Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes: Sometimes walking isn’t enough!

I am a 55 year old Type 2 Diabetic. I have been living with the condition for some 18 years (probably longer). I currently take 1x Metformin 500mg tablet with each meal (3x per day). I have always believed that exercise is the best way for me to control my diabetes rather than increasing doses of medication, and in general this works. However, due to injury, sometimes my activities (running and cycling) are curtailed. But I always thought brisk walks in their place would do the trick. Apparently not.

In 2018 I accepted a challenge to walk at least 12,000 steps every single day for the whole year. I made that challenge easily. But it is clear from my HbA1c results (below) that even walking 10-12 kilometers every day did little to control my diabetes. Revieweing my diabetic history in 10 stages highlights the differences types of exercise can make.

  1. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2001, controlled by indoor football, badminton and hillwalking. No medication.
  2. Took up my first lecturing post in 2004. Chained to the desk writing lectures, designing courses and writing a book. HbA1c rose. Took up running in 2005 – ran first marathon 2006. HbA1c dropped rapidly
  3. Lost my Anterior Criciate Ligament (ACL) playing shinty in early 2007. Had to stop running. HbA1c rose dramatically. Metformin introduced into my regime.
  4. In 2008 I returned to running (slowly) on treadmill. Painful on the knee with no ACL.
  5. By 2009 I was back to distance running. Ran 2nd marathon in 2010 knocking 15 minutes off first time (03.43). HbA1c under control
  6. In 2011 I took up Ultramarathon running (completing 7x in 2012 alone). HbA1c dramatically declined. By 2015 I eased off the distances and HbA1c rose accordingly. NB – This was possibly the HIGHEST CARB DIET of my life (and best HbA1c results!)
  7. Seeing this, I reintroduced the longer distances and aimed for a trail marathon in October 2017. Cut down on carbs.
  8. Broke my foot and spent 6 months in a moonboot (well, about five different ones actually) walked at least 10km every single day of 2018 (3x months of which while wearing a moonboot!), but IT WAS NOT ENOUGH.
  9. 1 March 2019 – the date set for reintroducing running and cycle commuting a 36 Kilometer round trip to work. Also the date I got my HbA1c tested and was mortified at how the numbers had risen despite all the exercise. Given three months to get to 64 or else have additional medication added to my control regime. Made it.
  10. In August I was tested again to see if I’d crept back up. The running and cycling is paying off. The decline in HbA1c is marked. My Freestyle Libre estimates my next HbA1c will be 48.
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Laying Down Keg MG-1048: Field Marshal Alexander Leslie

Tentsmuir

In 2011 I was taken on tour in Sweden (again). This time was different; we headed North from Stockholm to visit the Mackmyra Whisky Distillery – a relatively new venture at that juncture. The tour, a present from my sister-in-law was really excellent, and I was selected to pick a barrel from a row of 10. Most of them looked fresh – American bourbon casks with fresh Swedish oak tops and bottoms. There was one, a gnarly battered looking specimen which made me think it might just have character. I filled the keg and placed it in bonded warehouse. All good fun.

The Keg: Field Marshal Alexander Leslie MG-1048 (58.2%)

An enjoyable day. We left the distillery in April 2011. Over the coming years we would visit and taste the whisky as it developed. We were showered with gifts of shirts, jumpers, and all manner of gifts – we had…

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DNF: Dramarathon Whisky Marathon 2017

Everybody has one in their running career. For me, hilariously it happened on what was scheduled to be my last ever run over a marathon distance. I had been limping for weeks. The doctor told me I had a hairline fracture in my foot. But he said it might break as easily stepping off a kerb as on the run, and if I was lucky I might make it.

Ouch: Enough Said ….

About 10 miles in I heard a loud snap. Race over. The decent race officials gave me my goodie-bag full of drams anyway. Then down to the hospital in Dundee on the way home and on with the moon boot. This could take some time to fix.

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The Night Runners and the Moon

Shorter days and longer nights – this is the time of year that means that some people ease off on their running and excuses abound about the dark, the cold and the weather. I notice even some of the real fitness bunnies on the internet are talking about “moving it inside” to the Dreadmill. But in avoiding nightime running, are many people missing out on something magical? Specialised running sites like The Running Bug do advocate continuing to run through the winter nights. Indeed they’ve suggested many ways to stay safe at night including sticking to well lit up areas. In some places, especially the cities, they may have a point especially (if regrettably) for single women. Others, like We Are Runners are less afraid to advocate the rural or remote night run, emphasising the use of proper equipment, especially a decent headtorch. But this is not a post about Lumens.

In truth the Tentsmuir RunnersNightshift” have been embracing the darkness for years. We are blessed by living close to a forest that includes an 8 mile stretch of beach, which allows for a very decent and varied 15 mile circuit without doubling back over any part of it (See the Garmin stats and map here). Quite a few of us have knocked in longer runs than that over the years, in terrain which includes landrover tracks, sand dune routes, dirt footpaths, deer trail and that wonderful soft calf-busting sand as you round Tentsmuir Point. A favourite.

However, around the end of September each year, we pick an evening and from then on and throughout the winter we let it be known across the local running groups that at least a couple of us will be heading into the forest from the same starting points each time. Over the years we have been joined by dozens of newbies to night running, many of whom are familiar faces on the weekly run to this day. Some people use the opportunity for training for particular races such as Aberdeenshire’s glorious The Illuminator 15 mile night time trail race. Others for the monthly jog around the forest we mark out for the local Run4It shop which, by nature of the seasons, has also moved its monthly event into the night and still attracts some 70 runners each time for the 5 & 10k routes we mark out for them.

courier

But for most of the regular Tentsmuir Runners, the Tuesday group run is only one of several times we will be in the forest each week. Sometimes we are alone, sometimes we have company. Often the run descends into a festive celebration of nature and the seasons – “Is that not what it’s all about?” I once asked.

tentsmuir-night-runners-navigation

Orientation is Key

We don’t deafen or distract ourselves with pulsating rhythms from the latest in running headset “Zombie Kits”. Nor do we always distract ourselves by light and very often we simply switch the head torches off and enjoy the tranquillity of running along the shore guided only by the ambient light. It can be breath-taking and humbling in the same moment.

tentsmuir-kieran-full-moon

Torches off on a Full Moon Beach Run

I’ve never seen “Attack ships on fire off the shores of Orion” – but I have seen Orion. Indeed, with my friends I’ve witnessed The Northern Lights, Meteor Showers, Comets; We have heard seals barking in the darkness offshore as geese thump a different beat in the air overhead.

northern-lights

The Northern Lights from Fife by Corinne Mills

Some don’t like it when we move to the middle of the forest and again stop, switch off the lights and simply gaze up at the stars (one timers we call this sort, for they seldom come back – tree huggers some have called us in return). But the forest at night is not to be feared, it’s to be embraced. It’s not that “We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” – it’s simply that we take the opportunity to go there; to stop, to listen and yes even in the dark, to see. See things that are there all the time, but that most people will never take the time to make space for in their lives. Although by virtue of being runners we are on the move in a physical sense, on the Tentsmuir Nightshift some of us feel we nevertheless Cultivate Stillness in our own particular way.

nightshift

tentsmuir-nightrunners-torch-and-moon

The Night Runners and the Moon

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Running v Cycling – The Blood Glucose Experiment

I have been asked about fuelling by quite a few diabetic folks of late. Here’s what I had to say about it a couple of years back

Tentsmuir

My interest in understanding fuelling for diabetic endurance runners is something that has been troubling me since I finished the Bamburgh Coastal Trail Ultra Marathon last October. I seriously underestimated the fuelling levels required on that run, and though I finished in good time and high spirits, I soon found myself having a diabetic episode. I cannot tell you for sure if my Blood Glucose Level (BGL) was too low because, as a Type 2 Diabetic, I had ceased to be prescribed test strips for my BGL meter in 2008. I was told there was no need now that my circumstances had changed. Briefly, the background is this:

I’ve been diagnosed T2 diabetic since 2001 and a runner of sorts since then completing my first marathon in 2006 in 3:59:01. For about six years my BGLs were completely controlled by exercise. I monitored by BGL religiously and eschewed any attempt…

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Is that not what it’s all about?

 

Beer on the Beach

There is history and heritage in this image; a lot of running miles sitting around that fire. Hundreds of ultras, marathons, and trail miles covered – let alone the training runs. But that is not what tonight was about. No this was about friendship and a more relaxed approach to health and fitness.

It started with a lovely little joggette through the small wooded trails and dunes to the beach where we ended up at the traditional ‘Fire Pit’. Once there, a steel and flint appeared and an ‘old school’ fire was made of the drift washed up on the beach. Who doesn’t carry tinder with them when running in the wild? Backpacks were opened and a variety of goodies produced; Some home brew beers developed by the ‘award winning’ brewing experience of @hermiston and others reinterpreted for tonight by @andyjamieson30. These all easily survived the journey, but we let them settle for a few minutes ‘just in case’. These were all drunk from Marathon du Medoc trophy mugs earned by me and @FireyJim  for drinking beer after ALL the wine during the race back in 2011.

The beer tonight was also tasted in the company of friends who took a chance after internet banter to ‘go for a run’ in the Tentsmuir Forest a few years back. @GirlRunsWild’s first ever night run was down there with Jim a few years back and it was largely for her that we celebrated the new moon rising.

Beers and Full Moon

We broke no running records this evening. Most of us simply covered a very comfortable 7.5 miles on the trail. Andy knocked in an impromptu marathon having pushed in 20 miles earlier on in the day – well, at least that meant this 50 something could keep up! After a couple of hours watching ‘Red Neck TV’ (the fire), we trotted off the beach and back home through the forest, still chatting about everything from the beauty of the full moon to the finer points of brewing. An occasional mention was even made of running ….. But most importantly tonight, we laughed. We laughed a lot. Is that not what it’s all about?

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But here’s the thing …..

Last year, 2015,  was a mixed bag. Having seriously injured myself running and cycling within three months of each other (knee in April, shoulder in July) I had three full months of recovery which included my arm being in a sling for six weeks (seriously broken collar bone), and the subsequent recovery from the insertion of a metal plate and pins.

Scar Tissue

As a result I’ve gone pretty much back to square one with my running and have reintroduced my cycle commute to work painfully slowly. From shuffling one mile three times a week in September, I have managed at least one 10-15 mile run each week for the last 10 weeks thanks in no small part to the constant companionship on the trail of the one you might know as Girl Runs Wild. This run adds to 3 or 4 others of between 3-6 miles which is, all told, a much lighter mileage than I had at the start of 2015. I should add we also tend to stop for a snack half way round these days at The Crepe Shack. It would be rude not to.

My cycling too has slowed somewhat. I have shelved the Genesis Aether for races only and moved to a slightly heavier hybrid for my daily commute.

Genesis Aether

There are noticeable pros and cons for my health. On the one hand I managed to put on a little weight last year, and my HbA1c rose from my usual 6.2-6.5 to a quite uncomfortable 7.8. I am working on this.

But here’s the thing ….. Since July 2015 I have not taken a single puff from my Blue inhaler (Salbutamol). As part of my recovery I have dispensed with any form of speed or sprint work and by being more relaxed about my activities I have been nine months with one less medication. Instead, I am controlling my Asthma with Symbicort only, and even then at a reduced dose of only two puffs in the morning and one on the evening.

So, my race times are a thing of the past and I am sluggish on the move. But there is a positive health benefit, and I’m sure one day soon I’ll start to hit some kind of form worth blogging about.

In the meantime, you can always find me in the Tentsmuir – possibly stuffing my face with Crepe.

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