Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Animas Sports and Exercise weekend headed up by none other than Dr Ian Gallen, Consultant Diabetologist, exercise specialist and the man behind the Sir Steven Redgrave Olympics success. Having been desperate to attend, I lucked out when Alison of Shoot Up or Put Up invited me to take her place as a willing volunteer/guinea pig. Thankfully, Animas appeared equally as keen. Having struggled for years to achieve anything that even resembled ‘control’ – particularly during exercise – I was ready and willing to fly the flag for us wannabe non-athletes. So with the promise that this weekend would equip me with the tools to manage exercise, I packed a bag with my very best Lycras and sickening amounts of enthusiasm and made my way to Loughborough University.
The weekend started with a talk by Dr Gallen which, thanks to an argument taking place between myself and my car on the hard shoulder of the M25, I missed. But thankfully Dr Gallen re-capped the next morning giving the late arrivals like myself, a second chance. I will go into more detail in the next post about what we actually learned (which brought about several ‘light-bulb’ moments) but trust me, Animas packed in so much that one post simply wasn’t enough.
On Saturday the name of the game was to mix a series of seminars with activities which would allow us to put into practice what we had learned in a safe, yet challenging environment. So after a system-shockingly early breakfast (I might be a keen exerciser but I am not a keen getter-upper) we charged into the day.
The first seminar, given by Alistair Lumb, a Specialist Registrar currently working with Dr Gallen, was around Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems (CGMs) and how they can help diabetics gain a far better insight into what is going on in those pancreatically defective bodies of ours. Following that we heard about ‘Exercising at High Altitudes’ with Clare Pesterfield, who detailed her journey up Mount Kilimanjaro, the many challenges she faced and shared what she has learned about how to rely on equipment that doesn’t particularly appreciate high altitudes or low temperatures! The final seminar was by Carin Hume, on the subject of nutrition. There was some excellent advice about alternatives to the usual sports drinks on the market and some do’s and don’ts for exercise. But for me the most stimulating discussions revolved around carbohydrate intake. There were a few sceptical glances as we were encouraged to eat no less than 100g of carbs a day. Of course, this is somewhat of a meaty (pun intended) issue as most people are firmly planted in one camp when it comes to the low-cab versus high-carb argument. I am in the low-carb camp. But then I am also not competing in sporting events were large amounts of energy are needed to make the end, so the jury is still out on this for me. But nevertheless the sessions were interesting and provided some thought-provoking topics.
For me the highlight of the weekend was, by far, the activities which broke up the learning and got us putting into practice our new-found knowledge. Imagine my initial horror when I discovered I had been picked for Football and Swimming (rather than Cycling or Fitness). I hadn’t been to a swimming pool for years and God only knows the rules of football, but I knew it had something to do with how many home-runs you score. Or is it wickets? Who knows? Needless to say my fear was that I would be sandwiched between 10 strapping football-mad 18 year olds, who could only be left totally disappointed at my inevitable terrible performance. As it happened, I had the time of my life. It didn’t matter that I had no idea what I was doing and at one point was even belting towards the wrong goal, convinced I was going to score (I had a dance prepared and everything). The point was we were exercising, socialising, learning and having huge amounts of fun. In the end our team (the wannabes) somehow won 3-nil and to top it off I finally have a grasp of the off–side rule. Yeah right.
It was a top weekend and I would strongly recommend that if you have ever wondered how to get on top of exercise and want to meet other people who are asking all of the same questions as you, then get yourself booked on the next weekend. It is a growing event only in its fledgling years, but will undoubtedly do for you what it did for me; give you confidence, give you the skills to manage ANY sort of sport and exercise, and give you the opportunity to meet other people, equally as bad at producing their own insulin.
Thanks to Anna for being sporty on our behalf and reporting back. She’ll be sharing her top tips on exercising and being a pancreas at the same time shortly. If you want more from Anna, you can find her blogging at Insulin Independent.