Christel Oerum is the author of the very popular blog diabetesstrong.com, and we can say, without exaggerating, that she’s an extremely driven fitness enthusiast.
Oh, and, best of all, she’s a fellow Dane!
That’s why we wanted to talk to her a little bit, and pick her brain about exercise and diabetes.
Keep reading and get some food for thought on your attitude towards your diabetes, time management and setting solid goals!
Hi Christel. So happy you had time for an interview in between workouts 😉 First of all, we really want to know what exercise does for you personally?
Being active gives me joy!
At this point in my life, it’s such an ingrained part of my daily routine that I miss it on days where I, for some reason (such as travel), can’t make it to the gym, out for a hike or a long walk.
It’s almost meditative for me. When I’m in the gym, I’ll pop in my headphones and only focus on my workout, closing the world out for that 45-60 minutes.
It’s a time for me to unplug, but also a time when I really feel empowered. It’s that powerful feeling I get when I’m able to lift a weight a few more times or a little heavier, or being able to push up that mountainside.
What’s your take on the interconnection between every choice you make in how to live your life. Do you believe all your habits impact one another?
I believe nothing happens in a vacuum and your attitude towards your diabetes, and life in general, is going to shape how well you do and how much fun you have living your life.
I think it’s ok to acknowledge that some things are not optimal (or even suck) but if you don’t have a “what can I do about it” attitude, things will only get worse.
On a more tangible level with something like exercise, I also think things are connected. For example, most people feel more motivated to make healthier choices if they already are in a workout routine.
Time management, and perhaps rather the lack of time, can be a huge challenge to… well everyone…do you have any magic tricks up your sleeves you wanna share that help you to get your exercise done?
No magic trick. But I believe everything comes down to prioritization. It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you prioritize other things higher than exercise. I know that might sound harsh, but I think we need to think that way.
My trick, although not magical, is to plan things out and that often means scheduling my workouts in my calendar. They are just as important as meetings. That way I don’t end up in situations where busy days end up being all work.
I would say though, that if you start sacrificing sleep to go exercise, something in how your life is structured has to change.
Do you ever have days, in general, where you really want to exercise, but you just don’t seem to have the energy? (if yes, how do you deal with it?)
I think we all have days where we are tired or just have less energy. It could be due to poor sleep, suboptimal nutrition or (for females) our monthly cycle. I’ll still do something active, but not always what I’d originally planned.
That could mean dialing back the intensity of a workout or doing something completely different. For example, instead of a heavy squat day, I might do a higher rep circuit workout or go for a hike or walk instead.
Remember, all movement counts as exercise and I really do think it’s important to listen to your body
As you might know, we at Hedia focus a great deal on finding your motivation and setting realistic goals for diabetes self-management. Tell us, where do YOU get your drive and motivation from?
Motivation and optimal goal setting are both hard nuts to crack! I focus a lot on positive motivation and uses the SMART framework for goal setting.
By positive motivation I mean focusing on the positives I get out of doing an activity. For example, one of my current goals is to focus more on my flexibility.
My positive motivation is how being more flexible will make it easier to do my gym routine and how it reduces my amount of muscle-related injuries as well as the bliss of just stretching for 10 minutes.
Had I focused more on how embarrassing it was that couldn’t reach my toes I would have focused on negative motivation. Negative motivation rarely keeps us motivated in the long run so I focus on the positive.
As for the actual goal setting the SMART goals stands for:
We are all different and have different needs. Do you have any universal advice on exercise and diabetes, you always give others and you practice yourself?
Adjust your insulin to account for your activity!
Most often, aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, biking, and swimming) will increase the risk of low blood sugar during your workout, so most people will need less insulin during this activity.
In contrast, anaerobic exercise (such as HIIT, resistance training, sprints, CrossFit, etc.) will typically make blood sugars go up during the workout and potentially drop after, meaning more insulin may be needed during the workout and less after.
But most importantly, we’re all different so take detailed notes and learn how you react to the different types of exercise and adjust accordingly (in collaboration with your medical team if needed)
Leeeeet’s say someone would like a 5-step guide to how you really get started and get into a great exercise routine. Could you sum up one for us right here right now?
Glad you asked 😊. I have written a full 10-step guide on exactly that. But basically, it comes down to setting good solid goals, creating routines, and being thorough in keeping track of your progress and how you manage your diabetes.
All good things come in threes, right? Wanna share your favorite 3 exercises?
That’s tough, as it will really depend on what type of training I do. And I do tend to change things up every 6-8 weeks to make sure I’m still having fun and my body continues to be challenged. But here are some of my favorites.
Any type of squat – doesn’t have to be with weight on my back, could be with a rope attachment like you see here
Rows – nothing beats a good back workout, and rows (such as the landmine rows) is a killer exercise not just for the back but also core and arms
Triceps – I don’t use a lot of weight for triceps exercises but just keep going until I feel like my arms are about to fall off 😉
3 words that sum up your take on exercise and diabetes. Go!
- Non-medical medicine
- Life changing
3 words that sum up your relationship towards “your” diabetes?
- Life-long learning
Alright, let’s wrap this up. Do you have any last wise words you want to share with us?
I really believe that the better we understand our condition, the easier it will become to manage and the less random it will seem.
It will never be easy, as we don’t have full information on what’s going on inside our bodies, but knowing as much as we can mean that we can start being proactive in our diabetes care.
For example, having a basic understanding of how different types of exercise can impact blood sugars makes it easier to find your own patterns and prepare in advance.
It can take you from “I always go low during cardio” to “I know I’m at risk of going low so I reduce my insulin or eat more carbs to reduce that risk”.
Finding your formula for exercise and diabetes can take time but it can be done (read more HERE) and I don’t think anyone should just accept “always” going high or low.
Thank you so much for sharing your advice on exercise and diabetes with us Christel!
Related Post: Does Exercise Lower Blood Sugar?