Interview with coach and cancer survivor, Caris Bowen


One of the perks of knowing your customers better, is that you get to learn their story, what motivates them, the journey they had to where they are now, and just how amazing people they are. One such amazing person is Caris Bowen. The 26 years old single mother of two handsome young lads, is a Cancer Survivor, Assistant Manager at her Gym, and has experience as a Rugby Coach and Referee.


One thing cancer or any illness will attempt to do is take away who you are as a person. You reach such a low point that it’s easy to forget who you are. But by keeping a positive attitude towards life you’re already on the right road. Set yourself a goal, create an image in your mind of who you are going to be when you’re given the chance to live again. Take every opportunity with both hands, you won’t regret it. 


Her story is very inspiring and emotional. Caris is an independent woman, an embodiment of pure beauty and strength, who dedicates her life to her family and supporting her fitness community to stay motivated and live healthier and longer lives. We are honored to introduce her to you!




Hello, Caris! We are excited to get to know you better. So, in a nutshell, please introduce yourself. How old are you and where do you live?

Hey guys! As you know my name is Caris Bowen, I am 26 years old, and I live in a small town in South Wales with my two sons and our big friendly girl, Nukka (the dog).


When we discovered your Instagram account, we were drawn in by your awesome photos. You have great photos of your meals and of you during your workouts. When did you start eating healthy and strength training?

I started eating healthy and changed my whole lifestyle around four years ago. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma Cancer at the age of 21, and well, you could say I’m living my life to the fullest since being given the all clear.


What inspired you to get into the iron game and start lifting heavy?

Fighting for my life back in 2013 and replacing the fight with lifting some heavy iron. It helps remind me of my strength on a daily basis.


You are definitely a very strong person and you look amazing. Many women shy away from physical strength. How does weightlifting improve your body and overall life?

Since finding a love for weightlifting my goal is to introduce it to other women and men all over the world. It improves confidence and well, personally I think we need more strong and independent women in the world. It changed my life dramatically, not only my body but also my mind.


Speaking of independent women, can you tell us a little bit about your opinion on women's fitness? Why do you think so many women believe the myth of looking 'manly' once they start lifting heavy? What would you like to tell them to convince them otherwise?

This is something I face on a daily basis, especially when women say ‘I don’t want to look bulky or manly’. Firstly, we are women, and if your goal is to ‘tone up’ then it’s the free weights you need consider, not only ‘doing cardio’. I have plenty of femininity along with a toned body that has come as a part of my love for weightlifting.


You are very feminine, beautiful and strong. That alone should be enough to show women that weightlifting is not just for guys. When do you find the time to pamper yourself between your role as a parent and your career? And how important is it to dedicate some 'me-time' to yourself for self-esteem and motivation?

My first priority of every day is to make sure I look good. Look good, feel good as I learned during my time of having chemotherapy. I like to look and feel feminine as well as strong and ‘beasty’ as my friends call me.


Do you have any encouraging words for women who would like to be more independent and strong, both in mind and body?

Where do I start... One good thing about what life has thrown at me to date is that it has made me who I am today, and I am stronger than I could ever have imagined being. Be who you want to be, set goals and when you accomplish them, make new and even bigger goals. Keep your happiness in your hands, be adventurous, see the world, meet new people and always help others. Give good to the world and it will be returned. Be Strong, be beautiful, be happy!


Tell us a little bit about your training. How many times a week do you work out, what does your training involve?

I have recently been promoted to assistant manager at my gym so my time in the weights room has been shortened. But I always make sure I train at least three times a week alone, and then I also instruct fitness classes during the week. Pump (weight based class) being up there as my favorite, of course. ;)



Congratulations on your promotion! That's wonderful news! Tell us a little bit about your new position. What is your favorite part of teaching and guiding fitness enthusiasts?

Thanks, guys! My goal was to help others make fitness a part of their lives long term, my management role here at Snap fitness Llanelli has just made that experience a dream come true. It is now a massive part of my life. I eat, live, and breathe health and fitness.


Is training for you more than just physical activity? Does it mean more than simply getting a lean body and strong muscles?

Training is a necessity for me, like I have said previously it’s a constant reminder of my strength. I would like to think I am Strong in mind and in body. I push myself to the maximum during every session, I love the feeling it gives me and it never gets boring.


We must say, your meal photos look very tempting. Do you prep your meals yourself? Where do you get the time and inspiration for them? And how come they are so great looking?? :)

I LOVE to cook. I used to spend hours cooking with my grandmother as a child and I always looked up to my father for his passion for cooking. I have never actually gone by the book on my diet but have learned what portion size and what’s good to fuel my body during my busy schedule.


Tell us a little bit about your diet. What do you eat, and how do your eating habits benefit you?

I am a big food lover so keeping my meals exciting isn’t difficult. I love all meats and fish and I’m a big greens lover so that also makes it pretty handy to keep in shape. My daily diet suits my lifestyle perfectly as I’m always on the go, by having everything ready and lined up for the day it prevents me having those little cheat meals. It also helps save money by prepping in advance.



We were amazed to read that you are a cancer survivor. You recently celebrated 4 years free of cancer. When were you diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma and what did that mean to you?

I was diagnosed at the age of 21, of course, it was terrifying but the day I was diagnosed I had already beaten it in my mind. I had no other choice than to be here for my sons. Little did I know how much it would change my life for the better.


Certainly, you are a warrioress and you’ve struggled to win this battle. How was your life during the treatment?

Life was difficult, I spent most of my time in bed recovering from chemotherapy, away from my sons as they would spend days on end at my mothers home. It was difficult being away from them, but I didn’t want them to see me suffer.


We noticed you looked great all the way through your treatment. How did you cope with the everyday challenges you had to face?

I would spend hours basically pampering myself. Quite the opposite of my life today. But instead of spending hours picking outfits, head scarfs and wigs, I now lift for the love of strength in a different way. Make-up was my guard, now I have the BARBELLS.


You are still incredibly talented at doing your makeup! Do you have any beauty tips for our female readers who want to look 'on fleek' at the gym?

There are some great make-up brands out there that hold in the ‘on fleek’ and it doesn’t break the bank. Being creative but keeping it natural for an everyday look and then standing out that much more in your free ‘rest day’ days is always a must. 😉


We saw you wrote for your local paper. Was that a way for you to cope with what was going on at that time?

That was a very helpful and therapeutic thing to do during treatment. It began by basically writing a daily blog on social media. I had incredible support from people all over the world. I was contacted by the local paper and agreed to my own weekly column, it was called “Kicking Cancer’s Butt”. People would thank me on a daily basis for basically being myself. I believe the column helped a lot of people during their treatment, it also was a form of support for families of people suffering from cancer.


You have 2 handsome boys! How do you manage to be so great at being a mother, an inspiration for health, staying fit and looking so good? What is the secret?

My sons are my biggest fans. I do it to make them proud of me. They often mention my muscles to their friends in school and that makes me laugh. Personally, I think sports can only bring positive experiences in life. Everything has its dangers, but to teach them to have a goal and to focus on something is very important. I spent my remission wisely, I coached rugby and qualified in refereeing. I spent a lot of time on myself and healing my mind of what it had been through. Thanks to Cancer I am at the position I am today.



How did you become your son's rugby coach? How was that experience for you? And how did you become acquainted with this sport?

It all began whilst my eldest son joined a rugby team and I found myself amusing their younger siblings at the side of the pitch. I thought one day, why don’t I just become a coach? And that’s what I did. It is by far the most rewarding role I have ever been a part of.


How did cancer affect your role as a parent?

During treatment it was very difficult to have quality time with them, I didn’t want them to see me ill after chemotherapy and I was very fortunate to have such good support from my family whilst I was going through the toughest days after a round of chemo.


Four years ago you found out you are cancer free. How did it feel to know you are truly free?

Being told it was gone and I no longer had to visit the hospital was difficult. I didn’t think it was fair that I was free to leave and other patients weren’t given the same news. The doctors, nurses, and patients were amazing people. Very rarely you would hear anybody complain about life. This is why I love weightlifting, it’s a positive thing that reminds me of my strength…


After such a challenge, how did you improve your lifestyle?

I remember that I first joined a local gym, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I had an image in my mind of how I wanted to look and I loved the sore feeling, and the satisfaction it gave me after a heavy session.


Your story is inspiring! You are clearly a very strong and ambitious woman. How did you attain and maintain your willpower?

Being a single mother and the boys relying on me for stability is my biggest achievement in life. I work hard teaching them right from wrong. Morals and manners are extremely important. I believe that everything that has happened in my life has happened for a reason, good or bad, happy or sad. And I wouldn’t change one thing.


How was your life before the diagnosis, and how do you look at life now?

I took life for granted before being diagnosed. Of course, I appreciated my children and my family, but it instantly put everything into perspective for me. Life is so precious and short, you have to take every opportunity with both hands. And I think it’s taught me more than anything to always be kind, people go through such difficult times in life. Always share a smile, a hello, and of course introduce sports as a happy and positive experience!



Many cancer survivors fear recurrence. Do you think about this sometimes?

The thought of cancer returning is always in my mind, what would happen if it did? Could I fight it and win again? Will I be here to see my sons grow into men? But I am four years into my remission now, I am doing everything in my power to be fit, live a healthy lifestyle, and having a positive mental attitude is everything! I am strong, I can do this!


As a parent, how do you educate your boys about diet and physical activity? Are they inspired by your lifestyle?

Like I have said in a previous answer, they are my biggest fans. Like all siblings, they are nothing alike. My youngest loves the food I eat and prefers my healthy lifestyle to any junk food, while my eldest is quite the opposite, but is extremely sporty and will always get involved in any sports in and out of school. I was my son’s rugby coach and referee for three years. Maybe when they are older I will have the opportunity to stand alongside them on a professional level.


Your posts on Instagram are very motivational and empowering. How does it feel to know you help the people around you through your amazing story?

This is extremely rewarding for me as it reminds me of my “Kicking Cancer's Butt” weekly column. Having my new role in work as assistant manager has made a lot of people feel comfortable enough to enter the gym and start a new, fun, and positive journey in their lives. It’s those people who inspire me and remind me of my early days of training. A friendly understanding strong woman to welcome them on that journey, that makes me very proud.


What are your personal ambitions and goals for the future?

I have a long list of things I want to achieve in the next five years. I have already ticked a few boxes, a couple of them being given a bravery award for my courage during treatment, another is cycling 400 miles in four days for a local charity. Next on the list is to compete in a physique and powerlifting competition, and hopefully own my own gym. My sons are my world and to have a secure future for them is everything. I am extremely excited for the future as these four years of remission have been so happy healthy and strong!


Congratulations on all of your achievements and good luck with your future goals! We are sure you are going to succeed with power and grace. Given your experience as an instructor and coach, is this something you will continue to pursue as a career in the long run?

Health and fitness along with being a mother is everything to me, without my sons and my passion for my job I wouldn’t be living. I love the energy and positivity at my workplace and I could never imagine myself being away from the industry or this way of living.


What empowering words would you like to say to those who struggle with cancer or other such diseases?

One thing cancer or any illness will attempt to do is take away who you are as a person. You reach such a low point that it’s easy to forget who you are. But by keeping a positive attitude towards life you’re already on the right road. Set yourself a goal, create an image in your mind of who you are going to be when you’re given the chance to live again. Take every opportunity with both hands, you won’t regret it.


Would you recommend strength training to everyone? Why?

To have a strong body is great, but to have a strong mind along with it makes it that much better. I suffered from anxiety and PTSD after cancer, and weight lifting replaced those negative thoughts with something positive. Setting new goals, new personal bests to work for, it was exciting and I took to it like a duck to water! Look good, feel good, and think even better!


You recently gave us a shout-out! You enjoyed wearing your Mava Elbow Sleeves during your training session. What do you love about them? And how do they help you during your workout?

I use my Mava gear almost every day, being a physical instructor and lifting heavy in my own sessions, it’s always important to look after yourself and feel that extra bit of support. Out of all of the sleeves I’ve used during my fitness career, you guys definitely take the trophy!


Do you own any other Mava Gear that helps boost your sessions?

I am also the proud owner of the orange and black knee sleeves! They not only look incredible but with the right size they fit and feel fantastic, they keep me safe during my workout and with my role here at Snap Fitness I am always on the go and they stay comfortable during my busy day!


What is your favorite Mava item and why? Would you recommend it to our readers?

Both elbow and knee sleeves are up there on my favorite gym equipment to date! Unfortunately, funds are low to purchase any more of your Mava gear but I would love to be able to leave a positive review on more items in the future.



Finally, what motivating words would you like to share with those who want to follow in your footsteps?

Mindset is EVERYTHING. If you think you can, then you’re already halfway there. Start every day with a positive outlook and make the most out of your health. Weightlifting has changed my life dramatically. I thank the sport for existing because along with being a mother, it gave me a reason to keep fighting. As I say on a daily basis, it takes 20 seconds of pure bravery to possibly change your whole life. It gave me routine, I made lifelong friends, I feel great about my body, and my physical strength is a reflection of my mindset. I am proud to be the woman, mother, and person that I am today. And that speaks volumes just by itself.


I would like to thank you for the time it has taken to write these questions and for all of your kind words. It’s been emotional answering them, but so incredibly rewarding at the same time. 


Caris teaches everyone that no matter what life throws at you if you want something bad enough, you can activate your powers to fight and come out victorious from your battles. Always find time to pamper yourself, to use your full potential, and to make the lives of those around you better, by inspiring them, motivating them, and giving them a daily dose of kindness!


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