Words: Meghan Sauvé
I am a diabetes researcher, having spent eight years unconditionally devoted to understanding how high blood glucose leads to those insidious complications associated with diabetes. Specifically, I study a particular set of molecules that are necessary for blood vessels to constrict. I work to understand how these molecules go awry in diabetes, and I fervently look for a potential new breakthrough therapy to target these molecules, with the hope of mitigating any negative consequences they have on the blood vessels of people with diabetes. My type 1 diabetic father and countless type 1 diabetic friends I have met in my years as a committed 5.5er are hopeful I will figure it out and await this discovery with bated breath. I do, however, have a treatment available right this moment.
If I enter “diabetes” and “exercise” into PubMed, the Google for medical scientists, I get 14, 174 hits. That’s 14,174 scientific articles discussing the intrinsic connection between diabetes management and exercise, and how fitness is a critical mediator of the progression of complications associated with diabetes. Exercise is effective in keeping the type 1 diabetic healthy. It’s reeeeaallly good. It’s even good for the 5.5ers like myself.
So I exercise. And I’m into CrossFit. And I knew that my active type 1 diabetic community at Connected in Motion would be all about getting into a lifestyle that I believe prioritizes health. Until I make my breakthrough discovery in the laboratory, introducing CIM to CrossFit was the best way I could imagine of to help people with diabetes maintain their health.
Jen Hanson, the Director of Operations at Connected in Motion was all about CIM hitting up a CrossFit class at my favourite box, CrossFit Toronto (CFTO.) In turn, CrossFit Toronto was fully supportive of opening up the gym for a crew of type 1’s and their 5.5ers, knowing how they can help people do things they never thought they could do, and help people be better than they thought they could be.
The interest in and anticipation for the event was palpable on the Facebook event page, with many feelings falling somewhere between excitement and intimidation. What made the class awesome was how it addressed this anticipation and concern, as it was a special class hosted by CFTO for only CIM. This helped greatly: firstly in allowing everyone from CIM to have all of their questions about CrossFit answered and, most importantly, in feeling supported with diabetes management before the workout.
We were lead through a brief and informative introduction by our CFTO trainer Dylan, who elaborated on how CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that delivers a fitness that is broad, general, and inclusive movement made for our real world activities. He also explained that CrossFit to him is a way to live his life, teaching him about caring for others and giving him both physical and emotional strength. To him, like CIM is to us, CrossFit is a special community.
We got moving with a warm-up consisting of important stretching and even more important one-on-one instruction from Dylan on proper technique. The four movements we knew were in store for the workout of the day, or “WOD” as it is affectionately referred to in the CrossFit community, were the squat, the sit-up, the push-up and the pull-up. A few practice repetitions and we were already dripping in sweat. Everyone was picking up the movements remarkably well, and finally it came time to give the WOD a go. CrossFit is, by design, “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement”, and this is certainly what we got. Cue two rounds for time of 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups!
But first things first, Hank had to give some insulin. His blood glucose was really high all morning, but he was determined not to let it stop him from this workout.
Glucometers were lined up on the floor alongside our workout station.
And then the timer began.
Everyone was off to a good start, and even though we may have been at different fitness levels, everyone killed it! Bodies were moving quickly through the movements and voices were shouting out words of encouragement for each other. “Just five more reps! You’ve got this.”
Two memories were ingrained forever in my mind the fifteen minutes it took for everyone to complete this particular WOD. One was Virtue treating a low mid-workout! Munching on Dex tabs while never missing a beat on her sit-ups. The second was Hank with sweat pouring, hanging onto the pull-up bar, and Dylan and the CIM team standing below him cheering for him to finish the workout. It was a moment where two communities of awesome, encouraging and caring people were brought together to reach this one common goal: finish the workout. Even as an avid CrossFitter for eight months now, that workout had me gassed. Both Dylan and myself were enormously impressed at how well CIMers did.
After water and Gatorade were consumed, sweat was mopped up, and our flushed faces faded, there were engaging discussions amongst the CIMers about how different movements affect blood glucose (for Steph, weight-lifting and resistance training keeps her sugars “beautiful” all day.) We cooled down, packed up, and talked of when we may be able to do this all over again.
In summary, what happens when CIM meets CrossFit?
A special thank-you to CrossFit Toronto for allowing us to drop in for our own special class and to our trainer Dylan for answering our millions of questions and teaching us a thing or two about proper movement and hard work!
Being the primary supporter for a type one diabetic has been eye-opening, life-changing and incredibly motivating. My father and all of my friends who live with type 1 diabetes never cease to amaze me, and CIM at CrossFit was just another incredible example. Hope to see you all at the gym soon!