Canoe Polo athlete Caleb Bowden: I want to win a gold medal at this summer's world championships in France

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast Kayak Academy watersports athlete and U21 captain of the GB Canoe Polo team, Caleb Bowden

Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I get up and take my vitamins which include zinc, Omega 3, vitamin C and D and recently, creatine. These keep my immune system strong as I cannot afford to get sick with training and travelling every weekend. I work from home, so I then set up my laptop ready for a day of work.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I eat five Weetabix with semi-skimmed milk and honey to sweeten it.


Five eggs on toast and two bananas, followed by yoghurt and granola. I'll have breadsticks and hummus as snacks. I'm a big eater.

Evening meal?

I normally have two dinners - one before and after training - all high-carb and high-protein, such as spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry or fajitas. I drink as much water as possible and I have isotonic drinks during training and a protein shake after.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Nutrition is key when training so much. I try to supplement foods that aren't in my diet such as fish, which is why I take Omega 3.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I have never had the need to be on a diet and don't think I could ever restrict myself. I need as much fuel as possible, so I eat a lot - but have high metabolism and am always on the 'go'. I eat healthy foods with a lot of fruit and the odd vegetable and I avoid processed or takeaway foods - mostly.


Weekend treat?

If I'm not travelling, I could never turn down a pizza, Indian or a Chinese takeaway...


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

Training is extremely beneficial for both my mental and physical health. If I'm feeling low or tired - or even hungover - I always choose to train as a distraction. Being on a team means I not only play the sport I love, but I see my friends every day.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Staying hydrated - it prevents fatigue, weakness and cramps and optimises your training session. Another good tip is making sure you do a 'cool down' after training sessions.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I definitely looked forward to sports and PE the most. At school I played rugby and water polo and received a sports ambassador award for my contribution in water polo.


Teetotal or tipple?

I am not teetotal, but enjoy the odd drink with friends when I have time off. Our team understands that alcohol impacts our performance.


Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

I have always trained and loved doing so. I come from a very active family who encouraged me to play a lot of different sports.


What book are you currently reading?

Reading isn't really my thing, but I do it for my university course in Product Design Engineering. Instead, I would review past matches to pick up on areas for improvement, which is my role as captain of our team.


Best Netflix?

The (US) Office, but I love sports movies like The Longest Yard.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

I focused on improving my knowledge of weight training and my physical strength. I got addicted on seeing progression and physical results so have kept that up.


Any new skills or hobbies?

Regular weight training.


How do you relax?

I'm most relaxed when I have a tidy room and enjoy watching a good movie or TV in my own bed. I also like a hot bath with Epsom salts to relax tired muscles.


What are your goals for 2022?

To get a gold medal in the 2022 ICF Canoe Polo World Championships in France and progress onto the senior GB men's team. I also hope to place well in the European club championship in Let's Go Hydro, Belfast, in September.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

Sleep is my main downfall and something I wish to improve upon. I often get around seven hours and sometimes have to travel throughout the night.


Biggest gripe?

That canoe polo is not recognised as popular enough for the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. Although we have received sponsorship in Northern Ireland, it is regarded as a minority sport and is underfunded.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

The pandemic was a huge eye-opener in how life can change instantly. I was used to the freedom of travelling, training and socialising and when that stopped it was a struggle to keep motivated. Now, I take every opportunity that comes my way.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Not my own, but that of my family members such as my parents and grandparents. Nothing is guaranteed and I am much more aware of their vulnerability to coronavirus or other illnesses.

Caleb Bowden is competing in the World Canoe Polo Championships in Saint Omer, France, August 16-21.

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