"At the bottom of the squat with 60 kilograms on my back, my back cracked. [It hurt] like blazes. I couldn't walk, I was in a back brace for three months, it was horrendous."
But with the help of her partner, she returned to fitness and won two titles, in Atlantic City and then Los Angeles, on her way to claiming the world crown.
Gowans likened fitness modelling to a cross between a Victoria's Secret fashion show and body building.
"Think more muscles than a Miss Universe pageant, but more pageant and Victoria's Secret than a traditional body-building show," she said.
"It's very glitzy, glamorous, it's an actual production, it's not just getting on stage and flexing muscles, it's ... like a Victoria's Secret runway, it's a modelling runaway.
"You're adorned head-to-toe in Swarovski crystals and all of the bling."