Making Diabetes Work Out During Your Work Out

Written by Kristi Caporoso

   For most of us, exercising is hard. The hard part isn't necessarily the physical act of moving about or working out. Once we are actually moving, we tend to enjoy the endorphins released by strenuous activity. The hard part is turning off the TV, putting on our sneakers, or leaving our cozy bed. While these tasks may sound incredibly easy, we tend to subconsciously make mountains out of them. All that effort of getting dressed and going down the street to the gym--it's just too much!

   While most of us are able to get ourselves moving despite these dreaded acts of getting ready and getting out, it is even harder for people with diabetes. Because we have a whole other set of steps to worry about, and they're much more tedious and complicated than finding a good pair of gym socks. Exercising is important for everyone, but it's extra important for people with diabetes. However, it's also extra difficult.

   People with diabetes are just as capable of exercising or being athletes as other people. However, we have to put much more thought and effort into it. A typical gym day for me goes as such: wake up in the morning, have my breakfast. Get some homework done while I'm digesting, and also drink plenty of water to prepare. Before I even get dressed for the gym, I test my blood sugar. Unlike other times, if I'm in the low 200s I consider it a good number. I then get dressed, take my pump off, and go downstairs to the gym in my apartment building. Immediately after finishing two miles on the treadmill, I head back to my room and test my blood sugar. At this point, it's usually down to the low hundreds. Before hopping in the shower I have to eat an apple or granola bar to prevent dropping any further. After showering I reconnect my pump with my basal rate set to be cut in half for the next three hours. These hours entail testing often, sometimes every half hour, and a lot of trial and error when it comes to giving insulin for lunch. Do I cover half? Do I cover at all? It changes day to day.

   While what I just described sounds incredibly complicated, this would be an easy day. A hard day, which I would have a lot of when I was first getting into this routine and didn't have a clear plan of how to manage my blood sugars, would entail much more highs and lows, intake of extra sugar and calories that I just worked to burn off, and hours of feeling disoriented and tired because my blood sugar was out of whack. Diabetes and exercise is a tricky combination. But don't be discouraged. None of this should be an excuse to not work out, it should just be something you work out a plan for. Just like coming up with a study plan before an exam, coming up with a proper diabetes regimen for exercising is tricky, but necessary. Some tips to help get you through: test often, drink lots of water, and always have snacks handy. And buy Gatorade. Gatorade is a lifesaver when you're exercising: it keeps your blood sugar up while hydrating and replenishing you. But most of all, stay patient.