5 Things I’ve Learned about Exercising with Diabetes

It’s November 26th which means it’s day 26 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is about diabetes and exercise. There’s so much I could say on the subject, so I decided to settle for a bit of a round-up post that explains what I’ve learned about exercising with diabetes over the years…

I exercise on a daily basis.

This statement is not a faux-humble brag, nor is it an exaggeration. Unless I’m sick, I work out in some form or fashion every single day. My workouts will vary in their intensity, but one thing is consistent: My diabetes plays a major role in how long, when, and what type of exercise I choose to do.

Since I grew up playing sports, I’ve had just about my entire lifetime with diabetes to figure out how to make it peacefully coexist – or, at least, merely coexist – with whatever exercise routine I’m completing. As a result, I’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way, and I’ve come to recognize several patterns that my diabetes follows when I exercise:

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My diabetes is practically BFFs with exercise.

1. My diabetes is happiest if I work out first thing in the morning. I never thought I’d be the type of person who works out before eating breakfast, but trial and error has taught me that this is the way to go in order to better manage my blood sugars during a workout. Fasting exercise has worked wonders on my blood sugars: I never have to worry about dealing with an insulin-on-board-inducing low blood sugar, nor do I have to be concerned about what the food I ate prior to my workout will do to my blood sugars while I’m exercising.

2. Different types of exercise affect me (and my blood sugars) in different ways. Many people probably relate to me when I say that weightlifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) often yield stable blood sugars during workouts but then trigger the need for more insulin hours later, whereas cardio (such as dancing, running, or circuit training) usually causes sudden drops in blood sugar levels. Of course, it depends on the timing, duration, and intensity of the workout, but it’s interesting to see how different types will require me to react in different ways in terms of my diabetes care.

3. Sometimes I need to suspend my insulin, sometimes I don’t. Again, whether or not I suspend my insulin – or even run a temp basal – depends heavily on when and how I exercise. If I’m doing my morning routine (which happens 75% of the time), then I don’t really do anything with my basal rates: I just keep them running normally. But if I’m taking a midday walk or decide to exercise in the evening, I often have to do something about my basal rate to avoid crashes or spikes. Insulin suspensions or temp basals are wait-and-see situations in those cases.

4. The hardest part about exercise and diabetes is that I can do the exact same routine every day and get different results. If I worked out at precisely the same time, for the same amount of time, and with the same sequence of movements every single day, then…my diabetes wouldn’t give a damn. Every day of life with diabetes is different because of the variables that inevitably cross my path. Things like mood, that time o’ the month, stress, diet, illness, and more can cause major changes in my blood sugar levels. It’s my job to react accordingly to those changes, but that doesn’t mean I always hit the mark on the first try. So with that in mind, it can sometimes be hard to accurately predict how my blood sugar will fare after every single exercise routine. Just thinking about it can be more exhausting than the workout itself.

5. My diabetes is my biggest motivator/fuels my desire to exercise. At the end of the day, I work out because of my diabetes, not because I’m trying to sculpt washboard abs (though I wouldn’t complain if that actually happened). My diabetes loves exercise: It results in an increase in insulin sensitivity and it helps tame my blood sugar levels overall. How could I not be motivated to work out every day with outcomes so tangible?

Cardio Workouts, Stink Bugs, and Diabetes

…What could those three things possibly have to do with each other?

Turns out, a lot more than you think. At least, if your name is Molly, you have diabetes, you do workouts in the mornings, and on top of all that, you have a paralyzing fear of bugs.

All of these things created a bit of a perfect storm last week during the early morning hours. My day started out normally: My alarm blared at 6:15, I rolled out of bed, changed into exercise clothes, and hit the play button on my DVD player. I completed a grueling half hour “Total Body Cardio Fix”, a series of exercises that are a part of the 21 Day Fix program. By the end of the workout, I was sweating profusely, but proud of myself for keeping up with this relatively new addition into my morning routine.

I proceeded getting ready (take shower, get dressed, do make-up). Towards the end of my make-up application, as I was blending concealer under my eyes in an attempt to cover up the dark circles, I happened to spot something on my carpet out of the corner of my eye. I hunched down to take a closer look and initially though it was a clump of stray threads on my floor – but I very quickly discovered it was something else. A nasty, ugly stink bug!!! Ugh, I hate those things. They’re so icky to look at, they FLY, and they release a horrible odor when you smoosh them. There is legitimately nothing to appreciate about them.

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My hyper-realistic rendering of what stink bugs look like. Those little squiggles represent their malodorous manner. The evil expression, though, is pure speculation on the artist’s part, as she has never gotten close

If you know me well enough, you know that I have what my parents kindly refer to as the “bug scream”. That’s how much I dislike creepy crawlies of all varieties. So as it dawned on me that I was looking right at one, I blood-curdling one escaped my lips and I ran as fast as I could out of my room. Unfortunately, though, I had to scamper back in to grab my test kit, PDM, and CGM so I could figure out what to do while I had my breakfast.

As I paced back and forth in the kitchen, trying to come up with a bug elimination stratagem, I heard a “BUZZBUZZBUZZ” from the other room. No, it wasn’t another bug – thanks heavens for that – but it was my CGM. The combination of early morning cardio and bug-induced mania must’ve done the trick. So there I was, in my absolute prime (not!): shaking, sweating, and most probably looking like a crazy person as I blended a breakfast shake together. Not cute.

Of course, the blood sugar issue was taken care of pronto. The bug issue, however? That was addressed. Eventually…

…meaning that my mother was my savior and eliminated the BUGger (sorry for the terrible pun*) later that evening. Thanks, mom.

 

*Not actually sorry for terrible puns because I love all puns!!!