How fitness became as much a part of my transition as medical and surgical intervention by B. Hills
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Bruce B Hills, Trans Radio UK host and fitness enthusiast tells us about his audition for TV show SAS Who Dares Wins and how fitness became as much a part of his transition as medical and surgical intervention.
My transition began properly in 2016, but like most trans people it had been a lifelong journey really. I had always presented in a masculine way and even as far back as starting regular training in my 20's the workouts I did helped me to maintain a more masculine physique. However the dysphoria connected to having female anatomy still bothered me, so I began researching and saving for my surgery later in life. I had grown fed up of always covering up for beach holidays or sat by the pool, never taking my clothes off in front of anyone and catching sight of myself in a mirror getting out of the shower and feeling repulsed. That was when I realised surgery and starting testosterone was the way forward to my future happiness.
The fitness regime also went up a notch once I had booked my top surgery, because I really wanted a defined pectoral muscle and knew that even starting to build that up before a mastectomy would help with the results afterwards. So I bought some basic home equipment , at that time the locker rooms at the gym were a no go for me as I felt like an impostor in the ladies, but not able to use the mens. I had legally changed my name but not had the surgery so I was in a kind of half way house regards male spaces! The pieces of gym kit I got were pretty simple and I still use them to this day, really inexpensive too if you shop around. I got a weights bench, two barbells, some free weights, a resistance band , medicine ball ...the basics really but they are often the best. Growing up I had always looked up to male public figures who were super fit and muscly like Arnold Schwarzenegger - I even chose my name because of the Incredible Hulk ( believe it or not) and although their look was pretty unachievable for a small person like myself, the way those guys had got into shape was pretty old school. They were men of the 80's when sports science hadn't evolved but their techniques worked. So I began hitting my home gym really hard. Chest presses , dumbbell curls, press ups , weighted squats , pull ups , shoulder press , 100's of sit-ups and crunches...all the original weight training moves that I knew could give me the shape I wanted. I watched hours of you tube footage to grasp the techniques, there are many handy demos online completely free these days.
Most of the Instagram accounts I followed were body builders. I even joked with a friend that for someone who finds women exclusively attractive I certainly spent a lot of time looking at men with no shirts on! But they had that shape I coveted and was determined to get. Also I took a nutrition qualification online so I could get my fuel for these workouts at an optimum level. The knowledge I gained from that was invaluable as I learnt so much about protein, fat, carbs , ratios of each and what works for gaining muscle mass. I'm knew I was never going to be as big as Arnie but with the right adaptations I could maximise what I did have.
Then I had my top surgery in early 2017 which went really well. Two weeks later I was well enough to start some light cardio so I began doing HIIT workouts to get my fitness back then back on the weights as soon as I was fully healed.
My Instagram following grew and grew , I did home workout demo videos and with my new body I was no longer covering up, alot of my photos were and still are with me shirtless! The freedom I felt was empowering and I enjoyed giving some basic tips to others. Off the back of all that I was hugely honoured then to be offered my own health and fitness show on Trans Radio UK which I present every Monday at 7pm. It is a fun show with fitness tips, nutrition advice and I discuss many other topics too such as mental health, guest interviews , movie reviews and lots more. I'm always looking for new guests to have on too so do listen in for my contact details. Or send me a DM on Instagram @bh3fitness.
Another achievement that came along in 2018 was being selected and passing the fitness test for audition stages of the TV show SAS Who Dares Wins on Channel 4. It had been my dream since I was little to be part of an all male space such as the SAS so I was over the moon when my application for this was accepted. On the day I was really nervous as I was put into a group with some seriously fit and pretty big guys, but I held my own , passed a British Military fitness test which was gruelling to say the least then made it to the interview stages but unfortunately not onto the show. However it felt like such an accomplishment , as far as I know I was the only trans guy to get that far...so that was one of my childhood dreams sorted.
Then this year I finally got to train with Ant Middleton from the show at his Mind Over Muscle Day Camp in Woolwich Army Barracks , so as you can imagine after the show rejecting me this was the next best thing. He is a really hard task master but an absolute gent and inspiring to talk to. His positivity and faith in your ability is a real driving force and the fitness tasks were hard but I felt like there was nothing I couldn't achieve after that day. Which came at a good time for me as shortly after I made the trip to America to have my final ( bottom ) surgery. It went really well bar a few complications post op , but my after care was on point with the surgeon and team I went to in the States which really helped.
I'm now three weeks out from that and have been managing some light upper body work plus even went back to the gym recently. This happened with some trepidation but I found doing gentle cardio has really helped with my mobility and recovery. My training routine is now a real mixed bag. Doing too much cardio means I won't gain weight for more muscle so I keep that light and focus mostly on weights and resistance work.
You see , for me fitness has been such a huge part of my transition...it has helped me physically, psychologically and has given me experiences that I wouldn't have had if training wasn't such a big part of my life. Now I cannot imagine a life without it....I feel at my peak of life. I am 45 years old , but feel about 25. My attitude is positive , I try to inspire and help others plus be a good role model. Being able to combine my love of working out into helping within the trans community is the perfect situation. I could not be happier or more driven right now.
If you are new to fitness or have been doing it a while there are always challenges and hurdles to overcome being trans. Surgery can put you out of action for a while...dysphoria can make gyms and swimming pools intimidating, you won't always be able to show others the results of your hard work either. Part of the reason I began my regime and adapted it for at home was the whole locker room issue...so once I realised I could get equally good results without fancy equipment that boosted my mood around training ; it also inspired me to do my Instagram as a fitness account then transfer that information to my radio show listeners later on. I always do demo videos after my shows which the radio station then put onto their social media. Hopefully this is useful for anyone wanting some basics they can do at home to keep fit and get in shape.
But the key as with anything is persistence and finding that strength to dig deep and just go for it. You have to do that with transition and you have to do that with fitness to get results. The two are relatable and interchangeable.
I've always said that results happen when you push yourself and get out of your comfort zone a little - and to this day I stand by that.
Hope you have all enjoyed my story and whatever your goals keep telling yourself you will achieve them. Because with the right mindset you will.