What My Diabetic Workout Routine Looks Like

Contributor
Oliver Shane

Editor's note: This is the first in an ongoing series of posts by Oliver Shane, who is a high school student with type 1 diabetes.

Welcome to The Poetic Diabetic! I’ve been working hard on studying for finals. Now that they’re all over with, I have plenty of time to work on these blogs! Another thing I’ve had a lot more time to do since school’s ended has been working out, which is the subject of this blog. If you’re anything like me, diabetes might make it difficult for you to work out, due to unforeseen lows or technology malfunctioning. As such, I wanted to specifically dedicate an article to the ways I work out and the preparations I take to do so.

But before getting into the meat of the article, I just want to make two things clear. First, I’m not a medical professional, none of the things I’m saying here should be taken as absolutes, I’m merely describing my own experience with exercise as a diabetic teen. Additionally, I’m not a varsity athlete or Olympic candidate, obviously. I exercise to the best of my abilities, around thirty minutes to an hour a day most days a week, but I wouldn’t compare my exercise habits to those types of individuals.

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"It often takes about two hours for any insulin changes to affect my levels, and I tend to drop fast while working out if I have any insulin left in my system."

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Before working out, I tend to do a few things. The first thing I do before working out is altering my basal. I lower my basal down to about half of my regular dose two hours before working out and turn my basal off completely an hour before working out. I do this because it often takes about two hours for any insulin changes to affect my levels, and I tend to drop fast while working out if I have any insulin left in my system.

Unfortunately, I don’t always have a two-hour warning before working out, which leads me to my second pre-workout habit. I always have a carb-filled snack before exercising, regardless of what activities I’m doing. This is because I’m personally very likely to drop as much as 100 mg/dL in even a 30-minute cardio exercise, so sugary sweets prevent me from dipping too low.

The one thing that I used to have a hard time with was finding good foods to eat before working out. A lot of common low snacks like orange juice and glucose tablets have a lot of citric acid, which isn’t the best thing to have before going on a run. Instead, I typically opt for Gatorade. It’s convenient, high on carbs, and doesn’t upset my stomach.

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"I always have a carb-filled snack before exercising, regardless of what activities I’m doing."

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The workouts I tend to do the most are a mix of cardiovascular exercises (such as running or Stairmaster usage) and weight-based exercises (typical gym activities). These exercises tend to have very different effects on my diabetic levels. For instance, running typically has me going outside in the Florida heat (which already causes my level to drop) on top of being an intense workout. This causes my level to drop immensely. In comparison, lifting weights or using an elliptical don’t have any noticeable impact on my level.

As such, I tend to balance between these two types of workouts, doing thirty minutes of cardio after thirty minutes of weights. This allows me time for the change in basal to kick in, and for my levels to rise from the snacks.

It is worth noting that different exercises might come with different precautions. For instance, I might not bring low snacks while I’m on the treadmill, as I’m able to stop before I get too low. On the contrary, it’s necessary that I always have snacks ready when swimming in the ocean or biking, as there aren’t a lot of opportunities to safely stop and eat snacks for either, and going low in those situations can have deadly consequences. On the contrary, it’s necessary that I always have snacks ready when swimming in the ocean or biking, as there aren’t a lot of opportunities to safely stop and eat snacks for either, and going low in those situations can have deadly consequences.

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"It is worth noting that different exercises might come with different precautions."

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Finally, in the hours after I finish exercising, I typically trend low. To prevent this from being too much of an issue, I usually don’t turn my basal up to my regular dosage until about an hour after I’m done exercising. This is usually enough to prevent any unwanted lows that exercise might cause.

That’s just about all I had to talk about today! Just as another reminder, this isn’t official medical advice, nor is this universally applicable. Do what’s best for your body when managing your diabetes. I just thought it’d be interesting to share my personal workout routine as an average diabetic teen.

See you next time! From one diabetic to the next.

Title
Oliver Shane
Description

Oliver Shane is a rising sophomore at William T. Dwyer high school, and joined Close Concerns as a Junior Summer Associate. Since being diagnosed with diabetes in May of 2020, he’s been an active participant in his local JDRF branch in Palm Beach County, Florida. Part of this participation includes running an active community education blog known as the Poetic Diabetic. He also helped with marketing for the JDRF Palm Beach County Winter Gala and Summer Fundraiser. Currently, Oliver is volunteering with The Sugar Science and AYUDA, on top of writing a book about coping with diabetes for newly diagnosed teens. In his free time, Oliver likes listening to music, playing with his dog, Bailey, and writing.