I’d say my transition into living a healthy and fit lifestyle officially began in the new year after my diagnosis. With my Diabetes, I was now paying way more attention to what I was eating in order to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. Alongside this, January came around and I was caught up in that wave of resolutions that hits everyone, with “get fit” being number one on the list. Obviously it shouldn’t take a new year to transform your lifestyle, but this is the time that I happened to begin to transform mine.
I didn’t really know where or how to start. I threw on some sporty looking clothes and carried myself outside. I felt like an idiot. This blog post is really the story of how I discovered my love for running outdoors, how I set my goals and managed to adapt my Diabetes to fit these goals – and not the other way around.
So, as I stood there, outside of my house, I thought it would be best if I actually started running, and began by going a quick ‘jog’ around the block… It is only fair to say that I couldn’t make it to the end of my street without gasping for air! I would time myself and was appalled when I could only run for three minutes without feeling like death. However, I kept pushing myself to go a little further each day that I went. That is vital in the journey – to keep pushing forward!
Eventually I was running around about two and a half to three km each time I went out. I wasn’t used to exercise, and now I had incorporated it into my routine it started causing problems with my blood sugars. I would find myself experiencing really low sugar levels hours after my run or even during the night, waking up at two or three in the morning sweating and shaking and needing sugar.
This happened continuously for weeks. I tried everything. I was eating a ton of carbohydrates before bed (which aggravated me, I felt I was totally cancelling out the calories that I had burned off in the first place and spoiling my feel-good-feeling that I had achieved from exercising.)
Nevertheless, I was determined to keep going. I enjoyed running! I loved feeling powerful as I pushed my feet forward on the streets, I loved going a little further than I had before, and I LOVED the feeling of having achieved something.
After a few weeks of running this route, my body became accustomed to the routine, and I was no longer experiencing hypos after exercise. I thought this was amazing and I was ready to push myself further.
My motivation to keep pushing came from a desire to prove to myself that I was strong, both physically and mentally. I am not the type of person who is ever satisfied with being static, I have to keep pushing for my next goal. If I say to myself, I can’t stop until I run to the end of that street, then I won’t stop.
Running became a huge stress reliever for me. If I was feeling down, then I would pop on my beautiful running shoes and hit the streets. It became routine for me during the Summer months when I joined my Dad running through the park after work.
My Dad was a huge motivator in my running. Already a strong 10 km runner, I knew I would be holding him back, but he insisted we run together. I enjoyed the prospect of running a further distance than I ever had and having a running partner seemed like a good way to stay determined. I found I liked the company and actually rather enjoyed running without any music in my ears, just the sounds from the park around us as we ran.
My Dad helped me push myself to achieve six km, then later seven, and then, on one Saturday morning, on pushing for eight km, I completed my first ever ten km run in just over an hour. I felt PHENOMENAL! Pushing through those last kilometres was difficult, but I was screaming the lyrics of Beyoncé inside my head as I told myself “I slay”.
It took me around four to five months of running three times a week to work up to this and for my body to adapt. And it DOES adapt! I experienced the worst hypos I have ever had after running ten km to start with. I was leaving my sugars running far too high before a run and then would still be waking up during the night in a panic. It was frustrating. However, I researched a lot and contacted my consultant at the hospital in order to keep trying out new pieces of advice. And I never gave up.
I found that what worked best for me when my body was adapting was to keep my sugar levels at a much healthier level – where they should be – and throughout my run they wouldn’t alter. I always had sugar on hand in case of emergencies. I would then make sure to fuel my body with healthy protein and carbohydrates after a run. I also learned to adapt my 24 hour insulin to lower it on the nights after I had done a huge amount of exercise.
Keeping in mind that this took two months to get right, it obviously was not easy. I was full of mixed emotions, battling between my passion for running and how tired I was of always having low sugars and constantly having to fill myself with carbohydrates just to combat the awful effects that were happening as a result of me doing something as a hobby. But eventually, eventually, I worked it out, I cracked it! I can now go a 10 km run and not experience a hypo afterwards, by lowering my 24 hour insulin and eating a healthy meal to refuel my body.
I am so happy that I continued to pursue my goal and I thank my Dad for being a continuous support, motivating me to push myself and not to give up. Ultimately, it took a lot of trial and error, but I needed support and that inner motivation and determination to get to that ten km finish line. This is a huge part of my fitness journey, and it inspired me to continue pushing that finish line a little further away, to keep pushing myself to be the best version of myself that I can be every day.