Stop avoiding running due to hypos, start avoiding hypos during running!
Running is one of the easiest and most available physical activities that exists. You only need a pair of trainers to be able to go out for a run or jog. However, with diabetes, a run requires a lot of planning and preparation. You can’t just decide to go running and go right away. Diabetes requires you to make sure your blood sugars are ready for exercise, that you don’t have much insulin on board and that you have done all your pre-run dia-drills.
Running with diabetes is not that easy if you are not prepared, but don't let that put you off. You can manage it if you plan ahead, bring your diabetes toolkit and take the required steps to prepare for the exercise.
Three main methods that you can use to help you avoid hypos during longer runs:
1. Make sure you have no insulin on board, and eat 15-20g of quick-acting carbs 20 min before your workout to keep levels up and provide sufficient glucose to muscle. This amount of carbohydrates should last you about an hour, and then you will need to top up with more carbohydrates.
2. Exercise shortly after a meal with a reduced bolus. About a 20-30% bolus reduction should be enough, but you may need more or less. The reduction will depend on your insulin sensitivity that particular day and the time of day.
3. If on a pump, reduce basal 1-2 hours before your workout, so that the insulin level in your body has time to drop before you actually start out. Try not to let your blood sugar get too high, as that will affect your performance and how you will feel during your run. Don't forget to turn your basal back on before the end of your workout to avoid spiking after.
Less conventional ways to keep blood glucose stay level whilst running:
- Postponing long-acting insulin injection (if on pens) until after the run. Increased blood flow from running increases the speed of transportation of insulin around the body. This means that your fast-acting insulin will work faster and can bring you down both during and after your run. Doing the full dose after the run or splitting (half before and half after the run) can help reduce low blood sugar incidents both whilst exercising and during the rest of the day.
- Sipping on a diluted sugary drink during your run. This one is perfect, if you don’t like when your blood sugars rise before the run. You can avoid lows by gradually giving yourself carbohydrates whilst your exercising in the form of a drink or glucose tabs. The key is to figure out how often you need to top-up and how much total carbs you need.
- If the run is more than 40 min- 1 hour, you will inevitably need to eat fast-acting carbohydrates during exercise. Always bring glucose tabs, gels and bars in a Dystim running belt with you.
Running is different for everyone. For some, it is a fun way to spend time with friends, for others it is a way to meditate and think. Running is a unique experience, but you can’t fully enjoy it if your blood sugars are low. Take the time to plan and prepare, and then you will be able to run stress-free and love every minute of it.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended as medical advice. Please, consult your medical team before making any changes to your diabetes management.
Author: Daria Arofikina