Did I mention I hate to exercise? I do. I really do.
However. (And isn’t there always a however when exercise is involved? So sneaky…)
However, when I exercise, it has an undeniable impact on my sugar levels—it keeps them consistently lower when I exercise regularly, and if I’m a bit high and really hungry, most times I can hit the treadmill for 30 minutes and bring my levels down low enough that I can actually eat. (I’ve also been known to imitate aerobic activity in my car on the way home from work because I know there’s pizza to be had (super-thin crust, of course, with the tomato sauce wiped off).)
The trick is getting me to exercise. I used to be a late-night person; I can stay up all night long watching old movies or bad sitcom reruns on TV, reading a book, playing Mah Jong on the computer or any other activity that mildly interests me. And I have. Somewhere along the way, I’ve had to re-train myself to be more of a morning person so I can exercise before I go to work (I get up, yes, but conversation within the first 20 minutes is useless). I learned early on that if I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, no matter how good my intentions are or how easy I make it, I simply won’t exercise when my foot steps through the door after work.
In order to keep me interested in exercise, there has to be variety. I have to have many options at my immediate disposal, and everything has to be made as easy as possible. Also? Gyms don’t work for me. They did when I was in my 20s and still thought of it as a social outing, but now that I’m older I see them as a pain in the butt to get to, overpriced and generally much smellier than I can handle. Plus, I’m almost 40. Do you really want to look at me sweating in ill-fitting capri gym pants I bought at Kohl’s and a T-shirt from 1992?
All my exercise equipment is in my home, collected over the years. First, we bought a treadmill. Then we bought a Bowflex. Then we bought a stationery bike. (I garbage-picked the Ab Machine from a very well-to-do neighborhood and sprayed it down with bleach; works great.) The machines are all in my spare office/bedroom—but we did just recently move the bike to the living room as a motivator for additional exercise. I also have hand weights that move through various rooms of the house at various periods of time, depending on when I think I might get the urge to do a few curls.
Upstairs, in my bedroom, I have a yoga mat, a giant ball that you sit on, a DVD player and about two dozen exercise DVDs. I bought a couple of them, but I get a lot of free ones from work. There’s pilates, yoga, kickboxing, weight-training, dancing, general aerobics, ball exercises—you name it.
And, just to round things out, I also have a hula-hoop, a jump rope and a mini, one-person trampoline.
Sounds excessive, no? Trust me, it’s not nearly enough to keep me constantly motivated to exercise, but it’s enough to keep me fairly consistent. I should also mention that I keep a pair of gym shoes and several pairs of socks right next to the treadmill; that’s their only purpose. Because if I have to hunt for a pair of shoes, I’m not going to exercise.
The treadmill always works for dropping my sugar levels—a simple walk drops me a few points; a hard-core walk playing with the slanty button or doing sprints drops me even further.
The bike? Doesn’t have any impact on my sugars whatsoever. I don’t know why, and it’s a damn shame, since it’s the easiest, most mind-numbing task.
The trampoline is like a shot of insulin. Five songs (that’s only as much as a I can do) on that thing and I’m sweating profusely, my heartbeat is way up and my sugars are guaranteed to run low all day long. I usually combine it with the treadmill, since my ankles kind of hurt after I use it and the treadmill seems to stretch them out.
Believe it or not, the hula hoop can actually drop me a little bit, too. I have to do it for about 30 minutes or more, though…
Any type of weight-lifting has so minor an impact that I don’t even count it. If I combine it with a little bit of aerobic activity, then yes. Same with pilates, yoga, stretching…nothing.
While not every exercise I do has an effect on my sugars, the fact that I’m keeping some sort of routine going helps me greatly. I can do the trampoline and the treadmill on Monday, the treadmill on Tuesday, the bike on Wednesday, the hula hoop and the trampoline on Thursday and some weight-lifting on Friday and I’ve managed to keep myself motivated for five days. (Although, to be honest, I usually let myself sleep in on one day during the week. I’m still me. I still hate to exercise and I have to be able to say no at least once a week or I’ll revolt.) When you’re motivated and in a routine for five days, it’s easier to keep going.
I always check my sugar before I exercise; if I’m under 100, I eat one carb unit. And I almost always drink a glass of V8 juice (one carb unit) before I exercise, not matter what my sugar is. I don’t exercise for more than 45 minutes, and I don’t check my sugar while I’m exercising, but I do pay attention to my body and I’ll stop if I feel anything weird. I haven’t been checking my sugar directly after exercising, because the first thing I do after I’m done is drink a glass of water and eat breakfast. If I’ve done a particularly sweaty workout, I do have to check my sugar starting about three hours later, because it can drop pretty fast if my breakfast wasn’t enough. I also check a little more often during the day, because the lower levels can last through to mid afternoon.
If I exercise regularly—four or five times a week, the sugar levels adjust and will stay consistently on the lower side. If I skip a few days in a row, the sugars will still be lower. However, if I skip a week, they’ll jump back up.
I also have to watch my insulin intake. I was up to 40 units of Lantus nightly, and not being as ambitious with my exercise, so the 40 was doing fine. I’ve amped up my routine again and in the past week, I’ve already dropped down to 38. I’ll keep dropping a unit every couple of nights until I see the lows even out a bit, then hold steady. I’m guessing I’ll end up somewhere around 36 in the next couple weeks—if I can maintain.
I hate exercise. I do. And I’m not one of those people who says they dread doing it, but feel marvelous afterward and have such a rush. I don’t. I don’t like it before I do it. I don’t like it while I’m doing it. I don’t like it when I’m done. The only thing I like about it is that when I’m finished, I know I won’t have to do it again for another 24 hours. But that’s the way the diabetic, sugar-free cookie crumbles. Exercise is good for me, so I do it.
As always, more to come…