Friday, August 22, 2014

Pushing your limits

People with type 1 diabetes have to push through many different types of challenges. One of those challenges is knowing when to push yourself and when to not push yourself. This is one challenge that I struggle with quite often. 

I wasn't diagnosed until 21, so I can remember what life was like before diabetes. I grew up living a fairly active lifestyle. I played sports growing up and I went to the gym regularly as an adult. Because I was diagnosed in my 20s, I have always been the number one person in charge of my diabetes and overall health. My parents were there as a support system, of course, but it has always been up to me to know the ins and outs of how my diabetes works. I say "my" diabetes because—like many chronic conditions—diabetes varies for everyone.

A couple months ago, I started going to a weight lifting class at my gym. A friend of mine kept talking about how great it was, so I decided I needed to get back into the groove of going to classes. I'm also constantly working on ways to challenge myself because trying new things and pushing myself outside of my regular routine can be scary. 

The point of weight lifting is to build strength, to push yourself, to fatigue your muscles so you can get stronger. It's very different from a cardio workout, which often makes my blood sugar drop quickly. For me, a cardio workout means I need to test my blood sugar every 20 minutes or so. Now, you might not do this, but I do it because I know how my diabetes works, and I want to be extra safe when I'm at the gym. 

But when I'm in a strength-building class, my blood sugar stays pretty much the same (or drops very little). Because of this, I feel less anxious about what my blood sugar is doing during my workout. I often go through the one-hour workout without checking. But the challenge here is knowing how to read the signs, which can be tricky with diabetes. 

A low blood sugar can leave me feeling spacey, tired, weak, shaky. And these are the very things that can happen during my weight lifting class! I never leave a class without my arms and legs feeling wobbly. So, I often debate with myself during the class about whether it's a low blood sugar or if I'm just feeling what I am supposed to be feeling during an intense workout. The key for me is whether or not I feel spacey. It's hard to explain, but there are little (personal) things that can help you distinguish. However, there are times where you can't feel your lows, so I believe that when in doubt, test, test, test. Once I know my number, I know how to proceed—whether it's knocking back some sugar or continuing my workout knowing that it's safe for me to keep going. To keep pushing myself. 

There are times, though, where I don't want to check my blood sugar and I just want keep going like the all the other people in the class. I don't want to feel different. I don't want any weird looks. I don't want others to slow down because of me. I want everything to keep going on as it normally would. Keep on going, I think. I can keep up!  

But my life isn't the same. Diabetes has forced me into a new way of living and reacting. And sometimes I need to slow down and stop because of it. I need to listen to what my body is telling me and know when to stop pushing myself. And that doesn't make me a weak or less capable person. Being okay with this is my challenge. 

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