I’d like to introduce husband and wife, fitness instructors, Christel (who has type 1 diabetes) and Tobias. Through their blog, TheFitBlog, they share their passion for a healthy and fit lifestyle, whist giving people the support to succeed with their fitness goals.
How did you start TheFitBlog?
Tobias and I have always had the desire to do our own thing. The summer of 2015 it all came together and we decided to take a leap of faith and make our hobby and passion our occupation. TheFitBlog is a general health and fitness site while the “Fit with Diabetes” section on the blog is my platform to discuss health and fitness from a diabetes perspective.
When I started working out more seriously, I searched without much luck for good information online on how to successfully combine training and diabetes management, so I had to figure it out on my own. TheFitBlog is my chance to share my experience and learnings with others.
How long have you had type 1 diabetes? How did you find out? What steps did you take?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in December 1997. I’d just finished high school that summer and spent my time working in a preschool, partying hard and eating and drinking everything in sight. I displayed all the classical diabetes symptoms; hunger, thirst, sleepiness, frequent need to urinate and a slender physique. But all of that I simply attributed to my lifestyle.
At one point, my family did urge me to see a doctor, I did, and he was determined I had diabetes. I was admitted to a diabetes clinic as an outpatient and they spent the next two days teaching me about diabetes, how to take my shots, test my blood sugars and how to treat lows. First day of my diagnosis I was encouraged to never let my diabetes manage my life or to be a hindrance and I took that to heart and have lived by it ever since. Eight months later, I left for my first backpacking trip around India and I never slowed down.
How often do you work out?
Hi, my name is Christel, and I’m a workout –holic :-). I’m in the gym 6 days a week right now. However, 2016 is also a competition year for me so I’m working out as an athlete. I compete in NPC bikini competitions and have qualified to potentially take home a pro card later this year. A more normal gym schedule for me is 4-5 times a week and I think that is plenty for most people.
How do you balance working out with diabetes?
There is definitely a learning curve, but once I understood my body and how I react to different kinds of exercise, it’s actually pretty easy. When you understand how your body reacts to certain foods and exercise you’ll know how to adjust your insulin and not have to worry about lows all the time. Of course, I don’t always get it right but 95% of the time my sugars are perfect pre, during and post a workout. My advice is to take a lot of notes and find out how your body reacts to different foods and exercise and learn from it. In the long run, I find that working out makes your diabetes easier to manage, not harder.
How often do you have rest days?
Rest days are usually the hard ones for me since my insulin sensitivity goes down. I have a minimum of one rest day per week. There are some great sunset walks where we live in Santa Monica CA. It’s important to have rest days, since that’s when your body rebuilds and get stronger.
“When I work out, I’ve found that it’s much better for me to work out in the morning opposed to the evening. My sugars have a tendency to drop drastically in the night time, so I lean towards working out in the morning. Being able to stay motivated whilst maintaining good BG levels is extremely difficult.”
What time of day do you like to work out? Have you found that working out at certain times are better for you and your BG levels?
My advice is to work out the time of day that suits you best. In the morning, you’ll have less insulin on-board so you’ll be less prone to low blood sugar. If your goal is weight loss, you might even benefit from morning sessions before breakfast. I do fasting cardio in the morning and resistance training in the afternoon/evening to build muscle mass. The key is to determine the right insulin level. It will depend on what you eat, your insulin sensitivity and how aggressively you work out.
Do you use a pump or injections?
I’m one of the rare MDI / CGM combinations. Pumps are awesome, but not for me at this time in my life. It’s still an extremely valuable tool and something I recommend for everyone who starts working out. I have very good control with MDI because I’m willing to inject 10 times a day if needed and test my blood sugar just as often.
How often do you test your BG and how do you record your BG levels?
Whenever I feel I need it. So it might be 10 times a day or it might be 8. I have a Bayer meter that saves all my readings so I can just download it when needed.
How do you stay motivated whilst managing low BG levels?
I guess I really don’t think about my blood sugar in those terms. My motivation to do what I do is not affected by my blood sugars. I manage them to allow me to do what I do.
How do you correct your BG levels without ruining the hard work you’ve put in?
By learning how much insulin and food to consume around workouts I hardly ever have low blood sugars during exercise. If I do, I treat it as it is; a medical emergency. I’ll eat 2-3 glucose tablets and either have a fruit strip and continue my workout or simply go home. A few glucose tablets and a fruit strip will never ruin your progress even if you are trying to drop weight. What will derail your progress is if you treat lows with candy or sugary soda.
What advice do you give to your diabetic clients when it comes to low/high BG’s when working out?
I always have clients track their activities, food, sleep patterns etc., and then together we work on determining why and when he or she is going low to reduce the risk of it happening
“As a mother, my schedule can be pretty hectic and fitting in a work out can sometimes be impossible. I like to do quick HIT workouts for a 20- 30 minute period or target one area e.g. my abs. My goal is to be working out a lot more than I currently do.”
What advice would you give to me and to others who are struggling to achieve their fitness goals due to the hectic lifestyles or plummeting BG levels?
Even a little physical activity is better than nothing. First, decide what you want to achieve. If it’s cardiovascular health, focus on cardio. If it’s building strength, chose resistance training. Since time is a limited resource, you might have to focus your attention to one thing only.
I mainly do resistance training, because I think it gives a better return on the time I spend. Muscles help burn calories and increase your insulin sensitivity, so adding a little muscle mass is great for people with diabetes.
The reason why your blood sugars drop when you work out is that you have too much insulin in your system. So just as you learn your carb ratios over time, put in the time to get to know your insulin sensitivity after different types of workouts and adjust your insulin accordingly.
Look out for Part 2 of TheFitBlog guest post from Christel and Tobias on Nutrition. In the mean time if you want to read more about Christel and Tobias, then check out their blog at TheFitBlog. You can also find them on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram.