I’m Megan Bowden, and The Ambitious Fox Training Studio is my dream turned reality.
I’ve been a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutritionist through ISSA since 2014. I graduated from Michigan State with my second Bachelors in Kinesiology in 2016. I worked for Fitness Together in Okemos for four years, training well-over 150 clients. But my journey to health began much earlier than all of that.
I was not some great high school athlete. I was not someone who naturally felt comfortable in my own skin. And I certainly did not have the best nutrition growing up. I was a normal teenage girl, who was a little bit of a goody-two shoes, slightly nerdy, and had a knack for being clumsy. I went through high school with major self-confidence issues, thinking I was never skinny enough, thinking that girls should act and look a certain way, and feeling like I was falling short of my potential.
I’m the one in the black top and green bottom.
I’d always been active. I took dance classes, I liked the outdoors, my friends and I were always doing some activity, and every once in a while I’d formally go to the gym and workout. But let’s face it, I didn’t know what I was doing. Nutrition was another story all together. Some days I’d eat what I considered mostly nutritious things, others I’d binge on junk food like the world was ending. At that point, I still believed that things like cheese, white pasta, corn were healthy.
This grave lack of self-esteem led to common occurrences of anxiety and minor depression, and I could never figure out how to remedy those feelings. Because I didn’t like how I looked, I sought approval from others, mostly guys. I judged my worth on how my fellow classmates and crushes looked at me. It was completely unhealthy. I remember the exact photo I saw of myself in a bathing suit that made me never want to leave the house without a bulky sweater on, and the mental berating got worse. And yet, I did nothing to change this downward spiral.
Even though I clearly wasn’t overweight, when I saw this picture in high school, I was mortified.
It took going to college and putting on the freshman ten and feeling absolutely awful physically, mentally, and emotionally to open my eyes to the possibility that I was missing something. I knew that I could be better when it came to exercise and nutrition, but didn’t know where to start.
When I tried to speak to my doctor about how I was feeling and about my nutrition concerns, she waved it off. She instead offered me an anti-anxiety medicine, which I declined, and I left feeling very disgruntled. If I couldn’t turn to someone who should have been an authority on eating and exercising for health, I was going to have to do it myself.
So I decided to focus my nerd powers on reading as much information about exercise and nutrition as I could, and I began my journey from the ground up. My freshman year continued on much the same nutritionally, as I was still subjected to dorm cuisine and wasn’t ready to get up the abundant soft-serve ice cream and chicken wings, but I started lifting weights twice a week, and I started running with my friend (now husband) Eric twice a week. My mood improved, and I got a little stronger, but without nutritional changes, there wasn’t that much change in how I looked.
Sophomore year came, and my workouts continued. I began increasing my repertoire of lifts, I saw my running begin to improve, and I increased my workout time from 30 to 45 minutes a day. I still was only working out four days a week because as soon as Friday hit, I was in weekend mode, and it was hard to motivate myself to do anything other than study and relax. Nutrition was much the same due to still being in the dorms, but my consistency with workouts from week to week was a good habit I fell into. I dropped a few pounds, but was still unhappy with my stomach and love-handle areas. I could feel like I looked good one day, and feel like I looked like a slob the next. I still felt uncomfortable in instances where I wasn’t fully clothed or wore tight clothing.
Definite progression, but at that point in my life, I was still self-conscious.
It wasn’t until my Junior year that my nutrition began to improve, as I had finally left the dorms and could do my own grocery shopping. I started looking up recipes, and I cooked 90% of the meals I ate. I was better with sweets and portion sizes. However, I still cooked with butter, cheese, and various other processed ingredients. I still indulged more often than I should have, especially because my boyfriend at the time was often irritated when we had eaten “too healthy” for many days in a row. However, there were still victories. That year, Eric and I signed up for a half-marathon, my first race, and I finished under a 10 min/mile, which had been my goal.
I soon realized that I hadn’t prepared nearly enough for a half marathon, oh the shin splints!
At the same time, I took one step forward and one step backwards with my workouts. I started a workout program called Bodyrock five days a week, that was mostly bodyweight exercises. They were difficult and exposed me to many exercises I wasn’t familiar with, but they were shorter in time length, and I rationalized that I was too busy to do more.
My college boyfriend and I on a cruise in the Caribbean.
The second half of senior year was much the same, with some steps backward along the way. I was having some major issues in my long-term relationship which increased my stress levels, leading to some bad eating habits and days where I felt too discouraged to workout. Through it all, my weight bumped back up, hitting 137, the most I’ve ever weighed. And even though I knew some of it was muscle, I was devastated.
My sister and I at the lake.
It was also in my senior year of college that I realized that I no longer wanted to pursue my English/Creative Writing degree. I was so close to finishing, and I had no idea what I wanted to other than that, so I decided to just tough it out, and figure what I was going to do once I was finished.
Long story short, my four-year relationship ended the month before graduation, the man I had planned on moving with and eventually marrying was with someone else, I had no job prospects, and I was going to have to move back home to my parents house once my apartment lease was up for the summer.
Exercise suddenly became my savior. It was what I did to keep my mind focused and sane. I became more disciplined than I had ever been before and started keeping a workout log. I was working out six days a week. For the first time, I started seeing major strength gains, my running form improved, and I got quicker. I had nothing to do but work 30 hours a week at my landscaping job, workout, cook food, and hang out with my friend Eric, who would eventually become more than a friend that summer.
Eric and I at my family’s annual Wiffleball Tournament.
And thus, that summer is what really set my healthy lifestyle in motion. I realized that I didn’t want to just be skinny anymore. I wanted to be strong. I wanted visible muscles. I never wanted to have to be that damsel in distress, I wanted to be strong enough to do things on my own. I wanted to eventually lift as much as the guys at the gym.
Suddenly, this change in mindset increased my confidence levels; it gave me new inspiration at the gym, and I was moving forward in progress like never before. It also helped that Eric and I were well-suited for each other in this pursuit. He pushed me to run when I didn’t want to. We held each other accountable to eat healthier. We did more races together, including a Tough Mudder. And his idea of what was beautiful didn’t make me feel inferior like so many other guys before had made me feel.
The feeling of competing was super addicting. I just wanted to get stronger and do it again.
It was that summer that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in personal training. It made me frustrated to look back and see that it took me four years to get to the point where I felt like I had true discipline. Other frustration was because of conflicting information about exercise and nutrition that often made me feel as if I was walking in circles and not seeing any progress. So in the future, I wanted to be able to help other people sort through all the baloney and get to the true facts about how to change their bodies. I also wanted to be the one to motivate them when they felt like giving up.
After the summer was over, and I moved back home and got a job as a copywriter, I studied and got my personal training and nutrition certifications online. I continued to push myself in my workouts. I began lifting heavier. I made it a goal of mine to run five races a year. My nutrition was cleaner than ever, although living with my family who kept unhealthy snacks in the house 24/7 challenged my willpower in a way I hadn’t dealt with before, and I failed from time to time. That year, hitting 135 for squat, 95 for bench, and a 8:00 min/mile 5k were my successes, and I reveled in them.
The Zombie Run was cold and wet, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time.
But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t just want to take two online courses and be done with it. I wanted to go back to school and learn what I could about the human body to become a better trainer in the future. So I re-applied to Michigan State for my second bachelors in Kinesiology and was accepted.
I moved back to East Lansing with Eric and while I went to school, I also got a job at Fitness Together in Okemos as a trainer. It was the hands-on experience I was looking for, and I did my best to absorb as much as I could. I worked with clients of all ages, from 11-85, and of all abilities. I did an internship with Spartan Performance, where I worked with youth athletics and school gym classes. And I graduated two and a half years later with a 3.85.
Finally getting better at pull ups!
In that time, my own progression moved along, slowly but steadily. By 2017, I was at 185 for squat, 135 for bench, and a 7:30 min/mile 5k. I had also decided to go mostly plant-based. The more I learned about how animal proteins affected the body, about factory farming, and about the environmental effects of eating meat on a daily basis, the more I couldn’t rationalize sticking with it. So the girl who loved cheese and charcuterie decided that going mostly vegan (I still ate eggs, honey, and sometimes fish) was the best choice, and I haven’t regretted that choice since. (Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean I don’t ever indulge in those things. It just means that other than the one cheat meal I do once a week, I try to stay away from them.)
Finally completely comfortable in a bathing suit.
And so this brings us to this studio. Since I started training four years ago, I’ve wanted to open my own studio where I can train my clients the way I want, where I can make sure sound nutritional advice reaches their ears, and where they don’t have to pay ridiculous prices to get a good workout in. And so my husband and I worked tirelessly to open a studio on our own property that I could call mine.
Second Tough Mudder Down!
What I want my friends and clients to take away from this is:
- Leading a healthy lifestyle is a progression. It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time and small steps to develop healthy habits. It’s taken me eight years of developing habits to get to where I am now.
- We all are our own biggest critics. But health is what is beautiful, not being skinny, having curves, or conforming to society’s beauty standards. Exercise can help you embrace yourself for who you are and what you can do.
- Find someone who inspires you to be healthier, who pushes you to challenge yourself. Avoid those people who don’t try to understand your goals or don’t want you to succeed.
- Anyone can start exercising and see major progression. I wasn’t the athletic type when I started, but I became an athlete when I started working out and thinking of myself as one.
- You will fail. You will slide backwards. Something will happen and you’ll take a few weeks off from the gym or stop paying attention to what you eat. Just get back on the horse as soon as you can and pick up the reins. I still fail from time to time. It’s human.
- Motivation is fleeting, so don’t depend on it. You may want to go to the gym for the first month of a new routine. Other times it’s going to seem like a chore. Discipline is more important. Establish your healthy habits and then hold yourself accountable, or get a trainer to hold you accountable.
Flexing the Spartan Pride!
What you need to know is that I am human, that I understand your frustrations when it comes to exercise and nutrition. I understand failure. I understand disappointment. I’ve also started at the bottom and worked my way up. I won’t sugar coat it. There’s no magic pill. There’s no quick fix. It’s solid, nose-to-the-grindstone, hard work. But I will be there to support you when you fall short and to push you when you need it. And together we will work to meet all the goals you have and to help you fall back in love with taking care of yourself.
Team Fitness Together running a 5k with one of our clients!