Monday, March 11, 2013

Diabetes at the Gym . . .

After much debate, budget analysis and waffling (and probably because we both like eating waffles), Pete and I finally decided to join a gym yesterday.


This is definitely a good thing.  At home, there are too many distractions and temptations and reasons to put off a workout until later.  Then later turns into tomorrow, which turns into next week, which turns into never.  I’m excited to have more options than my tired old workout DVDs and Wii games.  I’m excited to be able to use a treadmill I can actually run on, since my home treadmill is built for walking only.  I’m excited to try a range of exercise classes and see what suits me best - zumba, yoga, pilates, boot camp, there is bound to be something I like!  I’m  very hopeful that I can finally get into some sort of workout routine, because I really do need it.

Believe it or not, this is my first ever gym membership.  So I’m not quite sure how to toss diabetes into the mix.  Those of you with gym experience, I can sure use your advice.  Obviously I’ll keep  my meter and some juice with me at all times and hopefully I’ll be able to handle any lows on my own.  But that little voice in the back of my brain keeps whispering “But what if you need help?’.  Yes, what if I do need help?  Do I have a quick chat with the desk attendants before my workouts, letting them know that diabetes shouldn’t be a problem but that they should be aware just in case?  How do you handle diabetes at the gym?


  1. Good question! I never made a point to mention it- however- my ex worked at the gym, obviously he was in the loop, and most of our friends worked out there. He checked in if I was looking a little goofy. Now I just keep an eye on my CGM and try hard not to be stupid about treating (I have a BAD habit of wanting to finish my workout). I also do not make a point to hide my pump, CGM, whatever. I'd say if you're good about treating (or even overtreating when alone), you probably don't need to say anything. If you know that you might be stubborn or miss hypos- chat with someone on staff, it can't hurt.

  2. Karen,

    When I first started at the gym I told the desk people and a couple of trainers on the floor about my diabetes. One or two of them kind of didn't care but most of them did. Then I met the owner one day and told him about my diabetes and ever since I get great care so to speak.

    I have had a few low incidents at the gym,and they have been right there to help. Amazing. Even the ones that didn't seem to care at first. I think talking to the owner and manager worked I would say.

    If you need any more guidance I would be glad to help and I know Ginger Vierra would be willing to chat with you.

  3. I'm on multiple daily injections. Whether I'm at the gym or on my bike I start by checking my sugars. About ten minutes before I start I'll eat about 10grams (so an apple or glass of milk). Then I will periodically eat carbs throughout my work-out. If I'm on my bike I eat 15g every 15km. At the climbing gym I eat before and after. If I'm doing a cardio + weights routine at the gym I eat a snack before, then do my weights, then eat a snack, then do my cardio.

    Of course for me the amount of carbs and frequency is different for each type of activity. When I'm on my bike or on the rowing machine I eat frequently. When doing resistance training it is much less frequent.

  4. I've personally only had one low I couldn't treat myself and it happened when I was asleep 16 years ago, so I don't bother telling attendants that I may need assistance. But I think that's a personal choice. I also wear my pump and medic-alert, so I feel like I'm covered.

    Trial and error is probably what you'll be doing for a few weeks. How my diabetes reacts to exercise depends on a lot of things and it can shift for seemingly no reason sometimes.

    Exercise alone will usually just make me go low, but add any adrenaline to the mix and I can except to be quite high after. Beforehand I always test. If I'm 8mmol or lower, I'll eat something or have a juice box first. If above, I do my regular workout and may test half way through.

    Adrenaline comes into the mix when I play a sport or when I'm really revved up about a workout (maybe training for something, or feeling particularly kick-ass that day). I always test immediately after I finish working out to see how my body chose to react. If I'm low, I'll have a juice box and maybe another 10 grams of something sweet. But quite often after exercising with adrenaline, I'll be in the 20's - if that's the case, I do half my correction dose and then re-test in 30-60 minutes.

    Sometimes I don't realize I had an adrenaline boost so it's important to always check right after, otherwise I can be walking around in the 20's for quite a while without realizing.

    Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself if it seems like there's no patterns. My patterns change with small lifestyle changes, weather, life stress, etc. The most I can do is test before, treat if needed, test after, treat if needed - and repeat.

  5. I am a type 1 with on an insulin pump, was a gym goer for years, and now am doing CrossFit. Make sure people at the gym know you are diabetic, they should have some sort of sugar available for you. Most weight lifting will raise your bloodsugar, its long bouts of cardio you'll have to watch out for lows. And, as mentioned above, test a lot, before during after, to determine how different exercises affect your sugars. I'm been working out for over 10 years and I still get highs and lows after workouts, don't give up! The long term effects that exercise has had on my bloodsugar has been amazing! My last A1C was 6.2!!

    Good luck and have fun!

  6. I am so proud of you two! I have nothing to offer as far as your question but I am super happy and excited for you guys! <3

  7. This is great! I'm so excited for you two!

    As for advice? I think you're on the right track with having stuff with you. What about medical id? Do you wear any?

  8. I am a type 2 diabetic and just started working out at a local gym today. I am really concerned about having too many lows during my work out.

  9. Karen, I've belonged to the same gym for about 10 years now. I figure the more people who know mean there are more that can help you if you need it.

    I even had a bad low one day on the train coming home from work, and there was a guy there who knew me from the gym and helped me out. Imagine that.

    Also, be sure to get that temp basal set before you begin the workout. Good luck. I'm pumped for you & Pete!

  10. I'm so proud of you!!! As far as D is concerned, carrying stuff with you is key and if I'm doing cardio, I cut my temporary basal rate by 1/2 and sometimes (before aqua bootcamp) I cut it back by 2/3'ds. It's trial and error and I know you'll find what works for you.
    As far as telling people, it couldn't hurt!

  11. Congrats on joining a gym!

    Many have already covered much of what I’d say – test, test, test – before, during, and after!

    I will contradict the comment from “8 days a week” about weight lifting raising blood sugar – I don’t think this is generally true. The advice I have from my doctor is that if your blood sugar is 12 or higher and you workout (cardio or weights) your sugars will tend to go up if you don’t already have insulin on board. So the issue is more about your starting sugar than your activity choice. If my blood sugar is high before/during a workout, then I will treat it with insulin – just a little less than normal.

    I haven’t had much success with lowering insulin before a gym workout (although I will lower my basal dose before a multi-hour bike ride). I find I have to eat to keep my sugars down. I’ve also found that after my workout, especially if I’ve eaten a lot for hard cardio, my sugars may jump up. So sometimes I treat with a bit of insulin post-workout if I’ve eaten a lot during my workout.

    You will likely find that for 24 hours after a workout, your sugars will be lower than normal, so you may want to back off your basal dose if you’re going to workout regularly. And working out regularly will help with control. If you go to the gym sporadically, you’ll likely find things harder to manage.

    I like to mix cardio and weights, and I find both have a big impact on reducing my insulin requirements. When I get sick or go on vacation and have to take some time off of the gym, I find that I start needing more insulin after just a couple of days.

    While I don’t think it’s bad to tell the gym employees about your diabetes, I personally don’t rely on the staff to know what to do if I get low. That’s why I test so frequently, and really pay attention to how I’m feeling, and what my strength and mood are like. I’ve been lifting weights at a gym for over 15 years now, and I think it really makes a positive impact on my diabetes. I suspect it’s a factor in a strong dawn effect but the pump has made it fairly easy to manage that. Stick with it, test a lot, and it will be worth it!

  12. Some people have brought great points! You shouldn't have any issues, I've been in many gyms with no problems. Depending on the gym they don't always have the staff on hand, if something was to occur, it's probably a fellow gym member that would come to assist you, therefore I always have my diabetes bracelet and over time I've come to know some of the people there and have told them about my diabetes.

    Being active and part of the gym community has helped me with every aspect of diabetes and being active. Perfect control will not be easy at first, but once you've established a routine it will help.

    I always test before and after workouts. I remove my pump to exercise in most cases. Blood sugars are usually a bit higher after (as mentionned by some), I would suggest to go easy on the correction or wait it out a bit to regulate. I also carry glucose tablets in my gym bag just in case.

    I've never let diabetes get in my way, I've played hockey, done boxing and now Powerlifting. The best thing you can do to be active and get the most out of it is to find an activity you really enjoy doing. If you enjoy the bikes, do the bikes, if you prefer cables and free weights, do that. If you prefer group classes, etc... And try new things!

  13. Oh how exciting!! I loved my gym (when we belonged) my favorite classes were: yoga & zumba. I took a small tote with me and in it I put: a small towel, glucose tabs, granola bar, bottle of water, my meter (& whatever else I needed on any given day) Sadly, we don't belong to the gym anymore due to the fact we can't afford one (our health insurance covered going to the gym up until last year) I think you'll enjoy it!

  14. There was a study (excuse me for not going to find the link... google?) that found that doing weights before doing cardio helps prevent the blood sugar drop from the aerobic exercise. So, that's all the advice I've got.


Thanks for your comment!