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Posts from the ‘Exercise & Fitness’ Category

FitBit Motivation.

I like my FitBit.  I’ve been using one since March of last year and it has consistently kept me motivated to keep moving.

… okay, let me check that for a second.

It’s not the device itself that keeps me on the move. Initially, I liked seeing the numbers climb on my step count and watching that ticker drove me to earn higher numbers.  It was a stark mental contrast to how I felt about my diabetes numbers, where I was aiming for more of a game of golf (bring that number DOWN, not UP).  FitBit was cool because the higher the number, the better.

Eventually, the newness of the self-tracking incentive wore off and I wasn’t as eager to fight to hit my step goal.  I still exercised daily, but with a little less oomph, if that makes sense.

What reinvigorated my motivation are the people I’m interacting with through the FitBit community.  And this is where diabetes intersects a bit, because most of the people I’m connecting with through FitBit are friends from the DOC (diabetes online community).

One of the things I like most about the FitBit are the challenges you can engage in.  Here’s a screenshot of what’s available (over there on the right) –>

The ones I like the most are Workweek Hustles, because you have five days to not only reach your own self-set goals, but you can pace yourself against friends, making it a friendly* competition.  As the FitBit devices sync with the app, you can watch your step count climb and see which participant will come in “first” (with the most steps).

Dude, it is FUN to play and to flex my competitive muscle.  (I’m a little bit competitive.  Maybe more than a little bit, judging by my husband’s bemused raised eyebrow every time I go to use the treadmill at 9 pm.  “FitBit challenge again?”  “Yep.”  “Go get ‘em.”)  And while exercise isn’t something I’ve ever shied away from, it’s more exciting when I’m held accountable.  If I’m in first place, there’s no way I’m going to skip a workout or avoid going for a walk or run, because I want to keep my foothold on that leader board.

These competitions play out awesomely for my blood sugars, if I stay on top of things.  Making an effort to move more during the day has brought my total daily doses of insulin down by more than 20%, which for me is quite a bit.  (Also, this is not medical advice or science of any kind.  Talk with your doctor if you are considering taking anything you read on the Internet as medical advice, because they are a doctor.  And I am simply an over-caffeinated FitBit addict.)

More importantly, I noticed that my activity level goes up significantly when I’m engaged in a FitBit challenge.  If there’s a competition to participate in, reaching my step goal of 12,000 steps per day is a piece of (gluten-free) cake.  It’s like having a dozen workout buddies.  (Read Laddie’s take on the challenges here.)

FitBit challenges are pretty freaking awesome.  And fun.  And help break up some of the mundane ho-hummishness that my exercise routine can fall into.  A dose a fun, friendly competition and accountability is exactly the gentle incentive I needed.

* “Friendly” sometimes needs to be in quotes because a certain academic who shall not be named has a tendency to become a thorn in my competitive side.  Cough – @miller7 – cough.

Practice Turkey.

Chris and I are both from big families with piles of aunts and uncles and cousins at every birthday party.  Part of being part of a flurry of people means big holiday gatherings, and Chris and I are prepping ourselves to start hosting some of the holidays.

Problem is, I’m a terrible cook.  Or, better stated:  an inexperienced cook.  Cooking hasn’t ever brought me joy or satisfaction, and I’m not interested in the time it takes to perfect a recipe.  I cook for form and functionality (read: make sure my family doesn’t survive on garlic salt and overripe bananas), not for fun.  I’m not good at making the effort to learn.

But if we want to start hosting holidays, we need to learn how to prepare some of the main courses.  Which brings me to the Practice Turkey:

Practice Turkey is currently taking up residence in our freezer, and my goal is to use him to teach myself how to properly prepare a whole turkey.  (Sidebar:  Animal is in our freezer because Birdy is afraid of him, but refuses to let us donate him or throw him out.  She wants him in the house, but entirely contained.  So he lives in our freezer and has been there about a year.  I always forget that he’s in there, until someone comes over to visit, opens the freezer, and subsequently goes, “OOH!!”) In the next week, my plan is to practice my culinary witchcraft on Practice Turkey so that when we host holidays this year, I’m not in a huge panic because I can be all, “Oh, the turkey?  I know how to do that.  I’m all over that!”

I need to actually do it in order to make sure I can do it.

Same goes for technology hiccups in my diabetes management plan.  I use an insulin pump and a CGM (hellooooo, disclosures), and with that convenience and data comes an influx of autonomy and the sacrifice of my autonomy, if that makes sense.  The devices give me a lot of flexibility and freedom, but if I rely on them too heavily, I forget how to manage my diabetes on my own.

I need to be my own Practice Turkey, relearning the details of diabetes.  I need to make sure I know how to calculate a bolus, check my blood sugar regularly by finger prick, and finagle basal insulin doses if my pump ever breaks, or if I ever want to take a CGM break, or if my will to wear devices breaks a little.  And over the last week, I’ve been on a bit of a device break (thank you, winter skin issues), realizing once again that a refresher course on how to drive the stick-shift version of my diabetes (so to speak) helps me take better care of myself overall.  Taking an injection before I eat makes me think twice about the food I’m putting into my body, and also help me remember to pre-bolus (because it’s a process, not just the push of a button).  Using the treadmill instead of a correction bolus to fix a 180 mg/dL keeps exercise fresh in my mind.  3 am checks aren’t always necessary, but doing a few of them helps me spot-check my overnight basal rates.  I appreciate my devices, but I needed a reminder on what they do for me, and how to continue to do for myself.

Practice (turkey) makes perfect.

[Also, today has been unofficially designated as a “day to check in” (hat tip to Chris Snider) with the DOC blogs that we’re reading.  I read a lot of diabetes blogs, but I don’t often comment because I usually want to say something meaningful, instead of “I like your post.”  (But I do like your post!)  But instead of finding that meaningful comment, I usually roll on and forget to return to comment.  NOT TODAY!  Today I’m commenting on every blog I read, because that’s the name of the game.  I love this community, and today I’ll show that through comments.  So please – if you’re here, share what your favorite word is, or just say hello.  And thanks for being here.]

Guest Post: No Child Should Die of Diabetes.

Veerle Vanhuyse is off and running … literally.  Verlee lives with type 1 diabetes and is running the NYC Marathon in a few weeks, aiming to raise awareness and funds for the IDF’s Life for a Child program.  Today, I’m proud to be hosting a post from Veerle about her marathon goals!

*   *   *

A quarter of a century it’s been already but it still feels like yesterday. About to turn 16 and counting the days to leave for France with a bunch of teenagers to learn the language. I hadn’t been feeling well over the last few weeks and my trip to France became a trip to the hospital. Diabetes! I took my very first shot of insulin on my birthday. Sweet sixteen indeed!

In the beginning, I did really bad, didn’t take care of it at all. Only in my late twenties(!), I took diabetes more seriously and got my a1C’s from 9+ to 5%.

Eighteen years and a child later, I started running. And in eight years time I went from 100 meter and being exhausted (I’m not kidding), to 5K, 10K, half a marathon and finally the full monster; Berlin Marathon 2012.

That sad girl back in 1987 would’ve never guessed she would be doing what I’m about to do in one month:  Being at the start of the mother of all marathons, New York City 2014!

Needless to say, I am very excited about this upcoming event. But make no mistake, there’s no such thing as knowing exactly how to anticipate with the sugars before a long run, or any run for that matter. Every workout is different, depending on so many factors all diabetics deal with every single day.

Three weeks before the Berlin marathon, I suddenly realized I should grab the opportunity to raise money for diabetes. And I did. 1.700 euro went to research at the University Hospital in Leuven, Belgium. But this time I wanted to do something more specific. It didn’t take me long to find a new great goal. Surfing the web for a few hours I found a wonderful initiative called ‘Life for a Child’ supported by the International Diabetes Federation. I read about Dr. Marguerite De Clerck, a Belgian nun who spent the past 55 years treating children with diabetes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It instantly hit me! THIS was a project I immediately believed in and I wanted to make a difference for.  In the end my goal is comparable to the wonderful Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign: Provide children and youth in developing countries the basic care they need to stay alive with diabetes.

So far, I raised 2.500 euro, and I’m working really hard to at least double this amount.  I’m hoping to help families in Kinshasa keeping their loved ones alive.

It is a clear message: No child should die of diabetes.

*   *   *

I asked Veerle to provide a bio, and the one she sent to me in first person language was too laced with passion to edit in any way.

Here’s Veerle, according to Verlee:  “There’s the Belgian, so called ‘outgoing’ 43 year old, who talks a lot and who’s always in for a joke. And there is the T1 diabetic since 27 years, who can be really sad about the battle she has to fight against the disease every single day. “She deals with it really well,” people – even close to me – would say. They have no idea. One way to “deal with it” is running ! A lot! And in less than 4 weeks, I’ll be living my dream: NYC marathon ! Last race, because there’s also arthritis in my foot now. With this last 42,195km, I’ll be raising money for Life for a Child, to provide children in Kinshasa with the necessary supplies, proper care, and some decent education they need so badly. I am extremely passionate about it, and I want to scream as hard as I can: Please people, read my website and find it in your heart to donate, donate, donate!!!”

To donate to Veerle’s efforts, please visit this link on her websiteThanks for raising awareness, Veerle!

Bike Ride.

In one, frantic breath as we prepared to go for a bike ride, Birdy proclaims:

“We need to put a bottle of water in the bike basket and a snack in case I get hungry and a snack in case you get hungry or if you have a low blood sugar and your glucose meter and the glucose tabs in case you have a low blood sugar for real and in case I want to have one – that’s a joke, Mom, but really I can have a teeny, teeny bite if I want one, right? – and I will wear my helmet and you can walk while I ride on my bike and I’ll keep my eyes forward so I don’t fall off.”

Our version of “going for a bike ride” might sound complicated, but we do our thing and we do it well.

Guest Post: Adventure D!!

Hi!  I’m on the road again this week (ADA and a quick visit to Canada and then down to Texas … hence the digital tumbleweeds here), but thankfully, a good friend from across the pond has stepped in to say hello and share a little bit about why she’s created a really col project called Adventure D.  Please welcome the lovely Anna Presswell and check out her story.

*   *   *


Not a word you might expect to hear all that often from the lips of a child.  But one I was using routinely by the time I was knocking on the door of my teens when describing my life with type 1 diabetes. “Not many kids have it,” I would say, excusing people of their lack of knowledge; softening their embarrassment as the quizzical looks on their faces gave them away.  Reflecting back, I suppose I was also describing the number of occasions I had connected with another person with diabetes. Diagnosed at four years old, I’d lived half of my life with diabetes by the time I met another person my age with type one, and it was utterly implausible that we be allowed to speak to one another – what with him being a boy, and everything.

It was two decades later, now cocooned by the warmth, support, and sense of belonging that I had discovered in the DOC, and with at least 200 go-to friends with diabetes in common, that I realised how isolating diabetes could be. I guess it’s true what they say:  sometimes you just don’t know what you’re missing.  It was around the same time that I first made the commitment that whatever I did with my life it would involve getting shoulder-to-shoulder with other people affected by diabetes, so that I never had to use the word ‘rare’ again.

We’re not rare.  We’re incredible. We just aren’t always connected.

So when my brother, Chris, a seasoned kayak and sailing instructor, told me that he’d been thinking about a project to bring people with diabetes together, I was all ears.  Chris had been told some years before that people with diabetes would struggle to take on some of the adventurous mountain hikes he so loved, because of the drastic effect it would have on blood sugars.  Well, for Chris that explanation just wasn’t good enough. To sit it out: because of diabetes?  No.  That simply won’t do.  So we sat.   And we planned.  And we hatched.  We moulded thoughts and bent ideas as to how we could create something for people affected by diabetes, by people affected by diabetes.  And with a touch of time, a dash of courage and a pinch of determination, Adventure D was born!

Adventure D aims to bring people affected by diabetes together for the purpose of peer-to-peer support, education, and to enjoy adventure activities in an environment mindful of the challenges that diabetes can pose.  And because my family were raised with diabetes being something the whole family helped each other to take on, Adventure D also includes family members and loved ones – people who also live diabetes day-in, day-out – at our events.  So have you ever wanted to try ocean kayaking?  Do you want to feel the elation of standing on your first wave?  Or feel the excited chill of the ski-slope air on your face? Then check out our website and come and join us for our first event, a ‘Get Kayaking’ weekend in Chichester Harbour, West Sussex, England.  The weekend will have you learning everything from basic skills to advanced techniques, and playing (um, winning!) water-based games.  All equipment and tuition are included, as well as all carb-counted meals which are prepared by the on-site catering team.  And the accommodation? Well, what was once a military vessel has now been converted to a high-spec floating conference centre with 180 degree views of the harbour.  Sound good?  We think so, too.

Just take a look at the photos!

So come and join us, get connected, meet other people with diabetes, and let your adventurous side out!

You can find us on our website, on Facebook, or on Twitter or look out for updates on my blog, which led me to the DOC.

*   *   *

A little bio action from Anna:  “My name is Anna and I am many things: I am a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I’m a wannabe surfer, an animal lover and an amateur photographer whose very best work is only slightly North of mediocre. I love the outdoors, naps and chocolate of any kind.  I am also a Type 1 diabetic (insulin dependent, juvenile onset, the beast has many names).  Diagnosed in Germany at four years old, it was only as I turned 27 and started blogging at Insulin Independent, that I discovered the advancing powerhouse that was the diabetes online community.  Now, living in Hampshire, England, I have the honour of having met and become friends with countless people affected diabetes, thanks to that come-as-you-are community spirit.”

Mommy’s Little Pack Mule.

Running alone brings out the Spibelt, and I cram it full of my on-the-move necessities:  glucose tabs, Dexcom receiver, keys, and phone.  Even though it’s reasonably streamlined and doesn’t bother me too much to tote around all that stuff, it’s a bulkier system than, oh, I don’t know … making my own insulin.

But lo!  The child rides a bike!  And insisted on having a bicycle basket!  To which I said, “Yes!  Excellent idea and can you please carry all my shit, too?” only I did not cuss at the child!

The miles might be logged a little slower than when I’m by myself, but there’s nothing more convenient than making use of her bike basket to carry all my diabetes stuff, and I love sharing some outside play moments with my daughter.

And she likes being in charge of such important things, since she is a “big girl” and can “carry the glucose tabs because then if I want a very, very, very small bite of a glucose tabs, I can just reach in and have one, right, Mawm?”

“Sure.  But only if you make sure you slow down if I need a glucose tab, okay?”

Bartering with my happy little helper of a diabetes pack mule.

Binge-Watching Causes Low Blood Sugars.

Dead Poet’s Society.  It might be a film from 1989, but it remains one of my favorites largely in part to Josh Charles as Knox Overstreet.

(He doesn’t care that Chris is with Chet.  Carpe diem!  And there’s a point to this – stick with me.)

Chris and I don’t watch a lot of television, but we have been swept up in the whole binge-watching phenomenon afforded by outlets like iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.  Even though we were late in getting into Breaking Bad, we caught up last year in a hurry just in time to immerse ourselves into the broadcast of the second half of season five (technology, bitch!)  We didn’t watch The Wire when it was originally broadcasted, but we did rip through five seasons of that show in a hurry.  And we finished True Detective last night (even though I will admit that I didn’t catch everything everyone was saying because the mumbling was oh my).  Binge!!

But we don’t watch every show together. The Good Wife, which I’ve just recently started watching while doing longer, steady cardio workouts at the gym, is my go-to show to watch solo.  Which brings us back to Knox Overstreet, because he’s a lead character in The Good Wife.  And for at least 40 minutes every day, for the last two weeks or so, good ol’ Knox has been helping me earn my steps for the day.

Last week, though, I made the mistake of trying to binge-watch at the gym and mistakenly lost track of time and blood sugars.  Instead of taking a peek at my Dexcom every ten minutes or so, I totally spaced.  Which meant that I did an hour of walking/running “blinded.”  I should have checked my blood sugar.  Instead, I walked to the car in a staggered pattern, not unlike Billy from Family Circus, unlocking the car door and haphazardly throwing all my junk onto the passenger seat while simultaneously fumbling for my glucose meter.

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right,” in response to the triple BEEP BEEP BEEP! of my Dexcom receiver, throwing rage from inside my gym bag.  My glucose meter confirmed the tri-beep with a blood sugar of 33 mg/dL.

It’s funny (not really) how the symptoms are dammed up until I see the number, and then once I am aware of my actual blood sugar, the dam gives and hot damn, panic hits.  My car, for a brief moment, looked like I let a glucose tab dust genie loose from its lamp as I worked through five glucose tabs.  I sat and waited until the feeling came back to my lips and my hands stopped shaking, then checked my blood sugar again to make sure I was okay enough to drive home.

The lesson learned?  If I’m going to spend more than my fair share of time watching Knox Overstreet woo Nurse Carol Hathaway, I need to watch my Dexcom graph closely.  Binge-watching is apparently the leading cause of Sparling low blood sugars.



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