For many, a workout is a simple part of a daily routine or a chance to step away from work, school or life responsibilities in a given moment. For Quinn Shiffler, though, fitness is a passion, her career and a chance to celebrate herself.
Shiffler’s love for fitness stems from her passion for health and the ability to challenge herself, but this wasn’t her only inspiration. Her mother is also a fitness instructor, and her views of health and wellness rubbed off on her and her family growing up.
“I grew up with a very holistic way of looking at life and wellness,” Shiffler says. “I honestly credit her to my passion for fitness because she helped instill that in me and the rest of my siblings.”
Quinn says her family ate dinner together every night, and that everyone’s plate had a source of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. She knows how lucky she and her siblings are that they grew up in a household where things like nutritious food, healthy habits and family time were so important.
“I fostered such a love for healthy foods and healthy eating because of her,” she says. “So many people don’t have enough to fill up their plate — we have no idea how lucky we are.”
Quinn’s mom was who got her and her siblings into sports early on, originally mostly for the social aspect. This initial push is what would later foster her love of fitness.
Quinn was a dedicated athlete growing up and loved “all sports under the sun.” She played soccer for 13 years as well as field hockey, but specialized in track and field as she got older. At one point, Shiffler thought she’d be running track at the collegiate level after graduating from high school. Suddenly, though, a life-changing injury altered those plans.
Quinn’s physical health took a sharp turn while she was a sophomore in high school. She suffered from shin splints that turned into stress fractures, leaving her bound to a wheelchair for several months and unable to compete.
“My diagnosis was a double stress fracture, so one in each shin,” she says. “My legs were literally swept up underneath me.”
Quinn recalls this time of her life as “one of the toughest situations,” she’s ever been through.
“I basically hit rock bottom because that wheelchair bottom [the seat] was the most uncomfortable you probably ever could’ve met,” she says. “Literal rock bottom.”
She eventually moved from the wheelchair to crutches, wearing a boot on one foot. She then spent a year in physical therapy, unsure of what position her health would be in after all was said and done. While this may have intimidated others or deferred them from setting goals, she used this experience to only further herself and her passion for fitness.
“Moving my body is sacred. I am so blessed to have a heart and mind that work properly,” Shiffler says. “Exercising and celebrating my life and the body that I was given is such a great way to praise… I look at it [the gym] as a sacred space for myself. I feel like my best self and my most comfortable self when I’m working out.”
Relying on other people to push her around in her chair was a very humbling experience for Quinn. She went from “racing around the track to being pushed around the hallways in school,” which prompted her to promise herself that she would get back to where she was physically and continue to work hard for her recovery — and she did exactly that.
“Continuing to fuel my body properly and to work out just really levels my head and keeps me as grounded as possible,” Shiffler says. “It also just keeps me very grateful for what I’ve been through.”
This time in her life, Shiffler said, is when both her faith as a devoted Christian and passion for exercising were strengthened. It is this same faith and sense of humility that motivates Quinn to think of how she can help or inspire others, as a way to give back. This time in her life, as well as her many years spent in sports and athletic training, also inspired her to major in rehabilitation and human services, initially to become a physical therapist.
“I just had such an appreciation for the people who worked with me and fell in love with anatomy and kinesiology,” she says of her experience in physical therapy.
Shiffler, still wishing to pursue a career as a physical therapist, had the opportunity to shadow an occupational therapist while still in high school which she “fell in love with even more.”
Although she is still gaining hours working as an occupational therapist, fitness has taken the spotlight in her life at the current moment. Quinn formerly taught fitness classes within Penn State’s gyms and is currently a coach at Orangetheory Fitness in downtown State College, where she instructs four nights a week.
Shiffler’s coaching journey began her freshman year at Penn State when she took a course to teach fitness classes at the IM Building after working at the front desk. After a year of training, Quinn obtained her fitness instructor certification and fell head over heels in love with coaching. After becoming a fitness instructor and leading classes on campus, Shiffler was recommended by an alumnae she used to train with to become an instructor at Orangetheory Fitness, where she has been coaching for a year and a half.
“I walked in and immediately fell in love with Orangetheory,” she says, recalling her first day at Orangetheory Fitness.
Orangetheory, Quinn says, is a boutique-style gym, marketed as a “small group personal training class.” Orangetheory workouts largely focus on cardiovascular health, while incorporating other aspects of fitness as well. Each class is focused on five different heart rate zones, and in order to maximize the “afterburn” effect of the workout, two particular heart rate zones are emphasized.
“Hopefully people go into it without the goal of ‘I’m doing this to maintain a certain physique,’” Shiffler says of Orangetheory’s focus on wellbeing and heart health. “We are working for more life and longevity.”
Despite her years of experience and dedication to fitness, leading classes each did not initially come naturally to Shiffler. Quinn says that she has struggled with confidence for most of her life, and would not describe herself as a very confident person.
“I have wavered with it my entire life,” she says. “For many years even before college, I was the least confident person in the room — at least, that’s how I felt. What really stretched my comfort zone was leading groups of people.”
Teaching and leading group exercise classes several nights out of the week is something many would believe calls on a lot of confidence — so how does she do it?
“It took me a lot to rely on God’s strength to do that because I had no confidence in myself to do that,” she admitted. “My confidence that I strive through every day is just knowing who I am and who I belong to because of my faith — that is really the only thing that I’m confident about.”
Quinn’s faith is ultimately what pushes her forward and motivates her to be the best version of herself possible, and has helped her on her journey to discovering her purpose.
“At the end of the day, I was hand-crafted. I’m exactly who I’m supposed to be and I’m exactly where I need to be, and there’s a reason and a purpose for that,” she said. “The closer I grow to the Lord, the more I know myself.”
The strength Quinn finds within herself to teach and her dedication to health and wellness is just part of what makes her such a standout instructor. She is truly dedicated to helping others and sharing her love of fitness. Her gift for sharing her passions and encouraging others to be their best is a driving force behind her instruction.
“I love that being that person that people can look to. The words that I can say to them and the ways to motivate them honestly is my way of encouraging people and letting them know, ‘hey, you need to be proud of yourself,’ or ‘you need to give yourself grace.’”
Quinn not only seeks to inspire or motivate her clients at Orangetheory, but finds those exact things from them. Aside from her family, faith and her general health and wellbeing, the people she instructs are what motivates her to maintain her healthy lifestyle.
“There are a couple of different factors that motivate me,” she says. “Continuing to live a healthy lifestyle, I do that for myself, but I also do it for my clients at Orangetheory. If I’m not in shape or fit enough to lead, help, coach or motivate them through their workouts then I’m really not doing my job properly.”
At the end of the day, though, she is human, and we all have off days. Even still, the members at Orangetheory are what continue to motivate her in her own workouts and fitness routine.
“Even if I’m feeling unmotivated or like I’m slacking in any way, I’m like, ‘okay Quinn. Let’s think about the people you have to lead in a few hours, let’s work out for them. If you’re not going to work out for yourself today, there are 36 other people that you’ve got to carry on your back later tonight.’”
Outside of Orangetheory, Quinn documents and shares her passion through her fitness Instagram, @qc.fit. She knows the idea of fitness that is portrayed on social media is sometimes harmful or unrealistic, and she maintains this same energy when posting on her page. With nearly 2,000 followers, she is determined to share healthy and safe workouts or progress posts because she knows how impressionable young minds can be. She’s honest about struggling with lack of motivation or feeling as though she isn’t making progress because she wants to encourage healthy, realistic habits instead of adding fuel to the already dangerous fire of some aspects of fitness social media.
“There are so many unhealthy behaviors broadcasted on social media,” she said. “If I can shape any young mind — male, female, whoever, on social media, or even if they come up to me and have a conversation with me — if I can demonstrate a healthy lifestyle and just impact them for that one or two seconds that they see me or hear me, then I’ve made a difference.”
This is also the same attitude Quinn put toward her classes at Orangetheory — she is determined to lead in a way that is helpful and positive. Knowing her class or something she said made a positive impact on someone’s day is “easily the most rewarding aspect of instructing”.
“Feedback from my clients is so important — hearing things like ‘you really pushed me,’ or ‘your correction on my form really helped me’ — but I know I’m not going to hear that every day,” Shiffler says.
“The most rewarding thing is being able to turn off those orange lights, shut the door and walk home knowing that whatever happened in that room, somebody cracked a smile or had a positive experience. The workout is only an hour long, and an hour is only four percent of your day. If I can turn someone’s attitude around in that four percent, then I have done my job.”
Although Quinn is a physical fitness instructor, mental health and wellbeing is equally important to her. While working out certainly improves her mental health, she has other outlets for her mental health, such as doing a daily devotional. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing are all tied together for Shiffler, and she recognizes the importance of finding a balance in her health and wellbeing.
“We do have hard workouts,” Shiffler admitted. “It’s definitely difficult the first time or the hundredth time you walk in and do one. I want people to reward themselves, like ‘I was able to do this, I should thank myself for doing that.’”
This reward is one that keeps on giving, which inspires Shiffler to end every class with uplifting positive affirmations.
“I make them hug themselves, and then they say it loud and proud; they’re ‘I am,’ statements, and I think those have such an impact on the soul, the body, everything.”
What are these ‘I am,’ statements, one might ask?
“‘I am beautiful. I am confident. I am strong. ’”
Quinn was still coaching at Penn State Fitness when she first implemented her positive affirmations at the end of class. She doesn’t remember the specific day or what prompted, just that she felt compelled to do it.
“It’s awkward,” she admitted. “You’re telling people to say that they love themselves… The guys aren’t super into it, but to appease me and everyone else in the room they definitely do it. They give themselves this big bear hug and tell themselves that they’re beautiful.”
As awkward as it can be, Quinn knows how important it is to tie in mental health with physical health. Not only are you exercising your body when you’re working out, but you’re exercising your mind, and she believes you need to thank yourself for that at the end of every workout.
She makes her class hug themselves as they say their affirmations in their “loudest and proudest voice,” which she believes makes a positive difference, whether her clients realize it now or will later down the road.
“It’s like ‘alright, you said those words, now you have to go out those doors and you have to live it and you have to believe it.’… Whether or not they believe it or not, someday at some point in their life it’s gonna hit.”
Quinn knows mental health is a “trendy” topic right now but believes that it’s something we have to maintain even when it’s not. She also believes that as an instructor with an influence and a platform, she has a responsibility to instill that in her clients.
“If somebody can walk out of the studio doors after my class and say ‘wow, I feel really good about myself,’ then that is more than I can ask for. Even if they don’t see it, I see it, and I want them to know that when they walk out of the room.”
While she’s graduating from Penn State this coming May, Quinn as of now plans to stay in State College in the fall, and continue to coach and share her passion for fitness with others at Orangetheory.
Catch Quinn on the mic at Orangetheory Fitness State College, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.