You Can Be Unbalanced Even When You Have Balance

There are a lot of little details to remember when you have a condition such as Diabetes. For the most part, being 38 years into the experience has certainly created a level of “habit” or “routine” where I tend to do most things on auto-pilot on a daily basis. But then, there are the days where it feels like a wild, uncontrolled roller coaster that threatens to derail once you reach the top. There have been a number of times, even in recent years, where I’ve checked blood sugar levels and thought “What the fuck…?”

Picture this: I lay my head down to sleep one night. I wake up at about 3:00 am or thereabouts, to hit the washroom and check my glucose level via CGM. I’m reading at about 8.9 mmol/L, which in my world is perfectly satisfactory in order to continue sleeping through the night. I get back to bed and fall asleep quickly, without any issue (I’m just kidding, the no issue thing never happens). I wake up the next morning, rested and refreshed (also kidding, that DEFINITELY never happens) and test my blood sugar via finger prick before my auto mode asks for it.

Upon waking, I find myself at 7.5 mmol/L, which makes me exceptionally happy. A good, decent blood glucose to hit the ground running on a new day. In order to mitigate any potential upset, I toast a single english muffin that according to the packaging, is only 27 grams of carbohydrates. My insulin ratios are thought to be good, since they were recently checked by my endocrinologist, so I bolus accordingly. I get Nathan ready for school, load him up into the car and take him out. When I get back home, about an hour passes and I notice that I feel a little flush.

“It Is Possible To Commit No Mistakes And Still Lose. That Is Not A Weakness. That Is Life.”

– Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

I check my sensor glucose. Bam! 10.8 mmol/L! What the hell…? It’s only been an hour and I’m considering that maybe my “fast-acting” insulin isn’t working as fast as it could and this is simply the carbs from my muffin making my levels climb before the insulin brings them back down. I get pissy, because the elevated blood glucose affects my overall time in range. I give it another hour and notice that I feel fidgety and flush, and my blood sugar has now climbed to 15.2 mmol/L. I now take steps, as the pump’s auto mode apparently needs human intervention and the increasing level is making me angry, which will only go further towards increasing my blood sugar levels.

So what was the problem? Do I simply have poor control capabilities? I seriously doubt it. You don’t survive serious complications for almost four decades, if you have poor control. But the reality is that sometimes, no matter how hard you work at it, your Diabetic day just goes to shit. End of story. So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself a break. You can do everything right and still have things go wrong. That’s just another one of the charming issues with Type-1 Diabetes. ☯

A Type-1’s Naming Day…

Okay, I’ll be the first one to admit that maybe I need to lay off the YouTube for a while, because I personify the type of person who slips down the rabbit hole and finds way more than he expects to. Then I keep watching, and watching… And watching… But I found this video interesting, because it involves someone I’ve been watching on television over the past few months that I wasn’t even aware has Type-1 Diabetes! This catches me with a bit of egg on my face, because one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone tells me, “You don’t LOOK Diabetic…” What the fuck is someone “supposed” to look like if they have Diabetes?

The video depicts the Diabetes journey of American actress Mary Mouser, who has most recently played Samantha Larusso, the daughter to protagonist (depending on your perspective of the storyline) Daniel Larusso, in the popular web series, Cobra Kai. Now, being a long-time fan of the original Karate Kid movies, I jumped on this series without hesitation and watched both available seasons within days and am greatly anticipating the third season, which is said to be coming out in early 2021.

In the included YouTube video, Mouser describes her discovery of Type-1 and how it affected her life. She was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 13, which I can say from having many friends in the same boat, is incredibly rough. I had the benefit of being diagnosed at the tender age of 4, which means I had barely a clue as to what the hell was going on. But you can see Mouser become visibly emotional at certain points in the video, and it definitely brings it home for me. Check it out:

Mouser talks about the tenth anniversary of her diagnosis and the video was posted on YouTube by Mouser herself, last year. I can’t help by note the similarities in the fact that although she’s only portraying it in a role, she plays a character who grew up in a karate environment. This rings true with a great deal of my own upbringing, as I grew up training in karate, as well.

I was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes in 1982, after passing out in a bowl of Froot Loops. Honestly. That’s what got me diagnosed. There were a number of symptoms that presented themselves for months before that incident, including weight fluctuations, severe mood swings and I even started wetting the bed again. One of the big problems with having a brother with Epilepsy, kidney failure and Fanconi Syndrome (a post for another day), is that my aches and pains often went ignored. Despite all of these symptoms, nothing appeared to be “seriously” wrong, so it was chalked up to growing pains or being a moody kid (which I was).

This wasn’t a slight on my parents’ part, it was simply the result of my brother constantly being on death’s doorstep where I was not. At least not that they knew of… Apparently, they were wrong. Imagine passing out on a Tuesday and waking up on a Wednesday… Of the following week! That’s how my journey started. And it was all downhill, from there.

When I woke from that first incident, I had severe Diabetic Ketoacidosis and my blood sugars were being slowly lowered and I was being rehydrated by way of an IV infusion. I had a number of family members present, including my parents, brother and grandparents. They already knew what the doctor hadn’t yet told me: I had Type-1 Diabetes. My life and my future were effectively changed, forever.

Over the two weeks that followed, I was taught a number of things including how to test my blood sugars, how to take insulin injections, dieting (which basically just involved avoiding sugar) and what would be involved in my day-to-day life for the rest of my life. It was hectic and stressful. I can admit that at the young age of 4, I only understood a small percentage of it. A lot of it went over my head, which created strange combination of indifference mixed with anxiety.

To my mother’s credit, she practiced injecting saline water into her own arms as opposed to practicing on an orange, which is what doctors and educators would provide, back in the day. Her perspective was that she wouldn’t allow anything to be done to her child that she hadn’t experienced herself. She bruised herself up pretty good, before starting to help me take my daily injections.

It was a disgustingly rough journey and over the years that followed, which included no less than 5 comas (the longest of which lasted almost two weeks), multiple changes in therapies and doctors and constant adjustments, I faced the inevitable lack in most of the advantages that kids my age enjoyed. I never joined sports, never had sleepovers and never enjoyed the usual social normalcies that kids my age had. But I adjusted and fought through all of it. My brother, who is now deceased, saved my life in almost every instance of the comas I mentioned, as he shared a room with me and would be the one to alert my parents that I was in distress.

In 1988, I faced a situation that no child should ever have to. I was told I was going to die. It wasn’t said in those exact words, but the reality sunk in regardless. Severe Diabetes complications including insulin resistance were causing my body to fail. Doctors really had no solution at the time, other than changing up my insulin type, which did absolutely nothing. Insulin resistance can be dangerous, since it prevents the proper use of glucose in your body.

That’s when I took matters into my own hands and joined karate. I started taking responsibility for my own diet and fitness and started to develop myself, physically. It worked for me. It may not work for everyone. But the important thing is to keep fighting and find what works for you. The nay-sayers over the years, have stated that they don’t believe that martial arts and fitness would help overcome medical complications. But the question is, how could it not? There may be no cure for Type-1 Diabetes, but you can still kick its ass. There are tons of ways to improve your health and stretch your life expectancy as opposed to what we faced, even 20 or 30 years ago. Keep fighting. Keep looking for a way.

And if Mary’s video inspired you or touched a chord, be sure to check her out on Cobra Kai, which is currently available on Netflix. There are only two seasons, with Season three coming out soon, but it’s definitely a hard-hitting show that covers martial arts, karate, the social condition and stars a lot of talented people from the 1980’s and modern day. ☯

A Little Something To Inspire…

I quote a lot of articles and posts in my blog. This is because I’m not a doctor, dietitian or fitness expert, although 32 years of intensive martial arts training HAS to count for something. But for the most part, I speak from the heart and try to be as genuine as possible while quoting sites and people that I know will add some credibility to what I say. Last weekend, I was free-falling down the YouTube rabbit one one night, since my wife was out of town and my 5-year old was fast asleep. And I found a video that moved me to tears…

Those who know me well are quite aware that I’m not a man who exudes emotion easily. But this man’s journey did it for me… The man in the video is named Vance Hinds. An assistant DA in Texas, he was living an extremely unhealthy life and weighed in at 475 pounds, which is over 265 pounds heavier than I’m currently sitting. Hinds was ironically first inspired to lose weight by a comedian named Burt Kreischer.

Although I don’t know why a comedian, of all people, would motivate someone to lose weight (I haven’t researched this person), Hinds reached out to a former professional wrestler named Diamond Dallas Page. I’m familiar with Page, having watched him wrestle throughout my 20’s and my early 30’s, and I know that he contributes a significant amount of time to helping other people achieve their weight-loss goals as a motivational coach.

I’m linking the YouTube video below. I don’t claim ownership, nor do I have any rights to this video. As I said, I just happened to land on it while surfing YouTube, one night. The video is only about 5:30 minutes and you can watch Hinds’ journey from 475 pounds to 277 pounds, for a total loss of 198 pounds. It’s pretty inspirational…

This motivates me. Here’s a guy that did it simply for the sake of improving his health and his overall lifestyle. No endorsements, no financially charged motivation; he did it for himself and his family. It brings my own journey into perspective. In 1988-89, I joined karate in order to help me overcome insulin resistance and Diabetes complications that threatened to end my life before my 20’s. I succeeded.

Now, as I move into my 40’s, I’ll admit that my own weight and living habits have fallen to the wayside. I’ve tried a number of different things to overcome these issues. And I believe that it’s important to try as many different things as possible; it allows us to find the path that’s right for us. But seeing Vance’s weight loss journey has made me realize that losing the 20 or 30 pounds I need in order to be healthier is small potatoes in comparison to what this man just went through.

When I attended the police academy in 2009, I weighed in at 185 pounds. By the time I graduated six months later, intensive training, exhaustion and diet brought me down to 165 pounds. It was the lightest I had ever weighed, at that point in my life. I’d like to say I felt great, but the exhaustion was palpable. Within two years of walking away from the academy, I broke the 200-pound threshold and I’ve been fighting to dip below it, ever since.

Obviously, Diabetes plays a significant role in how my metabolism functions and the weight I carry. That being said, I’ve seen Type-1’s who have been in the “skinny” category. Am I trying to be skinny? Fuck, no! I believe in carrying some mass, it’s one of the only way s to maintain strength. But I think that dropping some weight and finding a way to keep it off should be possible. In 2014, I was down in the low 190’s and that simply involved consistent cardio and weight workouts and a “reasonable” diet of three regulated meals a day.

Body image is an important part of who we are. You shouldn’t aspire to be who you see in magazines or on the internet, but rather who you feel you genuinely are. We can all gain inspiration from other people’s journey. The important part is finding a way to make it work for you, and to achieve the goals that you aspire to in order rot be healthy and happy. Hopefully, you all find that path. ☯

Don’t Stop… Believin’…🎶

The past few months have had quite a negative impact on my overall health and fitness. Considering the flood damage to my basement, which took away my workout space, to having everything we had IN the basement moved out to the garage, thereby taking away my backup workout space, my four to six workouts a week have pretty much melted down to nonexistence. Include the fact that the temperatures here in Saskatchewan have fallen into the minuses and there’s snow and frost on the ground, making it impractical to go cycling and the fact that my dojo still hasn’t re-opened due to COVID-19, and I’ve slowly been turning into a couch potato.

My wife and I had started a routine where we would do yoga stretching in the mornings, once Nathan had gone to school. But depending on work obligations and how fussy our 1-year old infant might be on a given day, even those have slowly taken the wayside. It also doesn’t help that recent months have seen me include CGM and Auto Mode into the mix, and any new Diabetic therapy always has the potential to be touch-and-go during the first months. So working out with all of this going on has been a challenge. And the results are visible and very much felt…

I often write about all the benefits and the good things that happen when you work out consistently, but most people don’t consider the effects that may happen when you stop. Or even if you never started in the first place. I know some people that have essentially never worked out before and never had the inclination, as they’re in good health and their weight seems manageable. Does this mean they don’t NEED to work out? Absolutely not; everyone should include fitness in their weekly routine in one form or another.

There are a number of things that will happen to you physically, as well as psychologically, if you suddenly stop working out and exercising. There are plenty of good articles online that will describe the exact details, but I’m providing my personal list, based on my metabolism and the fact I have Type-1 Diabetes:

  1. Blood sugar control will be altered: This is a pretty big one for someone with Type-1 Diabetes, because it took me all summer to condition my system and get my blood sugar levels controlled to endure 70-kilometre bike runs or 2-hour karate workouts. Now that those have ground to a halt, some of my blood sugar readings have been higher than they should be, since I’m no longer exercising and burning as many calories as I used to. Which brings me to my next point…;
  2. Your body will store more fat: You use two primary forms of energy in your body. Carbohydrates, which is the immediate energy source you obtain by eating your meals. The second are your fat stores, which are only accessed during rigorous exercise. Carbs are a temporary energy source and need to be constantly replenished, whereas fat stores offer a wonderful amount of energy but won’t burn unless you do. So less exercise means that fat will more readily stick to your body;
  3. Cholesterol and Insulin resistance: Lack of exercise means bad cholesterol goes up and good cholesterol goes down. Brutal, right? That’s without taking diet into consideration. And your insulin sensitivity will decrease as well, meaning you’ll need more insulin to process the same amount of carbs as before you stopped exercising;
  4. Your endurance will vanish: Your endurance is one of the first things to start decreasing when you stop working out. The only silver lining to this one, is that it’s quick to come back once you commit yourself to training again. But it definitely makes it harder to work out as intensely as you did before, which is why it’s important to maintain certain levels;
  5. Your mood and sleep will be altered: I could go on a long rant about the hormones and endorphins that are released in the body during exercise, but that would be a hell of a long rant and that isn’t why we’re here, today. Suffice it to say that quitting exercise will adversely affect your mood, make you more prone to seasonal depression, irritability and feelings of worthlessness. Not least of which is the fact that your sleep pattern will be all screwed up. Ever notice your level of exhaustion after a long night of cycling or working out? Once you’ve taken that hot shower, it doesn’t take long for a person to pass out once their head hits the pillow;
  6. Your self-image will be affected: Let’s be honest with each other… You may not have a goal in mind to join the olympics or look like a supermodel. Perhaps you do and if so, good for you. But your fitness is your responsibility and you only get out of it what you’ve put in. And one must admit that having that gut start poking out when you’ve been used to being in decent shape can have a negative effect on your self-image.

People work out and exercise for different reasons. Some do it for health, some do it for sport, some even teach particular skills, like martial arts. And there’s really no bad reason for working out, but there are bad reasons for stopping. Life and obligations get in the way and let’s be honest; some days we just don’t feel like it. But it’s like trying to ice skate uphill… sometimes it’s a slippery slope, but you’ll never reach the top unless you keep on pushing. ☯

“Maybe I Won’t Be All The Things That I Want To Be”

Life doesn’t care about your plan. There is no such thing as an expected schedule in nature, and all things happen within the scope of one’s life, not a specific timeframe. One of the sadder things I’ve seen in my life is friends or family who are rushing and stressing to reach certain milestones in their lives because they believe it’s expected of them or they HAVE to do it, in order to be considered socially normal. Well, screw that noise…

The reality is that everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s life is unique. What works well for one may not work well for another, and vice versa. Just because the folks you graduated high school with, have Bachelor’s Degrees, spouses and children by the time they’re 30 years old doesn’t mean that’s a standard one should aspire to. There are no hard and fast rules that say you HAVE to get a certain job or you NEED to get married and have kids by a certain age. Things will happen for you in their own time and trying to manifest destiny won’t get you there faster; it will simply cause you more stress and suffering.

One good example I can think of, are an aunt and uncle of mine in New Brunswick. They’ve been together for over 30 years. They’ve never gotten married, but they’ve always been together, own a house together (which they built themselves) and have always lived as man and wife, despite not being married. Sure, they’ve been poked and teased by family throughout the years with the usual question of, “Why aren’t you married yet?” But life worked for them the way they were doing it, even if it fell outside the typical social paradigm.

Now, they went ahead and got married, a couple of years ago when they found out that it would make things easier for end-of-life requirements and for legal issues arising from either one of them passing away. A pretty morbid reason to get married! But realistically, they were happy with the life they had and they suffered no greater because of it.

The flip side to this concept is that BECAUSE life doesn’t care about your plan, you may not always end up doing what you want to do or being what you want to be. I’d love to live in a two-storey log cabin on the side of a fresh-water lake, spending my days meditating, reading and doing karate. But instead, I’m writing this post sitting in a house I can’t seem to sell while sledgehammers are diligently tearing apart my basement for foundation repairs.

The important thing to remember is to continue to work towards the goals you WANT, not the goals you think you NEED or that others may have implanted in your head. Certain key people in my life were of the opinion I should never have gotten into my chosen profession but this was my journey, not theirs. I shudder to think where I’d be today, had I listened to some of the nay-sayers. It may not all work out perfect, but the good news is it will work out. Life is a “one day at a time” kind of puzzle. ☯

Winter Wonderland, My Ass!

I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan of the winter. Although there’s a certain appeal to the freshness of winter cold, being cold in and of itself is a pain in the ass. I unfortunately find myself in the same category as the folks who complain about the heat in the summer and complain about the cold weather in the winter. This is the reason why I was less than enthused when I woke up to find the world outside my window blanketed in white, last Tuesday.

The view from Nathan’s bus stop last Tuesday

Nathan and I usually have a bit of a routine, when it comes to mornings. He wakes up and does his bathroom business, followed by getting dressed. By the time he emerges, I usually have some breakfast waiting for him, which he enjoys while watching some cartoons. This gives me the time to prepare his school lunch and get dressed myself. We end up leaving the house about ten minutes prior to his school bus’ scheduled arrival in the event that it arrives early. We’ve gotten used to this routine. We’re comfortable with it.

So nobody really batted an eye beyond mentioning that there was snow on the ground. My wife was working at her computer and Nathan was enjoying his breakfast and morning cartoons as usual, and I was checking the weather. At minus 10 degrees Celsius, it was a long ways away from being as cold as deep winter gets in Saskatchewan. But minus 10 with snow and wind was enough o convince me to slip on an Under Armour thermal for the journey out to the bus stop.

It wasn’t until I was ready to tell Nathan to shut off his cartoons and come get ready that I realized that I couldn’t send him to school in sneakers and a hooded sweater as he had been wearing in recent weeks. He needed boots, due to the snow and an actual jacket and winter hat to protect him from the cold. Suddenly I found myself in a mad scramble to locate these items as I hadn’t anticipated their need. If I’d been smart, I would have taken them out the night before. But these is me, we’re talking about! I consistently stub my toe on items that have been in the same place for years.

Saskatchewan is a bit of a different creature than my home Province of New Brunswick. Although we get some pretty significant snowfalls in New Brunswick (some years, I’ve seen snow get as deep as ten feet) we generally don’t deal with extreme cold. Winters are reasonably mild, despite the snow. But in Saskatchewan, there may be less snow but the temperatures can easily drop to -50 degrees Celsius or colder, once the wind is factored in.

We still made the bus on time, which is one of the benefits of always arriving early. But neither one of us was enthused about the cold. The last couple of days have seen us walking to the bus stop, as my wife is currently staying with family while our basement repairs take place. But that’s a post for another time. The important thing is I have us all wintered up, clothing-wise. Some of the snow has melted already, but it’s clear that winter may already be here to stay. ☯

Let’s Get Dirty

Sex. Alright, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about, well… sex. For the most part, people avoid talking about sex, for a variety of reasons. Either from embarrassment, shyness or awkwardness, it’s usually a taboo subject for most folks. But it’s one of those things that’s part of the human condition. And if you have Type-1 Diabetes, it can be an even more awkward thorn in your side.

Honestly, today’s post isn’t necessarily about the difficulties Type-1 Diabetes causes during sexual encounters. I covered that off in-depth during a previous post I wrote, Cue The Barry White Music… So I won’t get too deep into those complications. However, I’ll provide that those difficulties include high or low blood sugars, neurological and blood vessel damage can lead to sexual organ difficulties in women and erectile difficulties in men.

No, I’m here to discuss the old myth that “sex before a big game” is a bad idea. There’s a standing tradition in the sporting world, and even martial arts, that having sex during training or before a big event will increase one’s chance of defeat. Well, I hate to break it to all those old school coaches, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“Women Weaken Legs!”

– Mickey Goldmill, Rocky (1976)

There was a really good article posted by National Geographic, that explains the majority of the benefits behind the practice as opposed to the perpetuated myth. But I couldn’t read it through without entering my email and joining a list, which I wasn’t willing to do. Sex lowers blood pressure, increases one’s immune system, improves sleep patterns and is even considered a natural form of pain-relief. There’s also a measurable release of testosterone, which can actually help one win a big fight as opposed to losing it.

One of my favourite athletes, Ronda Rousey, is quotes as saying that having sex “raises your testosterone so I try to have as much sex as possible before I fight, actually.” For Rousey, an increased level of sex before a big match is not only part of her routine but an important part in helping to ensure a victory. Although she’s referring mostly to increasing testosterone in female fighters, she also doesn’t hold much faith in male fighters’ belief that sex drains your testosterone. In fact, she feels that long-term abstinence will result in producing less testosterone, overall.

You can read the entire article on Business Insider, which also includes a link to the National Geographic article, if you’re game to add your email to a mailing list. But the reality is that the perpetuated myth that sex before the big game is bad just isn’t accurate. Or true. Good news for some. Not so much for others. Research shows that indulging in a “solo act” won’t release the same levels of oxytocin or provide all the same benefits as having an active partner. But I digress…

As a martial artists, I feel it important to point out that abstaining from sex for any length of time for the purpose of “improving” your training is absurd and unnecessary. As a Type-1 Diabetic I feel it’s important to advise that if you believe that having sex is forthcoming, which may be presumptuous (a point I made in my linked post above) you’ll want to ensure your blood sugar levels are controlled, you have fluids and fast-acting glucose at your disposal in case you need it and be mindful of where your equipment is located if you’re a pump user. ☯

Do What You Love

Almost twenty years ago (from what I recall), Sensei made a rather drastic change in his life. He had spent the previous decades in various levels of law enforcement and had been working at the head correctional officer for a municipal jail. At some point, he faced some work-related issues that ironically, are eerily similar to my own. But he took this opportunity to knuckle down and try to find something he wanted to do that would make him happy.

I remember him coming to karate class and being full of piss and vinegar (more so than usual) and talking about the research he was doing and the studies he had begun. I didn’t understand most of it at the time, but ultimately he was studying to transition into a career involving Chinese Medicine, Herbology and Acupressure. Much to my dismay, he transformed his home dojo into a clinic and once he graduated all the certifications he needed in order to do so, he bang taking in clients and stepped down from his current career.

I say it was to my dismay, because I had passed a number of belt tests in that dojo and changing it into a clinic meant I wouldn’t be passing my black belt there. Which I didn’t. Unfortunately. But hey, good for him! I asked him why he chose acupressure over the more popular and recognized acupuncture, to which he replied that he preferred the personal touch it involved, as opposed to jabbing someone with a bunch of surgical needles.

My point is that once his clinic was in full swing and things were picking up, I asked him how things were going. He said, “I’m doing something I love and enjoy, five days a week. It provides me with income to live and I get to continue doing it. So ask yourself, if I love what I do, and the money is coming in on its own, when am I doing actual ‘work’?” His choice of words and the look of serenity on his face have not only echoed in the back of my mind over the years, I’ve been hearing it prominently over the past two or three.

“Choose A Job You Love, And You Will Never Have To Work A Day in Your Life.”

– Confucius

It can be difficult, painful even, to try and find a career that you want to do with something that you LOVE to do. But if you manage to find it, you no longer have to concern yourself with money as it will come on its own. You simply need to keep doing what you love; whether that means owning your own business, being in law enforcement or working as a mortician. Not everything if for everybody, so the challenge comes from finding what’s right for you.

To this day, Sensei still has his clinic open. Pandemic issues aside, of course. In fact, his choice of career inspired his son to study and take up acupressure and open a clinic of his own, as well. Besides doing what they love, it also puts them in that coveted employment category of being business owners, which has its shares of ups and downs, of course. But the point is that if you go into work everyday, unhappy and unsatisfied with what you’re doing, maybe it’s time for a change. There’s like to be something better waiting you, just around the corner. ☯

The Cold Reality Of Winter

Winter is coming! I’m not really a Game Of Thrones fan, but I love that line. Granted, I’ve never actually seen it as I don’t have cable. I am, however, a pretty big fan of the Rocky movies, which probably dates me more than I care to admit. But the one that comes to mind is the fourth instalment, where the antagonist kills one of Rocky’s best friends during an boxing match and Rocky travels to Russia to train for a revenge fight.

In this movie is likely one of the best winter training montages I’d ever seen at the time and even since then. With Vince Dicola’s “Training Montage” playing in the background, you can see Rocky using unorthodox training methods to build and develop himself in preparation for his fight against Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren). I included a YouTube video of the scene I’m referring to. Now would be a good time to point out that I have no ownership in the video nor am I responsible for it; it’s just a linked video I found on YouTube.

The scene actually demonstrates a clear difference between intensive training using machinery and a comfortable environment versus using the elements and whatever one has at their disposal. And now that I’m writing about it, I need to find a copy of this damn movie so I can watch it again! But in all seriousness, it got me to thinking about the effects of training in a cold weather environment.

First of all, let me just say that I’m a bit of a fussy bastard when it comes to temperature. I don’t like it when the temperature is very cold and I don’t like it when the temperature is very warm. So I’m basically screwed, all year long, living in Saskatchewan. But realistically speaking, I’ve found myself training in just about every climate and temperature I have available to me, and a couple that I don’t.

What I mean by the latter, is that when I travelled to Japan in 2001, we trained almost every day in 40 degree weather. It felt tropical to us, but it was autumn to the Okinawans. I was drinking litres upon litres of water and rarely went to the washroom. My body was literally using the hydration as fast as I could provide it. But the flip side to this, and the purpose behind this post, is that I’ve also gone running in snow storms. Not recently, mind you. I’m old as disco, now.

Back when I was training for my black belt, I would get off work at 1 in the morning, head home, change into workout gear and grab my walkman (think iPod, but much bigger) and circumvent my hometown of Dalhousie. This made for about 10 kilometres of running in wintery conditions, which is not a lot by my cycling standards. But I guarantee that it felt like forever while I was doing it. It probably doesn’t help that Dalhousie stands on the side of a reasonably steep hill that slopes down into the Restigouche Bay, so there was a fair bit of uphill running.

Let’s start on a positive note, because I am frequently way more negative than I should be, and let’s discuss the benefits of training in extreme cold weather. According to a post written by Dr. Adam Tenforde for the Harvard University website, working out in colder weather can help improve your endurance as “your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently.”

The article goes on to explain how working out in the winter can give you some exposure to sunlight, which people tend to get much less of during the winter, as well as helping to transform certain areas of white fat, like the stomach and thighs, into a calorie-burning fat. This can be helpful if you’re like me and are struggling to tone down some of the “Micheline effect” I seem to have developed in my midsection.

Another benefit is that if you have a preferred trail that you run on, you’ll likely have it to yourself as most people have an unfortunate aversion to working out in the cold and likely won’t be sharing your enthusiasm. Now, if only I could guarantee the trail around Wascana Lake would be vacant and ice-free, I’d bike around that bad boy all winter! But I digress…

Since all the world is balance, we wouldn’t have the positive if not for the negative. So let’s cover off some bad aspects. If you have an underlying or chronic medical condition, cold weather training may not be for you. Listen to me, I sound like one of those commercials for a new prescription drug. “Talk to your doctor, if you think that running outdoors and freezing like a dumb ass may be right for you…” But seriously, things like heart conditions, asthma and many others can be adversely affected by pushing yourself when it’s cold outside.

Next, one needs to consider all the typical wintery hazards such as frostbite, which can affect any patch of exposed skin, hypothermia and even dehydration. Yes, that’s right! You can dehydrate in the cold; it’s not just an extreme heat thing. People also forget to consider sunblock when running on sunny days in the winter, despite the fact that UV rays are UV rays, regardless of the temperature. But maintaining your core temperature is important in order to prevent getting sick, as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should dress in layers. Their article says to start with a synthetic layer that wicks moisture away from your body, followed by a layer of fleece or wool for insulation, topped with a breathable, waterproof outer layer. They also mention that you may have to experiment and try a few different combinations to find what’s right for you.

I use a base layer of Under Armour, specifically their “cold gear” apparel, which moves moisture away from the body but also helps to keep my body’s heat contained. I follow this up with a cotton shirt, since I don’t have fleece or wool. Even if cotton has a propensity to stay wet, it also provides a layer that will absorb moisture that makes its way through. then I have a waterproof Columbia jacket I throw on top of that. Couple it all up with a comfortable pair of waterproof boots and some windproof pants over thermals and you’ve got yourself a winter running outfit.

The last aspect I’ll cover off is the Diabetic one. Obviously, all of the problems I’ve described can affect someone with Type-1 Diabetes in some given way, shape or form. One of the bigger problems is that the cold will sometimes block or numb some of the recognizable signs of hypoglycemia, which can potentially be dangerous if you’re running far from home. Here’s where technology pays its due, as you should be carrying a cell phone and/or letting your family know where you’re going, if training outside.

The winter season shouldn’t be an excuse to stop working out. I’ll admit, I much prefer curling up on the couch with my wife, munching on nachos and binge-watching Kitchen Nightmares. But Diabetes doesn’t take a day off and neither should your health and fitness! Dress well, monitor your blood sugars and stay hydrated. Whether we like it or not, the colder season will be in full swing, shortly. ☯

Mild Bragging Rights

I’ve been working on bring down my Hemoglobin A1C for about the past ten years. It hasn’t been easy; shift work, stress and basic lifestyle make it somewhat difficult to maintain decent blood sugars at the best of times. This was one of the main reasons behind why I decided to start on pump therapy. Over the past five years or so, I’ve been slowly creeping my way down.

For those of you who don’t speak the Diabetes dialect, Hemoglobin A1C (or simply A1C) is a measurement of the average blood glucose levels over three months by measuring the percentage of glycated hemoglobin in the blood. Anything over 6.5% is usually indicative of someone who has Diabetes. Anything below that is generally considered normal. There can be some exceptions to these levels, but it’s pretty basic and has been one of the most-used evaluations to measure how controlled someone’s blood sugar levels have been.

The big problem is that in the past five to ten years, improving A1C results have yielded to increasing one’s blood sugar’s “time in range.” That is to say, maintaining more time between 5.5 to 7.0 mmol/L. The big problem is that one’s A1C level can be manipulated over three months thought extreme highs and lows. Time in range cannot. Keeping your blood sugar in range can’t be manipulated, which is where my new pump and CGM come into play.

Auto mode on the new Medtronic 670G (or newish to me, at least) uses continuous glucose monitoring to verify my blood sugars every five minutes. That means that my blood sugar levels are measured 288 times a day, assuming the sensor and auto mode are working right. The best I’ve ever managed is about once an hour, without taking into consideration that I try to sleep for eight hours a day and work. Meaning that I may get lucky and test my blood six to eight times in the course of a day with a traditional blood glucose monitor.

Combine the fact that auto mode works to correct blood sugar levels with each and every one of those readings and you greatly increase your odds of improving your time “in range.” Listen to me, I sound like a damn infomercial. I should be getting commission from Medtronic for endorsing their products. But seriously, my insulin pump and CGM have been great tools for helping me lower my A1C’s over the past few years.

Just to give you some reference, I started out with an A1C of about 8.4% five years ago. At those levels over an extended period of time, this A1C level will eventually cause vision problems, blood vessel and organ complications, heart disease and stroke. It stands to reason that I would want to try and lower it. But considering what I wrote in the previous paragraphs, why am I still focused on A1C’s? Shouldn’t I be working on “time in range?” Yes. Yes, I should. That’s why I’m doing both.

Better time in range means a better overall A1C. So the bottom line is I’m working on both. A week ago, I visited with my endocrinologist and was advised that my A1C level was at 7.2%, which is the lowest it’s been in years. My overall goal is to get to at least 6.9%. That would be a feather in my cap, as my doctor would say, and is hopefully a goal I will be able to achieve by my next appointment in March. ☯