Sofies C25k Journey: Week 1 – The beginning

I will talk about my body weight a bit in this series, its one of the things I focussed on at the time and that got me through. I just want to say, there’s nothing wrong with any body shape or size and the world would be a better place if people didn’t judge each other on such petty things. Losing weight was one of my goals for doing C25k, and probably for many others too, running became something else though, something I now can’t deal without. Weight loss (or now just being able/needing to eat a lot) became a secondary benefit. So I recommend running for everyone. Don’t let people who judge, have any say over how you live your life.

Week 1

It is the 12th of April 2016. I am working as a research assistant at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. About 2 weeks ago on the 1st, I was released from hospital. I had been sent to SAFIRE ward because of feeling suicidal and self harming. That was my first experience of being in a mental hospital (although I had previously been hospitalised for mental health reasons) it was scary, with four of us to a room. I remember a nurse saying “it’s a mixed ward but all males at the moment” although I couldn’t tell why at the time, the fact it was mixed comforted me a lot.

When I got out I stopped drinking and was determined to lose weight. I think they weighed me over 110kg at the hospital. I remember them asking if that was normal for me, and me being embarrased and thinking, this isn’t me! You aren’t seeing me!

I am about 5’10”-11″ (1.8m) in height which puts my BMI at 34

I started to diet and exercise, this included getting as many steps as possible, I wanted to get all the weight gone as soon as possible. I have an extremely strong will when I am determined to do something and I was losing weight rapidly. Although by this point hadn’t bought weighing scales, I was researching them online and finding that there was no good set of weighing scales to my dismay.

My researching online had also made me aware of an NHS running plan called Couch to 5k (C25k). I had become a serial Lurker on the health unlocked forum, where I read of the inspiring stories of people doing the program and becoming runners. I was immersed in weight loss and getting into running. When you drink too much and then give up, you end up having a hole in your days and nights. That hole is called living. I become ultra obsessed with one thing in order to fill it, since society these days is so obsessed with DOING, over the much neglected and denigrated SOOTHING (reading, painting by numbers, knitting – non goal oriented things). I set about DOING stuff, having goals, numbers of steps per day, steps during lunch break, weight loss per day, weigh loss targets per week and month, running goals anything I can measure!

So today, a reasonably warm day, around 10C, I do run 1 on C25K

Week 1:
For your 3 runs in week 1, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then alternate 1 minute of running and 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.

Run 1:

Unfortunately I didn’t track this run. I wanted to get down to the river before the first run interval so that it wasn’t messed up by crossing a road. I can’t remember how I timed things, for this 1st session maybe I just used a stopwatch on my phone. Once I got to the river I started the 1 minute run…

OH MY GOD!! Running for 1 minute was hard. I was questioning myself, “can I do the next 7 of these? Is running a good idea for me? Maybe I just go home now.”

Now I am more experienced, I know I was running too fast, that was the simple answer to my problems, I didn’t know that back then. I ignored my gremlins, I did up to run 4, turned around so I would be closer to home by the time I had finished. During the last four of these my lungs were on fire, I was overtaken by a runner, I was seriously looking forwards to this being done. I pushed on and finished. I got home and felt super proud I had finished, I trusted the program and knew I had made my first steps to 5k. This was it, this was the start, if I continue I will get there.

Run 2:

Since my last run I downloaded an app which tells me when to run and walk, also lets me play my own music. I actually started recording partly for this very reason, 3 years later I am able to look back at what I did. Also I simply wanted to know how fast I was going. Beware however, I don’t believe the top speed in this case, although averages should be fairly accurate. I think I was pushing for 12kph because I remember running that fast before, and averaging 10 (6:00 per k) during the running sections. These are only 1 minute remember, so I was sprinting to get these speeds. This entire C25k journey will be me doing it wrong and telling you to slow down.

My first recorded C25K run W1R2 https://www.strava.com/activities/1197337482

Run 3:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1197337099

This time I turned around a bit later so that I would have a longer walk back home. I think I was enjoying being outside and with the river. I would often see people canoeing down the river too. By run 3 the 1 minute runs were tolerable. I again have to say don’t do what I did, I had done all 3 runs on consecutive days, but I was obsessed as I described above, this was filling the gap.

At this point I am well over 105 Kg (somewhere over 16.5st) I will finally buy some scales in a week (my birthday present) after much researching. I am doing over 20,000 steps per day, using the crosstrainer for an hour at the gym, walking on my lunch break. Also limiting my calories, this wasn’t a healthy diet it was just calorie limited. Burn off more than I put in = weight loss.

I still remember how I felt on these runs, sometimes through a race where I am absolutely pushing myself I get the same thoughts “maybe I should stop running” “maybe this isn’t for me”. It reminds me of how I started and the willpower I used to keep going. If you experience that on a C25k run, slow down, you are going too fast!

Beginner runners have one thing on their side, and that is diminishing returns. Sounds funny but it is true. When you start running you get 90% of the benefits and rewards (increased fitness) with only 60% of the effort level (OK I’m not sure on the exact numbers but you get the idea). You can push for the extra 10% but you are increasing 2 things in my opinion.

1: Your injury risk sky-rockets, your body isn’t used to running yet, your joints are unstable. It isn’t worth it

2: Even worse in my opinion, you wont enjoy it. Why is that worse than an injury? An injury might stop you from running temporarily but if you really despise these first runs you might shelve it completely for the rest of your life.

If you are like me your experience of running was in school, coming last every time, hating it. I missed most PE lessons I got a medical note I hated it. Running isn’t like that. It is like walking, you don’t go on a walk and push yourself to go as fast as you can possibly walk, you go and enjoy yourself. Treat running the same way.

I again recommend everyone to give this a go, give it another go, go easy on yourself, whatever you manage is better than nothing. The weather is getting better and you can graduate in time for summer!

Love you all

Sofie xxxx

When you find out a famous athlete from your country thinks you are a man in a dress and shouldn’t be able to compete in sport.

I found out today that Kelly Holmes, an inspiration of mine, believes that trans women are males and shouldn’t be allowed to compete. She agrees with this completely transphobic thread. “they would be my words exactly”

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1076276617041854464.html

I feel quite devastated by this.

I wrote :

England is transphobic hell. Fellow athletes suggesting we are cheats without caring to look into any evidence. This is shocking from this person. A failure of empathy and a failure to look into the truth.

I am running the London Marathon this year for the LGBT foundation I currently compete against males, and will never win a race, but when I can I will run as female, I will take courage from people like Rosa Parks, I’m not going to give up my seat Just because I am trans. Shame on you all.

I don’t really know how to handle this. It seems like every day or week the temperature is increasing another notch in hell. This is a problem pretty specific to England. I don’t really know how I am managing to be honest. Why am I still here? I want to do the London Marathon.

I linked the thread in question above. On twitter I also pointed towards the scientific studies around trans people participating in sports. Something surprisingly few (read none) are willing to do before using their platform to tell the world we are cheaters.

The links are here.

https://www.caaws.ca/e/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Devries_lit_review2.pdf

https://sports.vice.com/en_uk/article/vv95a4/what-actually-happens-when-a-trans-athlete-transitions

That’s not exhaustive obviously.

I thought I’d broke my ankle

Had another low few days, so haven’t gotten around to writing although hope to get some new things up soon. I went for a run on monday after missing didsbury runners because I saw something shitty and transphobic in the news. Despair washed over me. I wrote about it on facebook, which is where I sometimes scream.

“I was just about to go to Didsbury runners then read this. Citing a single case of assault, the government is telling everyone that all trans women are men. It disturbs me that people don’t speak out against transphobia, feels like this is incubating transphobia. Meanwhile trans women are dying in mens prisons. When I die feel free to drop me down a manhole, just another tranny after all, who gives a fuck.”

https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/uk-trans-women-moved-to-mens-prisons-as-current-policy-is-set-to-change/#gs.SAQAK8Pc

It was dark and I didn’t want to stay in all day, its a horrible feeling. I went out and let some stress out on the run, headtorch down the river and through the woods, back upriver, through more woods and around a waterpark.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2139894428

On the way back I was distracted in my mind and had time to notice my foot hadn’t hit the cround, before it twisted horribly and made a cracking noise, then the rest of me smashed into the floor. Pain washed over me. It was freezing, I was wearing a hoody (something I need to do more when running) so I needed to get moving or call for help.

After cursing the ground and sky and all their lineage for 20 seconds I tried walking. It was painful. After a while though it subsided a bit so carried on, I would walk home but it would be cold.

The pain kept decreasing so I tried running, it was too painful at first so I stopped but then I found I could jog without much pain. That simplified things a lot. I managed to limp jog the 3k back home and had a shower and started the ice pressure and elevation. It is swollen still but not very painful. The tendons are going to be weak for a while but I should be able to keep running I hope. Nothing will stop me from the marathon if I am still here to do it.

Sorry, I don’t think I can take a flattering picture of a swollen ankle!

The good news was that I felt great during the run. The day before I had to cut a long run short as my legs were mysteriously like jelly, the difference was massive. This has happened before but I can usually put it down to something. Poor food, worked too hard day before, not enough rest etc. I was socialising on Saturday and that does take a lot out of me so maybe it is why.

Need to tell the story behind the necklace

Thank you to everyone who has donated to the LGBT foundation. I am extremely grateful for your support.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SofieLewis

Love you all!

Sofie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Trans Girls London Marathon Week 5&6 Training Update

I am running the London Marathon to raise money for the LGBT Foundation, please consider donating here:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SofieLewis

Total Training: 254.6k
Week 5: 47.8k 

Week 6: 37.0k

Well that’s 158 miles in my legs.

I was feeling pretty bad the last few weeks so haven’t made a post but glad to be back. I have still been running as you can see. Don’t think anything can stop that, I started in a mental hospital after all so cant get much worse.

Week 5 was my biggest running week in this training cycle

I have to come clean, I bought a gopro. I have wanted one for a long time and since I am going through this transition once, I wanted to document it. Not that I can afford it. So after it came on Monday of week 5 I went out with it and filmed a long run.

The next day I went to a suicide prevention workshop at the LGBT foundation. I wanted to save money so I ended up running there. It’s a little further than I thought , about 6.3k each way. In the end though, running was faster than the tram and cheaper than the bus. So success!

On Thursday I did some hill sprints on the treadcmill at the gym. These were in order to improve my running form. You cant run with poor form when you are going at it up a hill. I noticed a few things during the session that I have been putting into my normal running too, so it was a success! For example I was really driving my knee up to help carry me forwards in the air.

On Sunday I did a 10 mile long run, after getting better at working the camera and getting a chest harness I got to film the whole run in a timelapse. It looks super smooth. I also talked for a bit halfway through and was pleased with how it cam e out. I seemed more confidant than usual even if my male voice upset me. You can see the whole 10 miles in just 6 minutes here.

Let me know what you think. Keeping it simple at moment, I want to get more into video editing and maybe figure out how to mix timelapse in without including the whole run. Unless you want the whole run. Some bits are more beautiful than others and would be better to slow down the timelapse for those sections. Anyway hope you enjoy let me know what you think.

Week 6

Got a little bit less distance this week, which I will come to later. I did a treadmill run on Tuesday, after I got back from the gym I was in the shower, had just put shampoo in and soap when everything went black. The power cut out, so the shower cut off and it was freezing in my flat. Just had to dry as best I could and wait for the power to come back ( 4 hours! ). Fortunately I have a lot of battery power and torches so could read and see. I got a takeaway pizza as I had no food cooked.

I went to a run and talk organised by Didsbury Runners. It was at one of these events last year that I came out to someone as transgender. This time I didn’t really talk much but was good to see people and get out. I was feeling pretty rubbish so it helped.

On Friday I did a fast 10k. It was very windy so happy with that time and I didn’t push as hard as I intended. Still my 10K PB is from a 21K race so have some time to knock off. Strava says this was my 2nd fastest 10k (44:16) and it felt OK, could have gone a lot further without slowing. I hope you enjoy my run names.

Yesterday I went out intending to do a long run of 11 miles, maybe more, but after 200m or less I could tell something was wrong, I just had no strength in my legs, they were like jelly, so I tried to carry on but turned back eventually. It felt like I was at the end of a marathon, my legs were not strong, which increases injury risk as your joints aren’t suppported properly. I wasn’t out of breath but just felt exhausted. At one point someone thought I was racing them which was quite odd. After persisting for 5k I dragged myself home with my tail between my legs. I aren’t really sure why, possibly from the fast 10k on Friday. Possibly I have been ill. I have had a few days hearing the blood pounding in my head, even though no cold symptoms or anything. My average HR has been high again also. Maybe I am anaemic. Anaemia has happened before during marathon training but I aren’t far in yet. Its just one run so nothing to worry about anyway.

Have now been self medicating on estradiol for a while. Hoping to get some external help but again it will cost money. I will see what happens. After waiting 17 months, to join a 12 month waiting list, I have been told that there may actually be another 11 month waiting list after that. So it seems like the NHS plan is to let trans people commit suicide. Other GIC’s have waiting lists up to 5 years, if this is true then Leeds is almost at 4 years. How do you cut down a 4 year waiting list, well one plan it seems is to turn it into 3 back to back waiting lists. It is unacceptable, I feel like I am treated as a non human by the NHS.

That wasn’t very positive to end on. I went to the LGBT foundation on Saturday and met a friend, Stafani for her birthday. It was super nice to see her, although she beet me at connect 4. I also went to a pod-casting workshop where What the Trans did a live episode. I am a big fan of their podcast and got to meet them after with the GoPro.

My hand was really shaking so you can see how well the stabilisation works in the camera. Mic is very good too. They were amazing, and you dont get to meet your heroes often.

So I was thinking about doing a transgender running podcast in the future 😀 What do you think I should call it?

Lots of love,

Sofie XXXXX

Sorry I’ve been Missing!

Hi I know I’ve missed a few posts now. I have just been struggling with things more than usual. I will get a training update for the last 2 weeks and continue my C25K story with week one.

I was at Trans Manchester yesterday and had a good day, even met the makers of “What the Trans” and they talked about how to do a podcast, so maybe even a podcast in the future. I love these two ladies and managed to meet them and film it on the GoPro.

Also was my friends birthday so was good to get out and meet people.

Sofies Couch to 5K: Introduction

I want to tell the story of my C25K experience, including how much I weighed the routes I used and how I felt during and after. Fortunately I recorded most of this using GPS and forum posts so I can look back and see what was going on at the time.

To start with, I am 5’11” and weighed well over 105 kg when I started C25K, I was incredibly unfit. I point this out because so many people see me and say I must have always been a runner or fit. That’s a compliment and fine but I feel like a lot of people try to rule themselves out of running by mentally editing my history. And I feel like I worked hard back then so I’m not going to let people forget. Even my family who knew me as unhealthy most of my life say I have always been fit, well this is a photo of me in 2016.

I was working at the Manchester Royal infirmary at the time, I had the best job in the world, which is one that you want to do. I was a research assistant on a project hacking the Kinect, a gaming device, to make it track breathing rates of patients in the hospital. A proof of concept type of study and as a physicist into medicine I loved it. It was strange then that I was suffering from depression, and it was getting worse.

I used to walk the 4 kilometers into work everyday, and enjoyed it whilst listening to a podcast or audiobook. But the depression made this difficult, I would rather stay in bed for 20 more minutes and get a bus. This was one change that seemed to happen without me noticing, and when I did it forced me to think about things. Another was finding it harder to put my shoes on because my belly was just in the way making it hard to breathe. Walking up stairs to my flat left me breathless and sweaty. I kept having to buy larger clothes to stay comfortable. I remember deciding to walk home one day and finding it had become much more difficult, to the extent that I was shaking. Looking in the mirror I would see someone else looking back, this wasn’t me, it wasn’t fair.

I remember sometimes coming home and seeing females running past and becoming sad and depressed. “I will never be like that” I thought and I meant it in two ways. I meant it in the way that I will never be a runner again. I also meant it in the way that I wish I was born female. At the time I focussed on the running aspect, I honestly believed all men wished they were born female, it never crossed my mind that I could be transgender because all I knew about that was that you are born in the wrong body. Well, I was in for a surprise on that front and so was everyone who knew me, but that was for later. I had become resigned to being unfit and unhappy, I had tasted the world and didn’t want anymore of it, I wanted things to be simple, I wanted to be drunk. I was the loneliest person on the planet.

This carried on until the end of March 2016, I found myself in a mental health ward. It was an observation ward, with 4 of us to a room. I think I had gone to A&E because I was feeling suicidal, I had started to self harm again, cutting my arms but after 2 days they let me go, it was on April fools day, haha.. I had to make the decision between ending everything, or trying to get better mentally. With the stakes so high, I thought I have to at least try something, I might aswell right? The main thing I wanted to do at this time was to stop drinking, It had become a crutch to cope with life but I knew if I could ditch that I could make other changes too, drastic changes, but ditching alcohol would also mean facing my thoughts.

Stopping drinking was very hard, I had no brakes because I was suicidal. When you are only thinking a day, week or maybe month ahead you don’t really care about alcoholism. Contrary, actually I just wanted something to come along and kill me. I would drink most nights, I didn’t get drunk on nights before work and could do drink free days but it was getting harder. I had also began self harming again by cutting my arms. If you wanted to find me those days, my hobby was getting blackout drunk in the pub, reading comics. Somehow just by being surrounded by people in the pub I felt less lonely, even if I never talked to anyone.

I could see many benefits of not drinking, I was spending a fortune on alcohol for one thing. It would mean saving a lot of money, I was spending £50 some nights on alcohol. Dieting and losing weight, I was consuming 1,000s of calories through alcohol alone, and even more via obligatory kebabs. Along with this, I could be more active instead of drinking, I could go out for a walk instead of being hungover, burning calories, instead of consuming them.

Once I was free again I looked on-line for a way to start running, there I found the Couch to 5k programme and a lovely community of people who had completed it or were on their own journey through it. And so, about a week before my 28th birthday in April 2016, I ditched the drink and started Couch to 5k. This isn’t a complete success story, I did finish and I did lose a lot of weight, but the alcohol came back. The transformation that happened during these few weeks were incredible however, and it gave me the base fitness to start running again when I once again found myself deeper into a mental hospital almost 8 months later.

This is a brief section of my life, it wasn’t the first time I had tried to get into running, but It was a big lesson for me, and at that time the longest time I managed to stay off alcohol since I was 18.

In future posts I will tell you the details I put on the C25K forum and some of the notes I took on how my dieting was going along with how I remember it. As you can see below, eventually through running I found myself, I am still finding pieces here and there.

I am doing this in the hopes that it encourages others to try C25K as you can tell I really enjoyed doing it, and even though I fell off the wagon, it really helped me start running with just the knowledge that I could still do it. As a very large person, it gave me a lot of self confidence, along with being an overweight runner I also had plenty of scars along my arms that I was extremely self conscious about.

I have seen people in their 60 and 70’s starting and loving C25K, falling in love with running in the process, ant they all believed they were never able to run. If you are thinking of starting it, then why not join in?

Lots of love to everyone,

Sofie xxxxxxx

Trans Girls London Marathon Week 4 Training Update

Total Training: 169.8k
This week: 28.2k

An update on my training during week 4.

I am running the London Marathon to raise money for the LGBT Foundation, please also consider donating here:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SofieLewis

Things were looking good this week in terms of the injury. Leg was a little tender on Monday and Tuesday but after then it seems fine. I have also been quite lazy. Only going to the gym once! So this week I intend to finally get an official training plan.

Mentally things have been bad. I had to get some help so went to the GP and he prescribed me Mirtazapine. I needed help with my thoughts and to get to sleep. The pills did work and provided some much needed relief but are a little too powerful and had some bad side effects. I will show you what happened and the effects they seem to have had on parkrun and my resting heart rate. They tend to leave me feeling quite dizzy and clumsy for 24 hours.

This is all a little complicated by the fact I am doing my own HRT, I have no help coming from the NHS nor will my GP check my bloods.

Currently as I write this I’m having the withdrawal effects from the Mirtazapine, something I am unfortunately familiar with, but surprising after just 2 pills with a day off in between. I figure they feel more powerful since I have been off alcohol so long, and the only time I was on them was when I was drinking. The withdrawal effects are hard to explain, currently it is like my skull is groaning like a ships hull as it is crushed in ice. Whenever my heart beats I can hear and feel it in my ear a bit like my ear is letting out gas (it isn’t, don’t worry) but if I am concentrating on something else it isn’t as noticeable which is nice. That is probably why I am up at 1:15 AM writing this. So…………

RUNNING!!!!

Monday, I went again with Didsbury Runners, I decided to go on the shorter route this time at 8 minute miles. As I run there 2.5k and back I didnt want to do too much with my leg still a little dodgy. It was nice to meet everyone though and got in 10.2k overall. Apparently it was the largest turnout of Didsbury Runners, which is impressive in the cold.

Tuesday I went to the gym, I think I did an hour on the crosstrainer and came back home.

Wednesday is the day I went to the GP, I didn’t accomplish anything else and took the 1st mirtazapine that night. It got me to sleep so well that I slept for 14 hours, only waking up once for the toilet and getting back to sleep quickly. Usually the past few weeks that has kept me up for another 2 hours at least. Sleep is very important for recovery so this was good for running too.

Thursday, I went to a running injury prevention (unfortunate acronym) event at a private hospital nearby. It was free and one of the Didsbury runners had linked to it on Facebook. There was free food and the even was interesting. First 2 lectures on running injury prevention, which had a lot of new information and I will be looking in more detail. Especially surprised to hear that the current consensus is that stretching and sports massages have no effect on reducing injury risk. Conflicts what I have been practising and preaching here so look forwards to reading into that. Instead they said current advice is to do dynamic stretching and warmup. It does seem like the Spire hospital has a crack team of running specialists. They also showed evidence that running actually reduces the risk of getting bad joints as you age.

Afterwards there were practical exercise session where we did a bit of physio led pilates, which was new to me and some other workouts to help stay injury free. A lot of this I have seen variations of, including buildin up core and activating glutes aswell as improving balance or proprioceprtion, to keep the knees and joints steady as you run so as to avoid injury. All good stuff. Aparently I am good at single leg squats 🙂

I decided to run to this even on thursday and afterwards went for a longish run. I found after a few k I couldnt quite keep up with my old power, something I am blaming entirely on the Mirtazapine. I also had a stomach problem on the run, which I dont usually get fortunately, blame that on the meds too eh?

Thats when I looked at my resting heart rate. It has risen quite high due to all the transphobia related stress from media and online. Usually I expect it to be in the low 40’s when I am training but the day after mirtazapine it spiked low. What us computer chess nerds call a moob.

Resting HR moobing after taking meds

Also I should point out that 47 and above is high for me, this is what I would expect if I was overtraining and what I was seeing late into training for the Manchester marathon last year. Usually my Resting HR is below 45 during training, when I have stopped training due to injury or before a race it goes to below 40 once I got down to 32 for 1 day.

So I believe my resting heart rate is high due to the anxiety I am having, which I can believe, I can feel it pounding most of the day and it is racing at night as my mind goes over things. So its not surprising the drugs reduced it, because after taking them I felt dulled. I didn’t feel good, I just didn’t really feel, and it was a big relief. I do think there was a further reduction due to the drug itself though. Mainly because that is what I want to blame my poor runs on, the one on thursday and also parkrun.

Saturday, I went to parkrun. After taking the mirtazapine I fell asleep at about 9, unheard of for me. I woke up on time but felt very unsteady due to the drugs. They make me feel a bit like being drunk I suppose but not fun, for example when trying to type I often miss the key I am aiming for, I cant focus my eyes quite so well, etc, this lasts for about 24 hours after taking them. I decided to go anyway, If people were volunteering I had better go! I ran hard and tried to get a PB but it just wasn’t in me, and I am definitely blaming the mirtazapine so there! I still did it in around 21:45 and thanks to Kim for adding me to the results after my barcode seemed to have failed.

So I have been calming myself without drugs and doing some writing, it has been partially successful!

Running video coming soon, and more on my own C25k journey.

Hope everyone is doing well, it has been lovely hearing from people who have started C25K because of my blog, let me know how you are getting on and lots of love to everyone!!!!!!

Sofie,

XXXXXXXX