Meet Alanna Swartz. She lifts weights, fundraises for JDRF & her birthday is this Saturday!

Courtesy Alanna Swartz

Courtesy Alanna Swartz

Full name: Alanna Swartz

Age: 30 on Saturday (Happy birthday Alanna!)

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

#T1d since: 1990

Animas vibe w/ CGM right?: Yep!

Tell us a little bit about your new job and what you do?  I am the senior fundraising and development coordinator for JDRF Nova Scotia. I manage the Walk and outreach programs including support groups for families, teens and adults.

Our connection: We know each other through social media! We have never met in person but we have some friends in common via Connected In Motion.

What type of exercise do you enjoy or have expertise in? I lift weights. Heavy ones.

What is your current workout routine? I am a creature of habit! I always warm up with some jumping jacks and box jumps. I will then do some variation of: squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, bench presses, flies (free weights and barbell work). After I do my heavy lifting I will stretch for a few minutes to loosen up, and then I will run on the treadmill, use the stair climber, bike or row for 30 mins at top heart rate and 5 mins to cool down. I will then do a good solid stretch and usually a sauna for extra sweating.

How do you prep to workout? When I know I am going to workout I always check my blood sugar 1 hr before go time. If I am 9.0 or above I will not lower my basal rate. If I am between 6-9 I will lower by 50%, if I am between 4-6 I will lower by 80%.

Courtesy Alanna Swartz

Courtesy Alanna Swartz

What do you find to be the most challenging part of working out as a t1d? Judging if I have enough sugar in my bloodstream to effectively workout AND avoid lows. I think I need glucose on board for my lifts to be effective, so I try and stay around 7-8 while lifting. Battling lows is important, of course, so ensuring I am eating right during the lead up is just as important as my actual numbers.

What is the most rewarding part of working out for you? Mental stability 🙂 I forgive myself, and take it easier on myself on workout days.

What tips do you have for those trying to become active with t1d? Test. Test again. Then test. If you have access to a CGM-use it. But don’t feel like you have to run a marathon or become a power lifter. Just getting outdoors more, or even getting to the mall can count as activity.

What support system to you have in place to keep your spirits up? My partner is a huge support for me. He doesn’t do the gym, but he always tells me how proud he is of me, and shares my happiness when I achieve new things. He is always congratulating me on doing things that are good for me and supporting all of my healthy decisions. In part I am doing it for him. I want to be around for a long time to grow old with him and we both know that I have extra challenges with T1D.

But I also have my support group online! We check in regularly on Twitter and share successes and frustrations. We are a global group that helps each other in the non-judgemental and strategic way people with diabetes need. Everything that is moderately active is an achievement. In a world where people are running across countries and completing marathons and triathlons, we can feel that our very real and regular efforts aren’t enough. This group is online to show that what we are doing is enough, and when we aren’t doing enough we nudge each other to help ourselves and do it for our families and friends. It really is the best place to turn when we need anything. There’s no judgement or bragging just doing and caring. You can read more about it at my blog post here.

Courtesy Alanna Swartz

Courtesy Alanna Swartz

Please list your athletic accomplishments! My athletic accomplishments huh? This is tough for me, I usually keep things pretty quiet. I keep it quiet because I am fat, and I have fat friends who are very sensitive to feeling like their nose is being rubbed in weight loss crap again. But I don’t work out to lose weight. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being fat if you are taking care of yourself. I think that if I lose weight the best benefit would be having a better selection of clothes. But I have my struggles. I still have my struggles every single day with self deprecation and self loathing. I think it is engrained in me as a woman, and as someone living with diabetes that I should be ashamed of how I look, so airing my accomplishments is something so personal I don’t usually do it-I don’t see the point in me saying these things. I won’t be any more proud of myself! Soooo, I won’t get in to specifics.

I will say that when I started power lifting I set my weightlifting goal for dead lifts with my trainer and I have successfully reached that.

I do around 75% longer stints of cardio before feeling exhausted.

I taught an elderly man how to properly dead lift!

But the most important athletic accomplishment for me is that I have let up on hating myself. It still creeps up, but I can now look in the mirror and not feel ashamed. That is a HUGE step for me. More than lifting any weight or running any distance.

What message do you have for other t1d’s who are apprehensive about being active (for whatever reason)? T1D is scary. It can rob you of years on your life, and so much more. But there are ways to get around it. You just have to work a little harder than most people. The best thing you can do is meet other people with T1D and work out with them. Bounce ideas of them and report in with them regularly. Nobody else can understand what living our life can be except each other.

Any other words of motivation? Just stick with doing what makes you feel good, and don’t bother with what anyone else thinks.

Thank you Alanna for sharing your fitness story.


Alanna’s blog & Twitter 



Hitting the gym with Shawn Shepheard, author of the new book Life is Sweet

“Instead of our usual coffee meet-up, do you want to hit the gym instead?”

That was the question I asked Shawn Shepheard aka. Sugar Free Shawn earlier this month and as the photo above proves, he was game!

Shawn is a friend, international speaker, motivator and diabetes advocate. Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the launch of his new book, Life is Sweet.

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During the event a few of Shawn’s friends went up to speak, and I was so happy to hear stories about how he has motivated others to reach their fitness goals.

His book is a collection of life stories that range from funny to heartfelt.

Running his first marathon? It’s in there. This guy is a 3 time marathoner, 7 time half-marathoner and a 5km/10km race pro.

Fitness Q&A with Shawn Shepheard

What is your current workout routine?

I currently play hockey twice a week and hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week.

What have you found to be helpful when exercising and managing your bg levels?
It’s really important to test your blood before working out and adjust accordingly.  I also always have juice or Dex 4 with me.
What is your favourite way to workout?
Hockey, hockey, hockey 🙂
How do you stay motivated to keep up your fitness routine?
I know I always feel better on days that I am exercising.
Do you have any fitness goals? 
Although I am active, I am nowhere near where I want to be with my health right now.  I am committed to making better choices with diet and exercise everyday and have a goal of dropping 50 pounds over the next 6 months.

photo 1

Congrats Shawn on a successful book launch. You have quickly become such a great friend and supporter of mine. I’ve been very blessed to have met so many wonderful people along this journey, you being one of them.

Thanks for sharing your fitness story with us and see you at the gym!


I’m going for Olympic gold with type 1 diabetes

photo 1

Who’s got Sochi fever? I certainly do.

When I hop on the bike or treadmill at the gym, I’m always watching to see who’s competing. In between stretches or while testing I’ll sneak a peak at who is up, giving it their all.

My gym has a great program going on, using the spirit of the Olympics to encourage people to reach for new heights.

photo 2

A series of exercises acts as an Olympic sport. For example, alpine skiing will consist of 5 exercises that work the muscles of athletes who do that sport. Complete the workout and you get points depending on how much you were able to do. Reach a certain level of points and you win a gold, silver or bronze prize.

I’ve learned lots of new exercises and have been sweating up a storm taking part. This challenge has thrown my regular routine out of whack, so I’m testing more at the gym and being more diligent in having post-workout snacks at hand (carrying more than one, I’m a hungry bear!).

This feels like I get to be part of the magic in Sochi, even if it’s for fun.

Are you doing anything active to commemorate the Olympics? Wearing your country’s colours or maybe taking part in something like this?

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Have a look at US skiier Kris Freeman’s Thank You blog post.

You can read my post “10 fun facts about Kris Freeman” here. 

Whatever you are doing to stay active, give it your all and go for gold. Don’t give up. Keep pushing and believe in yourself.

Testing between sets,


The dreaded “before” photo & taking on the Inches Challenge


I’m a big fan of my gym. Here’s why:

  • Trainers are friendly and so helpful. Every time I go in, I call on one of them to see if I’m doing an exercise correctly. I always have a good experience and walk away feeling empowered and not intimidated in the slightest (the latter being a big deal for me).
  • They provide lots of fundraising initiatives. For Christmas, one of the trainers dead lifted the total weight of how much food was donated. For Movember, donators could purchase from an exercise “menu”, appetizers being $2, a main course $5. I bought a few appetizers and purchased squats. At the end the trainers had to do all the exercises that were purchased from the Movember menu. I won a poster and free passes to the gym 😀
  • New programming. Last month I took part in two olympic lifting sessions (power clean and dead lift, which I’ll blog about later) and had a blast doing it. And now, I am taking on the Inches Challenge.

So the photo above explains it all. On Thursday I had my measurements taken and sat down to talk about my goals. You can decide your end date to the challenge. I have decided it will be a year from now.


For the most part, I want more definition. I want to build muscle and decrease my body fat percentage. 2013 was definitely a year to push myself when it came to fitness and this year, I want to continue to grow and dedicate myself to my health.

Taking a “before” photo was nerve-wracking. It took 10 seconds at the most, but standing there, in form fitting gym clothes to bare every curve in front of a lens that I wasn’t shooting was no easy task. I wouldn’t have dared to enter something like this 5 years ago.

I’ve never been a person that was proud of my body. I struggled long and hard and resounded a while back that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be really fit. Being diagnosed, and all that has come with it, has really changed my perspective on things.

We hold so much power in our thoughts. We are much stronger than we believe. I’m thankful to be part of a fitness facility that helps build my self esteem and provides me with a comforting environment where I can say, “Yes, sign me up! I can do this.”

Find a place, whether it’s outside alone on a trail or a group class with an energetic instructor, that makes you feel comfortable. An environment that makes you feel strong, that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone.

It makes all the difference. And with that, you will be another step closer to conquering your fears and reaching your goals.

Body Fat 33% & going down,


2013 Year in review fitness goals. Did I meet them? Plus my promise for 2014.

I had three fitness goals for 2013: complete two mini triathlons and my first half-marathon.

It was pretty ugly at times, and there were moments where I wanted to throw in the towel (and toss my meter into the lake and never look back), but I pushed through and got it done.

Being able to do these events during my first year and some after diagnosis mean more to me than my university degree or any promotion I’ve gotten too.



Why? Because the past few years have been the toughest of my life thus far.

I found out about multiple health challenges and with that came the stress, the worry and the realization of how precious life is. It also meant coming to terms with how I lived my life up to this point. It was and is really, really tough.

It was a smack in the face about every aspect of my life.

A quarter life crisis on steroids.

After all the hospital visits and endless doctors appointments, it seemed as though the universe was saying that my body was simply faulty.

As things got worse, I started to look at training differently. A gym session wasn’t just a time to get sweaty and have fun, it was a part of my day where I felt in control and in charge. Getting stronger and faster showed me how powerful I was. And instead of my body being ugly and riddled with defects, I saw how beautiful I could make it. I could turn myself into a well oiled machine and the things I did this year, blew me away.

I completed all my goals by the fall, so I decided to tackle Runner’s World magazine’s Run Streak Challenge. Run 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I haven’t missed a day, and this morning, I silenced my doubts about hitting my 9 minute/mile goal with this:


So 2014, I will start with the Inches Challenge at my gym. It’s time to devote myself even more. I’m ready.


And with Nike’s #WeRun2014 challenge. 100 miles in the first month of the year.


The distance seems scary, but so are a lot of other things. I can do it. And YOU can do whatever you set your mind to. If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that fear can rob you of your dreams and the life you want to live. So proclaim your fitness goals for next year.


  • #WeRun2014
  • Complete my gym’s inches challenge
  • Complete the Ottawa half-marathon
  • Complete 150km MS Bike ride (my first long distance ride)
  • Get over fear of lake swimming (so I can do more triathlons)
  • Volunteer more at events/programs that promote physical activity

I’ll be here, writing next year around this time, about how I accomplished the above. And you will too with your goals.

In the spirit of hashtags…






Count me in: My first Nike Training Club class at the Academy of Lions

Count Me In


I was surfing around last week and discovered that there are FREE Nike Training Club classes in Toronto.

Switching up the old routine is never a bad thing in my option. Your body gets a little out-of-the-ordinary shock. New environment. Different people. Right price. Count me in.

RSVP’ed on Facebook If you want to give these classes a try, RSVP early, they fill up fast. 


The classes available in Toronto are held at the Academy of Lions, a fitness facility that houses some pretty mean crossfitters.

(FYI: I have never done a crossfit workout.)

I’ll have to admit I was a bit intimidated by the setting. And I knew no one.


Enter our NTC trainer Paluna Santamaria. She’s been leading NTC classes for 6 months and has been a personal trainer for 10 years. Her directions were clear, enthusiasm was way up and she demonstrated a lot. Modifications were given often (and I took some of them as my butt was getting kicked).

After a nice warmup, all of us lined up into rows and did all kinds of sweat-filled moves. Line by line we tackled burpees, sprints, high-knee jumps and all sorts of fun stuff. At one point we split into two groups, half of the class would stay in a low squat while the other would be football shuffling. Ab burn? Check. There was a lot of that too.

I chit chatted with a few girls and overall, the atmosphere was quite friendly. What was most rewarding for me though was the applause my classmates would give to each other without direction.  It was a nice booster that kept me going when I really felt like hitting the floor for a good nap.

Taking a class like this was pretty hard for me on a mental level. Since being diagnosed I’ve been very careful as to what type of training I do. My blood glucose levels have gone wacky for different kinds of workouts (leaving me feeling very ill) so I was apprehensive.

After class I was able to open up to Paluna, who, by the way, was lifting herself up effortlessly (that’s how it looked anyway) at this bar contraption. I kind of stood and watched in awe. Asked if I could take her photo and she held herself up there for a crazy amount of time. 


“I want people to move more. We are designed to move more than we think we are,” she told me after class.

I didn’t go into great detail but told her about how I was diagnosed last year with an autoimmune disease aka. type 1 diabetes and how I really made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let one of my organs dying deter me from reaching my fitness goals.

She hit the nail right on the head for me when she said this:

“Some people feel ashamed when they are ill. They don’t feel confident in approaching instructors. They (instructors) are happy to help you.”

My eyes kind of lit up because I knew exactly what she was talking about and I think a lot of others do too. At first I found the act of having to “confess my condition” very difficult. I knew in order to exercise I had to let people know for safety reasons, but in the beginning, the whole process was mentally draining.

I personally think it’s very important that those around you know your condition. For me having a medical ID bracelet just doesn’t cut it. The more people that know, the better off you are. People can see the symptoms sometimes before you can.

For me, some of my greatest support has come from the people I “had” to tell like members of my run club or trainers at the gym.

“More movement is good for your body and good for your health. You just have to understand your condition.”


It was then that she explained the story of one of her clients. He’s 82 years old. He’s blind. He suffered a heart attack. And you know what? Even after his ticker episode, he made the effort and was present for his training session with her. He couldn’t do everything fully, but he showed up, and he gave whatever he got.

Paluna says it’s that kind of attitude and outlook that can make your body and mind so strong.

For me, making through the session feeling good and with great bg’s gave me a lot of confidence.

So, I will declare this now: Every day I will push myself to get stronger and faster.

Blood, sweat and tears (quite literally!)


*I wrote this review to document my first NTC class. I was not compensated in any way by Nike, the Academy of Lions or Paluna Santamaria.