The Lowdown on Managing Diabetes During Exercise

The Lowdown on Managing Diabetes During Exercise | The LOOP Blog

Although I know regular exercise is very beneficial to those with diabetes, it’s always been a struggle for me. Several years ago my Facebook feed was filled with posts about the Couch to 5K program. It felt like everyone I knew was training for a 5K. Something about those posts hooked me, and before I knew it, I was training for a 5K too. My husband Pete and I even signed up for a local 5K race.

Although we completed our training plan, I still wasn’t able to run a whole 5K without a few walking breaks. Before our race, Pete promised to run at my pace so we could complete the race together. But on race day, the spirit of competition hit him and he wanted to run as fast as he could (which is much faster than me). The problem, of course, was diabetes. I told him I’d be fine, but he was hesitant to leave me running alone. Then a group of three runners near us said that I could run with them. I explained that I had type 1 diabetes, and Pete was worried I’d have a blood sugar issue and need help. Turned out, those three runners worked together – as Emergency Medical Technicians! It was a happy coincidence and Pete was able to run a great race without worrying about me.

After our 5K was done, we stopped making time for runs and our running shoes gathered a couple years’ worth of dust. But surprisingly, I really missed running, and Pete did too, so we recently began training all over again. My goal this time is to run a 5K without any walking breaks. I’m not quite there yet, but I am running farther than ever before. I’m also doing some solo runs, because I can’t always expect to have either my husband or a group of EMTs along with me! Here are some of the things I do to make sure diabetes causes as few disruptions to my runs as possible.

  • Test!! This is probably the most important thing. I test about 20 minutes before I run, and right after I finish my run. If I’m feeling extra tired or a little off halfway through my run, I know I need to stop and test then too.
  • Snack as Needed. For me, lowering my basal rate never quite works right for a run. Instead I do much better if I eat a snack before heading out. My go-to is a small banana to fuel my run and keep my blood sugar from crashing. If I do end up low halfway through my run, a glucose gel usually does the trick.
  • Review CGM trend data vs. real-time readings. This is true anytime, but I’ve found during a run, my poor CGM can’t quite keep up with the rapid changes in my blood sugar. So instead, I mute the alarms during the run. I’ve found that about 20 minutes after the run, the real-time accuracy is better and I can review my glucose trends during my entire run to gain insights into what happened.
  • Use Temporary Basals after the Run. Running definitely impacts my post run blood sugars, and my needs change as the training steps up. At first, I could count on lows for a few hours after a run, so I’d set a lower temporary basal. Then for a few weeks, my blood sugars stayed stable after my runs, so I didn’t need any changes. Lately I’ve been noticing some spikes an hour or so after my run, so a higher temp basal does the trick.

Have you caught the running bug too? Or do you have another form of exercise you enjoy? What tips do you have to manage diabetes while exercising?


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