Dr Tamsin Lewis is a medical doctor and former Professional Triathlete - retired from pro racing following her pregnancy in late 2014.
The Sportiedoc website shares Dr Tamsin's experience as she transitioned from an amateur athlete - and rather unfit person - to an elite triathlete - which culminated in her winning Ironman UK on her first attempt at the distance in July 2014.
Dr Tamsin has overcome a series of health problems and childhood adversity to perform at the top level in endurance sport. The journey has not been a smooth one - and there were very dark times. Pulling through a severe head injury/coma in 2004 in her final year of medical school had lasting implications on her physical and mental health. Dr Tamsin felt strongly let down by the conventional medical approach to treating her depression/dysfunctional eating and cognitive effects of the head injury which involved ever increasing doses/switches of medication which in retrospect did more harm than good.
It was a foray into triathlon in 2007 - inspired by a friend - which started an exploration of alternative healing and interest in the power of nutrition/nutraceutials and lifestyle to impart lasting changes to health and wellbeing.
In 2012 Dr Tamsin founded www.curo7.com which began as a bespoke blood analysis company - looking at biomarkers in blood as they relate to performance and health and has evolved into a comprehensive integrative health service - which uses information from blood, urine and stool in conjunction with appropriate and informed genetic data to give a deep dive into physiology. The aim of which being health optimisation and disease prevention through targeted nutrition, nutraceutical and lifestyle interventions
Her personal experience of suboptimal performance/over-training and hormonal imbalance spurred an interest in looking at the research behind relevant biomarker testing and how this could be applied to individuals, not just athletes to improve not just performance - but general wellbeing and psychological resilience.
She began to be contacted by people all over the world - after featuring on podcasts discussing her personal trial to triumph story - and how testing your blood - and optimising certain nutrients and hormones can affect health and performance. it may come as no surprise to the reader - that there are a lot of people out there - trying hard to fit in training around a busy life - and ending up frustrated as their efforts don't pay off. We can only fight a struggling physiology for so long.
Testing at appropriate times and analysis by a trained professional can really have marked improvements on every aspect of your health.
A dime a dollar were the stories from people saying they had been told that there blood tests were 'all normal' from their GP - yet they new intuitively that they were not right.
From a personal perspective :
Dr Tamsin :
" My iron deficiency and thyroid dysfunction, and low female hormones were ignored for years as the markers were 'borderline low' - for a sedentary person that might be ok - but i was dragging myself out of bed in the morning - lacking motivation, taking ages to warm up when training, and my sleep was all over the shop. It took my own research and seeing a private integrative health doctor to rectify the above - and when i did - my performances soared."
An interest in Personalised Medicine began and Dr Tamsin read and listened with keen interest as the field of functional medicine and biomarker analysis as it pertains to health, wellbeing, performance and anti-ageing evolved.
"I wish i knew when i started in triathlon, what i know now as medical director of curoseven in 2016. It would have saved me a lot of pain and could have resulted in me achieving a level of performance i was only ever able to get glimpses of"
Dr Tamsin is a vocal advocate of alternative health approaches and root cause analysis.
Helping numerous athletes of all ages around the world through curoseven consultancy.
She worked at The Centre for Health and Performance in Harley Street following pro retirement and through her pregnancy - and then went back into the NHS for a year as a Psychiatry Registrar (ST4).
More recently Dr Tamsin has been appointed Medical Director of Integrative Health at the Marion Gluck Clinic in central London - a centre of excellence for pioneering personalised bio-similar hormone therapy.
Dr Tamsin's Personal History
Dream - Believe - Persevere
On Being Blessed with the 'Sports Gene"
"In 1967 Dad was a professional cyclist and domestique for Tom Simpson in the Tour De France and famously handed him his last drink before he tragically died on Mount Ventoux. You can watch the footage and hear the story on YouTube."
I was in the pool from month 1 of my life & was on a bike (and a horse) as soon as I could walk. Always pushing the limits on what I was allowed to do. I swam competitively from the age of 6 to a National level. Then dabbled in mountain bike racing, before getting into Tetrathlon through pony club. Tetrathlon is four events and is similar to Modern Pentathlon (an Olympic sport).
My mum somewhat heroically tried to divert attention from a traumatic and dysfunctional family situation in my early years by throwing us into sport.
Tetrathlon : (Precursor to Modern Pentathlon)
Run over 2 days it included:
- Target pistol shooting
- Running – 3k cross country
- Swimming – as far as you can in 3 minutes. (My PB was 240m at the age of 12. I could not do this now!)
- Horse Riding – series of jumps and obstacles over cross country.
I was pretty good at Tet. (mostly the swimming and running bits) and competed at regional level until glandular fever hit me at the age of 13 and I entered a difficult time of my life.
My teens were a bleak time – when they could have been full of sport, enjoyment and socialising. I developed anorexia and bulimia and fought these until my early twenties.
"Your family have the measles and you have the spots" - a quote from an astute doctor who was treating me - i will never forget as it made so much sense. In those days - doctors were heroes - i took every word they said as gospel. It took me many years and many disillusioning experiences to realise that often they just didn't have a clue - or were so immersed in their pharmaceutical model of disease - that they were not willing to consider that there were other things at play.
Eating disorders/dysfunction are incredibly common in sport, and I have no shame in talking about them and increasing awareness wherever possible. Both Chrissie Wellington (autobiography) and Jodie Swallow have written informatively about their experiences with the illness. It is the perfectionist, high achievers who are usually the ones who succumb. Channelling that energy into more healthier pursuits, and learning to love your body for its strength and stamina translates to better nutritional care.
I stayed active throughout my time at medical school at Kings College London (1998-2004) running with the cross country team form time to time - albeit with no seriousness and usually doused in a fair amount of gin.
My biggest regret, with the power of hindsight, is that I never swam. From the age of 12-25 I didn’t swim at all.
My triathlon journey began in 2007 at Blenheim Triathlon. I had entered this and the London Triathlon twice before, but never showed up as work, life, excuses got in the way of me doing any training. I won my age-group (on 3-4 hours training a week) and I was already planning my next race.
The London Triathlon 2008 was my first Olympic distance and I came 7th in the sub 2.30 wave and was picked for the Herbalife Triathlon Academy run by Bill Black. Bill coached me through my first World Championships – in the notoriously freezing conditions of Vancouver at the end of that year. I sneaked into the top 10 (25-29) but I was left wanting more.
In 2009 I met Michelle Dillon and her infectious energy hit me immediately.
Michelle coached me to many amateur race victories which culminated in my
Gold Medal at the World AG Championships in Australia. I led from start to finish. A perfect day.
In 2004 I qualified as a medical doctor at Kings College London, UK (MBBS HONS LON) and completed a BSc in Neuroscience and Anatomy as the brain was always fascinated me - and this was prior to me learning or indeed being taught (as its only now that research is supporting what many medical thought leaders have known for decades - that the brain and body are inextricably interwoven - and focusing on one without addressing the other is inevitably fruitless.
My Final Year of Medical School was defined by a severe head injury following a skiing accident in Canada - which left me in a Coma for 3 days and my parents a call saying that i may not make it through the night. (Jan 2004). I have not written about this in any detail but will as inadequate management caused me years of suffering. Long story short - I surprised the doctors, woke up, and pulled my catheter out, but i was never quite the same person again.
I Somehow made it through medical finals - massively underperforming compared to my grades prior to the head injury.
The Junior doctors years. A massive learning curve, as responsibility levels shot up and suddenly we were accountable for all our actions. I worked for some very intimidating Seniors, but the experience will stay with me for a life time. Two years which were spent in a haze of night shifts, high drama, death, new life, sorrow, joy and delirium - all the time whilst trying to recover from a head injury without any medical guidance - as my scans were normal and therefore i was discharged into the ether of 'getting on with it'.
I realised during these years that I enjoyed spending time with patients and talking to them – getting an holistic picture of the patient and trying to understand their illness/es. This lead me to apply for psychiatric training and after 3 years of working in psychiatry (anything from addictions, to schizophrenia and dementia) in 2008 I passed my membership exams to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
At this time I was working at The Priory – The NHS contracts doctors out to the private sector sometimes, and I ended up with a fascinating post on the addictions ward in Roehampton, London.
Encouraged by some a friend and staff members I wrote to the CEO of The Priory explaining my amateur success as a triathlete (I had just won the World Age-Group Championships) and would they consider supporting me to take time out of work as a doctor to pursue life as a professional athlete.
He was enthusiastic and agreed some financial sponsorship which enabled me to give up full time work and concentrate on training full time.
At the same time I had been in talks with Brett Sutton and he invited me over to Thailand for a trial.
2010-2011 - Brett Sutton – Team TBB
A fascinating experience – albeit a tough one. Think what you like about Brett Sutton, but if you meet him in person and get to know him, he is very different from the man the media portray. Yes, he did wrong, he repented and lives with the consequences of his actions everyday.
(if you don't know what i mean - by 'wrong' a quick google around his time as a swim coach will inform you)
I respect him as a coach and as a person. He was not the coach for me.
“You can’t out-psych a psycho” he once told me.
He is a control freak – I can be a control freak – we clashed.
Team TBB Highs:
- Coming 2nd in my first Pro race and first attempt at middle distance racing – Ironman 70.3 UK. June 2010.
- Leysin, Switzerland. Alpine bliss.
- Getting to know Rebekah Keat, Scot De Fillipis, Mary Beth Ellis, Caroline Steffen and Jodie Swallow – learnt from all of you. Huge respect and admiration for these athletes.
- Brett telling me I was riding well on the Alpe D’Huez
- Cervelo photoshoot.
- Breaking my collar bone twice in the first 18months of being ‘Pro’.
- Daily 7am Brett swim sessions in the dungeon.
- Developing a overuse injury - hamstring tendonopathy (same injury as Chrissie) due to weak glutes and millions of 800’s on the track.
- Brett throwing a water bottle at me in the pool (after I drank some during a wetsuit swim set) in front of everyone and then giving a furious rant about ruining his environment.
Being part of Team TBB and to be coached by Brett is a dream to many and I am thankful I was given the opportunity. I still wince when I recall some of the sessions though (mainly in the pool)!
2011-2012 - Cliff English
Cliff was recommended to me by Michelle Dillon (former coach whom admitted that she didn’t have the experience to coach me for long distance tri).
Based in Tucson, Arizona we had very little face to face contact but his training was structured, progressive and I made big improvements in my run under his guidance. Like Michelle, Cliff is a positive coach, and his long email discussions and explanations opened my eyes to the depth of his coaching knowledge.
By the end of 2012 it was becoming obvious to me that I needed a more hands on approach with my coach and local coach with a vast triathlon and physiology knowledge was recommended to me.
2013 onwards – Tom Bennett – T2 Coaching
A new year – a new focus and a new local, hands on coach.
I really enjoyed this time - and learnt quickly that less can be more.
Brett Sutton has wanted me to do Ironman in my first year as a pro - I was not ready psychologically - i'd never run a marathon let alone do it after a lengthy swim and bike. It was four years later that i finally toed the line at Ironman UK in July 2014.
It was a day I will never forget - filled with so much emotion and elation - years of frustration culminating in a performance that I could be proud of.
Winning Ironman UK has opened doors for me that perhaps i never would have known existed. But above all the journey has taught me that we are capable of far more than we ever thought possible and as a consequence i have developed a deep resilience and sense of purpose.
If you had asked me when i was sitting on the verge of suicide back in 2005, when my energy was so slow i could barely walk a mile - if i ever thought i could complete let alone win an Ironman i would have never believed.
Launch yourself into the Unknown - You never know what you are capable of.
To Unpathed Waters ... Undreamt Shores.