Out On Faith Helped Quianna Burgess Become A Trainer For La La

July 14, 2017  |  

For a good chunk of her adult life, Quianna Burgess spent her time catering to and caring for other people. After having a child in college and getting married soon after, she focused on raising her daughter and trying to please her husband. But when her marriage ended, Burgess realized she needed to find herself again and what makes her happy. She ended up embarking on a fitness journey that has changed everything, and I’m not just talking about her body and mind. The 33-year-old is now a sought-after trainer with a following of more than 150,000 Instagram followers and a clientele (or “friends”/”girls” as she calls them) that includes Bernice Burgos and La La Anthony. We talked to Qui (pronounced “key”) about almost giving up, her friendship with La La, finding balance as a mother and how she deals with men in the gym who can’t believe she can deadlift more than 300 pounds right next to them.

MadameNoire: Do you have an athletic background where you played sports or anything like that?

Quianna Burgess: I have a dance background. I started dancing when I was three years old. I danced ballet, tap, jazz and Horton. I stopped my sophomore year in college when I got pregnant with my daughter.

When did you start your fitness journey and what sparked it?

I started in 2014. In 2012 I separated from my ex-husband. I was working in a hospital at the time and I was doing cardio. It was basically, “Let’s get on the treadmill.” I needed to start getting myself together for more reasons than one, but that’s what sparked me trying to “better myself.”

I separated from my daughter’s father. Going through with that divorce, it was hard for me. For a solid year in 2012 I was trying to figure out who is Quianna? What did you love before you let someone consume a lot of your life? And when I say consume your life, it’s because I kind of put myself to the back just to please him. So I kind of lost who I was. I knew that I liked the idea of looking and feeling good, I just didn’t know how and what to do. So I’m at the hospital, working out 30 minutes a day on my break basically. One of my co-workers started to join me in 2013. That whole year we gave ourselves a short-term goal to transform our bodies. Within that year, she called me one day and said, “Q, I need you to read your email.” I looked at the email and she raved about how I basically helped her lose 100 pounds. And I’m like, no I didn’t. I just came with you to the gym. We were in this together. I didn’t think I had anything to do with that and I was just her partner. That happened and I called her and said, “Monica, you didn’t have to do that. We worked together.” She said, “Q, you don’t know how much of an impact you’ve had over my life. Every day you would text me to remind me of my gym stuff. You even text me on the weekends to make sure I went to class. That’s a trainer. You don’t know, but that’s someone who loves what they do and you don’t even know you’re doing it.” She said, “This is your passion. This is your niche.” I talked to her at the gym, and you know, you’re like in therapy at that time. I told her I was going through this separation and I was trying to find who I am. She said, “That’s who you are. Right there, Q. That’s who you are. A trainer. So many times I wanted to give up and I didn’t because you would say, ‘No! Let’s go!'”

So I said, ok, I’ll study and take the test. If I fail I fail. If I don’t, it will be a hobby and I will continue to search for who I am. I passed and maybe two months later I said, “I’m leaving my job.” I stepped out on faith. I left my job. I didn’t have any money saved. I was in a relationship at the time and he said he would do the best he could to support, but I was like, either way, I’m out. “I’m leaving this job. I know I’m making good money but it’s more than about money to me at this point.” So I left my job and here I am! But going through my separation and then growing through that with me stepping out on faith is what sparked my fitness journey.

I saw in a before and after picture that you said you took a lot of missteps while trying to change your body but you never gave up. Can you speak further on the importance of that? 

For me, personally, I had to figure out how to pay attention to the things on my body that I don’t like and see if it was going to change. So, of course, I had to figure out what foods worked for me. Do trial and error: “I’m going to be on this meal plan for the next two weeks and monitor my workouts and see what progress I make.” Through that I learned that bananas, broccoli, oatmeal, they don’t work for me. Those three things bloat me. So it’s just learning what works for you and what doesn’t. Like, I know that too much cardio does not work for me at all. When I first started, I was like, “I’m moving but there’s no tone. There’s no definition.” So what works for me is weightlifting. It’s just learning what works for your body. I tell my clients or my friends all the time, you have to pay attention to your body. I can give you advice all day long, but it may not work for you. I failed a lot and I wanted to give up sometimes, but I don’t have that feeling anymore. I pray against that because I never want to give up. In the beginning though, it’s so frustrating trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. But once I threw out the words “fear” and “failure,” it doesn’t matter what happens, I’m going to keep going.

As a busy trainer, how often do you get a workout in on your own? And what is your diet like?

I pretty much workout five to six days a week. I am very busy, but it’s so important for me to make the time for myself. And because I want to be my own billboard, to walk around and say “it works,” I had to make time for myself. I’m strict with my eating. I eat the same things: greens, veggies, proteins and good complex carbs. But I do treat myself because I do work hard. So I don’t guilt eat. When I eat, I eat. If I work really hard, I’m not thinking about “Why am I eating this?” It feels very rewarding when you know you’ve been on track. If I was really bad, not going hard on my workouts and not eating clean, I would feel like crap. But if I’ve been on track and eating really clean, I’m like, “Oh, I’m tearing this up [laughs].” I like rice. I like pasta. I like food [laughs].

As you stated, you’re a mom. How are you able to balance everything?

It’s always good to make time for yourself. Making time for myself includes her. Although she’s busy, just as busy as I am because she dances for Alvin Ailey. She’s in dance three times a weeks for three hours out of the day. When she’s in dance and that’s her time, I can relax and recover during that time. I might get some emails in, a nap in the car, or I’ll sit and watch her dance. I take advantage of the things she has to do because I block out that time and find time for myself. That’s my breathing time. And then there’s times where we’re both not doing anything and it’s like, let’s go chill. We’ll do movies. We’ll do dinner or we’ll go home and do absolutely nothing. And she’s okay with that. At 13, she wants to be in her room on her laptop with her phone chilling anyway. So I guess I find time when she has time. When she has time, I’m on her time. When I’m on her time, I say that’s my relaxing time.

I saw on your page a photo of you working out with La La Anthony. Are you training her?

Yeah, I train her. She’s amazing. She’s not just my client, she’s a friend. Her spirit is just dope. As a trainer and a prayer warrior I’m like “God, please put me around people I can benefit from too.” Because all day I’m constantly trying to encourage and motivate women but I want somebody who can pour into me too. Lo and behold, she was one. She’s an amazing person. We took a break now, but she’s dope. She kind of hates me during workouts though because I kill her [laughs].

As someone who does extensive weightlifting, which is something people often attribute to men, do they make you feel like you don’t belong or seem intimidated by how much weight you’re lifting?

In the beginning it was really annoying because, of course, when you’re a girl you get stereotyped. I would get mixed reviews of like staring that said, “Please, you don’t even know what you’re doing. Stop.” Then I would get, “You’re going to look like a man when you’re done.” Now my attitude is I dare you to say anything. I dare you. You have to own it. I tell my clients all the time, put your headphones on. Zone them out. What I say to my girls now is don’t let that defeat you. That’s fear. “Oh, I’m not going to do that because they’re looking.” Let them look! We’re all in here trying to do the same thing. Am I going to let you stop me? I wish I would. I tune them out now. I want this so bad that I don’t want anything to block me. So I give them the same looks they give me. I meet them where they’re at. Sometime you have to let them know, we’re in here doing the same exact thing. You’re a man and I’m a woman but there’s no rules on who can and who can not.

Follow Qui on Instagram and check out the rest of the inspiring Fitness Friday profiles.

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