Shane Way has a remarkable story of success, dealing with depression and anxiety to becoming an award-winning personal trainer. He is driven to share his journey and help others succeed in reaching their goals.

The Les Mills personal trainer won Student of the Year at the 2016 New Zealand Exercise Awards, as well as graduating with his degree (where he was also student speaker) and being awarded Personal Trainer of the Year and the Stuart Maclean memorial Award for Contribution to Wintec.

Shane has recently taken up a position on the Advisory Board for “Creating Our Futures”, which is the proposed model of change for Mental Health and Addiction services in Waikato.

INSPO Fitness Journal finds out more…

What three things do you wish everyone knew about the benefits of exercise?
1: The hardest part of exercise is starting – seriously. For me the hardest part is getting to the gym. Once I arrive, I’m good to go. When you get one foot through the door or take that first step as you start to run, you’ve done it. It’s really that easy.

2: It hands down improves your mindset. Exercise isn’t just for guys who want to get big and muscly, or girls who want to become small and toned. I have health and wellbeing goals – not fitness goals. There’s a difference. I exercise because it makes me happy and helps me keep my depression at bay. I don’t have a great body, never have and possibly never will, but that’s not the goal for me. It just may be a positive correlation and if so then great, but for now, I’m happy being happy. I exercise for my personal physical and mental wellbeing.

3: Stop thinking everyone else is judging you at the gym. The honest truth is that it’s your perception, not everyone else’s agenda. People aren’t concentrating on what you are doing or what you look like. The average gym is full of people who are self-fulfilling – people who have their own goals, their own agenda and are concentrating on themselves. So worry about you, because you are the only person that matters.

What is your favourite way to add some instant ‘positive’ into your day?
You have to start the day off right, so set yourself up for success, not failure. If you wake up and think “I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to go to work, it’s cold” etc. then you are putting yourself in a negative mindset and will almost definitely carry it throughout your day. So, to start with – I love music, and it has so much power and influence over people, especially if you are like me and really connect with the lyrics. So every week I change my alarm clock to my current favourite song. I then spend 10 minutes on my phone, scrolling through social media to find some motivation for the day. I love reading positive posts, or even just watching a funny video – anything that will put a smile on my face or make me laugh. I then play high energy music while getting ready and driving to work, so that when I have my first client of the day I’m feeling happy, energised and can help them develop the same attitude during their workout. So figure out what gets you out of bed in the morning, what makes you smile and laugh, what makes you feel good – and do it.

How do you like to relax?
Relaxation has been difficult, especially having severe anxiety. I manage this by trying to do something every day that “feeds my soul” and there are several things that help me do this. First and foremost is exercise. Now I know some people may say “it’s not relaxing” but hear me out. It’s a controllable variable. When my life and emotions feel out of control, I know I can go to the gym and do something that is going to make me feel in control again. It gives me a way to express my emotions, whether that’s anger, despair or happiness. It helps me get those emotions out, clear my mind, find some clarity and control myself through logic rather than emotion. It really is therapeutic and I feel calm and in control afterwards.

I have lot of hobbies and interests which also help me relax. I love the outdoors so a bush walk or running the Hakarimata Summit (when it reopens) is ideal. I also have two very good friends in Hamilton that I spend every Wednesday night with. We sit down and vent about our week, the ups and downs, positive and negatives. It’s really like our own little therapy session and I always leave feeling so empowered because I’ve been able to move any weight off my shoulders and get advice from people who have my best interests at heart, with no judgement.

What is the best advice you have received?
My business coach, Amy Mclean from M4 Collective originated as my reception manager at Les Mills Hamilton. At the time I didn’t have the best self-esteem. However she really helped me become a more confident person. I was always worried about what other people thought of me, which made me put a lot of pressure on myself to always impress others. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given and still remind myself of daily came from Amy during one of my development sessions. She told me not to worry about what other people think of me, as not everyone in my life is going to like me – that is simply impossible. She said to just keep being myself and concentrate on the people who do like me, instead of worrying about those who don’t. This shifted my mindset and improved my performance at work and in all other aspects of my life.

Shane’s tips on taking a sensible approach to exercise when struggling with mental health-related issues:

Start off small
Depression and anxiety are already overwhelming so getting into exercise initially can make this worse. Start off with a small walk around a local park or something similar, choose a time of day when you know it won’t be busy so that you can have your own space and be one with yourself. Once you can get into a routine, then you can start to try new things like going for a run, training with a friend and even going to a gym or group fitness class.

Find the right fitness centre to fit your personality
If you join a gym, check it out first and trial it to see if it is the right fit for you (for now). There is no point joining a gym if you don’t feel comfortable – a big part of mental illness is feeling safe and accepted. Feel free to talk to someone at the gym, ask them when the quieter times are and what the overall atmosphere is like. I prefer a gym where the music is upbeat, it is colourful, well organised and the staff are friendly and caring.

Get a personal trainer
Part of depression and anxiety is feeling isolated and unsupported in life, so avoid this at the gym. Even though I’m a fitness professional I have always had a personal trainer because I need someone to be accountable to and to push me along. I mostly need someone to support me, who I can talk to and get some issues off my chest. Ask around, find a trainer that you feel comfortable with, ask for someone who has experience in the mental health field like me.

Set achievable goals
Don’t go into it thinking you will be fit and strong overnight. You’re not going to lose 20 kilograms in a month and you’re not going to have huge muscles next week. If you manage just a little exercise, like taking the dog for walk, that’s still something to feel good about. Be realistic.

If you have a bigger goal in mind, set a long-term date then work backwards and set out small achievable steps to help you reach the big one. For example, if your goal is to run 10 kilometres, set mini goals like running for five minutes the first week and building up from there. Most importantly, set yourself up for success, not failure.

Have a wow factor in every workout
Set yourself a goal each time you exercise that is achievable but makes you challenge yourself. This may be running a few seconds faster or doing a few extra repetitions. It’s amazing how improving your time or the amount of times you do something can really boost your confidence. This is something I incorporate into all my workouts and my clients’ workouts. It gives me and the client a sense of accomplishment – that feeling of winning and it’s the best feeling you can get.