Army Veteran Serves Veterans Through Fitness Training at the Endeavors Veteran Wellness Center
Last Updated: 01 Apr 2022
Veterans Support & Mental Health Careecho $minutes. " Minute Read"?>
Why Endeavors Fitness Coordinator Sean Rybolt is so passionate about fitness—and why it can make all the difference for Veterans.
Sean Rybolt starts his day before the sun gets up. At 4:30 a.m., he’s out of bed. By 5 a.m. he’s at the gym, listening to a motivational podcast while he spends an hour working out. By 6:30 he’s home, showering, and getting ready for work…all before anyone else in his family is awake.
This is Rybolt’s self-care routine. It’s also how he ensures that, at the end of the day, he can dedicate his time to creating and maintaining connections with his family. “If I put off my things that I need,” he says, “I can’t fill from an empty cup. I can’t fill somebody else’s cup if mine is empty.”
From Fatigues to Fitness Training
As a Veteran, Rybolt has built a healthy, balanced lifestyle. He has a strong support system, and enjoys his career serving others through fitness.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
Rybolt was serving active duty in the Army when he sustained an injury on deployment. In the aftermath, he quickly hit a state of depression. As a certified group fitness trainer for his fellow service members, Rybolt had found so much fulfillment in fitness, and suddenly everything he knew—his service, his passion, his support network—was gone.
“I didn’t care about myself. I didn’t cook for myself,” he remembers. “I had a five-year relationship that went up in smoke because I stopped prioritizing my partner. I had a very unhealthy addiction to video games—I was trying to escape my life.”
Rybolt explained that hitting rock bottom puts you in a position where you think: “If I keep doing this, is it sustainable? If I was writing my own book, would I want this part to be in there?” He says he reclaimed his life by returning to fitness, self-training and self-educating himself on safe exercises for his injury, and studying health and wellness.
“I wanted a holistic approach to life,” says Rybolt. “Immediately, I felt like I had my life back, and my mental health went up drastically.”
Combating Disabilities and Mental Illness
Today, Rybolt is the Fitness Coordinator for the Endeavors Veteran Wellness Center in San Antonio, Texas, where his entire job is about filling the cups of the Veterans and military family members we serve. As a licensed Fitness Trainer and Wellness Coach with a certification in Healthy Habit change, he trains clients one-on-one in our fitness center, which features state-of-the-art accessibility equipment specifically designed to accommodate individuals of all fitness and physical abilities.
“Our equipment is progressable no matter the client,” Rybolt explains. “If I have someone with back pain, hip pain, double knee replacements…I can do the same workouts with them as I can the Air Force Special Warfare group.”
At the VWC, Rybolt works on-one-on with clients across the military community and teaches weekend group fitness classes. “People come to the VWC with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and ADHD,” he shares. “There’s tons of research journals and medical publications that show exercise helps manage mental health.”
That’s what makes the VWC stand out. Even if the immediate goal is to improve muscle strength or lose weight, the long-term goal is always holistic wellness, and Rybolt and his staff are here to support their clients physical and mental wellness. Every service offered at the VWC, from peer-support to behavioral health counseling to financial and legal services, is designed to offer clients a strong support system.
Fostering Relationships Through Fitness
Even though Rybolt has a passion for fitness and loves helping his clients challenge themselves physically, he is also attentive to understanding when someone just needs to talk. “Sometimes, that’s even more beneficial than the original reason they came in,” he says. Training at the VWC is about supporting clients holistically, and sometimes that means just being there, listening, caring.
“When you’re in the military,” Rybolt explains, “you start identifying as a service member. So, when you transition out, your place in the world isn’t as obvious.” Rybolt is able to connect with his clients in a way that goes beyond trainer-and-client; he can meet them on a Veteran-to-Veteran level and serve as part of their emotional support network, in addition to being their physical wellness champion. That’s why, sometimes, he says, “We just let them walk on the treadmill and express [themselves] because that’s doing more for you than tearing you off that treadmill and going to do work.”
“I don’t shame anyone,” he says. “I don’t laugh about insecurities. I’ve gone through that, and I’ve conquered it, and I want to help other people conquer it.”
Supporting Holistic Growth Every Day
Many of the Veterans Rybolt works with gain more than physical strength in the gym—they gain an awareness that they can overcome resistance with time, dedication, and perseverance. “There’s a psychological effect of thinking, This is resistance. This is not permanent. If I want to work my way up from this, I can,” Rybolt explains. “It could be, I talked to my son again. I haven’t talked to him in four years. Or, I started developing a better relationship with my wife, or I can get out and stop staring at every door.”
Rybolt also witnesses the effects that a regular fitness routine can have on his client’s financial and spiritual wellness, in addition to their mental health.
Clients who start prioritizing their fitness often find themselves saving money through meal prepping and choosing healthier, home-prepared options. And in terms of spiritual wellness, “It doesn’t have to be religious,” Rybolt explains. “I believe in taking care of the vessel. The vessel is the body. If you don’t take care of your body, how are you going to impact the maximum number of people that you can in your lifetime? If I can’t get out of the house, if I am on the couch in a bad place mentally, how am I going to impact the maximum number of people in my lifetime? If I’m here for a longer amount of time, that means I’m going to help more people.”
“It chokes me up to talk about,” he admits, “because it’s not just going to the gym. This is about getting past those hurdles and just seeing that you can do better.”
Make the Change You Deserve at the VWC
The Veteran Wellness Center is open to all Veterans of all eras and discharge status, and any person who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves. We also serve Veteran dependents, surviving spouses, and non-dependent military family members.
Membership to the Veteran Wellness Center begins at $65/mo, and includes access to group training, yoga, and the VWC online training app. At Endeavors, our mission is to uplift and serve Veterans and their families, so we also have a scholarship-based membership system. Interested clients are invited to complete a short, non-invasive questionnaire, and may receive 10-100% off their membership fee based on how many people are in their household, any student debts, and food insecurity.
The Endeavors Victim of Crime Grant also covers the membership fee for anyone who has gone through our Safe Services program.
To schedule a tour of our facility or inquire about our membership options, contact the Veteran Wellness Center at [email protected] or 726-207-4892.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.