NICHOLASVILLE — After 10 years in the business, personal trainer Josh Bowen is accustomed to meeting strangers and tailoring a fitness program to their goals.
But his comfort zone will be challenged this week in England, where he'll be competing in a contest that will judge his abilities.
Bowen is a finalist in the Life Fitness Personal Trainers to Watch competition, which will be Friday in London. Ten personal trainers will be judged on their abilities to motivate, praise and collaborate with a client. The winner receives $5,000 and bragging rights.
Some 1,500 applicants from 43 countries applied to take part in the competition.
Bowen, 31, said that when potential customers approach him, "I have to quickly try to make a relationship with them, draw out their goals and nutrition, and then I show them what I do. I'm used to doing that on the fly — that doesn't intimidate me at all — but I really don't know what to expect (in London). I don't know who I'm going to be training."
Nevertheless, Bowen said, he is confident and ready.
"If there's anything I'm going to compete in, this would be it. That's not to say I'm going in cocky, but I have a confidence about myself," he said.
Client Kristy Marshall, 36, of Lexington is cheering for Bowen. She started training with him about eight weeks ago at Fitness Plus II, a gym in the Bellerive Center and Office Park on U.S. 68 in northern Jessamine County.
"He motivates me to do my best," Marshall said after a session with Bowen. "Even today, there was one particular exercise I really didn't think I could do. But he just gets into my brain and he tells me I can do it."
Marshall said Bowen also holds her accountable.
"I keep a food diary every single day," she said. "It's really nice that I can send him an email every day and say 'This is what I ate today,' and he says, 'Great job.'"
But her biggest motivation is her wedding in February.
"I really want to wear a bikini on my honeymoon. I've never worn a bikini in my life, ever," Marshall said. Bowen "reminds me about that at every single workout. He just pushes me to do my best and helps me to keep my mind on my motivation."
Another fan of Bowen is former state treasurer Jonathan Miller, whose Recovering Politician publishing company will print Bowen's book, The 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom, in January.
"There are 12 steps every body needs to get results from fitness," Bowen said. "It goes through all the things I would go through with a client. I can touch more people that way."
Bowen has been Miller's personal trainer for years and has helped Miller with "middle-age maladies" like lower back pain.
"He really has a holistic approach to personal training," Miller said. "It's not just going to the gym to lift weights. (In the book) he's able to combine all those things into something the average reader can grasp."
Bowen, who trained personal trainers for Urban Active before it became LA Fitness, said he bases an exercise regimen on each person's goals, personality, likes and dislikes.
"There may be some exercises that people just detest, so there's no real reason for me to go and do that exercise when there are so many other things I could do with them that would be just as effective," he said.
"It's trial and error. You never really know how people are going to respond to exercise until you get them out there on the floor and are working with them."
Bowen said that "nine times out of 10" there is an emotional reason that prompts people to walk in the door and seek his help.
"It may be because they need self-esteem, they need confidence, someone told them that they were fat," he said. "Most people tell me, 'I need more confidence and more self-esteem.' They may say at first, 'I need to lose 20 pounds and I want to tone up.'
"But I have to get deep in, because I have to figure out what is the reason they are sitting in front of me? What is it for you? What are the consequences if you don't get to these goals you're trying to get to? Everything runs on emotion. ... It's really about how they perceive themselves in the mirror."
In his own workout regimen, Bowen usually lifts weights five or six days a week.
"Right now, I've been dieting just to get in the best shape I've ever been in, so that I feel confident when I go" to Europe, he said. "You don't have to look like Arnold (Schwarzenegger), but it is a presentation. You have to at least look the part."
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.