Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How a new activity affected my blood sugars

I have been struggling of late with an ITB issue in my left leg. It's always my left leg. Any issues I have had in past 2-3 years have been my left leg. It's frustrating, monotonous and a bit boring. More than a bit boring it's a pattern.

Get fit, feel great then as i start to progress towards my goals something breaks down.

You could argue I need different goals and you might be right but as of now I don't know what they could be. Right now what I do know is the goal is the South Downs Way 100 miler on June 7th.

This post isn't meant to be about that or me moaning about yet another injury setback. It's about what I have been doing in the absence of being able to run and the significant impact this has had on my diabetes.

On Saturday I went to the gym, I have been increasing my gym time to help with my leg. Strength training really helps to keep this all at bay and my focus to upper body is a contributor towards this. Saturday, I decided to go on the rowing machine, a good all body workout. I rowed 5km in a little over 21 minutes. Pride dented slightly as I used to be able to do that in less than 19 but that was probably 5-6 or even more years ago and I am 47 and not a rower! After that I did 20 minutes on the treadmill at a really easy pace and then some strength work.

For the rest of the day my blood sugars were down. I used a -80% setting for my basal during the exercise session (this was around and hour and 20 minutes total) and continued for a further 2hrs or so afterwards. I ended up extending this -80% for nearly 4 hours post workout such was the impact. It seemed that each time I tested I was at 3-point-something. It was exhausting.

When this low blood sugar cycle happens I always go back over the day and previous days to see what was different and the answer was very little. I eat more or less the same food, drink the same amount of coffee, water and tea and exercise a lot. I always do. The only thing that was different was the actual exercise I did.

Could it be that the 21 minute row had that much of an impact?

I can only assume that yes it did. A different type of exercise and different intensity and one that uses a lot more of the body than just running does for example. I eventually got things under control by evening, where i was running a little higher at around 9mmol, and took the opportunity for an early night. A day of up and down blood sugars really leaving me drained.

The lesson learned is that different exercise can have a profoundly different effect. This got me to thinking that when you start exercise as a diabetic you really need to be careful and test regularly during the effort to understand what is going on and what affect it has. I have been running for so many years that my body is used to that, throw a random-row in and I am right back at the beginning of the journey. Learning what it does to my body and how my body needs to get used to it and adapt to it.

When someone with diabetes says they are struggling to exercise this may be part of it. Don't judge them or think that they are looking for excuses not to do it; they really aren't. It's difficult and they need more time to understand what's going on and how it affects them.

Exercise is the simplest thing right? You put on your kit and you go. Now imagine that every step or pedal stroke or pull on the rower that you are worried about your blood sugars going low. That you need a strategy for this if you feel it. That you have to carry more kit to test, that you need to stop and test. It's frustrating and difficult but persevere. I learned so much about my diabetes through running and the benefits to me in terms of blood sugar control and overall health are massive.

Now i just need to get my 5km row time down again!