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Combining faith and fitness

Pastor hopes to spread physical, spiritual well-being with cardio classes at SC Christian Center

Posted: August 13, 2010 4:05 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Pastor Gilbert Burns leads a class through a cardio workout Tuesday.

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Gilbert Burns thrust his right fist toward a mirror. He pulled it back and then, punched the air again.

And again.

“Come on and give me good jabs,” he said to the group of exercisers who followed his moves.

The sweat layer gathering on Burns’ forehead thickened as his jabs and steps quickened.

When the music is bumping and tennis shoes laced up, Burns is a no-nonsense, yet encouraging and energetic fitness instructor.

Walk in to 26017 Huntington Lane, Suite B, at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, and you’ll see him leading a class in an hourlong cardio workout.

But Burns, 48, isn’t your average fitness instructor. He’s got the build, the training and the motivational spirit. 

But he has also works in a field that isn’t exactly typical among personal trainers — Burns has a ministry.

The cardio classes are the fulfillment of the pastor’s long-desired vision to align faith and fitness.

“Definitely part of our vision is to work spirit, soul and body,” said Burns, pastor of Santa Clarita Christian Center. “If your body’s not in physical shape, then what you learn and apply to your life is going to be minimized because of your health issues.”

Finding God, exercise
Burns’ appreciation of physical fitness sprouted after a troubling time in his life.

“I made some bad decisions and did a little bit of time in the Youth Authority (juvenile center),” he said. “In there, I gave my life to the Lord and really started working out in there.”

From there, Burns got his life together and stayed in pretty good shape until he started a family.

“I got married and had kids, I started seeing my body go out of shape,” he said. “I got pregnant with my wife.”

But seven years ago, Burns found a workout partner who also happened to be the inventor of Tae Bo exercise.  Burns attended church with nationally known fitness guru Billy Blanks.

“When I started working out with Billy, I really started getting in shape,” Burns said. “He’s a good trainer; one of the best.”

Faith and fitness
In 2004, Burns — who had years of ministry experience by then — started hosting Bible-study classes at a residence in Santa Clarita. A year later, church services moved to the Valencia Industrial Center. That’s when Santa Clarita Christian Center incorporated the Living Fit cardio classes.

“This is intended for people in the church to come out and get their bodies together,” Burns said. “It’s not about how you look.”

It’s about health and discipline, he said.

“If my health is good, I’m able to maintain my life and do what God has told me to do,” he said.

Just as a Christian practices discipline in attending church or reading their Bible, the same is necessary for taking care of one’s health, Burns said.

Getting worked
The Living Fit classes have changed Ashlen Burns for the better. Ashlen, Gilbert Burns’ 16-year-old daughter, has faithfully attended Tuesday and Thursday classes for the last four years.

She has dropped five clothing sizes since.

“That has really committed me to keep going; I like keeping my weight where it is right now,” she said.

Ashlen, 16, along with sister Felicia Burns, 22, and mother, Sabrina Burns, 47, don’t really have a choice in attending. They
have to support their dad and husband. But they don’t mind because they enjoy the morning workout.

“We get to use a lot of energy in the morning,” Felicia said. “I feel more energetic through the day.”

The Living Fit classes are open and free to anyone.

Jenni Gilbert, of Castaic, does not attend Santa Clarita Christian Center, but she has been attending the free classes since early summer. She was hooked right away thanks to Burn’s coaching.

“He’s the perfect combination of being really encouraging but forcing you to work hard, and he gets in your face,” she said. “I really get worked.”


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