Fitness Now with T1D


Editor’s Note: Marci is a part of Beyond Type Run Team, which is sponsored by Medtronic. She participated in the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. 

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Athleticism runs in my family and has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I learned to love fitness from a young age and spend most of my free time doing all things active—indoors as well as outdoors. I played various sports growing up and as a college student, I taught fitness classes such as kickboxing, sculpt and circuit training. I even taught a kid’s bootcamp class, showing them how to make exercise fun (giving them a break from video games and iPads). During these years, I felt like the energizer bunny with unlimited amounts of energy and my motivation to challenge myself came naturally. After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012, all of this changed—my motivation to exercise, my energy levels and my overall health. After taking a mini hiatus from my normal workout regimen to focus on regaining my strength, I slowly eased back into making exercise a priority. I took one day at a time; however, I often became overwhelmed with frustration that I had to fight for one-tenth of the energy I once had. I no longer had the same endurance, strength, or drive to push myself to maintain my strict exercise and diet.

On top of all this, I suddenly had to be overly-mindful of all the influences diabetes had on my exercise—from food choices and the amount of insulin administered to the fear of sudden lows and making sure I had glucose tablets or snacks on hand. Initially, it was annoying to deal with all this. Why couldn’t I just throw on my sneakers and simply go for a run? Over time, it became part of my routine to be prepared for any reaction—high or low. What also helped to change my perspective was realizing that all of this preparation that goes into exercising with type 1 diabetes (T1D) plays a bigger role in understanding my disease better. Learning how my body reacts before, during and after exercise has allowed me to be more mindful of all the internal and external influences diabetes has on me, (whether it be food, stress, illness, hormones, climate, etc.). I am now thankful that I understand these factors so I can better approach my diabetes head on.

The Big Changes:

  • I have to fight a little harder to find the energy to exercise. Consistent sleep and forming a routine is so essential!
  • I have learned to listen to my body. If I’m having an “off day” I make it a point to rest or opt for a lighter workout like power walking or relaxing yoga. If I absolutely feel wiped out, then I remind myself that I’m allowed a time out and will pick up the next day.
  • When I do have bursts of energy, I capitalize on those golden moments! My favorite activities include running, Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, weight training, hiking and just about any outdoor activity (especially if it involves water!)
  • The t:slim pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensor combo has allowed me to monitor my numbers better. This helps me gauge what kind of workout I am going to do and at what intensity level. (The Dexcom CGM is perfect for the gym since I listen to music on my iPhone, which also receives my blood glucose readings every five minutes.) I know where my numbers are trending at all times. I can plug in my exercise duration and intensity level, which allows me to see the trends and true impact of exercise on my blood glucose levels.
  • The T:Slim pump allows me to suspend or decrease insulin delivery during the duration of activity. I’ve experienced fewer crashes & lows because of this feature. I am extra mindful of what I eat prior to a workout and the status of my insulin delivery approximately three hours prior to exercising. (I find that this window of time makes all the difference in the world on my numbers during my exercise.)
  • For me, longer aerobic workouts such as swimming, running and spinning cause my numbers to decrease at a faster rate as opposed to quick anaerobic workouts like weightlifting and circuit training. This helps me when I prep before a workout. I try to alternate days with cardio and strength training.
  • I’ve found that it is safer for me to workout after my numbers have been at a steady, flat rate for a few hours prior to the start of exercising. (For me, a consistent reading of 125 is a target number I strive for before a workout.) I used to think that if I ate something with a little bit of sugar or healthy carbs before a workout, it would spike my numbers up enough to avoid a trending low. I quickly found that my numbers would immediately come crashing down about 15 minutes into my workout. This is why I stress the importance of being extra mindful of my meals and snacks that I eat during the hours leading up to my workout. My favorite snacks include: Quest Bars, Think Thin Bars and peanut butter coated apples or rice cakes with a serving of mixed nuts.
  • To achieve the best results, I aim to maintain a healthy diet to align with my exercise routines. I strive to keep things simple with a minimalist diet and follow a few rules of thumb: eat high protein, lots of greens, veggies and healthy carbs. I avoid starchy carbs, creamy sauces, processed foods, sugar, pastries and alcohol. I love making my own green juices, protein smoothies and Paleo-friendly dishes. If I stick to this diet, I’ve found that I barely have to give myself insulin. Sometimes I can even take my pump off for the day!

Following a strict exercise regimen and healthy diet is by no means simple. Having diabetes certainly doesn’t make things easier! However, I feel fortunate to have the latest technology from Tandem and Dexcom to help simplify my life and allow me to approach each day with confidence. I am a knowledge junkie and always on the hunt for new tips and hacks that will enhance my diabetes management. Exercise is a significant part of my overall wellness so I’ve committed myself to a lifelong quest to explore all the ways I can take care of my body to achieve the best quality of life.

More from Marci:

Switching to a Pump and CGM — A T1D’s Feedback

My New T1D Outlook

WRITTEN BY Marci Tatham, POSTED 03/07/16, UPDATED 09/28/22

Marci is a 25-year-old girl from California, living the newlywed life with her husband, Matt in sunny SoCal. When she's not on the 8-5, you can find her doing anything active such as hiking, yoga and Crossfit. She loves to write—especially about health, wellness and type 1 diabetes (T1D). She is currently working on her own blog that will feature all the ways to outsmart diabetes. She has her master’s degree in global business from Pepperdine University and enjoys new adventures and traveling the world. Her best friends are also her family and her Christian faith is what gives her purpose. She's a person with T1D that is passionate about shattering the stigma and stereotypes associated with T1D and living with a lifelong disease. Some fun facts about her: she's a major green juice drinker, she loves electronic dance music and she loves doing impersonations.