The Silent Effort of sport and diabetes

Hi All,

I am a Type 1 diabetic and I would like for you to read this article I wrote regarding the silent effort that it takes to be on top of your game when you have diabetes. I want to bring awareness to others that firstly you can succeed as a sportsman, whilst being diabetic. And also to other non diabetics to realize the effort that it takes to be able to compete against them and succeed :)

“I have been a diabetic for ten years now and I have been practicing Karate for the last twenty years, I am a 3rd Dan where I have competed in four World Championships post my diagnosis. Believe me I have been faced with countless struggles and challenges before, during and after exercise as a result from diabetes. I am a Type 1 diabetic and I use Lantis and Apidra, injecting four times a day.

Karate is not just a sport it is a lifestyle, it goes beyond medals and fame, it is the pursuit of perfection. We strive to perfect every movement every technique as well as our character. You come to class with the mindset of giving it 100% or don’t come at all. This is how I train, however diabetes does not allow this to be an easy task.

It takes a lot of effort as it goes beyond the will to train. As per norm sometimes you just don’t feel like training, perhaps you had a rough day and you just want to go home and relax. We all have those days but that is not what I want to discuss here. There are days that I really can’t wait to go train but then my diabetes dampers my will. My body is weak, my muscles are tired and I feel like death and all I am doing is my normal day to day schedule.

So why does this happen and what is the cause of my body giving in at times and how do I work my way around it? I found the answer not only in biology and science but mostly through experience.

Prior to my diagnosis I used to train three classes a day, giving it my all every class, every hour and every day, damn I was a machine. Yes, I was younger then and I had more time at my disposal but the fact is my body could handle that without issues. Now I struggle at times to handle an intense class of 60 minutes. The disturbing thing is it all starts before the class, during my day. There are many factors as to why my body is not capable of putting 100% in, 100% of the time.

One of the reasons is stress, stress has a big impact towards my blood sugar levels rising or dropping.
I might go through a stressful time at work or in my personal life which causes my blood sugar levels to become erratic. This has a negative impact on my body as high blood glucose levels weakens my muscles and causes fatigue.

A more obvious reason is diet, what I eat and when I eat has a direct impact on my energy and how long it will last. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin, glucose stays in the blood and can’t get into the body’s cells to be used for energy. In people who have developed diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood, resulting in hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. Because my body can’t use glucose for energy properly, I may feel unusually tired and my muscles weak.

Now imagine going to training feeling already weak and tired, knowing that your body is not up to the challenge that lies ahead. This does not only have an effect on the body but on the mind as well. When I feel tired and weak my mind starts to become weak as well, forcing negative thoughts to emerge. Bear in mind all of this is still prior to training.

Now the real challenge starts as I begin to train with the mentality of a 100% or nothing, this has led to some tough situations. At first I used to give it my all but before the class is even half way, my energy is gone, I have nothing left in me to train as I should or want to. This led to a lot of frustration and disappointment within myself. However, it has taken me a very long time to accept this, and it has taught me how I should train in order to preserve my energy and use it selectively throughout the training session. This is not how I wish to train but it is the only way I can handle an intense training session.

I need and want to be on top of my game and continue to compete in World Championships as well as progress in grades and to be the best karateka I can be, where perfection is the purpose. Training at 100% all the time, every time is a privilege I do not have. But I try my best to stay on top of my game to compete against the best.

– Graham Chamberlain

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Sweet Life is a South African diabetic community for those who have diabetes, both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Join us to get our free quarterly magazine and monthly newsletter. Life can be sweet with diabetes.

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One Response to “The Silent Effort of sport and diabetes”

  1. Wayne Vermij June 18, 2012 2:56 pm #

    i can echo these sentiments; add the nagging headaches that come with the irregular sugar and it is spot on. i have resigned myself that i was never going walk away from being diagnosed type 1 drinking vanilla flavoured milkshakes. it is just another hurdle to overcome but the sensation of achieving even a little instead of nothing is still great. each time it gets a bit easier and i use some new supplements from a crowd called 32 GI, they are available at Sportsman’s Warehouse; there is an energy drink and a recovery shake. i also try not to let the emotions of the day interfere with my nutrient plan, eat to a schedule that way when the stress peels away in training there is energy for the task at hand. good luck and train like a machine.

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