Exercise is a key component of diabetes management, but sometimes it seems nearly impossible to balance my workouts, insulin, and food. I’ve had many days when my exercise is interrupted by diabetes. Just last Thursday, I hit 54mg/dL near the end of my boxing class, forcing me to take in calories I had just burned, and causing me to miss the last few minutes of drills on the heavy bag. And my first half marathon performance was dampened by the fact that I was running unexpectedly high the whole morning. Despite all of its benefits, exercise can be one of the trickiest things to manage with diabetes.
And this is why my heart goes out to Kris Freeman right now. Kris Freeman is an Olympic cross-country skier, and has Type 1 diabetes. After an impressive fourth place at the World Championships, Kris entered the Olympic games as a favorite in the men’s cross country skiing events. However, he was forced to pause because of a low blood sugar at Saturday’s 30k race, and finished a disappointing 45th because of it. Because carrying carb fuel would add extra weight, Kris surprisingly doesn’t race with a sugar source readily available. During his low on Saturday, one of the German coaches provided Gatorade and GU which allowed Kris to at least finish the race, but at the back of the pack. Kris had this to say about the low:
“I’ve been gearing toward this for four years, and in my worst nightmare, I can’t imagine that these races could’ve gone any worse,” Freeman said. “I had bad skis in the first race and miscalculated on my blood sugar today. Just all of a sudden, lights out.”
Even Kris, an Olympic level athlete who has access to the best doctors, a carefully regimented diet, and does nothing but ski all day every day, had a “bad diabetes day.” Diabetes doesn’t care if it’s the Olympics, or a first date, or during an important presentation. And although Kris is disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to perform his best on Saturday, I hope that he knows that even these “low points” (every pun intended) are actually inspiration to people like me.
Knowing that he has bad days too, days where he can’t believe something went wrong, days where he feels like diabetes has the upper hand, it makes me know that I am not alone in my struggles with this disease. Saturday’s race could have just as easily been a practice round, the World Championships, or any other day as far as diabetes was concerned. It just so happened to be the Olympics – and a day he got low while working out. Lows happen, highs happen, diabetes happens. And success is not measured in the number of perfect blood sugars you have – it’s measured in whether you get up every morning willing to try again. Thank you for your inspiration Kris, and good luck in the 50k!