Keys to Fitness Success | by Ed Cabellon

Over the last 18 months, I’ve successfully added a focus on fitness to my daily routine. For the purposes of this post, I define fitness as a conscious focus on “nutrition, exercise, sleep, and face to face human contact.”  In my interactions with friends, family, and colleagues, the question I get most often is, “How have you kept up with it all?”  Today, I wanted to share what has worked for me, in hopes that it gives you a framework for future wellness success.

1.  Start With Why

Simon Sinek (2009) says that without really understanding the “why”, leaders and organizations will never be able to reach their full potential.  This is the core reason why many who begin to focus on fitness related efforts often stop and need to restart… they don’t really acknowledge why they are choosing to make the effort to focus on wellness. I focus on fitness and wellness because I am a better husband, father, son, brother, uncle, godfather, classmate, colleague, and friend when I am well.  A secondary why is that I want to be a good role model for the students and staff I come into contact with everyday. In my higher education role, I influence them by the things I say and do and I take that responsibility seriously.

When things get tough and your mind begins to influence you to choose old, poor habits… remember why you are doing it and may help keep you on track.  It is not about being perfect, its about making forward progress.

2.  Build on Your Successes

The first thing I focused on 18 months ago was adding a regular exercise regiment to my daily routine. I knew that if I wanted to make it part of my life, I had to do something everyday so my chances of working out more often than not would increase.  I was never really a “gym” person.  With young kids, a full-time job, speaking & consulting, volunteering, and now in a doctoral program, finding time to drive to and from a gym and working out is just not practical. So, I used exercise programs like “P90X” and “Insanity” to get me into regular exercise routines. Soon after, I added running and playing basketball in to mix things up.  As a result, I found myself engaged in physical activity at least 30 minutes 4-5 days a week, mixing in both resistance and cardio efforts. This was important to me as I found variety helped keep me interested.

Once this was established, I focused on nutrition. Films such as “Food Matters” and “Hungry For Change” helped provide meaningful perspective when trying to understand how my food choices affected my overall wellness.  While this remains the most challenging aspect of all my wellness efforts, tracking what I eat (via WeightWatchers, MyFitnessPal, etc.) was an important step in understanding my habits and making better, consistent choices.

The important thing here is to pick one thing, do it really well until it becomes a positive habit, then move on to something else.  This may help you stay motivated as you layer new challenges along the way.

3. Identify Big Goals As Primary Motivators

A common theme on my fitness journey have been my big, overarching goals. These provided constant reminders to achieve the small choices, as Rath (2013) talks about making, to stay focused. Some examples of these include:

  • – Fitness: Signing up for half marathons put me on a training schedule that I had to commit to. The key was to sign up and follow the plans by putting them in my calendar.  Also, being a part of online challenge groups, via Facebook or Twitter, also help connect you with a greater community who will be invested in your success. Finally, enlisting the help of a trainer at your university’s gym maybe a good way to connect with students studying exercise science and might help you get on track.
  • – Nutrition: Drinking 80-100 ozs of water a day is constant focus because if I am properly hydrated, everything else seems to fall into place. I know that I may make poor food choices along the way, but if I drink enough water, I usually eat better and get more out of exercising. If nothing else, drinking all that water helps flush out your system 🙂

4. Build Your Support Network

You will need help in these efforts. Achieving your goals is not something you can do on your own. Make sure you:

  • – Find people in your life that will help keep you accountable, both in person and online (especially if you are active on social networks). Tell them about your goals and find people that can help you with EACH of your goals.
  • – Find a person or two that you can talk to regularly about what is causing stress in your life. Its important to make time for this human contact, which ultimately becomes your catalyst when things aren’t going the way you want them.
  • – If you are active on social networks, share your successes and challenges. You never know how those networks can help or be positively influenced by what you are sharing!

At the end of the day, you can have either excuses or results, but not both. The truth is that (most of us) have a choice in how we spend our time, so the notion of “not having enough time” is a fallacy. We are just choosing to spend our time doing (or not doing) other things. We owe these efforts to our families, friends, staff and students… but most importantly, we owe these efforts to ourselves.  We are worth being well.

Oh, and the next time you need some morning workout motivation, watch this:

Fired up yet? 🙂  How do you stay motivated? What are your keys to wellness success?


Rath, T. (2013). Eat move sleep: How small choices lead to big changes. Jackson, TN: Missionday.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin.

edEd Cabellon has over 16 years of progressive experience in Higher Education administration and is a leader in social media and technology integration, education, and assessment. He has worked in various Student Affairs/Student Life departments such as Residence Life and Student Activities, and currently serves as the Director of the Campus Center at Bridgewater State University. He is also enrolled as a doctoral student at Johnson and Wales University with the goal of earning his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in the spring of 2016. His research interests include digital identity, technology literacy, student engagement through social media, and underrepresented student access to technology.

Ed loves P90X and Insanity workouts and is a dedicated running looking to run 750 miles in 2014, along with four half marathons and, gulp, maybe one marathon?

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