I’m a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic who loves to exercise. Welcome to my unpredictable world.

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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

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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.

Keep moving,

Jessica

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13 Comments

  1. Word! 🙂 As someone who is not even close to newly-diagnosed, I still struggle with figuring all this stuff out. For the most part, with trial and error you will be able to settle into a routine that works, but for me there are still unexplainable surprises that mess things up. And carrying all the supplies never becomes fun. But you’re right – the benefits of exercise FAR outweigh the long-term risks of being inactive!

    Reply

    1. Thank you for commenting Jennifer. How do you carry your supplies? With the hydration pack there’s room but when I go on shorter runs (5k or less) or at the gym I tote around my stuff in a SpiBelt. For races I sport the SpiBelt and rely on water along the course but of course still carry my supplies and glucose goodies in there.

      Reply

      1. I have to confess I am not a model diabetic when it comes to this… I have a pouch I wear on my shoe that holds either glucose or Gu for everything I do (I buy them from http://www.runningwarehouse.com). For longer runs with the hydration pack I can fit other fuel in there but the one thing I conspicuously don’t (and probably should) carry is a meter. Because I use Omnipod, my meter is kind of bulky (too big for Spibelt). I have carried a OneTouch Mini in the past, but the problem with the pump now is that I can only control it with the big bulky controller/meter. I’ll always check right before and right after and I have a basal program I use for long runs that I’ve finally fine-tuned to be pretty reliable. But I suppose running meter-less is my dirty little secret. Not recommended.

      2. The OneTouch is what I carry now. In my SpiBelt I carry: one Touch, barrel of strips, pricker, 8 Dex 4’s, Insulin Pen, cell phone (iPhone4) and money. It definitely weighs me down and often times I’ll do a 3k just to feel the freedom of not lugging around anything.
        The next meter I’m going to try out is the Bayer Contour USB (http://www.bayercontourusb.ca/home) it looks a tad smaller than the OneTouch and is apparently more accurate. I will definitely let you know how it goes. As for your dirty little secret-it’s safe with me (and well, everyone else on the internet) haha. I do sometimes opt to run without mine too from time to time. So, together it’s our secret 😀

  2. I am so excited to have found your blog through following you on Instagram! I am a type1 and have been weight training for the better part of the year. I changes the focus of my workout recently and it has completely thrown my diabetes out of whack. I am SO frustrated!!! I look forward to reading more about what works for you and the tips you have. Have you used a protein powder supplement that works well for you? Or do you stick to whole foods for your protein support? My husband and I have differing views on how to maximize protein intake 🙂 naturally his pancreas works fine lol

    Reply

    1. Hello Becca! I’m so happy that you not only stopped by (I pretend that my website is a really cool coffee shop like Central Perk on F.R.I.E.N.D.S), but also took the time to comment. I really really appreciate it. I’m constantly surprised that people read my website.

      I hear you on the frustration. Like I said in my entry, there are times where I just wanted to hurl my running shoes into the air. Yes! I use protein powder and have tried quite a few. I will actually write an entry about nutrition soon but in a nutshell, I use a lot of Vega products. I use the Vega smoothies and the Vega nutrition line. Another brand that was recommended by a nutritionist I saw was Food For Life (which is organic and a bit more pricier). I usually put a banana, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, blueberries, stevia and my powder supplement. The Chia seeds for me is great as it provides a whole lot of fibre (5g of carbs-5 g of fibre so no need to count for carbs, yay). I actually throw chia seeds on a lot of things to give it extra fibre. Not sure if you like them but it has worked for me.

      I try my very best to stick to whole foods but in reality, it doesn’t happen sometimes. When you can obviously the real thing is the best. But I know if I’m on the go I’d always opt to have say a protein powder drink as opposed to me scarfing down something that will probably do me more harm than good.

      I’ll write this down as a point to tackle in future posts. Again Becca thank you for stopping by in my internet cafe, so nice to have you 🙂

      Reply

  3. Documenting so you can see what works… absolutely! I think this is vital. Of course, you can’t depend on the pancreas to be consistent, but at least when it is in a groove, you can see what’s going on as far as the carbs. My son is also newly diagnosed, but we are already noticing that not all carbs are created equal. I think it is important for EVERYONE, diabetic or not, to take good care of their bodies, avoid simple sugars and choose more complex carbs and whole foods. But it is especially so for those with a disease. Whereas it may make a “normal” person feel crappy for a few days if they overdo or eat the wrong foods, it can have a much worse consequence for a diabetic (or someone with Lyme or MS or CFS or any other autoimmune disease). I’m trying to communicate to my son that he is being kind to himself when he strives to do it right and cheating himself when he tries to “cheat.” Of course, he is 11, so this will be an extended lab class….

    Thanks so much for sharing what is working for you. Keep us updated on what you learn!

    Reply

    1. Hi there Julia,
      Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. It hast just begun but I am so happy that people are reading. I know a lot of people stop by and don’t comment so the fact that you did means a lot because I love to hear what others have to say and if I’m helping. Before I start, if there are any topics you’d like me to talk about, feel free to suggest them. I’m sorry to hear your son has been diagnosed with diabetes. It’s hard for me, at 30 years of age, to understand or even try to comprehend what it’s like to have diabetes at a young age. Does he go to diabetes camps or have older adults with the disease to kind of mentor or guide him? I know for myself, having others who had the same disease was key. I found that with a group called Connected in Motion here in Ontario. I’m also very very glad you said that EVERYONE, diabetic or not, should take good care of their bodies. It’s hard enough for a young person to be diagnosed with the disease, but to be singled out by having one meal for him lets say, and another (unhealthy) meal for others doesn’t give him a good example to follow at all. So bravo! It’s a process of learning to care for our bodies, and we all need to make efforts to keep it as healthy as possible. Thanks for your comment and stop by again soon 🙂

      Reply

  4. I don’t have diabetes, but I do have a couple of auto-immune conditions (Crohns and Schelrosing Colangitis), but have found that through triathlon training, particularly iron distance, I have been able to feel like I am a little bit more in control of my body. I hope that the same happens for you. Its an inspirational story, so good luck with your challenge! 🙂

    Reply

    1. Hi Lucy,
      Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. When I first started blogging I wondered if my site here would reach to people who don’t have diabetes (and it has! Thank you!). I agree with you. Exercising and racing has given me more control of my body. It lets me know that my body is amazing and can do powerful things, even if parts of it don’t work. When you are constantly at the hospital and people keep prodding you to do tests etc. it can sometimes make you feel out of sorts, depressed and feeling like nothing is going right. For me, in triathlons especially, I have really felt empowered and that hey, the body is an amazing and fascinating entity and I can make it do some pretty fantastic things. Thanks for sharing with me Lucy. I look forward to keeping in touch with you. *shakes virtual hand.

      Reply

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