Trainer a strength at fitness lab

James Bowman could likely lift a 40-pound kettlebell in his sleep. - Dennis Anstine
James Bowman could likely lift a 40-pound kettlebell in his sleep.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine

If you ever meet James Bowman you won’t forget it. His enthusiastic presence immediately consumes a room, jumping from one passionate topic to another.

It is easy to see how a celebrity personal trainer from Manhattan was able to move to Bainbridge Island and within two years have a growing fitness gym attracting people from all over the country.

Bowman’s Strength Lab is not your average gym, and Bowman isn’t just a personal trainer. Through Bowman alone, clients have access to a trainer skilled in cardio, massage, nutrition, neurosomatic therapy, even applied combat systems (mixed martial arts with a fitness angle) and more.

“It takes more than just one level,” Bowman said. “You have to look at all of it.”

Strength Lab has weights, machines and other exercise equipment, and classes just like any other gym. The difference is Bowman and his approach to fitness. For him the emphasis is treating the body. He does this by looking at training from multiple angles and with an arsenal of knowledge gained on how to treat the human body.

“Strengthlab is a melting pot of all these different strength and conditioning methods, manual methods, therapy methods, analysis methods,” Bowman said. “Right now you may go to a chiropractor, a massage therapists and a personal trainer, but they don’t have time to coordinate your treatment.”

Ten years ago, Bowman was living a personal trainer’s dream. He was working in New York City training movie stars and athletes, and was featured in magazines such as Shape and Vogue.

“When I left Manhattan I was training eight (people) a day, including Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo and Troy Murphy,” he said. “If the career was the only motivating factor, I would have stayed there, but that’s not what I wanted. I wanted a family. I wanted to live in a place where I could mountain climb and hike and ski.”

Bowman experienced first hand the events in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. After living through the experience and the following terrorist scares, he began to plan for a future somewhere other than New York. It eventually led to Bainbridge Island, where his wife grew up, to start a new business.

In 2009, supplied only with a set of kettlebells and his car, Bowman started with one client. It wasn’t long before he was driving all over the island to work with others.

Then he moved the business into his barn, but that couldn’t handle the increasing volume of work. Finally, Bowman’s Strength Lab landed in the Sportsman Club Business Complex.

While the economy suffered, Strength Lab kept growing. Now Bowman not only attracts islanders but also people from elsewhere.

“I have people from Florida and New York coming here,” Bowman said. “Probably every month we have someone coming from off the island.”

In one corner of Bowman’s gym is a simple, unassuming room. While some gyms throw clients right into a workout, Bowman will initially analyze the person’s body.

When someone first comes to Strength Lab, they will spend over an hour with Bowman in this room analyzing and examining how their personal body works.

“What we are trying to do is affect postural and movement based on changes in the body for the better,” Bowman said. “So we start by analyzing someone’s structure, the way they are built, then we look at the way they move, then we look at where points of pain are. Then we ask, ‘What is this coming from?’”

In keeping with his vibrant character, Bowman doesn’t plan on slowing down. For him, there is always more to learn and more people to train.

“For example, for my massage license I have to complete 20 hours of education every two years,” Bowman said.  “I’m over 200 for this year and I’m hungry for more.”


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