The topic for this month's DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) blog carnival is all about exercise, which made us laugh. That's because Allison and I are polar opposites on this topic: we're two type 1 pumpers who view physical activity as penance and party time, respectively. I wonder which camp most of you are in — or hopefully someplace inbetween...?
Allison and Exercise:
I'm just gonna come out and say it: I hate exercising. It feels like the worst chore on the planet. I especially hate going to the gym. Considering I live in the Northeast, for most of the year, the gym is my only option. But no matter how many TV shows I watch or how many pop-dance songs I listen to, the gym continues to be a soul-sucking place.
I much prefer the outdoors. Preferably while biking. There are some really great trails in New York that my fiance and I have enjoyed exploring, especially when I was training for the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. But while cycling is one of my favorite things to do, the summer heat and humidity is very discouraging for this born-and-bred Oregonian (hint: we don't have humidity). I can think of so many things that I'd rather do than peddle around, getting sweaty and overheated!
Clearly I need to move to a place with better weather!
I know that when I exercise regularly, it shows in my overall health, not just diabetes-wise. I feel better. I sleep better. Exercise also kicks my diabetes into gear. My blood sugars stay more stable and I use less insulin. Now on top of that, I have a new motivation to stay focused at the gym: I'm getting married in three months. I haven't lost as much weight as I hoped, but the numbers on the scale are slowly but surely heading in the right direction. Sometimes seeing the rewards of all the hard work makes all the difference!
Amy and Exercise:
I'll just come out and say it, too: I'm addicted. I happen to LOVE that feeling of really exerting myself, getting all out of breath and sweaty, and the endorphin high that follows.
This is actually ironic for a kid who was decidedly un-athletic. I got teased for being awkward and wimpy at sports. To this day, I don't understand the rules of most team sports. But some time in high school, I discovered aerobics classes — and with them, a newfound love for working out and the way it made me feel. Over the years, I must have taken hundreds (thousands?) of different varieties classes at various gyms: high-impact, low-impact, body conditioning, strength and stretch, core on the floor — you name it.
Back in the day, I used to use those "nautilus" machines at gyms, too, but I long ago gave that up for the pleasure of jumping around to loud music with a good beat. Classes are ideal for me because: 1) it's like hard-core dancing, except you don't actually have to master any actual dance moves, and 2) you don't have to think much — you just follow the instructor.
About a year and a half ago, I started taking spin classes as well. That's a hell of a workout. I like to say that I discovered the secret for slowing down time (spin class!) I go for runs — about 3-4 miles along our local nature trail — when I can't make it to the gym for one reason or another. I also really enjoy hiking and road-biking, when the weather is fine and I have ample time (he, he).
A girlfriend of mine recently started to attend aerobics and weights classes with me at one of the gyms I belong to (yup, I've got two!). She's always saying things like, "are you ready for THE PAIN?"
I never, ever thought of these classes this way before. For me, workout time is my "treat." It's my time away from the responsibilities of work and caring for my kids: no phones ringing, no one yelling "Mooooommmm!," no laundry to fold or driving to do. I just forget about the world and feel my muscles working. Afterwards, they feel stretched and soothed. I feel energetic and calm (which is a big deal for me).
I'm just sayin': exercise can be a tonic if you think of it that way. The most important thing, I think, is to learn to control your breathing during heavy exertion, so you're not gasping for air and feeling miserable. If you can learn to concentrate on a nice rhythmic "good-air-in / bad-air-out" pattern, you'll be amazed at how long you can keep your body going.
And then of course there's blood sugar control. That takes a lot of trial and error, and sometimes you just don't get it right and can't enjoy your workout at all! Ugh. But like everything else with diabetes, repeated patterns help you learn what usually works, be it skipping insulin for your last meal before working out, setting temp basals on your pump, or noshing on raisins mid-workout.
Funny, but when it comes to motivation: I struggle with "eating right," testing BG as often as I should, and continuously striving to be a better carb-counter, but I never struggle with the exercise part. Like I said, I'm addicted to the endorphins, and actually get really grumpy if I haven't had a chance to release any in a few days.
Every time I'm bopping around in a gym class, or sweating my head off atop a bike or whatnot, I think how lucky I am to be doing this, and not dialysis or chemo or somesuch. As long as I am able to exert myself this way, by God I'm going to celebrate it. One of my favorite things to do is scan the rest of the workout room and wonder: who else here is working out like their life depended on it?!
btw, for those in Allison's camp, have you discovered this book yet from ADA? It gets very good reviews on Amazon.com.