Run­ning Celebrity

Chef Rod­ney Bow­ers

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 - By Ta­nia Haas Ta­nia Haas is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor. She lives, works and runs in Toronto

As a teenaged Air Force brat, Rod­ney Bow­ers would run cross-coun­try amid the in­land dunes, pine woods and heather marshes of the Teverener Heide near where his fam­ily was based in The Nether­lands. The New­found­lan­der was a highly ranked squash player and run­ning was a ma­jor part of his train­ing. Then came com­pet­i­tive kitchens and run­ning was ex­changed for the chop­ping block.

Now a fa­mil­iar per­son­al­ity on tele­vi­sion and so­cial me­dia, Bow­ers spent years build­ing up his ex­per­tise and cred­i­bil­ity with cel­e­brated restau­rants The Rose­bud, The Ci­ti­zen and Hey Meat­ball. As his food star rose, his phys­i­cal fit­ness took a nose­dive.

“I call those 15 years my ‘Dark Pe­riod.’ I was im­mersed in work, open­ing new lo­ca­tions, there were a lot of late nights, and I was not tak­ing my health se­ri­ously,” re­calls Bow­ers, a fa­ther of two.

In 2015, Bow­ers hit 440 lb. and could no longer deny that his weight was pre­vent­ing him from en­joy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties he used to love. So he re­turned to the gym and started run­ning. These days, he fo­cuses on in­ter­val runs and strength train­ing, though his favourite time is spent out­doors.

“I’m more of a wad­dler or a quick shuff ler,” Bow­ers laughs. “I shuff le through High Park with my dog Lucy and it takes me back to my teenage years when I would lose my­self in the woods and the sounds of the for­est.”

Bow­ers says he had to ad­dress an ad­dic­tion to sugar and be­ing a food and work ad­dict. These habits were ways to cope with the pres­sure of en­trepreneur­ship i n the cut­throat food and restau­rant in­dus­try. At mo­ments of stress or duress, Bow­ers would eat with­out even en­joy­ing it.

He still has those urges, but a re­newed re­silience – sup­ported by a mind­ful­ness course and a reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion prac­tice at a lo­cal Bud­dhism cen­tre – helps him stay on track ( and re­main kind­hearted and en­cour­ag­ing if he back­slides). To­day he is 370 lb. and in­spir­ing oth­ers with his weight man­age­ment jour­ney on In­sta­gram and The Mar­i­lyn De­nis Show.

“We have so many es­capes and mine was eat­ing. I would wait for Dairy Queen to open so I could get a peanut but­ter cup Oreo Bl­iz­zard. Now I can talk about this and throw lov­ing kind­ness at it. I have com­pas­sion for my­self, and, sub­se­quently, a new power and strength over those urges.”

Run­ning is an­other part of Bow­ers’ trans­for­ma­tion to bal­ance neg­a­tive thoughts and be­hav­iours with pos­i­tive ones.

"IN 2015, BOW­ERS HIT 440 LB. AND COULD NO LONGER DENY THAT HIS WEIGHT WAS PRE­VENT­ING HIM FROM EN­JOY­ING AC­TIV­I­TIES HE USED TO LOVE."

“Med­i­ta­tion keeps me grounded, bal­anced and al­lows me to be to­tally im­mersed in the mo­ment. Run­ning is a dif­fer­ent type of med­i­ta­tion for me. You don’t have to talk to any­one and I’m 100 per cent aware of what I’m do­ing, and it takes me back to my ath­lete years. I’m in a good place when I’m run­ning.”

In ad­di­tion to High Park ’s hills and val­leys, Bow­ers runs around 8k in Toronto’s west end on Thurs­day or Fri­day nights to wit­ness the club go­ers and late night trou­ble­mak­ers. He prefers run­ning by him­self but says he will con­sider run­ning with a crew when he’s more con­fi­dent with his ca­dence.

“I’m still find­ing my way in terms of tempo and pace. It’s some­times a walk and jog, other times a shuff le. But it’s al­ways mov­ing for­ward and I’m get­ting out there. That’s what mat­ters.”

Bow­ers fin­ished his first 5k in 2016 and then re­turned again this spring for an­other 5k.

“I didn’t re­al­ize how much great en­ergy is at an event like that. Run­ning can be such a solo sport, with an in­tense and very hard­core com­mu­nity. But on race days ev­ery­one is there for their own rea­sons and the love of the sport. It’s in­spir­ing.”

Bunny’s, Bower’s lat­est bistro, re­cently opened on Queen Street East in Toronto’s Lesleville neigh­bour­hood.

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