Stony Brook’s First Personal Training Program, With a Unique Instructor

After three long hours in a waiting room, at the age of 15, Dean Bowen found out that he would not be attending summer camp with all of his friends. His blood sugar levels were off the charts and he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Growing up Bowen was always a very physically active person. He was a multi-sport athlete, and enjoyed working out regularly. As the years went on his condition started to bare a burden on him. 

It wasn’t necessarily the toll that being a diabetic took on him physically, but more of a mental struggle that he needed to battle and persevere through. Having to wear the insulin pump every minute of everyday in his life, constantly checking his blood sugar levels, which interrupted his work became a hindrance to Bowen.

At least every other day, Bowen dwells on what life would be like if he weren’t a diabetic, but knows that it is here to stay and he can’t do anything about it. Although he struggles day in and day out, Bowen considers himself a fighter and wouldn’t let this adversity slow him down.

“Dean has a tremendous work ethic and it shows in everything he does,” said Amanda Turnbull, Manager of Fitness and Wellness Programs in The Department of Campus Recreation at Stony Brook University. Turnbull has been a colleague of Bowen for two years and adds,  “He (Bowen) is driven, goal-oriented and focuses on the bigger picture.”

Being diagnosed with diabetes inspired Bowen, and led him to a career that would change his life.

“It really just provided me with some extra motivation to do what I loved doing and pursue physical education with the hopes of helping people,” said Bowen.

Bowen thought that one way he could accomplish all of his dreams would be to become a personal trainer, and he soon realized that it was his calling.

“As soon as you graduate high school there are no college requirements for physical activity or physical education, so I took that role seriously while I was at the college of Brockport and began my journey to become a personal trainer,” said Bowen.

Bowen attended The College at Brockport: State University of New York, where he received his Bachelors degree in physical education and Masters degree in adaptive physical education. This was just the beginning of the many credentials Bowen started to accumulate in order to become a certified personal trainer.

“It all started with that initial certification with NETA the National Exercise Trainers Association and their personal training program,” said Bowen.

Since that certification, Dean has built what he calls his “toolbox” and gathered almost every certification that he can. He now has two personal training certifications, two specialty cycling certifications, and a number of other fitness accessory certifications.

“It really is everything that you can gather in to your toolbox, as trainers we don’t do one thing, we have to do many things very well,” said Bowen.

With the additions of these certifications Bowen’s clientele started to rise, and with that so did the hindrance of his diabetes. The struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle for Bowen with his busy schedule of clients started to wear on him.

“It definitely started to get in the way, I would be in the middle of training someone and have to stop the workout, check my blood sugar and sometimes act accordingly,” said Bowen.

It is the inconvenience that Bowen struggles with the most, yet that inconvenience pushes him to keep going. Bowen kept plugging away at what he loved and now finds himself at Stony Brook University as the Assistant Director of Fitness and Wellness Programs in The Department of Campus Recreation.

In September 2013, Bowen and Turnbull created the very first Personal Training Certification Prep Course. The premise of the course is to educate students who want to pursue a career in personal training, and provide them with the proper knowledge to pass a national exam, certifying them as personal trainers.

“Our main goal of starting the program was to start the development process of having a student run program, where students would train and instruct other students,” said Turnbull.

“We have a need for student-based programming, students usually relate better to other students,” said Bowen.

Bowen believes that the reason students this semester are learning so much and are so involved is because Turnbull and himself can relate to them more so than most of the other professors at the university.

“Dean is very straight forward with what he says and what he teaches. This is the only class I have taken where I haven’t been looking at the clock begging it to go faster,” said Andrew Quinlisk, a student in the personal training course.

“He learned this stuff when he was our age. He knows what it’s like to be someone who’s new to it all, which is why he emphasizes certain things like technique and proper assessments, things that are often overlooked by someone trying to jump into fitness for the first time,” said Alex Neufeld, who is also enrolled in the personal training course.

The Personal Training Certification Prep Course is coming to a close within the next few weeks. Students will be taking their final exam, which if they pass will allow them to continue to the practical part of the course this spring and lead them another step closer to the national exam.

“If I do pass the exam, I intend on working as a personal trainer here at the Rec[reaction] Center and learning everything I can before I do ultimately take the national exam,” said Quinlisk. “I would very much love to be a personal trainer on the national level and pursue it outside the Campus Recreation facility.”

Bowen hopes for the course to gain some attention across the campus and become a credit-bearing course. He has all the confidence that the program will grow, but knows that one this will always remain the same—the burden of type one diabetes.

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One thought on “Stony Brook’s First Personal Training Program, With a Unique Instructor

  1. I replied to your comment, but I figured I would comment on the video page as well. I really loved all the sequence shots — It really adds to the storytelling element. Also you did a really nice job condensing what I’m sure is a really long story into a clean-cut, concise piece.

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