Sunday, 26 July 2009

Just do it!

As it says in my profile, I was a keen runner before I was diagnosed with diabetes. In fact, I was due to run a marathon in Stockholm the week after diagnosis, but sadly didn’t make it. Once out of the hospital I was determined to try and get back to my former levels of fitness. There are many examples around of people with diabetes achieving remarkable things, so I was inspired by this and never once thought that I couldn’t do it. What I hadn’t realised was how complicated things had suddenly become! Exercise is extremely good for diabetics, helping to keep the blood sugar levels close to the normal levels enjoyed by those without the condition, so it is very much encouraged. However, there is a great deal to take account of before, during and after the run top make sure that your levels don’t go dangerously high or dangerously low.

Before diagnosis I used to get up early in the morning, before the crowds, traffic and pollution started filling the streets, have a quick cup of tea then go out for my run. I’d eat on my return. The run would wake me up for the day, fill me with energy, build up an appetite and give me that lovely endorphin rush that exercise brings. Now I have to check various things. I have to eat and take my insulin, then wait for the food to digest and for the insulin to begin absorbing so that it is ‘circulating’ and available to the cells in my body. Without this, I cannot use the glucose in my blood to give me the necessary energy. Then, I must check that my blood glucose levels are within a fairly tight range so that it is safe to start exercising. For me, that usually means above 7 mmol/l and below 13 mmol/l. If it is less, then I have some fast-acting carbs like orange juice. If it is higher I must wait until it declines. Then I can go for my run. Whilst I’m running the cells in my body become more ‘switched on’ and sensitive to the insulin. This is not just confined to the time I am running, however. These insulin receptors can remain highly sensitive for up to 40 hours after a period of exercise, which means I have to be careful to adjust my subsequent insulin doses to prevent going low. There are guidelines to achieving this, but it varies so much between individuals that you have to learn your own particular pattern through trial and error. – and there is no guarantee that those patterns won’t change the next time you run!

So, Nike – nice slogan, but you might want to modify it for people with diabetes to something like ‘Just do it in an hour or so, once your levels have settled into an appropriate range’. I agree, not as snappy!

‘Just do it!’ say Nike, just go out and run,
Well I used to ‘just do it’ – back then it was fun,
Arising at dawn and hitting the streets
My only concern to look after my feet.

Now, before I just do it, there’s more I must do,
I have to make plans - I must think it through!
So, breakfast and insulin, then waiting an hour,
Till both hit their peak and give me the power.

I must take my levels before I can go
They can’t be too high, and must not be too low.
If everything’s fine then I’m out of the door,
And instantly depleting my glycogen store!

But now that I’m running my cells start to change,
More insulin receptors will come into range
And lap up the glucose released in my blood
By the carbohydrate conversion of digested food.

And when I return then I must check again
That my levels are normal, like ‘ordinary’ men.
Even if they’re high, then they may drop down low
For the next forty hours, it’s not easy to know.

So Nike, your slogan doesn’t quite fit the bill –
But I’m going to get there, I know that I will!
Despite diabetes making me plan
I’ll once again be a marathon man!


  1. Ah again, damn good and I liked the modified Nike slogan.

  2. Many thanks Dreicht! I think I sometimes sacrifice quality in the poems for the sake of getting them out one a day, but I suppose I can always revisit them later!

    Hope you are well!