A Perfect Workout: Swimming and Diabetes Control
Pregnancy Tracker: 17 weeks, 2 days
Size of the Baby: The size of a small pomegranate.
Biggest Obstacle: Anxious to feel the baby move!
I love to swim. Put me in a lake, river, ocean, or swimming pool, and I feel at home. I am a true “water-baby.” I mostly have my mom to thank for this. She took me to a “Mommy-and-me” swimming class when I was less than a year old. The end of the class involved the mothers dropping their babies into the water, and watching them dip underwater, come up, take a breath, and go back down. Babies love the water, and I cannot wait to get my little one out swimming!
We have a pool at our apartment complex, and I’d use it sporadically… until I got pregnant. Swimming is the perfect workout for pregnancy! There’s no impact on your joints, while you get an awesome cardiovascular and muscle-toning workout. After purchasing a new set of goggles and my very first swimming cap, I was all set.
For the last three months, I’ve been swimming three to four times per week. Our pool is probably a little over half the size of an Olympic-sized pool, and I’ve been swimming 20 to 25 down-and-back laps per workout. This takes me 35 to 40 minutes. Mostly I swim breaststroke and crawl stroke, with a lap or two of backstroke tossed in for variety. Since I’m a little neurotic, I’ve devised a system to count my laps. On the sixth, 11th, 16th and 21st laps, I do the sidestroke for one full lap. Other times, when I just feel like a relaxing swim, I don’t count anything, and just enjoy!
I quickly learned that a true swimming workout lowers my blood sugar extremely quickly. In my experience, it drops my blood sugar even more than running. I guess it really is a full-body workout! It took me a few swims to figure out the best way to manage my blood sugar, before, during, and after a workout.
Here’s what works for me:
I usually swim around 6 or 6:30 p.m. or before lunchtime on the weekend. It’s important that I don’t have a lot of active insulin-on-board while swimming or my blood sugar will definitely crash. I test before swimming, and based on that number, I’ll determine how much juice to drink. If I’m under 100 mg/dl, then I’ll consume about 6 to 7 ounces of juice, while if I get a number between 100-150 mg/dl, then only 4 to 5 ounces. Next, I disconnect from my pump. With the upgraded Cozmo pump, I can use the disconnect feature, but I don’t deliver any of my missed basal rate prior to swimming.
Basically, all of the basal insulin that’s in my system from the past couple of hours will lower my blood sugar substantially during the swim, thus the juice counteracts the drop, and I typically finish my swim with blood sugars between 75-110 mg/dl.
The post-swim part took me a couple times to master. At first, after getting out of the pool with a blood sugar around 70-80 mg/dl, I’d proceed to take a shower, get dressed, start dinner, etc., without replacing the missed basal rate insulin. I tested my blood an hour later and I saw numbers around 175-185 mg/dl! Whoa! After a couple instances of that result, I tried something new. Now, after swimming, when my blood sugar is typically under 100 mg/dl, I replace the entire missed basal rate, and maybe a quarter of a unit more. It was counterintuitive at first, to “bolus” for .75 unit with an in range blood sugar value. But, it works! Now, I remain steady in the 80-100 mg/dl range after the swim, and go into dinner (or lunch) with a good pre-meal blood sugar.
It has been really fun swimming this past week. I can feel the changing shape of my body while I swim. Particularly during the crawl stroke, when my enlarging belly helps me to rock from side to side and I stroke! I can tell that the buoyancy is going to feel even more amazing as I get bigger.
Seventeen weeks into my first pregnancy, I am feeling just wonderfully! I’m committed to staying very active throughout this process, for the health of my diabetes and my body. So far, I’m seeing the results. Even though my belly has a large bump, and I’m almost exclusively wearing maternity clothes, at my last doctor’s appointment, I still had not gained any weight. I know it’s from the swimming!!
Kelsey wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Diabetes.