It’s day #5 of Diabetes Blog Week. Today we’re talking exercise.
I have a bike. I
like love to ride it all over.*
Is that exercise? I guess that depends on whether you think it’s “exercise” to do the thing that you love.
On one level, the answer is undeniable: Yes. I have to carve out time from my daily schedule to do it. Sometimes I have to convince myself to get going, especially when I’ve had a tough day and I want to veg out. And it burns a lot of calories, which was part of my initial motivation. According to the computerized bean-counters at MapMyRide.com, I’ve burned more than 130,000 Calories over the last 10 months by running, bicycling, and swimming,** which helps explain why I lost about 25 pounds over the same period.
I don’t think about it as exercise, though. In fact, what I do after work feels more like training. I “train” on weekdays so that I can ride longer distances with more ease on the weekends. I wear myself out repeatedly riding up long hills so that I can feel badass when it comes time to ride up an actual mountain. I go out in the winter and in the rain to put the miles in the bank, so that they’re there when I need to draw on them in the fourth or fifth hour of a ride. While I’m out training I have mental image of my idealized self. “I’m climbing like Andy Schleck. I’m grinding away on the flats like Fabian Cancellara. I’m spinning easily like all those other people in the peloton, waiting for the breakaway to wear itself out.”***
Whatever I call it, cycling is something that I love and that I think about way too much while I’m at work. I live for the long ride on the weekend. This Sunday, I hope to do the 90-mile ride that I was going to do last weekend before the jet stream shifted and changed my plans: Up and over Mt. Greylock in western Mass. before heading into the Taconic Range that divides New York from New England.
As with all things diabetes, it’s not as easy as just putting in the miles and showing up. There’s day-to-day planning that has to happen, too. I find it easiest to ride in the morning before the day’s first bolus: Just lower the basal about 50% an hour or two before starting and eat frequently along the way, testing every hour or so. I put Clif bars, bananas and string cheese in my jersey pockets and fill up my bottles with Gatorade. And on the weekends that’s what I do.
But weekdays I ride after work, so it’s more challenging. I hate seeing the high numbers, but I build up a bit of a blood sugar cushion by snacking without bolusing along with lowering my basal. And I drink Gatorade throughout my hour-long workout. I’ll keep tweaking everything until I get it right — until my BG levels don’t drop 50-100 mg/dL in an hour — and then I’ll lock it in until diabetes decides to change how my rules work (again).
Thanks to diabetes, I always carry three things with me when I ride****. (1) A tube of glucose tablets, which I occasionally need to use. (2) My phone, which I fortunately have not had to use except to snap the occasional picture. And (3) about $15 dollars in small bills in case I need to stop for an emergency snack or to bribe someone.
But to paraphrase Lance Armstrong, it’s not about the diabetes. I love to ride, and diabetes can come along if it promises to keep up. When I actually get on the bike to ride, that’s the time when I feel like I’m beyond diabetes. I put my pump in the pocket of my Team Type 1 jersey to represent for my PWDs and because I’m so damn proud and inspired by what that professional team does; but cycling connects me to a time before I had diabetes, and it’s my way of being as free from it as possible.
* — I’ve also been known to run, walk, hike, and backpack. And, yes, I’ve even started to enjoy swimming — though, I still suck at it.
** — Seriously, I’m not thinking about competing in a triathlon. I’m not.
*** — I have no delusions about my abilities, though. I’m just a guy with diabetes on a bike, after all.
**** — That’s in addition to the Boy Scout stuff that always stays with the bike: fix-it tools, patch kit, tire levers, etc.