When I found out I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the first thing I said to myself was, “I’m not going to give up my exercise regime!”
It was a shock to find out after 29 beautiful years together, my pancreas function wanted out.
First off, way to be a quitter. I’ve invested a lot in keeping you and the rest of my body healthy. What gives? Maybe I took you for granted. I took a lot of things for granted actually. I just assumed you and the rest of my body would just “work”. But I guess not. And secondly, stop coming back for short bits of time and then leaving again. Either you are in or out. I don’t like this wishy-washy fling we’re having. I don’t know why it’s called honeymooning. This is no honeymoon.
Okay, back to exercising and being a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic.
The biggest problem I face with any type of training is going low (the technical term is hypoglycemia). It has been a very long process and I am by no means at a point where I’ve found the answer on how to work out without going low. I do accept that no matter how much I prepare or try to prevent lows, they will inevitably happen.
In the year and some since I’ve been diagnosed I have been to hospital once over hypogylcemia involving exercise. I swam, biked and run much earlier in the day in training for my first triathlon and although I ate when I should have, I still crashed, and crashed bad. I was completely out of it and my run buddies drove me to the hospital. I didn’t know where I was, and apparently was saying on the ride there, “We are going to do swim drills now right?” I eventually came to, and was released the same night.
If you’re competitive and have a type A personality like myself, this whole process may drive you mad.
It’s important to remember the following:
- This learning curve will teach you the great life lesson of patience
- It will also teach you about acceptance and lastly…
- Unless your livelihood depends on being an athlete, you’re going to need to calm down about PB’s
That is, just for the time being. This is absolutely NOT to say that you shouldn’t have goals for fitness. I have lots of them. And a quick Google search will prove that there are plenty of accomplished athletes who have type 1 diabetes.
It’s just that because you are newly diagnosed, your body is needing to adjust to everything. And it’s a process, a long one, and one that will try your patience and may have you in tears at times. But things will get better, I promise. It’s important to stay positive.
The basics to avoiding lows for me have been (after much trial and error)
- Eating a substantial amount of carbs before working out (what is substantial, now enters the fun part, will again, be a game of trial and error)
- Hydrating properly (I found I need to keep hydrated throughout, whereas before I could pound out 15km without a sip of water)
- Taking in a steady stream of carbs via eLoad Endurance Formula in my hydration pack
I usually mix the formula and water in a water bottle, then pour it into my hydration pack. eLoad Endurance Formula is light in taste so it’s not super sweet and doesn’t overwhelm the senses.
- Testing often (for me it’s every 1/2 hour)
- Eating immediately after a run to replenish
- Documenting what works and what doesn’t
What works for one diabetic may not work for you. I always like to try different things because you never know what might end up being something that gives you exactly what you need. And also, what works ONE DAY may not work the next. And that can be extremely annoying. If your pancreas is honeymooning that will cause a whole other host of fun surprises in terms of how much insulin you need/carbs to intake before/during/after exercise. What has worked for me is throwing my hands in the air and surrendering to the fact that things are probably not going to go my way.
It took a lot of work from my nurses, dietitians, endocrinologist and GP to help decipher the world of diabetes and exercise, but let me tell you, it’s all worth the blood, sweat and tears (literally!). I completely two triathlons and my first half marathon recently. It can all be done, I assure you.
I realize now there are many frustrations that I just had to accept:
- Carrying all your supplies including your meter, lancet device, test strips, glucose tabs, food
- Constantly calculating what you should eat, how many carbohydrates are in your fuel foods
- Stopping for hypoglycemia or when you are feeling ill
- Having your friends and family worry about you when you train
- Listening to people tell you “take it easy”
Those were the major annoyances that I have (for the most part) come to accept. It’s completely normal to be annoyed by the way. I thought my feelings of being fed up was a sign of weakness but it is absolutely not. This disease is exhausting.
If you are afraid of exercising because of lows, remember this: consistent exercise is prescribed a lot to manage stress and to alleviate a host of illnesses. It makes you feel good. It helps you become strong. Always talk to you doctor before starting any kind of new routine. But remember, the benefits of working out, in my opinion, heavily outweigh staying stagnant.