An unexpected path from Couch to 5k
Sophie shares how she got into running with Couch to 5k.
Date: 7 October 2020 Author: Energise Me
After multiple diagnoses throughout her life, Debbie turned to exercise as a way of energising herself. With the right support network, she now takes on triathlons, sea swimming and Qigong.
At 32 I was diagnosed with my 1st Autoimmune disease, Lupus. I had already in my twenties been diagnosed with Raynaud’s Disease. But I had learned to live with it. After my second diagnosis, I was told I’d have to ‘Modify my lifestyle’. I wasn’t sure what they meant as I was only able to work and sleep as I was so exhausted all the time.
I had been active in the past, I cycled and walked everywhere. No one had a car when I was young. But into my thirties, I never did organised sport as I was exhausted all the time.
From here on in I knew that exercise was the key to managing my illnesses. My new motto was 'Exercise to Energize'.
It took me 6 years to get to grips with things and into doing some form of exercise. My husband is a keen runner. I always wanted to give it a try but found it too exhausting going out with him.
There was a gym at work and staff had a free membership, so I thought I’d give it a go. A chap there always seemed to be on the treadmill next to me. He was an older man, funny he was probably younger than I am now. He started giving me little coaching tips and lots of encouragement. After a couple of months, I was running 3 miles and I was amazed!
One day the treadmills were all in use so he suggested I run outside. It was a lovely day so I thought why not? When I got back he asked me where I got to and to my amazement he told me I had just run 5 miles. That was it, I was hooked.
From here on in I knew that exercise was the key to managing my illnesses. My new motto was ‘Exercise to Energize’.
I decided to train as an Exercise Instructor as I wanted to pass on this knowledge, the knowledge that ‘Energy breeds Energy’. I think people with illnesses often feel that they can’t be active. They feel they are too ill and don’t have enough energy to do things.
It’s hard because until you try you don’t know how much better you’ll feel afterwards. Once you start you feel so energised. I’ve never regretted any exercise session I’ve done. I always feel better afterwards.
In my fifties I collapsed during a marathon. I had done several marathons in the past few years so I just thought it was my Lupus going into a flare. I was taken into Neurological Southampton Hospital where I spent the most terrifying 6 weeks of my life. During this time, I had to be pushed around in a wheelchair, fed and watered by a nose tube.
I couldn’t do anything for myself, I couldn’t speak without slurring my words. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. This was when I was diagnosed with Lambert Eaton Myasthenia. I was told I would not be able to work again. They said I would need a stairlift put in as I wouldn’t be able to climb my stairs at home.
I kept thinking please let me be able to run again. I didn’t care how fast. I just wanted to be able to run.
I kept thinking please let me be able to run again. I didn’t care how fast, I just wanted to be able to run. Thankfully having been through lupus, I had the positive mindset that I would not be defeated.
After 3 months of intense physiotherapy and meds, I was back running. Although much slower. It didn’t matter. I decided to set myself some goals. I felt that if I had something to aim for it would keep me motivated to keep moving forward rather than looking back on what I used to be able to do. That person was gone. I had to invent a new me.
So, I joined a triathlon club, learned to swim proper freestyle and did my very first triathlon in my hometown Portsmouth.
I felt I had to set myself new challenges. Small steps towards big goals. Now, I do quite a lot of different sports. I teach Tai chi and Qi gong. I also cycle, run, walk, swim, and practice yoga.
In November last year, I decided I wanted to sea swim/dip all through Winter. I always found I had a lot less pain when being in the sea in the warmer months. I asked a couple of friends if they’d join me.
In the end, I set up my own swim group ‘Shivery Bites’ for anyone else who wanted to join us. I now have 103 members. I’ve made lots of new friends, and it’s been wonderful to see people of all abilities get the buzz from open water swimming.
For me, it’s all about being positive and having the right support network. I try to always look on the bright side and try to have a positive attitude. Having the right people around me helps with this.
With the multiple illnesses I have had to battle through my adult years it would have been easy to give up. It’s the people I have around me and the challenges we all set ourselves that keep me going and keep me smiling.
Doreen shares how she learnt to be active with a lung condition.