It has been awhile since I felt this exhausted after a workout. I try to swim at least three times a week, and I've been incrementally increasing the distance over the last couple of weeks to avoid hitting a "plateau." I don't consider myself a fitness fanatic, but I do believe exercise is important for my physical and mental health. However, as a type 1, I find myself constantly worried about the effects of exercise on my blood sugar and sometimes, especially on days like today, I wonder if I'm pushing myself too hard or if I should continue to challenge myself.
Swimming has been an interesting experiment in blood sugar control for me. When I started swimming three times a week last fall with a group at my gym, I expected the effect on my sugar would be similar to other cardio/aerobic exercises like walking or running--meaning I would probably have a pretty dramatic drop in my sugar. Usually if I'm going for a walk or a jog (the latter is quite rare because I loathe running), I'll have a snack beforehand and take little or no bolus insulin. If my sugar is in the 200s before a walk, I don't sweat it because I know it'll be somewhere in the low 100s within half an hour. So, imagine my surprise and frustration when, during my first couple of swimming sessions, I would eat my snack before a swim with no insulin and then have a high number afterward! Kind of a bummer.
During the first two or three weeks, I was able to tweak my routine to the point where my sugars are typically below 140 after swimming. Here's what I discovered about my body's response to swimming that helped make this possible:
I have made it up to 3200 yards now (128 laps or 1.8 miles), which is the farthest I've ever swam at one time in my life...even when I swam competitively as a kid. I've lost ten pounds, and my mood and energy level is better than it has been in a very long time. Even though I have some stresses in my life at the moment, I don't feel overwhelmed by them and I wholeheartedly believe that my "health kick" is probably a big reason why. Even though making the time to workout is a hassle sometimes, and even though managing my sugars continues to be challenging, I am gradually feeling more and more confident in my athletic abilities.
Is it harder for diabetics to get active and stay active? Possibly. But don't let that discourage you. Not that I'm any sort of expert on the subject...all I have to go on is my personal experience. But I feel pretty strongly that the benefits will almost always outweigh the risks as long as you are careful and take your time. So, I guess that's what I need to apply to myself, isn't it? I need to keep pushing myself while remembering that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
*Edit: I hope this is a no-brainer...but please, people, talk to your doc before starting an exercise regimen!