Back in the Saddle

The first sentence I wanted to begin today’s blog entry with started with the words, “When I was diagnosed.” I wrote them down, deleted them, and then wrote several variations on that theme: “Back in March when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes…”; “When I found out…”; “When the doctor told me….”


The phrasing felt repetitive, but necessary. Then I hesitated again. Of the eight or nine entries I’ve written thus far, I figured over half probably started with “When.” I checked, and to my surprise, only two of the blog entries I’d written met that criterion—the first two. And it makes sense that I’d start them off in such away, since those entries consist of my diagnosis story.

That “when” is important to me. There’s no end to the topics I could write about beginning with “When I was diagnosed….” As those of you who have been diagnosed after knowing life without diabetes know, there’s a clear delineation: BD (before diabetes) and AD (after diabetes).

Although living with Type 1 diabetes hasn’t been quite the burden I initially thought it would be, there is one area in which I fret more about how diligent I have to be in my control than in others. It’s when I exercise. Now, I’m no elite athlete by any means. In college I ran track and cross country, and then I cycled competitively on a racing team for several years. Through most of my twenties I continued to run recreationally, but the cycling fell by the wayside. I had all sorts of excuses: too expensive, too dangerous to ride on the road, I didn’t have the time or a good place to ride.

But in the fall of 2006, BD, I signed up for two spinning classes at the local YMCA. I didn’t know what to expect. The early-morning (6 AM) classes were taught by people who raced bikes in the area, and most of the sessions were geared towards helping other riders in the class stay in shape throughout those many many months here in Michigan where road riding isn’t possible. I loved it. Sixty to 90 minutes of hard effort, sometimes to the point of total exhaustion.

When I was diagnosed, however—see! there’s that “when” again—and after I began taking insulin injections, at that point the level of effort cycling demanded was too much. I scaled it back while I got used to my ailing pancreas and learned how to live with my endocrine system in its new form.

I took the summer off from the high-intensity spinning workouts and instead walked, played golf, and did yard work (lots of hard yard work, however, which I’ve started calling “cardio-gardening”). I know there are so many athletes out there, many professional athletes, with diabetes, so I couldn’t use my diagnosis as an excuse to avoid hard workouts forever—and I’m one of those who loves the workouts but sometimes has a hard time getting started. So, last week I started the spinning classes again, one advanced class for 90 minutes on Tuesdays, and another 75-minute class on Thursday mornings.

Even though I can never get completely lost in the activity like I used to because I have to think about my blood glucose and pay close attention to how I feel, the endorphin rush and happy exhaustion I feel throughout the day is still the same. Whereas before my water bottle was filled with water, now I drink 70 or 80 carbs’ worth of Gatorade during a workout. I have my glucose monitor with me—the strap slips over the handlebars—and I check at least three times during a 90-minute workout to ensure I’m at a safe level. I hope my concern and diligence is enough to keep me safe, keep me from falling off a stationary bike! I know I’ll become more acclimated to the routine. I know others have. It’s just one more thing that’s going to take time getting used to AD.

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8 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. Interesting topic. I don’t know about you, but in the few months BD, exercise was getting so much harder. My 8 mile morning runs eventually whittled down to 2 miles and a lot of walking :-). I kept making excuses for being so tired! Its Humid! I’m working too hard! Even lack of sleep because I was so thirsty at night and kept getting up to use the bathroom…was I clueless!

    I have the enjoyment of seeing BG go UP when I run (apparently it’s a stress reaction). The funny part was I tried ENERGY bars to counteract my exhaustion and still could not understand why it seemed to be worse (DUH, the Sugar in that Snicker’s Powerbar is astronomical!)

    Now AD, I need to work with my endocrinologist and dietician to figure out how to have enough insulin to keep my BG from going up so much, and enough carbs/sugar to keep from falling over 3 miles from home. This disease is quite an adventure, isn’t it?

  2. Diaraj716 — It truly is individual self-management, isn’t it? This morning I woke up at 5:15 for 6:15 class. I tested my bg and it was 82 mg/dl. I had a lite yogurt (10g carb) and sipped Gatorade (35g/carb bottle) on my way to spinning class. I checked bg after warm-up: 143 mg/dl. Things got really intense, so I checked after twenty minutes of workout: 114 mg/dl. I am not comfortable with a difficult workout unless I have my blood glucose above 130 mg/dl (my CDE says 150, but I’m not a perfect patient who follows directions). I slugged a few gulps of Gatorade, again, and knew that would help until I checked again in another thirty minutes. At the end of the workout I was around 130 mg/dl. Which makes me happy. Last thing I want is to fall over from a low bg in the showers at the YMCA. Thank you, no.

    The thing I’ve yet to figure out is the “second low.” Familiar with that? Sometimes I get it; sometimes I don’t. Supposed to happen at the same time, but nothing is by the book. Nope.

  3. Thanks for covering this subject. It’s one I’m having difficulty with right now, so the timing is perfect for me. Please continue to write about your struggles and discoveries so I can learn from someone else.

    Second low – I experienced one today. Two- three hours after exercise. In fact, I’ve been bordering on low all day from the time I exercised this morning. I have a lot to learn about how to compensate.

    Thanks again – keep it up!

  4. My morning sugar reading is hiogher in my left hand than my right hand. Can any one comment on this. I asked my doctor, he said he does not know why.

  5. To besame33,
    My blood sugar sometimes varies by 10 or more points from one hand to the other. My nutritionist did not understand why that happened, either. A lot of times, it is the 2 hours after eating test when it does that for me.

  6. Eric-

    Good for you to get back doing what you loved BD!!!! I think most of us feel the need initially to backdown from intense physical activity AD because we are unsure what will happen if we go low during a work out. I cut way back on my distance running when I first got diagnosed yet soon decided diabetes was not going to keep me from doing what I loved and was good for my body and my diabetes. I am back running and coaching my old high school cross country team. I have to disconnect from my pump when I run and always check my blood before I run, but other than that I am back on track. I usually have to spike my sugars up around 200 right before I run to safely make it through a work out. While all the additional prep is a pain along with the times that I go low during a run (not fun at all) I am certainly not going to let diabetes keep me from doing what I love!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Community Outreach
    AgaMatrix, Inc.

  7. Your title sucked me in “Back in the Saddle” as I am an equestrian rider/owner. BD / AD – love the terms! Interestingly enough my story starts long before any recall memory – around the age of 15 months officially on my 2nd birthday.(time lines also very important) Now being 29 it’s been a long journey but I must say I’m healthier mind, body, and soul than people who are not diabetic – reason being, exercise! Do not fear your ability, as scary as low levels feel your body is pretty amazing and will react to intake of sugar rather quickly. Always being prepared is key, whether bringing gatorade, glucose tabs, lolly pops, half P.B. & J. sandwich into a class, long jog, co-ed soccer, eventing cross country with my horse the important thing is I am participating in something I love and benefitting my health! The more I push myself the better I feel. Those who have implemented you can’t, I’ve gone beyond. Where there is a will there is a way! Keep at it! You’ll be beyond in no time!

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