A man inspired to become a personal trainer after shedding six stone is hosting the first-ever North Wales CrossFit contest.
The inaugural Celtic Showdown is being organised by exercise expert and gym owner Jamie Bowen, who is working with Colwyn BID, the not-for-profit social enterprise run by the local business communities.
More than 90 competitors from around the UK are expected to take part in the event, on Saturday, August 25 at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay.
Based around popular fitness regimen CrossFit, the male and female athletes will be battling it out for major cash prizes by completing a series of workouts that are not for the faint-hearted.
The challenges, which will only be revealed on the day, are likely to include a range from Olympic standard weightlifting to weight-vest trail runs and handstand walks.
It will be the first such contest in North Wales – CrossFit has sponsored an annual summer competition in the United States since 2007 and in recent years, as the sport has increased in popularity, events have been held across England.
Colwyn BID is underpinning the contest, which it hopes will become an annual event. It has also attracted sponsorship from Wolverson, the UK’s leading importer and distributor of functional fitness equipment.
The Games will also provide a welcome boost for the local economy, with athletes, their families and Crossfit fans all expected to stay locally over the Bank Holiday weekend, said Jamie, who runs Synergy Gym in Rhos-on-Sea.
The former Ysgol Aberconwy student, who hopes the event will inspire people to have a go at CrossFit or take up exercise, became a personal trainer after turning his life around by shedding six stone.
As an 18-year-old suffering regular epileptic seizures he weighed 17 stone and wasn’t eating well, until he started going the gym.
Jamie, who is now 28, said: “I remember seeing a photograph taken in Rome of myself with my girlfriend at the time and thinking something had to change.
“That was the turning point. I started using the local leisure centre gym although I didn’t really know what I was doing.
“Having been in that position I can understand how people feel when they come to use the gym for the first time to lose weight.
“I thought it was all about cardio and eating less. If I knew then what I know now I’d have advanced far quicker.
“I got to a point where I wasn’t losing any more weight and I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t happy again so I started reading up and researching more.
“It led me to doing my personal trainer qualifications and I started my own fitness classes, which came about when a couple of my mum’s friends wanted to lose weight and they said how well I’d done.
“So I bought some kettle bells and dumbbells and organised my first class five years ago at Llandudno Junction Memorial Hall.
“Six or seven people turned up and it went OK. I did one class a week for about three months and then left my bar job so ended up doing it full time. It was hard. Sometimes you’d have just two people turn up and you worried whether you’d have enough money to put petrol in the car.
“But It grew and went from strength to strength. I saved enough to set up my own gym which is what I was always aiming for.”
He was inspired to organise the Celtic Showdown after seeing the CrossFit Games on TV.
He explained: “I thought I really wanted to have a go of this. I like trying new fitness challenges, whether it be MMA or kickboxing, but this really stuck with me and I’ve been CrossFit training outside the gym since.
“It’s become more and more popular and there are events held in the UK in places like Leeds, Sheffield, London and Liverpool.
“I did a couple myself last year – I did the scaled, or beginner, events and really enjoyed it. But I thought to myself, why am I travelling so far? We should have something in North Wales. There is the demand for it. We’re a little bit behind the times here, fitness wise.
“I pitched the idea to Colwyn BID and they were really keen to help. We knew what we were talking about and having the event details in place was important.
“It’s something new for the area and will bring income to the region. We’re holding it over the Bank Holiday Weekend so people travelling from all over the UK will be staying over.
“A lot will bring family and supporters with them. The team at Eirias Park was keen to get involved too as they like having new events and there will be room for up to 1,000 spectators.
“I’ve got a five year plan with the games. Hopefully we can break even this year and then hold two events in 2019. From then hopefully it will be able to fund itself.”
Anna Openshaw, project manager at Colwyn BID, said: “This will be the first ever event of its type in North Wales so we’re absolutely delighted to support the competition and have Colwyn Bay as the host.
“With the event set to attract people from across the UK, it provides us with yet another opportunity to highlight what the area has to offer, and with people staying over it will provide a boost to the local economy.”
Jamie has also found that regular exercise and healthy eating, along with the support of his partner Hayley Myatt, has helped him tackle his epilepsy and stress in his life.
He explained: “Generally my seizures haven’t been too bad, I’d generally have one or two a year. However, a couple of years ago I was having them more frequently and then one day I suffered eight in the space of 12 hours.
“It took a lot out of me and it took months for me to recover. They’ve calmed down now with medication.
“With the gym, it’s going really well. It took time but I’m really proud of it. We’ve hit all the targets I wanted to and we have space to expand in the future.
“There is quite an industrial look to the place but we have a really good community going at the gym. Everyone is warm and easy to get on with.”
Colwyn BID, a not-for-profit social enterprise, is run by the business communities in Colwyn Bay, Rhos-on-Sea, Old Colwyn and Mochdre. Firms pay a levy and the cash raised is used for projects that will make the region more attractive, bring in extra shoppers and visitors, or enable companies to work more effectively.