Exercise and T1D: Training for a Half Marathon
I am doing the thing I said I would never do... I am running a half marathon.
What got me here? Well, when the 10K I had my heart set on sold out within minutes, I was stubborn and just signed up for 13.1. I mean, surely if I can run 6.2 I can run 13.1, right? Shortly after I hit confirm and gave runDisney $230 of my hard earned cash, it hit me... diabetes. How on earth will I ever run 13.1 miles and manage my blood sugars? I know people do it often, but the task seemed daunting and I had a good bit of trial and error ahead of me.
In April, with my Dexcom and t:Slim X2 insulin pump with control IQ technology at my disposal, I set off on my lengthy training journey. I am not quite there yet, but since April I have learned quite a bit about distance running with type 1 diabetes and I want to share some of what I have learned with you in hopes that it helps you on your journey.
As a physical therapist assistant, I educate patients all day about the importance of injury prevention. So, when I was researching the best training programs to prevent injury, I settled on the Jeff Galloway training program. I liked that it was an interval based plan with days off. I have learned that running intervals has not only prevented injuries but it has also helped me to better manage my blood sugars. The walking intervals are the perfect time to glance at blood sugars, adjust basal rates, and treat lows without feeling like you are having to slow down. I actually maintain a better pace when I am running intervals and my blood sugars are a bit easier to keep a check on. I run 30 minutes 2 days during the week and I run my long run on the weekend.
Two runs, two graphs. The only differences here are time of day and food. The first graph is the day I learned that running after dinner in the evening was not going to work. The second graph is how my graphs tend to look during early morning runs with just a bit of sugar before I leave! Trial and error.
Food, Fuel, and Hydration:
You may be like me and find that the toughest part of distance running is diet and hydration. "What can I eat to help steady my blood sugars for a 10 mile run?... How much water should I drink?... Nothing is working!" There has been so much trial and error for me in this category and I am still figuring it out.
The night before my long run, I carb up. This is one of those topics that has varying opinions, but for me and my diabetes, the more carbs and protein I eat in the 10-12 hours before I run, the better. For dinner the night before a long run, I will eat pasta, pizza, Chinese, any of those foods that usually make a T1D cringe. I am careful not to eat anything I have never eaten before or do not know how to dose for because there is nothing worse than being up all night with crazy blood sugars before waking at 5:45am to run. Yuck.
The morning of a long run, as soon as I wake up, I put my pump into exercise mode. I then drink half of a Body Armor drink to kind of get my blood sugars moving north a little bit. While I sip on my drink, I stretch really well. As soon as I have drank half of the bottle, I take off on my run. Notice I did not bolus or eat any solid foods. This is just what works best. On my way past my mailbox, I put a bottled water in the box to stop and sip on every 3-4 miles.
During my runs, I have tried just about every product on the market for fueling mid run. I have settled on Honey Stinger Gummies. They seem to work perfectly for that little boost of energy and boost of blood sugar. I am careful to eat only half of the pack at once and if my blood sugar is steady and I am feeling really good, I may put off fueling. I also keep some sort of candy on me, right now my candy of choice is candy corn, and I may eat a few pieces if I am trending low. Candy seems to work just a bit faster in case of a low.
Some runs are easier than others. Have I mentioned it is HOT in Florida?
Carrying Supplies, Fuel, and Devices:
I will be real with you, I do not carry much with me diabetes wise while running. I am probably a bad influence here, so take my advice loosely. I love my Flip Belt for carrying my keys, pepper spray, phone, fuel, and low supplies. The Flip Belt has numerous little openings all the way around making things easy to access and is low profile, which most women love. I typically clip my pump to my waist band with my EDC Solutions pump case that way I don't have to dig in my flip belt for it and I can easily track my blood sugars and adjust my basal rate.
Keeping Devices Adhered:
I live in Florida and the bulk of my training has been in the summer. No matter how early I wake up, it is still hot and I still am drenched in sweat. I have loved using Peelz Patch+ and Patch Pro to keep my Dexcom G6 CGM secured. Both of these medical device adhesives are built to last and are water proof, so they hold up great to sweat! I also have been enjoying wearing both devices on my arms as they sweat less than my stomach or thighs.
Patch+ is perfect for long hot runs! My Dexcom stayed put beautifully this Saturday while I ran 8 miles.
I still have a long way to go in my training and am anxiously counting down the days to my very first half marathon in November. I am excited to prove to myself and others that people with T1D can do anything they set their mind to, even running 13.1 miles. I have felt so much better since I began running and cross training. I am happier, I have more energy, and my blood sugars are much steadier. I plan to keep this up as long as my body allows me to! I cannot wait to do a follow-up post to this to tell everyone, "I did it!"
Exercise does the body good. Get out there, move your body, and love yourself.