The Positive Can Be Negative

I returned to the gym on Tuesday for the first time in a couple of months. Yes, for all I’ve written and talked about my love of spinning classes (and that I’d even purchased cycling shoes and new cycling shorts in March), I’ve been on an extended hiatus from the local community college’s recreation complex.

It’s not as if I’ve been sitting at home doing nothing. Far from it. It was a chilly early spring, and when nice weather finally hit here in Southeast Michigan, I didn’t quite feel like being inside on a stationary bike. Instead, I wanted to be out in the garden and get things in shape for this first year with the newly planted perennials. After work, after getting home around six in the evening, I knew I had only a few hours of daylight, and I wanted to take advantage of those hours to work in the yard. And on weekends, too, I usually had “cardio-gardening” plans, which included any number of somewhat physically demanding tasks, such as bagging and hauling woodchips from the township’s free woodchips site, digging out the edging around the flowerbeds, transplanting daylilies from a friend’s backyard to the side of my drive, and the list goes on and on.

There was, however, some nagging in my often guilt-riddled brain that I wasn’t doing enough, that a few hours in the garden or a 30-minute walk wasn’t the same as 60 minutes of tough cardio. So, as a few weeks away from the gym turned into a month away, and as that month edged on into nearly two months in absentia, the triumphant return to spinning classes seemed more daunting.

Why? Well, I think it has largely to do with my insulin pump[1], with blood glucose numbers, and with ratios. See, I know that when I’m taking spinning classes and working out three to four times a week at the gym I’m going to be using far less insulin[2]. And over the last few months, I’ve seen my ratios get smaller (by that I mean I’ve been using more insulin). This is a transition that has, at times, been fraught with higher blood glucose readings than I’d have liked; and, of course, the opposite also happened: in tweaking the insulin dosages, I would sometimes overestimate and end up with mild cases of hypoglycemia.

Yet over the past few weeks, most of the insulin issues have steadied out. And therein was where I created my dilemma. Here I am wanting to get back to spinning classes (now that the garden is into its summer phase and not needing my attention as much), here I am wanting to bring my cardio levels back up to where they were at the end of April, and yet I’m hesitant. I found that, during these past three weeks or so, I was looking for (and finding) excuses to stay away from the gym.

All because I know that by getting back into really good shape, I’m going to have to pay closer attention to the ratios programmed into my insulin pump and pay closer attention to my blood glucose numbers.

Yes, I’m going to have to lower my insulin doses and adjust the carbohydrate ratios again. And I don’t know about you, but this is a task I often find onerous due to the chances that I might over- or underestimate the changes I need to make (the chances of severe consequences, such as a hypoglycemic episodes, are going to be greater when I’m in that place where my insulin levels are fluctuating because my body is adjusting to the return to hard cardio).

The return to spinning and to working out at the gym is so good for me, for helping to avoid the complications[3] that can come with this condition, diabetes. And yet, it’s the diabetes itself that for a month or so was helping me find ways to avoid my return. It’s almost as if the diabetes has its own self-defense mechanism to prevent me from fighting it; it finds a way to get into my head and mess with what should, rationally, be a no-brainer. It preys on my emotional weaknesses; it knows just what buttons to push.

But I’m back in spinning now. Going this evening, in fact. And the garden? It’s doing well. This is the first year for about 80% of the perennials, and so the next few years will be drastically different when stuff matures, spreads, and generally takes off. However, we are seeing some great things this year. Here’s the latest set of garden documentation[4]. (By the way, the H2 is my neighbor’s, not mine.)

  1. insulin pump:
  2. insulin:
  3. complications:
  4. the latest set of garden documentation:

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Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)

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