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Activity

Hear from people with diabetes who have discovered the importance of keeping active. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something small or new, or just that little bit more of something you already do — all physical activity is good for diabetes.

Leighanne Smith2009

Swimming the width of the English Channel in 3 months

It was a Saturday afternoon on 21 December 2019. I was aimlessly scrolling through my Instagram account, waiting for my fiancé to return from work when a sponsored Swim22 post appeared. Given it was in support of Diabetes UK, it captured my attention. I clicked the sponsored post to find out more.

Having struggled to stay committed to a form of exercise for the previous 12 months, I figured this could be something new to try. I have had personal trainers, I have trained weights, played tennis, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu and attended group training sessions.

Using any excuse I could find, I struggled to stay committed long term. Although I was taught to swim in primary school, it’s not something I have pursued since then, unless absolutely necessary. The most activity I would do in a pool is to climb on to a lilo, usually with a drink in hand, relaxing somewhere hot.

I was interested in taking part in Swim22 as it was the perfect opportunity for me to give something back. A decade on from diagnosis I found myself still taking all the support I could get from Diabetes UK, never talking openly about my condition to help or inspire others. I continued to hide my diabetes and never taking the opportunity to give something back.

The New Year was on the horizon, I had just faced the most challenging six months of my business life and was feeling under pressure, stressed and lacking self-worth. Unsure about what happens next I found myself in a mental space I was not familiar with. I researched the benefits of swimming on my physical and mental health and decided to take the plunge.

Read Leighanne Smith's complete story
Jon-type1

Jon PeachDiagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged five

Work and diabetes

I always wanted to do a job that involved sport, whether that was coaching or teaching. I would’ve been so bored in an office. I did a sports degree at university and teacher training after that. 

For quite a while, I didn’t want to tell anyone I had diabetes. I was worried they’d treat me differently. But wearing a sensor on my arm means that my students often ask what it is. These days I’m much more open about my diabetes, so I’m always happy to have a conversation with them about my condition and what it means. What’s nice about my job is that students can see I still lead a normal life and you can still be active if you have type 1. 

My students are great. I’m on an insulin pump and one day when I was teaching a Year 11 girls’ rugby team, I got knocked over whilst holding a tackle shield. They were really concerned about me. One girl even checked if my pump was OK. I’ve once had trouble in a lesson because I’ve gone hypo and a student needed to get me something from the vending machine. I’ve had times when I’ve gone low and my blood sugar hasn’t come back up as quickly as I would have hoped. When that happens I’ll sit on a bench on the side and say to the children, “Right, could you do this for the next five minutes,” while I recover or just ensure they are in a game situation where I can oversee while a student referees or umpires. 

Keeping on top of blood sugar levels

Managing diabetes when you have an active job isn’t easy, but it’s a case of thinking about everything you might need to help you get through the day and having back up plans. These days, I make sure I’ve got plenty of hypo treatments on me and I try to do lots of testing and scanning, so I’m on top of my blood sugars. It’s also helpful for recognising that there are times when I need to change my basal rate, or put a temporary one in place.

The hardest thing is the surprise of your blood sugars not doing what you expect, I’m always looking for a reason. That can be helpful, but it can also be frustrating. That must be the teacher in me, trying to evaluate where it’s gone wrong, so I can work out how to avoid it next time. That’s part of the problems that come with diabetes, and it’s important not to let it hold you back. I try to remind myself that even people with the best control will have rubbish days. Just because something has worked one day, doesn’t mean it will work the next.

Read Jon Peach's complete story
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Ruth HydeCycles and supports Diabetes UK in memory of her brother Eddie

Cycling

I learnt to ride when I was very young and used to ride to school – which actually put me off cycling for a long time – riding in full school uniform (including school skirt and hat) with a massive bag of books was not a pleasurable experience.

I only took up cycling again about 5 years ago when my doctor suggested it following knee surgery as it’s easy on the joints. I was quite active before I took up cycling, but it really helped me to get fitness back and some strength back in my muscles. 

I couldn't believe it when I managed 20 miles on my first ride with my local club. I had a big heavy bike and was by far and away the slowest in the group but I was well looked after and so delighted that I’d ridden that far. It was a beautiful evening.

And I was lucky enough to get a ballot place for RideLondon in 2018. Fundraising for Diabetes UK on the back of the ride felt like absolutely the right thing to do. I did it in memory of and to celebrate the life of Eddie and to aid diabetes research. I love a challenge. I’d like to think he'd have been proud to find me raising money for Diabetes UK – but I suspect be would be puzzled that I’d think a 100-mile bike ride was a good idea.

Cycling in memory of Eddie seemed very appropriate. I can actually remember helping him learn to ride his first bike (a family hand-me-down with fat white tyres and stabilisers), and cycling round the neighbourhood on adventures with a little gang of friends. As I recall the days were always sunny, roads were flat and pothole free, and punctures never happened. 

Cycling has been a bit of a saviour during lockdown. While I miss cycling with friends having the chance to get out and enjoy the fresh air has been such a positive experience. I am working from home, and actually working harder than ever as I’m involved in planning for the post lockdown future. It quite often feels harder to get away from the work at the end of the day when it’s sitting in the next room - so making a commitment to myself to go out cycling helps me separate work life and home. 

And my cycling experiences have been so different – the roads have been so much quieter with very few cars and you can actually get to see, hear and smell more when you are out so it is infinitely more pleasureable. The whole lockdown, and indeed the whole Covid experience has made me appreciate my cycling.

Ruth's cycling tips - for indoor and outdoor cycling

  • Know your limitations – better to do a shorter distance and enjoy it than overdo it. You can build up distances over time.
  • Padded cycle shorts are a good investment for any sort of cycling.
  • Joining a cycling group can really help with motivation. I found that not only did I find new routes and places to cycle to, I also cycled further than I would have done on my own. The camaraderie is great and I’ve met lots of interesting people.
  • Above all enjoy yourself – and if you have a bad ride where everything feels like hard work don’t worry about it – it happens to everyone so don’t give up.

 

Read Ruth Hyde's complete story
Colin Rattray

Colin RattrayDiagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2000

Coronavirus

I’ve been really careful not to expose myself to any risks. I chat to neighbours over the garden fence or when we step out to applaud the NHS every week. In fact, it’s been nice as there’s about a dozen of us who didn’t even know each other’s names, but now we speak on a regular basis. 

Although I’m being careful, I also think it’s important to keep active. So I’ve convinced my elderly relatives to stay at home and let me drop off their supplies. Online shopping to them is a real mystery, so every Tuesday and Saturday I order the food and once it’s been delivered to my house, I’ll take it down and leave it on their doorstop, making sure we’re social distancing.  

Read Colin Rattray's complete story
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KhadijaDiagnosed with type 1 when she was a baby

Keeping active

Now that I’m feeling better I’ve got lots to keep me busy, so I’m managing quite well with the lockdown. I’m set up to work from home and thanks to Microsoft Teams and Zoom, I’ve been able to chat and video call people from my floor at work. 

I’ve also got my Master’s dissertation to finish, which I was due to submit the week I became unwell. The university have given me an extension, so I’m just working on the final edits. I was supposed to be handing it in and then going off on holiday to celebrate, but that isn’t happening now.

My graduation this summer has been postponed too, so I’m not sure when that will take place. But I know I will make sure I properly celebrate once this is all over.  

Aside from work, I’ve made plans to try and learn a new language and a musical instrument while I’m isolating. 

And probably like everyone else, I’ve got a Netflix list which is growing by the day, but I’m limiting myself to how much I watch – maybe an episode on my lunch break. 

Read Khadija's complete story
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