It’s a six-track CD, Quiana Lynell’s first as a professional musician. It’s called “Loving Me.” The bluesy, soulful sextet encourages listeners to find their self-worth while reminding them to put their needs first.
But before Lynell laid down one track or sung one note, she needed to heed the same advice.
“It’s all about that journey of knowing that I’m worth loving and it starts with the choices I make that deal with me every day,” Lynell said.
Lynell has two daughters, 12-year-old Aubrey and 7-year-old Julia. Both have eaten broccoli and carrots since they were young; Lynell’s sure of it. She’s set better dietary goals and restrictions than she had as a child in Dallas, where she was always athletic — a power forward on her Class 5A high school basketball team before playing intramural sports throughout her time at LSU.
But, at her heaviest, Lynell estimates she weighed 285 pounds. Her naturally big build coupled with the demands of motherhood and professional life — she’s now the music teacher at G.W. Carver Primary School and part of the band Quiana Lynell and the Lush Life — made her own health and wellbeing unimportant.
“You’re a better example by what you do than what you say,” Lynell said. “So I changed my entire way of life.”
Lynell stereotyped the running community. She drove down Dalrymple Drive around the LSU lakes, observing the ponytails of thin women flailing in the wind and shirtless men extending their runs extra miles, never thinking she could become a part of such an exclusive group.
Attempting to lose weight, she began to read. “It’s all mental,” books and articles told her. Lynell surmised if she ran, alone, and kept repeating to herself not to stop, perhaps she could fall into the self-assigned “runner” stereotype. She set out on a three-mile run and still proudly recalls that she didn’t stop.
“Oh my God,” she laughs of her first few runs. “Hurting, they were slow and just kind of like accomplishments. The first two years were just ‘I’m doing this just because I can be in this community.’ And once you get into this community, you realize how much bigger it is than just the people you see on the (LSU) lakes.”
Soon, Lynell was a runner — by any definition.
She participated in Happy’s Running Club and with Black Girls Run before forming her own club, Musicians Run, which works around the unconventional schedule of local musicians for runs around downtown Baton Rouge.
Lynell’s initial goal was to run the 2011 Crescent City Classic. She accomplished it, and has run each one since. Now, she’s set to run the half-marathon at the Louisiana Marathon running festival after finishing the 10K last year.
Aubrey and Julia are running the kid’s marathon, before which their mother will sing the national anthem on Jan. 16.
“I had this feeling that I wasn’t a runner and I wasn’t worthy and it wasn’t for me,” Lynell said. “When you start running and you’re not the typical runner, you see these super-fit people. When you think about somebody doing more than a mile, it’s nobody more than 160 pounds as a woman. It’s getting your mind out of what you can’t do.”
Lynell, who played a concert at last year’s Finish Festival, will play another with her band on that Saturday, a day before she’ll run the half-marathon. It’s twice as long as any race she’s run thus far, so nerves are a given, but excitement prevails. She recently took to Instagram, posting a collage of her journey to loving herself and becoming healthier.
She pores over pictures from 2011.
“I really see somebody who didn’t put themselves first,” Lynell said. “Everybody else was more important than I was, everybody else got more time than I did. When you become a mom and wife, you start not giving yourself as much time as you need.
“That just has to be a part of you — you have to put yourself first. If you’re not healthy, where are you going to be in 15 years when they need you.”