Cycling With Diabetes

Catchy title, eh?

This post is an attempt to put some thoughts down about where cycling fits within my new diabetes diagnosis. I’m still in the WTF stage of my knowledge about the disease. I DO know I feel good when I’m riding. I’m not riding great distances. I’d like to but I feel like I need to be careful still. And always carry a glucose gel pack.

I wear a Freestyle Libre sensor to constantly monitor my glucose level (aka a CGM). It’s both a blessing and a curse because when the “trend arrow” shows going up or going down, the brain has no choice in asking when will it level out again, which is anxiety producing. Another “trick’ of the Libre is the occasional “Sensor Error” message. This can happen, as the Freestyle FAQ states, particularly “during intense exercise”.

I’ve had only one bad day on the bike since my diagnosis. Diabetes care is about keeping numbers steady and while exercise is almost essential, it can affect your body’s response to regulation, so it means monitoring before, during, and after a ride. It adds another annoying/scary thing to worry about in addition to flat tires, cars and pedestrians, crashes, etc.

However, with all that, including the lifestyle change, cycling is a beautiful sport. As I write this, I’m watching the Giro d’Italia, courtesy of the Max streaming service. I’ve got a post brewing about the state of streaming services, but that’s for another day.

As I watch the race (three weeks of racing with only two rest days), I’m amazed that just a few years ago it was virtually impossible to watch this race in America. Now I’m able to watch this “Grand Tour” (the other two GTs are the Tour de France and the Vuelta Espana) with almost start to finish coverage. I know to some this would be extremely boring, but if you didn’t care for the racing, there is still the beautiful scenery from the helicopter shots as they travel through most of the Italian provinces. And let me tell you, I’ve come to see how gorgeous this country is. A guy by the name of Jim Groom comes to mind, as the latter part of the race will travel around Jim’s neighborhood, as Alpine climbs figure prominently in the race. Hey Jim, give a little wave if you happen to be near the Passo Brocon on May 25.

I’m enjoying seeing the wonderful hills and valleys of Il Giro. I’m not enjoying hills and valleys of glucose readings, but I’m learning how best to control it. Being smart and being disciplined is critical. I’ve licked my addiction to carbs for the most part. As I watch the NHL playoffs (my other favorite sport), it can be hard to watch all the pizza commercials during the breaks – there needs to be a video mute in addition to the audio mute on remotes. If I behave myself, I can have “cheat” days that might include a small slice. We’ll see.

I’m essentially on a Keto diet, which has the special “feature”, being a trendy diet, that low carb foods like keto breads, are more expensive. However, regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, they are more healthy. Learning about insulin resistance should give everyone pause about the effects of eating so many addictive high carbohydrate foods. A good reason to move to Italy and enjoy a Mediterranean diet!

So cycling with diabetes will continue, if with a bit more caution. Even before I was diagnosed, I was beginning to ride more for total enjoyment and less to push myself (i.e competitiveness). It’s still gonna be hard not to track down a slower cyclist as quickly as I can. But still, I continue to mature. Haha!


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