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Diabetes & Biking: A Love Story

Motivation, determination and fun on two wheels

Every time I get out on my bicycle, I remember why kids seem to love biking so much: speed and freedom. I’m far from a serious athlete, but biking is a perfect mix of relaxation and exercise that works wonders on my stress levels and helps my physical fitness at the same time. I love it.

I’ve participated in the American Diabetes Association‘s Tour de Cure event for the past two years. The Tour de Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in forty-four states nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association. This year, I’m taking on a huge personal challenge: I will be riding a 100-mile course. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified! I’ve never cycled that far, nor have I had to try to manage my blood sugar levels for such an extended period of exercise.

I have a lot of help in my corner, though, which fills me with confidence. I won a scholarship for a cycling training package from Team WILD (“We Inspire Life with Diabetes”) and am more than halfway through the training as I write this. Team WILD has given me lots of great information, as well as guidance in developing specific riding goals along the way, which have helped me prepare both my body and what I call “my diabetes toolbox.”

What I’ve enjoyed about the training so far is that it feels as though every ounce of work I put in on the bike helps me in other areas, too. Playing basketball is a good example: My legs feel stronger, my endurance and stamina are better than ever before, and learning how to manage my blood sugars on the bike has helped me to manage my blood sugars on the court. Here’s the personal fitness secret I’ve learned: I test often, keep good notes, and make sure to properly fuel my body.

I didn’t start out as a cycle-crazy Pancremaniac (that’s the name of the cycling team I’m on – don’t you love it?). In fact, until about three years ago, my bike hadn’t been out of the garage in well over a decade. But I talked to my doctor and decided to take it out of the garage. It hurt when I first started riding again, but it only took about three or four rides to get used to sitting on the saddle again. I was determined to ease my way into it.

I made sure to test my blood sugar often, usually at least every thirty minutes, and I kept good notes. I also made sure to have plenty of fast-acting glucose tabs with me to treat low blood sugars. Through patience, practice, and preparation, I’m feeling ready for the big day.

If you’re up for riding in a Tour de Cure event, there are usually many route options, from a seven-mile spin all the way up to a “century,” or 100-mile ride, with a number of in-between options. If you’re not sure about riding, consider volunteering. The event planners always need help, and you’ll get a feel for the atmosphere of the day. The enthusiastic environment might even motivate you to get your bike out of the garage. If nothing else, consider just showing up at the finish line mid-afternoon and checking out the celebration. It doesn’t cost anything to be there and it’s another great way to experience the event.

If you live anywhere near a Tour de Cure, I don’t think you’d regret checking it out. The events are very moving for those of us living with diabetes, especially since every person who rides with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is eligible to become a “Red Rider.” Red Riders are celebrated throughout the day for all it takes to live well and ride well with diabetes. I found it absolutely magical!

Scott Johnson blogs at www.scottsdiabetes.com, and is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor (and interviewee), and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates. 

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experiences

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