Local Maypearl High School alumnus and body builder Chris McGowan received his pro-card earlier this month after finishing third place in the Team Universe Championships.

Leading up to the show, several life events challenged the two-year bodybuilder’s emotional and mental strength, McGowan said. But he continued to battle to overcome the would-be setbacks and stayed focused on the show.

“This last show, which I got my pro-card in was probably the most trying show of them all,” McGowan said. “There were so many things going on in my personal life, as well,” McGowan said. “Honestly, I really surprised myself because there is so much going on, that made this a very tough road. There were a lot of mornings where I would wake up and literally have to crawl out of bed and force myself to smile and go on throughout my day.”

Leading up to the show McGowan’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, he had to move three times in a matter of weeks, McGowan’s mother Kathi Spears was rushed to the hospital, and his aunt suffered a stroke. Then a week before the Team Universe show, a good friend of McGowan’s passed away unexpectedly, he said.

“It was definitely an eye-opener to how strong I am as an individual,” he said.

Now, McGowan plans to stay focused on the road ahead, as he prepares to compete at a professional level.

“The thing with national shows is that there are plenty of guys who spend their entire career doing national shows trying to get their pro card,” McGowan said. “For me to get a pro card in my first national show, while doing my own diet and my own nutrition is very rare.”

McGowan’s pro card finish opened the door to him being able to compete in the professional circuit against some of the best bodybuilders in the world, he said.

“Every show that I do from now on, every guy there is, literally, at their peak performance and is truly dialed in and bringing their ‘A’ game,” he said. “Basically when you’re a pro, it solidifies you as having an elite physique and having a body that is coined of pro status.”

Before 2015 Team Universe, McGowan competed as an amateur in four different shows, he said.

“After my first show, I decided that I wanted to do this. And I’m a huge extremist, so next I jumped straight into the Arnold Amateur, which is one of the biggest shows in the nation,” he said. “I placed eighth out of, I believe 67 other guys at that show.”

After a year break following the 2014 Arnold Amateur, McGowan signed up for his third show, the 2015 Arnold Amateur.

“I placed fifth out of one of the biggest classes there,” he said. “And to get top five in the Arnold is huge. It’s a very huge accomplishment.”

The next competition on McGowan’s agenda was the 2015 Mr./Ms. Buffalo Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Championship in Buffalo, New York (a little further than two hours away from Horsehead, New York, where McGowan currently resides).

“In the Buffalo Show, I got first place in my class and then I won first place overall,” he said.

From that show, McGowan went straight into Team Universe.

Now with his pro card in hand, McGowan said he is going to plan his professional debut show, before heading into more national shows, he said.

“It’s going to be a tough road, because now I am competing against the best of the best,” he said.

McGowan’s daily, 9-to-5 job is being a personal fitness trainer. His passion and love for fitness and helping other people succeed makes walking into work feel more like a part of his social life instead of just being a job, he said.

“For some people it may be too much fitness, but I don’t consider it work,” he said. “If this is ‘work’, then I would love to do this every day. I want to do this forever.”

McGowan’s drive to achieve greatness comes from the people who influence and encourage him the most — his family.

“The why we do things is very important,” he said. “My ‘why’ is because I have a mom that works hard to provide for me. She worked her entire life to provide for both me and my little brother, Travis. I do it because there are so many people who think that they can’t do things and allow themselves to get in the way of their own future.”

McGowan’s passion stems from his youth when people told him what he couldn’t do certain things and that his circumstances would prohibit him from being able to excel in life.

“Every day that I wake up, I am building off that few that love me to death. A mom that would do anything for me. And I have a brother and family that relies on me.”

McGowan said his ‘why’ is something he sees multiple times throughout the day when he uses his cell phone.

“I have a screenshot that I use as a lock screen to my phone, so every morning I get up and I read this, ‘I wake up because I have a mother that spent every day raising me. Working 3 jobs so I could walk with shoes on my feet and a roof over my head. A nephew that in his innocence, I see Greatness. A world of people that do not know how amazing they actually are. I wake up for the kid that thinks he can never make anything of himself. I wake up for the little girl that believes that there is nothing but heartache and misery out there. I wake up for the old man in the nursing home that wishes he could just believe again. I wake up for the people who have less and do far more than they are expected. I wake up for the teenager that thinks he will never belong. I wake because everyone deserves to be happy. I wake because life isn’t promised to anyone and the people I see deserve everything the world has to offer. Lastly I wake up for you.’”

McGowan said this is what pushes him to never settle for anything short of excellence.

“It helps me understand why I have to do the things I do throughout my day,” he said.