The Poetic Diabetic: What My Diabetic Workout Routine Looks Like 6/15/2022

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Welcome to The Poetic Diabetic!

Sorry for the long gap between articles–I’ve been working hard on studying for finals. Now that they’re all over, I have plenty of time to work on these blogs!

Another thing I’ve had a lot more time to do since school’s been over 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. So, I wanted to dedicate an article to explaining how I work out and how I prepare to do so.

But before getting into the meat of the article, I want to clarify two things. First, I’m not a medical professional. Nothing I’m saying here should be taken as absolute, I’m merely describing my experience with exercise as a diabetic teen. Additionally, I’m not a varsity athlete or Olympic candidate. 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 individuals.

I like to do a few things pre-workout. First,  I lower my basal down to about half of my regular dose two hours before working out, and then 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, leading to my second pre-workout habit. I always have a carb-filled snack before exercising, regardless of what activities I’m doing. Personally, I’m very likely to drop upwards of 100 bg/l in even a 30-minute cardio exercise, so sugary sweets prevent me from dipping too low.

I used to have a hard time finding good foods to eat before working out. Many typical 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. So instead, I typically opt for Gatorade–it’s convenient, high on carbs, and doesn’t upset my stomach.

The workouts I tend to do the most are cardiovascular exercises (such as running or Stairmaster usage) and weight-based exercises (typical gym activities). Unfortunately, these exercises have very different effects on my blood sugar levels. For instance, I typically run outside in the Florida heat which, combined with the intense workout, causes my level to drop immensely. In comparison, lifting weights or using an elliptical don’t have any noticeable impact on my levels.

I tend to balance 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 my levels to rise from the snacks.

It is worth noting that different exercises might come with different precautions. For example, I might not bring low snacks while I’m on the treadmill, since I can stop before I get too low. On the contrary, I must always have snacks ready when swimming in the ocean or biking, since there aren’t many opportunities to stop and eat snacks safely during those situations, and going low can have deadly consequences.

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 back 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.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my workout routine as an average diabetic teen! Just remember, this isn’t official medical advice, nor is this universally applicable. Do what’s best for your body when managing your diabetes.

See you next time! From one person with diabetes to the next.


Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions of JDRF, its leadership, staff, chapters, partners, or other supporters.