By Clayton Goodwin
It is good to see that a film is being made of the life of Ian Dowe, former world amateur bodybuilding champion, doyen of the sport, and renowned fitness instructor, and that it has given me an opportunity to meet Ian again at his prestigious premises, Dowe Dynamics, in Archway, North London. Naturally much of conversation roamed back over the years since our first meeting in the mid1970s and throughout the time that he was a household name. For some three decades Mr Dowe bestrode the world of body-building competition from his earliest days in local amateur competition to his mastery of international tournaments, where I was privileged to witness and report many of his triumphs. By then Ian had switched the focus of his activity to instruction in fitness.
Alas, just when everything was going well Covid came along and cut business by 70%. That was a blow which other enterprises have also suffered and from which many have gone under. Ian admits that the effects of the pandemic have caused him to re-set his own compass. We both agreed that since Covid nothing can ever be the same as it was. The world may be different, and more challenging, but that does not mean that there are not still opportunities. Mr Dowe has readily picked up on where progress can be made – both in the United Kingdom and beyond. Although he has had to withdraw from his former outlets in Africa – principally Ghana and The Gambia – he has high hopes of progress in Asia, and, at the time of our conversation, was expecting news of a projected initiative in Taiwan.
The market here, too, has changed. The public have become more health-conscious – but for some that recognition may have come too late. Without expert fitness guidance, there has been a tendency for people to lose weight through methods which involve reducing muscle as well as a fat. Yet it is that muscle which is essential for maintaining a fit and healthy body. Ian’s subscribers now comprise more applicants and clients of older and more middle-age than hitherto, including an increasing number of who may be described as “professional people”. Among these are a significant number of women – I think Ian said that ladies outnumber gentlemen by a ratio of 7-1 – who are now in positions of greater commercial and administrative responsibility and have a more acute awareness of the importance of fitness.
It would be foolish to deny the adverse effect that Covid has had on momentum (though the extensive equipment and lay-out of the Dowe Dynamics premises would argue otherwise), and, also, the decline in printed magazines and newspapers in which Ian Dowe’s name featured so prominently. Although he admits that much of social media and new forms of communication are beyond his comprehension, Ian is confident that new openings, such as the current film, will tap into an audience to which his name and exploits are already well-known.
“It’s good to catch up again” Ian said as he bid me good-bye.
Quite so, and it seemed as if we had never been away.
The world may not be the same, but fitness is still a very important factor in contemporary life and one of the biggest names in that enterprise is still that of Ian Dowe.