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Sprinting towards wellness

The habit of running provides physical and spiritual benefits for BYUH Religion Professor Bowen

On a Saturday seven years ago, Matthew Bowen said he was watching football all day when he received an impression to start exercising consistently. He said he felt if he wanted to be around for important events in his children’s lives, he had to start getting active. So he put on his running shoes and clothes and ran for the first time in seven years, he said.

Bowen, an associate professor in the Faculty of Religious Education, said he stopped at half a mile, weighed himself and noticed he had been several pounds overweight. He made it a goal to run farther every time he ran and began losing weight from running consistently.

Commitment and progression

In May 2017, he said he stepped on a scale and saw he had been under 200 pounds for the first time in a decade. From then, he said, he maintained this routine of running and has increased his distance to 6.2 miles, five times a week.

Bowen said he runs from his home on Palekana Street and circles through Naniloa Loop, into campus, Kulanui Street, Iosepa Street and throughout the neighborhood.

As a result of his running habits, Bowen said he began noticing physical changes in himself and his eating routine. He said he went from being a 41-year-old man not in great shape to feeling better at 48 years than he did during his 20s. For two and a half years, he said he stopped drinking whole milk and avoided eating baked goods and desserts as part of his diet modifications.

Pua’ena Kapu, a senior from the Big Island majoring in Hawaiian Studies, said during a conversation with Bowen, he compared running to living gospel principles. She said he told her how people have to train their lungs to adapt themselves to running. Similarly, people must do and practice spiritual habits consistently before coming to the truthfulness of the Gospel, she added.

Bowen said a friend once told him that there are times when one must subject their body to their spirit. He said running has allowed him to subject his body to his spirit. He said it has helped him become more receptive to spiritual promptings and disciplined himself to stay healthier.

While working as a Teaching Assistant, Vaea Enos said Bowen would share his running habits with him. Bowen told him, he shared, it requires hard work and commitment, but that he will feel the difference in himself once he does it.

Bowen said he wished he ran more when he was younger, and it would’ve helped him to manage stress as an undergraduate. As a teenager, he said he disliked running because physical education teachers would make it something to dread or punish him if he didn’t run a certain distance. Now, he shared, it has become a big part of his life and enabled him to stay centered and balanced.

Kapu said Bowen is a great example of consistency and determination, and treats his students fairly. “He’s always consistent with what he says, what he teaches and with how he treats people.”

Enos, a junior education major from the Big Island, said Bowen’s ability to balance his spiritual knowledge, his teaching and running regime inspired him to start running himself. He said if Bowen, who claims himself as an “old man” can do it, he certainly can too.

Tips for running

Bowen said nobody should feel pressured to run if they don’t like running. However, he shared people can motivate themselves in different ways to start different running regimes. “The more you get moving and the more ... you exercise consistently, the better you’re going to feel.”

For those who want to start running, Bowen shared it is good to have more than one pair of running shoes. He said by alternating between pairs of shoes, one can save wear and tear on their shoes and their knees.

Bowen said his friend, Neil Anderson, a former professor at BYUH and former marathon runner, said running on asphalt is safer for the knee joint than running on concrete because it allows more give for the joint.

Making conscious decisions

Bowen shared running has helped him focus on the important things in life, including his marriage and family. He said their family exercises together and consistently as part of their family routine. “It’s 100 percent helpful to have people who support you.”

Making conscious decisions means committing to do certain things at certain times, Bowen added. “At any given moment, there are 1,000 things we can choose to spend our time on … but you do have to make the choice to do it at certain times, and to keep doing it.”

Overcoming exile

In March, Bowen shared, BYUH Academics Vice President Isaiah Walker asked him if he could give the Convocation speech for the Fall Semester. “I was very honored. I was also surprised. I consider it a great honor.” In preparation for his talk, he said he kept writing and refining his ideas throughout the summer.

Bowen said he had never given a devotional address and the convocation lecture was different from a weekly devotional talk. The title of his talk, he added, was “Wanderers in a Strange Land: Exiles Coming Home to Christ.”

Bowen said he talked about “exile” as a theological concept and how the Book of Mormon helps people access Christ’s atonement to overcome all types of exile and to come unto Him. •