Before I started my adventure I went looking for advice for undertaking a long distance walk as a diabetic. I kind of nerded out on it, asking doctors, fellow diabetics and general know it alls. Everyone I asked had small pieces of advice that slowly accumulated until I left for the trail. With every challenge I met on the trail as a diabetic I became more capable and gained better understanding of what it takes to push my limits. After almost six months and three thousand kilometers I present some hints and tips for other Diabetics wanting to push their limits too.
Ok I may have started a little strong but it is always helpful to plan for every eventuality. I am the kind of guy who would practice setting up and pack down his sheather as if it were raining when it wasn’t. It may be a little extreme but it does pay off to have a plan as it takes a lot of stress out of the equation when the unexpected does happen. For hiking long distances this meant having my diabetic stuff in easy access including sugar, food items, BG tester and medication. I also had a friendly note saying to look in my first aid (around my neck) if I was found confused or unconscious and keep a more detailed note on what to do in the first aid itself. Doubt anyone else had skittles in their first aid kit.
Record your levels often
I know this is probably said over and over but it is seriously the only way to really see how the relationship between medication, exercise and food work for you. One of the advantages of long distance walking is the exercise and food elements are fixed making it easier to find balance as the only major factor that could effect my levels was my medication. For this reason I think hiking is great for diabetics I have really learnt a lot about my self by undertaking such a epic challenge. On a side note writing down your levels in a way that helps you see the patterns helps. Some apps are great for the convenience of recording but I had trouble seeing the overall happenings over a day of testing (so I pen and papered it).
Have no emotional connection to your levels
Like everyone in the beginning I had really trouble adjusting to diabeticness (for starters I had a massive needle phobia) but I was lucky enough to be interested in health and fitness and was relatively old (16) when I started showing symptoms. The biggest stumbling block for me in the old days was how personally I would take bad levels. I would stop testing all together if I didn’t get it exactly perfect every time this ended up being the opposite of helpful.
The fact of the matter is the human body is an amazing machine capable of achieving balance that technology has not yet been able to match. Celebrating consistency is better for your sanity then trying to do what the body does with inferior tools. On trail this meant having automatic responses to highs and lows without the why me drama. Adjustments to my medication were always small and gradual and over the six months on trail balance came more consistently. Don’t get me wrong I had random fluctuations especially on the days where I came back to civilization but the fluctuations get less extreme as I got better with my ratios without taking it as a personal shortcoming.
Diabetes has been great for me because I have become better informed about all things health and nutrition (I love nerding out). Though pushing the limits as a diabetic needs a bit more forethought over time these things get easier, you just have to persist to get there. Something hard won is worth so much more once you are out the other side and no I may not be able to eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want but I have bigger aspirations in life then that eating a tub of ice cream in one sitting.