Running is one of the most effective ways to get fit and stay fit. It’s good for your heart, it strengthens muscles and joins, and it burns serious calories. Running is good for the heart, the body, and the mind! With good planning and preparation, running can be a great form of exercise for people with type 1 diabetes. So what should a would-be (or current) T1D runner know before lacing up those running shoes and hitting the trail? We turned to Jonathan Tijerina, leader of Carb DM’s Teen & Young Adult Running Group, for some advice. Jonathan is an avid runner who competed in cross country and track as an undergrad and grad student. He has also had type 1 diabetes for 11 years. Jonathan has some great tips to share for runners of all levels, with T1D and without. From managing diabetes during a run to hydration to staying motivated, here are Jonathan’s tips for having a safe, effective, and enjoyable run:
Buy shoes every 300 miles (at the most)! When the cushioning starts to break down in running shoes you’ve been using for a while, it tends to exaggerate any form problems that you’re working to fix, and can lead to overuse injuries. So make sure you get assessed at a dependable running store for the sort of shoe you need (cushion, neutral, etc.) and then don’t let them start falling apart before you order a new pair.
2 – Know Why you Run
Find what you love in running. Some people insist on running being a solo venture where you can think or try not to think; some people like to chat and laugh the whole time (guilty); others like music or audio books (just make sure you stay aware of your surroundings). Whatever it is you like, hold on to that and try not to let running become a chore. You started it because it’s healthy and makes you feel good, so keep all that good stuff!
3 – Take Care of Your Body
Rule of thumb: Dynamic warm ups before you run (especially if you are planning on running fast) and cool down/ static stretches after. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “it’s no good trying to stretch cold muscles” from my college trainers. So find a warm up and cool down routine you enjoy and stick to that! This will help you avoid those little nagging muscle injuries that pop up when you try to sprint without having jogged first, or don’t stretch after a hilly run.
4 – Diabetic Running Fashion
Fanny packs ARE cool. Ok, ok. I get that they aren’t the next big thing in fashion, but there are many different brands of sports bags out there that are more comfortable than a back pack and more convenient that carrying things in your hands. This makes taking your CGM receiver, insulin pump or PDM, and all the yummy low snacks out on your run much less of a pain. I usually wear running tights that have a sizable pocket in the mid-back of the waist bad and carry my phone (which is my Dexcom receiver), my pump PDM and around 100 grams of carbs in the form of energy gummies. If you can manage that with our without a (very cool) fanny pack, you’ll be in good shape! (pun intended)
5 – Set Some Goals
One of the best things you can do to motivate yourself into a consistent running program is to set some attainable goal! Got a 5K in a month? Got a 10k coming up? Maybe you even have your sights on a marathon? Take some time to write those goals down somewhere you can see them every day and remind yourself why you run. Post-it on the mirror, note on the refrigerator, sticky on your desk top; whatever helps keep you happy and running. Finding a community or group of runners with similar goals is always a bonus!
6 – Managing Insulin and Snacks
Basal rates and ways of approaching exercise vary all across the board with diabetic athletes. Typically, if you’re on a pump, you’ll want to reduce your basal by a percentage you should decide upon with your endocrinologist around 45 minutes- 1 hour before you begin your run. If you’re using MDI, you’ll want to eat 15-30 grams of easy carbs 15-30 minutes before you start. Either way, you may need to eat some fast-acting carb snacks periodically during your run. Having a CGM on during this process, especially when you are first starting to figure out what works best for you, makes the whole thing a little easier. Be sure to have a phone/ friend with you when you’re first starting! Once you’ve been through the process a few times, you’ll be a pro.
7 – Hydration: Water or Sports Drinks?
Following on the heels of a record-setting heat wave, it seems appropriate to mention hydration. Water is great! And you should generally drink water through the day as you feel. Keep in mind, though, that when you sweat you aren’t only losing water – you’re losing good electrolytes, too. So after a long, hot run, it’s a good idea to drink a sports drink with a healthy amount of potassium, sodium and chloride in it. This can a little tricky with diabetics, as many sports drinks contain a lot of simple sugar. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, sport drinks without any sugar in them may not be helping you as much as you’d like. The transporters in you digestive system that help you absorb electrolytes actually require glucose to work correctly. So if you want regular sports drink, make sure to bolus; and if you want low calorie, make sure it has a little sugar or eat something in addition to maximize your rehydration!
8 – By Land or By … Pavement?
The age old debate of which terrain is best for you still rages on. Is pavement too hard on your knees? Will treadmills give you shin splints? Is trail the only way to go? The short answer is: it all depends on what you like and how your body responds. If you like blazing 400 m repeats on the track, then go for it! Just make sure you balance out all that leftward leaning with some right handed laps as well. If you like running on paved road, go for it! But make sure you have some shoes with appropriate cushion and be kind to your calves afterward with a nice cool down and foam roll (if you like foam rolling). If you think that man was only ever meant to run on grass and dirt paths, more power to you – you’re in for some beautiful runs in northern California. Just make sure you have the right footwear and be careful of any uneven terrain and wildlife.
9 – Keep it Exciting!
I think one of the best ways to avoid burn out when it comes to running is to keep trying fresh new places. California has so much to offer! Some of my very favorite places take me up and down 280 on a weekly basis: Rancho San Antonio if you want hill work with quite the view: the Marin Headlands/ Mt. Tamalpais if you’d like to run by a breathtaking over-the-Pacific sunset; Crystal Springs Reservoir if you enjoy out-and-back runs with the encouragement of other athletes around; and Arastradero Open Space Preserve or the Matadero Creek Trail if you’re in the Palo Alto area and want to start with something close by, but no less beautiful.
10 – We Can Do Anything We Want
Remember nothing can hold you back as a diabetic or in general unless you let it! Figuring out the ins and outs of how to enjoy running throughout a life time while dodging injury and staying motivated is a challenge in and of itself, and throwing having to manage electronics, and blood sugar, and snacks in there as well can be frustrating at times; however, remember that you’ve been practicing the skills you need to manage this, and you have the help of CarbDM and the whole diabetic community at your disposal! You can accomplish all your running goals!
Jonathan is happy to answer any running related questions. Do you have a running question for Jonathan? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it along to him!
For more information about the Teen & Young Adult Running Group, including details on the next run, check the Carb DM calendar.