Working Out with Diabetes: Overcoming Challenges

Water bottle? Check. Protein bar? Check. Sweat towel? Check. Add to that list glucose tablets, insulin, glucometer, glucagon pen, needles, test strips, lancets, alcohol swabs, extra syringes or pump supplies, and decent blood sugar level and you have the pre-workout checklist of a Type 1 Diabetic and the pre-workout check list of the SweatNET Ambassadors writing this blog, your new Diabuddies, Alicia & Hannah.

Type One Diabetes (T1D) advocate organization, Beyond Type One defines T1D as “a chronic, autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This attack leaves the pancreas with little or no ability to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Without insulin, sugar stays in the blood and can cause serious damage to organ systems … [T1D] is an incurable, auto-immune disease, not a lifestyle disease. It accounts for roughly 10% of the more than 420 million global cases of diabetes, and people with Type 1 are insulin-dependent for life. T1D is neither preventable nor curable and while its cause is unknown, studies prove that T1D results from a genetic predisposition together with an environmental trigger.”

So in normal person terms, our bodies attacked our pancreas, now it’s broken, and insulin pumps or multiple daily insulin injections (MDI) become our pancreas. We are our own pancreases! Knowing how much insulin we need is calculated by counting the amount of carbohydrates that we consume. That means any carbs: fruit carbs, veggie carbs, quinoa carbs, donut carbs, soda carbs! Not just the “bad” carbs. Not just sugar. This is a big misconception about T1D. Most people think that we just have to be mindful of sweets and unhealthy food choices but no matter where the carb comes from, it can cause our blood sugars to get out of whack.

“But how can you have diabetes if you workout all the time?” The stereotypes surrounding the word “diabetes” are endless. Diabetes is NOT always a lifestyle disease. Prior to diagnosis, we were both really active and healthy humans. Type 1 is autoimmune and we have to make big decisions to keep ourselves healthy. Being T1D means having to keep track of a lot of different things – our glucose levels are affected by just about EVERYTHING; hydration, heat, cold, food, hormones, type of exercise and definitely whether or not we participate in daily exercise. Being fitness trainers, we have to be extra cautious of our glucose levels as people like you who attend our classes rely on us and our workouts as much as our own bodies do. We stay motivated because of you and for our lives. From a biological perspective, balancing glucose while exercising can be more difficult than an arm stand on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge. Low intensity workouts have potential to bottom out our glucose causing hypoglycemia. We get disoriented, shaky, clammy, and run the risk of passing out when this happens. Alternatively, high intensity cardio releases cortisol into our systems causing insulin resistance and higher glucose levels that likely need to be corrected with a dose of insulin. This is a less emergent situation, but prolonged high glucose levels can cause many complications like circulation and cardiac issues, kidney failure, and even blindness. Make sense why we’re so passionate about advocating for a cure and awareness of type 1?

So now that you know the scoop, we want all our diabetic friends to know YOU’RE NOT ALONE! If you have diabetes, or a friend with diabetes, or a dog with diabetes, WE GET IT. We would love for you to come learn what different types of exercise can do for your glucose levels. Hannah completed her yoga teacher training in October 2017 and has been teaching yoga ever since and loving it. In March 2018 she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Now her passion is to empower and build confidence in people through their yoga practice and to educate people about Type 1 Diabetes. Alicia started her journey in indoor cycling at Ride or Die in December of 2017. She was diagnosed with Type 1 as a teenager and has recently made it a personal mission to be a local advocate and diabuddy to anyone who needs it.

SweatNET Ambassadors, Hannah Morse & Alicia Barrington