Participants Point of View-Exercise
Week 30 – Exercise Part 2
by Caroline (@carobanano)
In college, I took a nutrition class that required a final paper. Being the consummate procastinator, I didn’t start it until the night before it was due. And I kept working on it…..through the night….through my first class the next morning…..the second class…..through lunch…..
I sweated bullets as the starting time for my nutrition class– you know, when I was supposed to hand in the paper– came and went. I frantically edited it and printed as the minutes ticked by.
Finally, when the final product was formatted, printed, and stapled, I looked at the clock– and realized I had all of ten minutes before class was supposed to end. And the lecture hall was all the way across campus.
I hightailed out the door and started running. I sprinted across the bridge swinging over one of Cornell’s famous gorges, jogged up three flights of stairs, and dashed across the quad, my own quad muscles burning. I threw open the door to encounter a stream of students leaving. I elbowed my way through, flew into the lecture hall and down the aisle. The professor was packing up his bags. I took a few gulping breaths, smiled, and handed him my paper. Had I been two minutes later, I would have lost a whole letter grade in that class.
Stumbling out the side door, still catching my breath, I muttered to myself, “This—pant– is why– gasp– I exercise.”
There’s no longer any danger of me flunking out of college…..but I’m still motivated to exercise, for so many reasons. I first made a habit of exercise because 1. my doctors told me I should, 2. my parents were good role models and showed me it could be done, and 3. I wanted to be a little less chubby. It took several tries, but now? The habit has stuck. It’s totally ingrained. If exercise were a religion, I’d be one of those kooky evangelists trying to convert people on street corners. I want to shout it from the rooftops: working out, and making it a part of my life, has been the BEST thing I’ve ever done for my health and self-esteem.
So clearly, there are a lot of things that motivate me to work out, especially when I’m reluctant to drag my butt out the door on a cold winter’s night (ahem, pretty often this time of year in New York). Here’s the short list….do any of these motivate you?
~ACCOMPLISHMENT! I completed a 100-mile bike ride in 2007, and this past fall I ran my first marathon. (You can read the race report on the ACT1 Diabetes blog here: http://www.act1diabetes.org/2010/11/09/26-2-miles-of-awesome/) Both will always be among the greatest achievements of my life.
~Let’s talk blood sugars. Regular exercise definitely knocks down my insulin requirements. Sure, the low blood sugars are obnoxious, but it’s pretty cool to see the difference and know that my body is using its glucose more efficiently. Besides, less insulin=less money spent at the pharmacy! Perfect for gifting yourself with…a gym membership!
~I know that when I exercise, I have more energy. It’s a tough paradox to face when you’re shuffling home from a long day at work, but it’s true: expending energy by working out often gives you more energy by the time you’re done. Unless I go on a 15-mile frolic, I can count on feeling peppier after a workout. And I know there are many coffee aficionados in the DOC…..but I definitely require less caffeine when I’m working out on a regular basis!
~The obvious one: exercise makes me look better. The weight loss, the muscle definition, the dewy glow…. I got several comments during marathon training that I had a whole different presence about myself. Which was pretty great….as great as looking down at my legs and realizing that I was so buff could crush Chuck Norris’ skull between my thighs.
~And related to looks: exercise boosts my confidence. When I’m working out, I feel good about my body, my determination, and my whole self. As long as I tune out the people who may be fitter, stronger, and faster than me (and, uh, there are a lot), exercise is a huge boost to my self-esteem. And you know what? It’s pretty easy to tune them out. I think gym-goers are far less judgmental of others than we think. I sure as heck don’t smirk at people from my stationary bike and think, “Gee whiz, look at THAT lardass! I am far superior to their huffing and puffing!” Either I’m giving them a mental high-five for pushing themselves in the first place….or too busy huffing and puffing myself to notice.
~Running down the stairs and onto the platform just in time to jump in the subway before the doors close? I have exercise to thank for that!
~Not to mention being able to hike up to friends’ fourth-floor walkup carrying three bottles of wine without feeling like my chest is about to explode.
~Exercise makes me feel like a total badass. I never was athletic growing up. I was shy for a long time, and I always stuck to books, music, and the artsy-geek crowd. “Tough” would probably rank #68 on the “Words used to describe Caroline” list. And then…I started running. And biking. Longer and longer distances. And making a habit of it. And eventually, I found myself heading out for 50-miles bike rides. Doing sprints in the rain. Waking up at 7 AM just to get my workout in. Wiping out and garnering spectacularly bloody bruises….and getting up and finishing anyways. And I gained a whole new self-concept. I revel in it now. It actually makes a great motivator for when conditions are rough– when it’s dark, when it’s freezing, when I have long distances ahead. “Just think! This makes you even more of a badass,” I remind myself, as I head out the door to become a force to be reckoned with.
~I’ll leave this to your own (naughty) imaginations, but more exercise=better fitness=more fun in the sack. And hey! How many of us secretly thought “sex!” when Cherise asked “What is your favorite form of exercise?
~Besides blood sugar control, regular exercise also has a slew of health benefits. Cardiovascular fitness! Muscle strength! Improved cognitive function! Decreased risk of multiple cancers! Lower blood pressure! Less stress and better moods! And have you ever thought about just how many of these relate to complications of diabetes? Getting in the habit of working out is not only good for me now, it’s good for my future.
Perhaps most– if not all– of these add up to one of the greatest benefits of all. We PWDs are constantly receiving messages that our bodies are dysfunctional, broken. Our meters give us upsetting numbers, our endos scold us, the d-police arch their eyebrows disapprovingly. Upon diagnosis, our relationship with our bodies is fundamentally altered. Instead of a friend, our body is the enemy. Instead of a part of us, it now hosts this stranger, who is exasperating and exhausting and sometimes downright evil.
But exercise changes that. Exercise, for me, gives me the confidence that my body does amazing things. My body is, in fact, responsible for some of those great life achievements that I mentioned earlier. And crossing the finish line at the marathon last year was so much more powerful for the fact that I did it with Type 1 diabetes. I pushed through challenges that many other runners never have to face. Of course it’s frustrating as all hell sometimes. But I can’t give up, because the reward comes back ten times greater. I exercise because it reminds me of all the ways I love my body. Broken pancreas be damned– I’ve still got legs and lungs and heart to carry me down the road and conquer whatever beatings this messed-up, awe-inspiring, beautiful body is going to take.
And that’s all the motivation I ever really need.