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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Since I started cycling, I’ve lost 3 stone and my blood sugar is now at sensible levels: Neil's story

Neil smiling

Neil Wheeler

Diagnosed age 43.

Raising money for Diabetes UK was the motivation to continue and keep at it. A lot of people had faith I could do it so I couldn’t let them down.

Neil has type 2 diabetes bought on by lifestyle changes and family links, with both his parents living with it. He started cycling to keep fit and did RideLondon 46 in 2019.

Journey with diabetes

Family history

I have a significant link to type 2 diabetes, both my parents have it. Watching my parents having to manage their condition is tough to see. It wasn’t caught early so seeing their health decline was emotionally tough. Both of them were diagnosed after issues with heart disease.

Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about five years ago. Despite having seen what my parents had been through, I honestly didn't take it seriously. Perhaps I was in denial, but I was fairly fit and had an active lifestyle. I didn't take it seriously until my first medical review. My diabetes nurse explained the consequences of what will happen if the condition progresses – and the detrimental effects to my body. It really drove home the seriousness of my condition. Slowly I came to accept I had a serious condition that needed action.

My condition was brought on by moving to a desk job. Before I was a general manager of a busy hotel and always on the go, and a special constable with Surrey Police which kept me active. But when I was promoted to group operations director I was sitting at a desk all day managing paperwork. And because of the hours I had to give up the police work.

Activity

I decided to push myself 

I had really struggled to manage and control my diabetes because it had such a dramatic impact on my life: everything from managing my diet and paying attention to the foods I ate, which changed the family diet and initially put a strain on going out to eat. I also need annual medicals for scuba diving to make sure I can still dive. So I decided to attack the condition head on.

Not much of a runner I took to cycling, I started by buying a bike to get back into shape, and having completed a swimathon earlier in the year the cycling continued as my preferred fitness regime. Being a large bloke, the main difficulties were finding the right bike and clothes that fit!

Immediately I noticed significant improvements to my blood sugar levels, dropping and remaining at a sensible level.

As I went out more I could see myself needing a big push so I signed up for RideLondon 46. I want to not only get fitter and improve my control over my diabetes but also to raise money at the same time.

When it came to training I was fortunate to have a very forgiving wife, allowing me plenty of days dedicated to training. I started off with 5-10 mile rides gradually increasing to comfortably ride 40 miles, also mixing my training to flat roads and significant hills along the way.

Fundraising

Motivation

Raising money for Diabetes UK was the motivation to continue and keep cycling. I had used the Diabetes UK website and forums to learn more about my condition and read that I’m not alone with this. With people donating for me it definitely motivated me to push further and further, I had never competed in anything like RideLondon. A lot of people had faith I could do it so I couldn’t let them down.

I had so many memorable moments taking part. I was really nervous: from the build up at the start to the Dockland tunnels at the first 5 miles, you are really drawn into it. The high fives at the Diabetes UK cheer points in Kingston and Millbank were a welcome boost and really helped get me through. Both my parents are proud of what I've accomplished and both met me at the finishing line to celebrate. 

I got a sense of achievement, knowing that I can do this. I’m hoping it will springboard me onto challenging myself further on the next event - and raising more money.

Health benefits

Since taking part last year, I’ve continued riding, losing 3 stone in weight and controlling my MMOL.  

I really enjoy the time out on the bike, it’s great to de-stress and clear my head. It's really affected my health in a positive way as well as keeping fit.  

Not only did the training help me lose weight, but I improved all my stats. My annual review shows my average MMOL has dropped from 14.3 to 8 and continues to fall year on year. And I’ve gone from a 44 inch waist to 40!

My cycling tips

  • A static trainer at home is a great substitute if you can't get on the road and cycle in the current situation. 
  • There are plenty of cross-training exercises that can be done at home that will really help build strength.
  • Remember to social distance while out riding - I've been out every day and have been able to do so.
  • Don’t get too concerned about your timings  and my final tip  a good pair of cycling shorts is a must!

 

 

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