ABINGTON, Pa. — Elaine Johnson believes in prioritizing herself and her health and motivating others to do the same so they can achieve fulfillment in all aspects of their lives. Her enthusiasm inspires those she works with as a program specialist in the Penn State Abington Continuing Education (CE) unit and as the founder of Latinas in Motion, an online fitness community with more than 5,000 members nationwide.
“We have to work on our mental and physical wellness so we can make sure our cups are full for the next challenge,” she said.
Johnson’s journey to attaining higher levels of excellence in life began more than a decade ago when she was struggling with her responsibilities as a professional with a young family. She battled post-partum depression and started walking to lose weight. One day she posted on Facebook looking for a partner or two to run around the local high school.
“It spread like wildfire. I had never in my entire life even run a block,” Johnson, who wasn’t exposed to exercise growing up in North Philadelphia, said.
She worked her way up to participating in the Broad Street Run, the largest 10-mile road race in the nation, but she felt alone crossing the finish line.
“Black Girls Run members were well represented and runners from Students Run Philly, but I'm Puerto Rican, and I did not feel seen. I had no one to high-five me at the end,” Johnson said.
Her experience led her to establish Latinas in Motion to inspire, encourage and empower activity in women of color. Part of the organization’s mission is to break generational health challenges within their community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic adults are less likely than other ethnic and racial groups to be active due to structural barriers that make regular exercise more difficult, which has led to higher rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Today, Latinas in Motion has 17 chapters across eight states, and it stages annual events including a 5K, a gala, and a “run-cation,” where members run a race in places like Aruba, Savannah and Nashville.
“I’ve always been a visionary, and I’ve always been the type of person who is going to do what I say I am going to do,” Johnson said.
Before she arrived at Abington, Johnson earned a master’s degree in higher education, worked as a college readiness counselor in the School District of Philadelphia, and produced a podcast. Now as a member of the CE team, she brings her coaching and entrepreneurial mindset to a portfolio of non-credit professional development and career enhancement programs for individuals and organizations and non-summer youth programs.
And her positive outlook is contagious among CE staff and their clients.
“My advice to everyone is the same: Our biggest enemy is our mind, and we put limits on ourselves. Prioritize yourself, and the results start to show up everywhere, in your marriage, at work, and with your children. Time is the greatest gift we can give ourselves,” she said.
She hopes her accomplishments serve as an example to others who may doubt the impact of setting goals and reframing their thoughts.
“I graduated from Edison High School in Philadelphia, and I’ve been invited to speak at Harvard. Your girl would have never qualified to actually go to Harvard,” she said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 25 majors, accelerated master's degrees, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.