Back in the Saddle

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The first sentence I wanted to begin today’s blog entry with started with the words, “When I was diagnosed.” I wrote them down, deleted them, and then wrote several variations on that theme: “Back in March when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes…”; “When I found out…”; “When the doctor told me….”

The phrasing felt repetitive, but necessary. Then I hesitated again. Of the eight or nine entries I’ve written thus far, I figured over half probably started with “When.” I checked, and to my surprise, only two of the blog entries I’d written met that criterion—the first two. And it makes sense that I’d start them off in such away, since those entries consist of my diagnosis story.

That “when” is important to me. There’s no end to the topics I could write about beginning with “When I was diagnosed….” As those of you who have been diagnosed after knowing life without diabetes know, there’s a clear delineation: BD (before diabetes) and AD (after diabetes).

Although living with Type 1 diabetes hasn’t been quite the burden I initially thought it would be, there is one area in which I fret more about how diligent I have to be in my control than in others. It’s when I exercise. Now, I’m no elite athlete by any means. In college I ran track and cross country, and then I cycled competitively on a racing team for several years. Through most of my twenties I continued to run recreationally, but the cycling fell by the wayside. I had all sorts of excuses: too expensive, too dangerous to ride on the road, I didn’t have the time or a good place to ride.

But in the fall of 2006, BD, I signed up for two spinning classes at the local YMCA. I didn’t know what to expect. The early-morning (6 AM) classes were taught by people who raced bikes in the area, and most of the sessions were geared towards helping other riders in the class stay in shape throughout those many many months here in Michigan where road riding isn’t possible. I loved it. Sixty to 90 minutes of hard effort, sometimes to the point of total exhaustion.

When I was diagnosed, however—see! there’s that “when” again—and after I began taking insulin injections, at that point the level of effort cycling demanded was too much. I scaled it back while I got used to my ailing pancreas and learned how to live with my endocrine system in its new form.

I took the summer off from the high-intensity spinning workouts and instead walked, played golf, and did yard work (lots of hard yard work, however, which I’ve started calling “cardio-gardening”). I know there are so many athletes out there, many professional athletes, with diabetes, so I couldn’t use my diagnosis as an excuse to avoid hard workouts forever—and I’m one of those who loves the workouts but sometimes has a hard time getting started. So, last week I started the spinning classes again, one advanced class for 90 minutes on Tuesdays, and another 75-minute class on Thursday mornings.

Even though I can never get completely lost in the activity like I used to because I have to think about my blood glucose and pay close attention to how I feel, the endorphin rush and happy exhaustion I feel throughout the day is still the same. Whereas before my water bottle was filled with water, now I drink 70 or 80 carbs’ worth of Gatorade during a workout. I have my glucose monitor with me—the strap slips over the handlebars—and I check at least three times during a 90-minute workout to ensure I’m at a safe level. I hope my concern and diligence is enough to keep me safe, keep me from falling off a stationary bike! I know I’ll become more acclimated to the routine. I know others have. It’s just one more thing that’s going to take time getting used to AD.

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