Winter Sports and Type 1 Diabetes

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I went to Whistler two weeks ago mainly to try out my new skis on the slopes but during my research for the mountain, I found that they offered bobsledding and snowmobiling.  I was filled with excitement as I thought about how awesome it would be to pretend I was Jamaican for a day or fly across the snow-covered terrain in an awesome ATV.  So I signed my husband and I up for both and started to become a little nervous about how these activities would affect my blood sugar.

Skiing, snowmobiling and bobsledding all had completely different affects on my blood sugar.  Surprisingly, bobsledding had the least affect on my numbers.  Bobsledding only lasted about a minute but I was pretty scared the hour leading up to it (we had to wait an hour for all of the groups to go through and of course we were the last group).  In the past when I have done an activity where I was scared (flying on a trapeze), my blood sugar has soared high from adrenaline.  Bobsledding, however, didn’t really affect my blood sugar at all, which was nice and unexpected.

Snowmobiling was a little tougher to anticipate.  When we started the three hour tour, my blood sugar was 176.  I didn’t bolus for the high since I’m scared to get low in unusual circumstances so I went with it that high.  I didn’t think snowmobiling would lower my blood sugar much because we were just sitting on the snowmobile the entire time, not doing much physical activity, or so I thought.  Snowmobiling is surprisingly athletic.  You have to lean with the turns and hang on tight to the snowmobile.  I actually left with bruises on the inside of both of my calves from gripping the snowmobile tight.  It also involved strength when going up and down steep hills.  As a result of all of the physical activity, halfway though the tour I tested my blood sugar (about an hour and 15 minutes from when I tested and I was 176) and I was 96.  Dropping quite fast I thought.  Luckily, there was a small lunch served as part of the tour.  We stopped and I ate soup, hot chocolate and 2 slices of bread.  I decided since I was fairly low and would be going out for another 2 hours on the snowmobile, to not bolus for lunch.  An hour and half later I tested and I was 301!  Whoops, probably should have put insulin in for my lunch but I was worried that the second half of the snowmobile tour would make me even lower.  While I think that not putting insulin in for lunch was the main reason for my high, we also did do some adrenaline producing moves towards the end where we went up a basically straight up hill and had to rev the engine full throttle to get up the hill.  This endeavor was very scary thinking that you could possibly tip over backwards.  I was able to do it but not without serious adrenaline pumping which no doubt assisted my blood sugar to it’s high of 301.

But the hardest snow activity of all was skiing!  I have skied many times and I still can’t seem to figure out how to handle my blood sugars.  My husband and I go try to go to a different mountain each time we ski and they all seem to have different ski conditions which affects my confidence, how fast I go down the slopes and even the difficulty of the slopes I choose to go down, which all have impacts on my blood sugar.

Testing my blood sugar while skiing

Testing my blood sugar while skiing

This year in Whistler, I had new skis as I mentioned above and these skis are way faster than anything I have used before.  Because of that, I psyched myself out the first day and so we  ended up going down the mountain pretty slow.  If you have ever skied before you know that skiing slowly takes way more energy than skiing fast.  As a result, I had low blood sugars pretty frequently that first day (at least in the morning).  In the afternoon of the first day, my blood sugar climbed pretty high as a result of not bolusing enough for my lunch.  I was trying to eat enough to give me energy but didn’t want to bolus too much to have my blood sugar get low on the slope.  By the second day, we built up courage to go faster and down harder hills and as a result my blood sugar was super high.  I was frequently scared of the steep drop ahead of me and my adrenaline was pumping.  Since I was high most of the second day, I’m not sure if after lunch I was high because of my lunch or because of my adrenaline.  I also felt pretty sluggish skiing as a result of my high blood sugars that day.  I was finally able to get my blood sugar just right by the third and final day.  I also had gotten out all the kinks from my skiing so I wasn’t as nervous and was having lots of fun.  I also was careful about my lunch, not eating too many carbs and instead relying on the fact that I could eat fruit snacks on the slope if I got low.  I also think I skied my best on that last day because my blood sugar was good and I felt great.

While skiing, I was trying to rely on my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) a lot because it is pretty hard to test your blood sugar when your fingers are frozen.  Because CGMs aren’t great calibrating with physical activity, my CGM was often wrong.  One time I had double arrows up and my CGM said I was 395!  I stopped immediately to test and luckily I was only 280 (still high but at least not 400!).  The unreliability of my CGM did not help much with controlling my blood sugar on the slopes.  Another concern I usually have when skiing is how the cold will affect my insulin.  Luckily, this trip the temperature was around 45 degrees, so I didn’t have to worry too much about my insulin freezing. Usually when skiing though I overcome this concern by keeping my insulin pump in a pants pocket, which is right next to my skin, insuring that my body heat will help offset the cold air.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am preparing for my first ever 10k run in a few weeks.  One nice thing about running/training is that I am able to keep track of my blood sugars each run and watch how different factors (lunch, adrenaline, sleep, etc) affect my blood sugar before, during and after runs.  Unfortunately, not all activities are as easy to track.  It took me a good three days to get my blood sugar somewhat under control while skiing.  I never did get my blood sugar under control while snowmobiling, but it was such a fun activity, I wouldn’t mind having to try again.  Maybe I should just stick to bobsledding, since it had the least affect on my blood sugar :).


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