guest post! – engage: exercise and diabetes – allison’s story

Throughout November, the diabetes community has been up to serious Good Things advocacy-wise for Diabetes Awareness Month. Many of my favourite things are initiatives like the Big Blue Test or Connected in Motion‘s World Diabetes Day Scavenger Hunt, that help create awareness while getting people–with and without–diabetes active at the same time.

To close off the month, Allison Nimlos offered to share some of her thoughts about exercise and type one diabetes–and how, despite the ever-constant and ever-changing variables that come into play when managing exercise with diabetes, it is worth it to persevere.

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After 19 years of living with type 1 diabetes, there are two things I know for sure about diabetes and exercise.

1) Exercise is essential for managing diabetes.

2) Exercise is a nightmare for managing diabetes.

Say what?!

No, this isn’t the Twilight Zone, but it is a fairly well-known fact that exercise is both amazing and horrible when it comes to managing type 1 diabetes. For type 2 diabetics, who rarely deal with low blood sugars, exercise is almost all good. But with type 1 diabetes, it gets quite complicated.

In managing type 1 diabetes, you’re basically a juggler. You’re juggling known factors, like insulin and food, but you’re also dealing with unknown factors, like hormones and stress, which can impact how your body responds to insulin. They aren’t anything you can control, so you just have to deal with things as they come. Exercise is sort of in between. Exercise is something you’re aware of — obviously, you know when you’re exercising — but the effects of exercising can vary from person to person, activity to activity, and even day to day!

Because of this, I’ve never been much into fitness. It’s actually easier, in some ways, not to be athletic because it’s one less variable to worry about. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you! Of course, it takes a lot of time and practice to figure out how your body responds to different exercise routines and what your blood sugar target levels should be. Diabetes is a very individual disease!

For instance, yesterday I ran a mile at the gym and ended my workout at a great blood sugar. Today, I ran another mile, and ended with a low blood sugar. Frustrating! But on the flipside, I also know that fitness helps me become less insulin resistant, which means my insulin works even better, my blood sugars in the long run will be lower and more stable, and my body will also be healthier in other ways. One of the major complications of diabetes is heart disease, so having a healthy heart and body through fitness is another excellent way to achieve that.

Here are some tips that I have for switching from being a non-exerciser to an exerciser when you have diabetes:

1) Stay observant. Diabetes changes depending on the variables, and it becomes a little easier to manage when you start paying attention to all the variables. From food and insulin, blood sugars before, during and after exercising, and even time of day, all those can impact your diabetes. Once you see what combinations are more successful, you can start trying to duplicate them.

2) Food isn’t the enemy. A lot of people don’t want to exercise because they are afraid of low blood sugars, and that means eating. But calories and carbohydrates can actually help you lose weight and be healthy. The right food is fuel! So eating does not necessarily mean you’re discounting your entire workout.

3) Be consistent. It takes practice, and a lot of people want to give up after the first workout because things aren’t perfect. But just like your first run or first time at yoga isn’t going to be great, your first time managing diabetes while exercising probably won’t be great either. You have stick with it, make adjustments, and even talk to your “coach” (doctor or diabetes educator) before you eventually get to the point where things will be easier.

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There are also many inspirational athletes with diabetes that constantly remind me not to let my diabetes get in the way. From Phil Southerland, who cycled across America, to Zippora Karz, who 
was a prima ballerina, to Will Cross, who climbed Mt. Everest, there’s no accomplishment that is out of reach for a person with diabetes. However, one thing I have learned time and again is the need for practice. It’s like training for a marathon. You don’t just go out there and run 26.2 miles. You have to start slow, practice, train, talk to people, and learn. Only then can you be successful! 

DSC_1755.JPGIt can be so difficult to adjust to something new. Not only is it physically difficult if you’re not used to running or cycling, but it can also be difficult to stay on top of your blood sugars, because your routine is completely changed. In the long run (no pun intended!), the benefits outweigh the negatives, and I’m personally more committed to fitness than ever. Plus, with the support of the Diabetes Online Community, my endocrinologist, my diabetes educator and, of course, my husband, I know that I can manage my diabetes and stay fit.

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Thanks Allison!  Allison blogs at With Faith and Grace, and is an active diabetes advocate, member of the diabetes online community (DOC) and writer for Diabetes Mine. Currently Allison is pursuing studies that will lead her towards nursing and becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator, creating for diabetes awareness at Blue Cupcake Press . . . all in addition to maintaining an active and balanced life with type 1 diabetes. You can find Allison on Twitter at @WithFaithGrace.

diabetes blessings week

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.  As I write this on Thursday, in the US, it is Thanksgiving Day, prompting this week to become Diabetes Blessings Week.  Mike encouraged me to participate and share what diabetes has blessed me with–as a person without diabetes.

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I don’t know if I can call diabetes itself a blessing–it is still a relentless, incessant, 24/7 job of micromanaging.  I don’t know if I can call diabetes a blessing because I am on the outside of it.

Yet, I do know that I have many times felt the pure impact of good things that would have never happened to me if I didn’t have asthma, and I know that many of my friends feel the same about their diabetes. And I do know the beauty of the Diabetes Online Community–the people, the love, and the hope, which are every bit as relentless as their circumstances try to be. These people encourage me every day, they make me smile, they have been with me through good and bad . . . these people are my friends.

Diabetes has blessed my friends with perspective, with determination, with perseverance.  It has blessed them with a greater sense of knowledge about themselves and about what they are capable of getting through, pushing past and climbing over.

Diabetes has blessed us with community. I have never encountered a health community like the DOC–supporting one another through diabetes in its many forms, but also in life.

Diabetes has blessed me with stories. With perspectives of others enriching my own.

With love. With hope.

With friends . . . nearby and around the world.

epic steve visits the great white north!

Through this magic thing called the Internet, I’ve had the joy of being able to meet a plethora of amazing people, a number which amplified massively in the last few months. Over the last week, I got to spend 9 hours with one of my favourite people on the planet. My friend Steve–also known as Epic Steve or Breathin’ Stephen–was in Winnipeg en route up north to embark on a wicked adventure: a polar bear tour in Churchill, Manitoba [had I figured early enough that I probably would have been able to cram this in with school, I would have totally gone with him!].  His blog post is absolutely incredible–lots of amazing pictures and video clips, and while he’s still in the process of adding to it, it is a must read.

I barely gave Steve time to step out into the cold before I showed up at his hotel on Monday afternoon, where we immediately began talking non-stop and trekked outside to get him a little more oriented to the Land of Canada–at this point, he took a picture of a snow pile, which totally cracked me up–I suppose that is a task that a Californian has to do on his first trip to Canada. We wandered while weighing out our food options and ended up getting on a bus, and then getting off at the Subway [which, turns out is probably the sketchiest Subway in the city from what I was told later. Ah, Winnipeg.]

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Unlike me, Steve can actually properly tie a scarf. Seriously, look how well he pulls off being a Canadian, right down to the name Stephen Gaudet! :]

As Steve has said before “We couldn’t be more different, but it seems to work.” And, that it does! We’ve both got a ridiculous amount of energy, and despite all the “different”, have so much more in common than I think we’d even realized when we connected through our blogs three-and-a-half years ago. We headed back to his hotel and talked non-stop for another couple hours about everything under the sun. (To underscore our combined inability to stop talking, my grandparents picked me up and we walked into the lobby and my grandma greeted us with “All I can hear from down the hall is jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber! Hello Stephen!”  See also: my grandma is awesome.)  Oh, also he stopped and made fun of me every time I said “out” or “about”, and then I tried to figure out what makes how Canadians say them so amusing to non-Canadians and I still have no freaking Idea, eh?

I met Steve downtown at the bus stop the next morning after he had apparently hit it off with the bus driver who hailed from England, and got a guided tour of the bus route and chatted it up about Churchill (the travel experiences this man has are full of amazing, I tell you).

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Photo credit to Steve.

His Picasa caption says “Partners in Crime”. This dude and I are out to change the world.  I think this is my new favourite picture of us–actually the Twin Peaks one still wins I think. Because awesome.

My mom picked us up and drove us to the train station [and thus finally met Steve after all of my talking!] where we proceeded to be touristy and take pictures.

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At this point, I was getting more and more tempted to just get on that train–forget packing and whatnot!  After we checked Steve’s bags, we went to The Forks, which is essentially the only thing to do in Winnipeg [okay, maybe the zoo, except not so much in November].

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I think this lead to this picture.

Like a kid in a candy . . . Oh wait, it was a candy store. Using Canadian money and all that. [Did you note that the $5 bills have hockey players on them? We don’t miss a beat, eh?]

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[I just noticed the big open barrel of Jelly Bellies. I’m not sure of my feelings on the open-ness of it all ;)]

About this time a) Steve told me we had to leave the market so he’d stop buying things, and b) my grandma chased us down because she made Steve cookies for the train (see also: my grandma is awesome.)  Then we went to play in Explore Manitoba Centre.

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Except if we were in the snow, you don’t get much more Manitoba than this.  We’re like an MTS commercial.

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He’s getting amped, while I’m taking pictures of him taking pictures again.

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[If you change your focus from the bear to his shoes, I would like to bring to your attention that as we were galavanting through the snow on Monday night he was making fun of the fact that I was wearing running shoes. Ahem, rockstar?]

Okay, time to get goofy:

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I think it was at exactly this point that it was determined that Steve and I need to travel together, because it would be pure amazing. And out of control all the time. :] Can you guess who’s idea this was?

Okay back to the snow!

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[Photo credit to Steve]

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After this point we simmered down (a bit, I’m unsure either of us ever simmer down too much), and went and hung out in the train station and talked for probably another hour before his train left. Even all these hours adding up are never enough time! And, trust me, Steve, I know you made that comment about how I’m always playing hooky whenever I see you, but I’m pretty sure I learned more, and more useful things, hanging out with you then I would have being at school.

Here’s a blurry BlackBerry photo in the legit train waiting area:

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Steve: Why do you look so pale and I look like I have a tan?

Me: Because you’re from California, and I’m from . . . here.

And from there [after we people-watched for awhile and talked non-stop as has become our pattern] he went off to the Great[er] White[r] North!

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[Also it has just occurred to me that I need to fix the situation that I do not own a plaid scarf. Whoa.]

On Sunday, I met up with Steve at his hotel to see him off at the airport [and my grandma sent more cookies–Steve makes friends everywhere, as evidenced by his Churchill adventure post!] at 8:30 (on the dot!). He gave me a sneak peek at some of the beautiful polar bear video footage, and told me about the awesome experience of his flight back to Winnipeg, and more Churchill stories.  After awhile we headed over to the airport, where the United people were not at their desk and thus had to feel the wrath of my tweeting :]

Hey @united. Get some people at your counter at YWG, you're breaking into coffee time.

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The @united people have arrived but they're not actually doing anything. Only one open kiosk and somebody went for a bathroom break.

(The United people were all kind of milling about and not being productive at the time of the last tweet. We got all stoked that somebody was coming, and as if she sensed our excitement decided she was going to fake us out and left to pee before she started actually working. False hope!)

As Steve learned, I am also unable to navigate my own airport [okay in reality I think he learned I am not really able to navigate much of anywhere, like when I made a wrong turn getting from the train station to the Forks Market. Honestly, they are across the parking lot]. And we found the Starbucks too late. Oh well, guess we’ll have to caffeinate the Starbucks way next time! However, had we found the Starbucks we would have a) spent more money and b) not had Steve’s first Tim Horton’s experience, so there is that. :]

We spent some time, to steal Steve’s phrase from his blog post, “plotting out our next adventure” over coffee, which will surely be wild if our last two adventures have been any indication!  Except, eventually we’ll have to take on a new geographic area for both of us :]. And . . . before we knew it we were sitting on the floor outside security where Steve was filling out a Customs card and I was pimping his inhaler with checkered duct tape [Hey, MTV — pimp my inhaler? You dig?] and he headed off back to the US.

Also, please tell Steve that he does not look stoned in this picture :].

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An unlikely pair? You know it. We may have a plethora of differences, but we also totally click, and sometimes it still blows my mind, even after spending 14.5 hours with Steve in the last couple months (after ‘knowing’ him three years!). As I’ve said before “We became friends because of asthma, we stayed friends because of awesome.” and that certainly holds true here.  Steve has helped me navigate a myraid of situations, sparked me into new things [have I mentioned here that the fact that I actually get some degree of physical activity, have done some races, and therefore became a kinesiology major is in part his fault? Because it is. If that doesn’t say good influence, I don’t know what does!], has ultimately taught me basically all the smart things I know about asthma (and, might I add, basically figured out how to try getting my asthma into control from 3,000 kilometers away). . . and in the process of all that goodness, we’ve had hundreds of good talks (also a lot of ridiculous!) and both good and not-so-good experiences along the way. And, certainly with the friendship we have now, all that, all that has lead to these crazy shared experiences, cannot be “coincidence”. (Well, I don’t believe in coincidence, but that’s beside the point).

Steve, it was awesome seeing you again. Let’s figure out a way to get our paths to cross again soon, yes? I think we’ve got some world-changing trouble to make. Or, you know, simply a lot of good times to have!  (And ice cream, coffee related drinks, touristy picture taking and YouTube travel documentaries!)

Now the rest of you, if you haven’t yet, go read about the bears on Steve’s blog!

light my candles in a daze*: dissonance

*lithium, nirvana

did you give it up, did you give it up, did you give it up?

heard a lot of talk about the ocean / heard a lot of talk about the sea, now / heard a lot of talk about a lot of things /  never meant that much to me. / heard a lot of talk about my spirit. / heard a lot of talk about my soul. / but i decided that anxiety and pain were better friends / so i let it go . . .

did you let it go, love? / did you let it go, lover? / did you let it go, my friend? / let’s get it back, let’s get it back together, yeah.

heard a lot of talk about this Jesus. / a man of love, and a man of strength / but what He meant was two thousand years ago / means nothing at all to me today. / He could have been telling me about my higher self / but He only lives inside my prayer / so what He was may have been beautiful / but the pain is right now and right here.

operation spirit (the tyranny of tradition), live

 

 

yeah i found God and He was absolutely nothing like me […] i couldn’t take it anymore so i went back to the sea. cause that’s where fishes go when fishes get the sense to flee. / where you going now? what’s your plan?

yeah i found God, and He was absolutely just like me […] He opened my mouth, looked down my throat, told me i was thirsty / He said “i been, i been, i been, been in this water all my life, never took the time to breathe. breathe. breathe.

what you doing in this darkness, baby? when you know that Love will set you free? would you stay in this sea forever / try a little on eternity? / what ya doing in this darkness baby? looking down where the sun don’t shine. […] come on out into the light of love, child, don’t spend another day living in the sea.

where fishes go, live

 

a light to free me from my burden, and grant me life eternally / should have been dead on a sunday morning, banging my head. / no time for mourning, ain’t got no time.

my own prison, creed

 

its funny how silence speaks sometimes when you’re alone / and remember that you feel. / again i stand. Lord I stand, against the faceless man.

cause if the face inside can’t see the light i know, i have to walk alone. and if I walk alone to the other side i know, i might not make it home. / again i stand, Lord God i stand, against the faceless man.

the faceless man, creed

I want more of You, and less of the religion shit.

I’ve been to church once in the last six months, and to be totally honest, it didn’t do all that much for me. i’ve been stuck in this place for almost a year. And the reality is, I don’t know when that’s going to change. I used to become frustrated about spiritual passivity, spiritual apathy, in myself and other followers of Christ.

And now, I have been in that rut so long myself.

Thinking. Contemplating. Trying to act.

Refusing to move.

Refusing to listen.

my ears were clogged and it was so quiet.

are you alone?, fireflight

 

I realize this. And I do not know how to move.

I question so much, every day. I question why people act the way they do; why I act the way I do. I question what lead a person to be where they are at. I question why people who believe that Jesus changed everything; why people who say they fully believe in love waste so much time in hate.

quit playing religion games: there’s blood on your hands.

instead of a show, jon foreman

Why we judge each other: we all do; why we just shake our heads and walk away; why we do not even think about what is going on in our worlds anymore. Why we let life slip through our hands like sand and do not take a moment to realize what the potential holds for each moment as it sifts through our fingers.

I question my own choices. I question my thought process. I question in retrospect why I just walk away from a situation that I am not okay with instead of contemplating what I could do to change that situation or change my thoughts on that situation. That thought. That belief.

That dissonance.

Dissonance.

Why I do not care to change myself, yet crave this change. Why I do not know how to change myself. Why I drift further into this cyclic pattern. Why I have these thoughts day after day — why they have reached the point of no longer being questions, just passivities.  Why I cannot just grab on to You. Why I cannot own my desires to become intentional in every aspect of my being.

Why.

I succumb further to apathy.

Yet I feel apathetic towards even this.

mirror mantra: mindfulness. [+ the big blue test]

My friend Mike started this movement called Mirror Mantras, in which he used to post a picture similar to the one below. I’m trying to get back on the train [and I miss his mantras!]

Here is something I am working at focusing on better:

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Speaking of Mike, and seeing that blue shirt there, that arrived in the mail today from the Diabetes Hands Foundation! November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and . . . Big Blue Test time!  As a fan of exercise, helping people, and awareness, I am a huge fan of the Big Blue Test, which only requires that a person log their workouts [and pre-/post- blood sugar readings if they have diabetes] and per logged workout, money is donated to a variety of diabetes-related non-profits from a sponsor. It is win-win-win, people!

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Included with my shirt was a piece of Mike-art! :]  How awesome is this?

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