By Perry Lefko
Dreams do come true. Just ask high-performance athlete/firefighter Amber Bowman.
As a young girl, Amber had a dream to perform on a world stage in sports and go on to inspire and motivate others to live a healthy, fit life. She also dreamed of one day being on Oprah Winfrey’s show. Now that is all happening.
Amber grew up in Barrie and currently lives in Caledon. She’s employed as a firefighter for Central York Fire Department of Newmarket and Aurora and has been selected as Dr. Memhet Oz’s Next Great Trainer.
Last August, at Salt Lake City, while at a convention sponsored by USANA, an American company that produces nutritional products and dietary supplements, she heard about the Dr. Oz competition. Amber, who has been sponsored by USANA for 16 months, filled out an online application and submitted a five-minute video with the hopes of being chosen. In early November the show contacted her to say she had made the final four out of the thousands who entered the competition. After appearing on the show with the other finalists, Amber and the others had their fates decided by fans, who were allowed to vote for their favourite trainer. In early January, Amber found out she won the competition.
“It was a whirlwind, I’ll say that,” Amber says. “Overwhelming at times, exciting at times. At the end of the day I just wanted to be as authentic as I could. This is the life I’ve lived since I was a farm kid. My whole journey has been about living a healthy lifestyle and fulfilling my athletic dreams as well as educating and empowering all my friends, family and followers.
“My mom watched Oprah every single day and I used to say ‘I’m going to be on the show.’ So you never know where this is going to go.”
Growing up, Amber played hockey and received a scholarship to play defence for Ohio State. Her Buckeyes’ team roommate was Tessa Bonhomme, who is currently a TSN broadcaster and former member of the Canadian Women’s Olympic team. After graduating from Ohio State with a degree in Exercise Science, Amber worked as a trainer in Florida with Major League Baseball players and the National Football League. She worked for Cris Carter’s FAST Program and among the athletes she trained were Carter’s son, Duron, a high-profile player with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
“I loved my job, but I didn’t love Florida,” she says. “I missed being home in Canada. I came here and was hired by the Canadian military in Base Borden and worked there for more than three years as an elite fitness and sports trainer.”
Some of the people she trained were firefighters, and after being asked by one of the fire chiefs to complete the annual fitness test, she did, passed and fell in love with the job. The 32-year-old has been a firefighter for seven years and is working towards becoming an acting captain.
She retired a few years ago from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She signed up in the league’s inaugural year (2007) and played for the Brampton Thunder. Her defence partner was Cheryl Pounder, who won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada. Amber played from 2007-2013, finishing her career with the Toronto Furies.
In 2011, she started competing in Fire Combat Challenges and became the first rookie to win at the world championships. She started her business, Fit by Fire in 2013, where she offered personal training as a service to help her pay for the cost of competing. She says it has always been a financial struggle to compete because of the costs involved, so her training funded her competing. Among her many accomplishments, Amber is especially proud of becoming the first female to break the two-minute barrier, and achieving a record of 22 World Challenge titles. She has also sponsored nine women in the last five years to compete in their sport, attend a post secondary class or even start a new business.
She also has an interesting story about the time, in 2015, when she made a mistake while training, dropped a 100-pound barbell on her face and suffered a concussion.
“It was a changing moment in my life because I’m so busy and live a very chaotic lifestyle,” she says. “That moment showed me how precious life really is. It reminded me to surround myself with positive vibes and people, continue to dream big, and to be true to who I am. It even showed me that it’s okay to slow down for a minute and breathe.”
“I worked really hard creating Fit by Fire and showing up as the best version of myself in each moment, each and every day. I am so grateful to have an opportunity like this come into my life. I truly believe whatever you put out to the universe you will get back, and dreams can come true.”
She is hoping to motivate and empower others in athletics with her appearances on Dr. Oz.