Shaun Jewell personifies what it is to be an Inspirational Trainer. He is an ex-Kiwi butcher and now a Brisbane-based PT. He’s worked in the fitness industry for over 20 years and has loved every minute of it. But a serious car accident 7 years ago changed his outlook and taught him what it really means to be fit and healthy.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Twenty-four years ago, I was a butcher! My local gym offered to pay for me to do my Cert 3 and 4, so for a while I was a butcher by day and an aerobics instructor (now known as group fitness trainer) at night. The training gradually took up more and more of my time – two years after completing my qualifications, I was working in the fitness industry full time.
I moved to Australia from New Zealand 12 years ago, and I’m proud to call Australia my home. These days I’m the Queensland Wellness Trainer for BUPA, and I manage the Brisbane Airport Air Traffic Control 24/7 Health Club, where I also run all the group fitness classes.
I see myself as more of a group fitness trainer and exercise consultant, rather than a PT. One-on-one PT just wasn’t for me. I feel my strength is more working with groups and sports teams. I write everyday programs for everyday people. I specialise in Fun Fit Camps, which are regular group training sessions in local parks.
Looking after members is my passion. I love having a chat to them about life – not always about fitness. It’s a great way to get to know more about your members. I think it’s like a butterfly effect – they love the club, love the fun and social vibe Happy members equals happy trainers… and a happy employer!
What changes have you seen in the fitness industry throughout your career?
One big change I’ve noticed in the last few years is the rise of Cross Fit. I taught sports conditioning for years in Hamilton, New Zealand to members of the Waikato netball and touch rugby teams, as well as members of the New Zealand Rugby 7s. My classes weren’t for the faint hearted – we did a lot of walking hand stands, power lifting, chin ups, lifting rocks – exercises that are now a big part of Cross Fit. They’ve been very smart and branded and promoted it. It’s become a huge sensation and I can see it getting bigger and better each year.
However, the most obvious change I’ve noticed is fashion in the fitness industry! In my day, we’d just wear tshirts and footy shorts. These days, everyone looks like a professional trainer! I love that fashion can make people feel good, but personally, I’d still prefer to be in my footy shorts!
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome these?
In 2008, I was driving from Cairns to Brisbane to start a new job when I was involved in a bad car accident. I broke my neck, my jaw, toes, fingers and had a zillion stitches. But it was the internal injuries that were the worst – I had bleeding on the brain and it took all the life out of me. All I could think about was my daughter and my family, and getting back to work as soon as possible.
I went from doing 107 push ups in one set to none. I’m now up to 100, but I’ve learnt that those 107 push ups don’t mean anything – it’s just a number. What it is important is how strength and fitness can help if something bad comes your way in life. We never know what tomorrow will bring!
It took a good 12 months to get back to teaching, and I’ve just started on the microphone again and motivating members. I was amazed that they knew my story – they were amazed I was walking and talking again! It meant a lot to me that they cared and were part of my recovery. I got there in the end, but it took time. I’ll never be the same, but I’m walking and moving and able to play touch rugby and teach some classes.
It taught me a big lesson about how lucky I was to have my strength and fitness. I can honestly say that it was my strength and fitness that helped me survive the crash and helped me overcome the challenges associated with my injuries. The pain in my neck never goes away, but you learn to manage it. We are so lucky most of us are to walk, stretch and breathe every day.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
My proudest fitness achievement was when I was took a group of more than 700 people as the group fitness trainer for the Strength and Stretch class for the 2013 Lorna Jane Active Nation Day in Brisbane.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Why?
Helping those who feel lost or sad and want to find themselves again. It’s an amazing reward to see them smile. I try to help out people who don’t have much or can’t afford a trainer. I’ve had some ladies who couldn’t afford to pay $10 for my Fit Fun Camp, so I just suggest they bake me a cake or pay me when they can. I just feel for people doing it tough.
I think we need more trainers who have compassion for others less fortunate.
Do you have a quote that you try and live by?
Happy training, keep smiling and all will be sweet bro!