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Good vibes only. That gift is rare. Here is the story of Quiana Welch.

“I want people to think outside of the box. Stop being afraid of getting out there and doing things like oly lifting and trying something new. I know people like to see themselves represented. If I can be THAT person and to show others that they can do these things too, I will be. You don’t see a lot of people like myself walking around [in this space]. Because of that, people begin to think they are unwelcomed or they aren’t allowed to do certain things.”

Society, media, and maybe even our own friends and family want us to be less, to take up less physical space to make themselves feel more comfortable. Taking up space where it matters most, especially in an underserved arena, can fill the void for those who have long wondered if they were always meant to feel small.

Here is the story of Quiana Welch.

The exact trajectory of events that led Quiana Welch to lift all the weights was not only indirect but, deflected. Quiana attended Florida Southern College for six semesters before deciding to leave the fall of her junior year. Quiana went to visit her boyfriend in Louisiana right before Hurricane Katrina hit and ended up evacuating with him, essentially getting stuck there.

Prior to this, Quiana had been toying with the idea of leaving school. She was a pre-med and bio major and had dreams to become an OBGYN, but at home she was dealing with her mom’s diagnosis of Leukemia and the financial burden of school.

Due to her mother’s illness, she was unable to work. These two situations made it clear to Quiana that the timing wasn’t right for her, emotionally or financially.

Quiana ended back home in Florida after her relationship fizzled out. She spent a short time in Dallas working as a nanny but ultimately needed the support and connection of home.

“Florida was always my home base. I had all my friends and family there. I came home and got a job at Starbucks. The manager was one of my friends. I was just being a 20-year-old trying to figure out life.”

“When I left school I really just wanted to leave. I have always been a nomad. My mom calls me her gypsy child. If I want to pick up and go somewhere I’m just going to go.”

Quiana had not yet stepped foot into a gym.

In 2009, Quiana saw one of her friends playing in the Lingerie Football League or (LFL) and wanted to try it. “That’s when I started going to the gym. I went for two weeks before try-outs to run on the treadmill so I wouldn’t be gassed. I didn’t lift weights at all - I just ran because I suck at running,” she laughs.

Q played one season, which was probably a total of five games. She played two positions. Running back and safety. “You could say we got paid for it but it was NOT a lot. Yes, we were wearing lingerie while playing, but once people kind of saw past that, they could see we were athletes.”

Quiana came from an athletic background. Growing up she was a competitive gymnast. She stopped competing at age of 12 so she could just be a “normal kid”. In Middle School, she began playing volleyball almost exclusively until she went to college.

It wasn’t any real surprise that she gravitated to world of athletics and sports.

“I went from going to college to become an OBGYN to this wild lifestyle. At the end of my season with the LFL I knew I had to make some decisions [about what to do with her life]. I knew for sure that I loved sports and athletics and I knew I wanted to travel because I was still young.”

In 2010 Quiana decided to uproot her life and move to NYC because she felt the pace there was more her style.

“They have everything I could possibly want in one place in NYC. But, the first few years of living there were so hard.”

Within one or two weeks of arriving on the island, she acquired a live-in nanny position and a boyfriend. The boyfriend lasted, while the nanny position did not. The relationship progressed quickly and they ended up moving in together after only a few dates.

Quiana spent some time thinking about what she really wanted to do once she was a little bit more settled.

“I started working at Starbucks again and still hadn’t stepped into a gym [since the LFL]. All my friends in High School had always told me how jacked I was. Since I still couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to do I thought, why not try it [a figure competition]. I knew I was disciplined enough and I had a pretty good base for it.”

Quiana began training for the figure class of body building those first few years in New York. In 2013, she decided she needed to get a coach because she had no idea what she was doing with training or nutrition.

“I was looking stuff up all the time on bodybuilding.com, but it was all so overwhelming - I finally decided that I HAD to get a coach. With bikini, they told me I was too muscular after my first show. I basically didn’t train for a year and a half after that.”

Bikini competitions carry a strong emphasis on a toned “beach body”, whereas figure is suited for women who carry more muscle.

Quiana started looking for a new job at a gym so she could have access to dumbbells for training and ended up at CrossFit® 212. Here, she could take advantage of a free membership while working at the front desk.

“I would sit there thinking WHAT is this [CrossFit®]? I thought it would be cool to try, but I wasn’t ALL about it. I knew what I was walking into when I took the job because some of my teammates on the LFL had done it. I had a gymnastics background so I thought because of that alone it would be fun to try.”

Q did her first figure competition soon after starting at the gym. She took home third in her class but very shortly after began questioning whether she wanted to continue down that path or not.

She began to dabble in CrossFit® a little bit more.

Then the gym began buzzing about Greg Glassman coming to the gym. The owners and coaches briefed Q by telling her that he was going to ask her how long she had been doing CrossFit®, simply because of the way she looked.

Readers. Let’s call this situation serendipity. Quiana was looking for a new job at a gym, any gym really. She ends up at a CrossFit® gym. Quiana is built like she regularly does CrossFit®, although she does not. She is working one day when THE coach himself strolls in and walks right up to her and asks, “How long have you been doing CrossFit® for?” To which she responds, “I don’t.”

Glassman’s response: you need to be doing it.

“When Greg Glassmann arrived with his entourage, I didn’t even know who he was. It was him and Castro and sure enough they walked right up to me, just like everyone had said they would.”

Soon after this interaction Q decided to take classes more regularly and get her Level One to familiarize herself more with the sport. She completed her certification at Reebok CrossFit® 5th Avenue and stayed in close contact with her coaches from that weekend.

This sparked a love for the sport in ways that surprised her.

Soon after, Q was offered a job at HQ for one of their initiative programs. In September of 2014 she relocated to Santa Cruz and began working full time for CrossFit®.

“The first day I got there I met Dan Baily and almost lost it. He was so nice. Everyone would work out in the gym underneath the offices, but I was still SO green and super new that I was way too scared to join. I would just kind of sit in the office and watch everyone workout when they were outside.”

Q was only there for about three months before she realized just how frivolous they were being with their money- since there was really nothing for her to do.

“They [HQ] had a company come in and assess their spending habits and almost immediately got rid of the initiative program. I was kind of pissed because I had just moved across the country and three months later the program was gone.”

Q went back to NY to regroup and decide what her next move was going to be. “I had a pretty nice severance package from HQ so I decided I would just go chill,” she says laughing.

One of Quiana’s friends owned a farm on Kuai, HI. She decided to take some time for herself and stay there after what had been a tumultuous few months.

That really didn’t sound like such a bad place to contemplate life for a while.

“I basically worked for housing, lived on the beach, ate ALL the organic vegetables. I was 28 and just living the island life.”

“As awesome as that was there came a point where I realized I needed to start adulting. I wanted something solid I could I do. I wanted stability. I couldn’t stay on the island because as beautiful as it was, it was still like Groundhog Day there, every day. I knew it would always be there [the island], and I could always come back if I wanted too.”

Again Quiana returned to NYC, a place that now felt like home base and went back to CrossFit®212. The stability she had been craving seemed to be taking shape in a life she had been curating over the years. Once she was back, the owners began to hassle her about coaching. Although, she hadn’t been doing CrossFit® for very long, she had always felt she was good with people.

Quiana has an innate ability to connect and cultivate relationships. She would read constantly to learn about the sport and spent a lot of time watching videos. The part of her that wanted to help people and learn, had never left. It was just manifesting as something different.

“I love to coach. I LOVE it. Groups or one-on-ones - they each have their own unique appeal. As long as I can see people grow, I don’t care about what environment it’s in.”

2014 was Quiana’s first Open. She went team and earned herself a spot to regionals.

On regionals that year:

“We did not do awesome. This is where things picked up for me. I was not bad at ‘the CrossFit®’ and there weren’t many people that looked like me doing it. I began to develop a following because of that.”

“People just started following me [on Instagram] because I was just being me, goofy, and lifting heavy stuff.”

In 2015 Quiana joined the Boston Iron team for the Grid League. She was a barbell specialist.

Then she met Chad of JuggernautHQ who began pressing her to consider just doing Oly.

“When he asked me that, I had never really given it much thought. If I could just lift weights with a little bit of conditioning that would be cool. NO heavy breathing.”

Chad spent some time with Quiana tweaking her movements and she realized quickly that she was ALL about it. That’s when she decided officially she was just going to do ‘a little bit of CrossFit®’, just enough to maintain a foundation.

“Depending on how these weight classes go I might need to cut down a whole bunch of weight,” Quiana does not sound excited about that reality, which may end up involving more conditioning that she has become accustomed to.

On the professional front, Quiana is currently training in Olympic Weightlifting and coaching classes at Black Iron gym in Reno, NV.

“I guess these are my “jobs” although they really don’t feel like jobs. I coach and I lift - with a couple of naps thrown in there. This is the place I was supposed to always end up. I feel like here, I am being the most authentic.”

We live in a generation that spends a lot of time in the here and now. We are so much more impulsive. Rather than waiting for the right time we make it the right time. We are less practical yet, more authentic in the roads we choose. Unlike our grandparents and maybe even our parents, few people wait till retirement to pursue their passions. We do it now.

To me, Quiana embodies a serendipitous and almost charmed life. Her trust in herself while taking time to understand who she was and what drives her - led her to all the great things that she was meant for.

I can speak only for myself and the women I know and love. We are career driven. Constantly thinking, ‘if I do this it will get me there’. Timelines. Check lists.

What about just living? Just letting life evolve?

For Quiana, a lot of good things in her life literally walked up to her and stared her in the face (hello, Greg Glassman). But more importantly, she was open to adventure- she had wanderlust (will work for shelter: In Hawaii). It brought her to exactly the place she was supposed to be, as exactly the person she was destined to become.

Quiana is open-minded. “It’s the way that I grew up. It was the way my mom and her partner raised me. I grew up in GA and FL in what we would have called a quilted family, they taught me to be accepting of everyone. We all have similarities and differences but to love and appreciate other people is important to me.”

Although Quiana grew up in an accepting space at home, she quickly realized the world around her was not nearly as accepting early in her childhood. Quiana says she has never felt turned off by anyone because of their lifestyle. Weather they were like her or the complete opposite, she always feels like she can connect in some way.

Quiana speaks candidly about her relationship with her ex and how her ability to be open bled through that relationship.

“He’s one of my best friends and we still hang out all the time. He grew up in small town in NorCal in what was basically a bubble. Super conservative. Basically, the total opposite of ME. Despite our extreme differences, we do have core similarities. We butt heads all the time, but if I can get along with him, I can get along with anybody.”

Along with being a badass weightlifter Q’s message is loud and clear to me even before I started this conversation with her. She wants people to get out there and be unafraid to be themselves. Wholly and unapologetically.

“I want people to think outside of the box. Stop being afraid of getting out there and doing things like oly lifting and trying something new. I know people like to see themselves represented. If I can be THAT person and to show others that they can do these things too, I will be. You don’t see a lot of people like myself walking around [in this space]. Because of that, people begin to think they are unwelcomed or they aren’t allowed to do certain things.”

“Me doing what I’m doing is letting other people of color and other black women know- hey you can lift weights too.” Not only can you lift weights. You can try CrossFit®, go backpacking, hike mountains, the list goes on. You don’t have to be a certain color to do ANY of these things. You can do whatever you want.”

“So that’s basically my thing. Representing other people of color. I didn’t have that growing up.”

Q is quiet for a moment on the other end of the line. I can tell she is getting emotional about this and I don’t want to press her, but I can’t help but say I don’t even feel like I had that.
Coming from an educated, middle class, white family. I don’t feel like there was a representation of strong women across race and ethnicity for me as an adolescent, either. Women were just beginning to break through the glass ceiling. There were no weights, no barbells, and certainly no depiction of raw strength outside going against the grain of societal norms.

Q is leading a generation of women towards something neither of us had. That is her mission.

“My body has changed a lot over the past few years. I want to show women that you can do all these things and still be feminine. Also, I got tired of people always making negative comments about me about being built the way I am. It deters people from wanting to do things, which I think is stupid. I put myself out there so other people can see ‘hey! I love lifting weights, I love my body, I’m comfortable.’

Q is emphatic that she always wants her message to be keep loving yourself and doing what you do. If you want to make changes, go make changes. But don’t be super hard on yourself.

While there will always be those lurkers who leave negative comments on her platform, she says it is SO much less now than it used to be. “People say things like: ‘oh, that looks like a dude’, and almost ALL the time it’s these little bean pole dudes who have never worked out a day in their lives.”

When I asked Quiana about any bad habits she has, her answer was surprising.

“I don’t sleep. I wish I could sleep! I want to sleep so badly but I’m just so used to being awake from working at Starbucks and being up early traveling on the subway. I’m up, even if I don’t have to be. I’ll be awake at 3 am for no reason. Obviously, that effects recovery a lot. Right now, I’m working with a PT on breathing and relaxation techniques. I want to sleep SO bad but I just cannot sleep.”

Q also tells me that she also used to procrastinate A LOT. But now, she has so much, she keeps to a pretty tight schedule.

“I don’t get out as much now. I’m more of a homebody since I’m at the gym, always socializing with people or going to events. I will just close myself in my house and go on TV binges. Sometimes I just crave the silence.”

Speaking of the gym, I wanted to know what the community was like at Black Iron Gym. The gym is like church, without the church. It lives and dies by its people, it’s athletes, it’s coaches. Without those things, it’s just a bunch of metal and chalk. The people inside make the heart sounds. The soul of it all.

“One day Krissy [Mae Cagney] saw me on IG and I was dragging a sled and eating a donut. She was like, I must meet this girl,” Q laughs and you can tell she is seeing the image as she speaks these words. “I started coaching at Black Iron because Krissy needed help. After we met she moved out to Reno to open her gym and then quickly cleaned house afterwards. Some of the coaches she had there were really poisonous.”

Quiana wanted a change of scenery, so it was a no brainer. She’s been there for two years.

“Our gym is so open. We have all different types of people. With Krissy being a former addict, fitness was a huge chapter in her recovery. She created ‘Reps for Recovery’, which caters to those who use fitness as a means for sobriety. Some are private and some are open to sharing. There is also a big LGBT community which, is one of the reasons that I love it. It’s such a different place and we are all really, really tight.“

Donuts & Deadlifts creator Krissy Mae Cagney along with Nicole of our very own The Chestee, embody strong women. Career driven, no-nonsense ladies we can all get behind. We see the things we would like to become and CAN become in these women.

“Being married, or not, being in a relationship, or not. It’s ok to be 30 and be doing your shit. It’s empowering to see Krissy juggling 5 different businesses and seeing what she does. At the same time, she is also attracting all these people who are some of her best friends. They have literally dropped their lives and moved out here to support her and her businesses. That is how amazing she is.”

Quiana is a girls’ girl. She just has that good energy. You can feel it in the air through the phone and in her words. She’s out there building other women up. Our conversation is over and I’m a little bit jealous of the athletes that get to have her rallying behind them every day. I’m a little bit jealous of those closest to her in her tribe. Good vibes only. That gift is rare.

Interview and feature by Chestee Blog Editor, Genevieve Gyulavary.

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