Even if you’ve never been in the Boy Scouts, you’ve no doubt heard of their motto, “Be Prepared” in television or movies at some given point. I myself, was a Beaver Scout in the early 80’s, until I was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes and my world was turned on its head. But before I turn this post into a pity party, let’s focus on the motto, which is the aim of today’s post. Being prepared in life is important. Since we live in a relatively comfortable environment where most resources and amenities are available to us (at least here in Canada), people have a tendency to overlook good preparedness.
Now, I could be very generalized and discuss how one should be properly prepared in ALL aspects of their lives, including the care of their home, family, health and property. But what I’m going to focus on today is specifically as it relates to one’s fitness, especially in conjunction with Diabetes. It’s no secret that having Diabetes presents a plethora of challenges, especially when you’re working out. This means you need to be prepared for the inevitable issues you may face when training.
First of all, we need to agree that it’s somewhat easier to function with high blood sugar than it is with low blood sugar. There’s a certain where where either one is an issue but if you’re doing something fitness-related, you’ll find you can at least push through and won’t pass out if your blood sugars are high. The same can’t be said if your blood sugars are low. For that reason, it’s important to ALWAYS bring some fast-acting carbohydrates with you. For me, jellybeans work best. I know that some people will use a variety of juices, gummy candies and even straight sugar and water. You’ll want to find what works for you and be sure to keep it on hand. You want to avoid certain foods like chocolate, which is basically just a block of fat that will take forever to bring your levels up.
Next and equally important, is water. If you haven’t noticed from the thousand+ posts I’ve put up (yes, I am now in the thousands), hydration plays an integral role in fitness and overall health. Proper hydration is also helpful in maintaining balanced blood sugars. Most sources will say that we should all be keeping a reusable bottle with us and consistently siping from it, throughout the day. My wife is far better at this than I am. When it comes to fitness, you want to strike that proper balance and try to avoid dehydration AND drinking too much water.
You probably read that last sentence and asked, “Can you really ever drink TOO much water, Shawn?” Why, yes! Yes, you can! Consuming too much water in the wrong conditions will cause something called hyponatremia. This condition can be caused by an increase in diuretics, severe or excess sweating or consuming too much water. The result is your body’s concentration of electrolytes, namely sodium, gets too low. Back in the summer of 2020, I experienced this condition firsthand. I woke up on a day off and chugged an energy drink, which I unfortunately seem to do every morning. Then, I performed the longest bike ride I had taken (at that point) where I peddled from Regina to Balgonie.
It’s a 56-kilometre trek, back and forth, which is far from the farthest I’ve managed to achieve since then. But it was summertime, with temperatures in the mid-30’s and dry Prairie air… My phone shut down halfway due to being too hot, I was sweating like a hog and chugging back water ever five minutes. To my credit, I had brought plenty of water and fast-acting carbs, but little else. This meant that I kept pumping the water in to slate my thirst but I was losing electrolytes through my sweat. Like, a lot!
By the time I got home, every joint was killing me, I had a headache, nausea and difficulty focusing. It took several minutes of trying to look up the symptoms and my wife helping out to discover that I needed to take in some sodium. I slugged back a couple of bottles of Gatorade and ate some salt & vinegar chips and laid on my bed with the A/C going at full strength. Once my body slowly started to regulate, I got groggy and fell asleep for a while. It was probably the most uncomfortable and painful experience outside of a tangible injury or Diabetes.
Since then, I maintain a practice of mixing electrolytes with water as I cycle, which has served me well on my 70 and 80-kilometre treks. But it was an important lesson to recognize that getting to the end of a significant workout can require more than just sheer will. Easy things to carry with you, whether at the dojo or while out doing cardio, are little things like a portable battery pack to charge your phone in the event of an emergency and bandages or a small travel first aid kit. You may never NEED any of those things but it’s always better to have it and not need it.
Being prepared is an important aspect of anything one does in life. It can mean the difference between potential facing a dangerous or hazardous situation or being temporarily inconvenienced. it all depends on how prepared you want to be. For most people with Type-1 Diabetes, being prepared and constantly dragging along a small bag with carbs, testing equipment and food can mean the difference between good health or a hospital trip. Why not take the few minutes required to ensure that you always have what you need for any workout or outing you go on. ☯️