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Michelle - Competing in Strong Woman whilst living with Type 1 Diabetes

Hello and welcome to 'Pumptastic Scot'! We have a guest blogger today, Michelle, who discusses her journey of training and competing in Strong Woman, and how she juggled training whilst living with type 1 diabetes.

Until next time, Alyssa x

Hello everyone!

What an absolute pleasure it is to be writing a guest blog for Alyssa (the Pumptastic Scot). I met Alyssa back in July 2023 when I volunteered at my first Diabetes UK Summer Camp (FYI, if you are a type 1 diabetic and looking to give back to the diabetes community, then I strongly recommend this experience – it was life changing!) Me and Alyssa only had a few interactions at the camp (mainly team building / training sessions and conversations relating to our matching Fabletics leggings or her super cool Dexcom stickers), as we were in different groups, but I loved her warm and friendly energy – I’m hoping that I get to work with her in the future as I know we just click.

So why did Alyssa ask me to guest blog? Well – a little fun fact about me is that I like to dabble in a bit of strong(wo)man training and competitions. That’s right, you read that currently. So, for all of those Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw, Hafþór Björnsson and Stoltman Brothers fans, you will know exactly what sport I am referring to. And for those of you who don’t, basically in a nutshell, I like to lift, carry, push, pull and throw objects that are maybe a little less mainstream to say your standard barbell or dumbbells. I’m talking cars, giant cement atlas stones, people, tyres, logs - the lot. I thought I would include some picture just for context, especially if you are a visual person like me!

Axle floor to overhead reps - 50kg

Tyre flip - 300kg

I've always enjoyed exercise. Throughout my life, I've enjoyed spin and Les Mills classes - as well as dabbled in a bit of jogging and swimming too. But like many of us, I lost my motivation throughout lockdown which took its toll on my diabetes management, as well as my mental health and wellbeing.

At the end of August 2020, I decided that I needed to regain control of the situation - especially with covid still lingering around and being vulnerable, so I joined a new gym! However, this gym was different to any gym I had been to previously. It had equipment that I had only seen on 'The World's Strongest Man' (like atlas stones, a yoke, logs and sandbags etc). After a few weeks of kettle bell classes, I won a free PT session in a prize draw and decided to give the strong(wo)man equipment a try. To say I fell in love with it is an understatement! Within a very short period of time, I booked weekly PT sessions and signed up for my first ‘Team’ competition which led to me competing in a further 8 competitions across the country.

Although I love this type of training, it hasn't been an easy journey for me. I have found managing my blood sugars when exercising quite difficult at times and it has taken a lot of trial and error to work out what my body needs (whether that be insulin before resistance training or some carbs to prevent a hypo before more cardiovascular exercise or higher reps lower weight work). I often find that competition days are the worst – despite taking extra insulin, my blood sugars spike up to the 20’s (darn you adrenaline) – and then as soon as the competition is over, they regulate again and are back in range.

And if I’m honest, I still haven’t quite cracked it. However, most of the work has gone into the mental strength and resilience of making sure that I have the mindset where my blood sugar levels don't define me - it's just data. Data that tells me that I need to adjust my carbs, dose amounts or timings. Managing to remove the emotional response to my blood sugars has been a game changer for me and allows me to fully immerse myself (as much as my diabetes will allow) into something that I enjoy.

I guess the takeaway for this blog is to remind you all that diabetes doesn’t define you. Yes, it’s a full time job and can be so frustrating at times – but do the best that you can to manage it and if the numbers don’t reflect all of your hard work then you know what? That’s okay. There are so many factors which influence those numbers and as I have said before – they do not define you. So the takeaway is that these numbers are data – data that helps you to move forward and adapt (something we type 1 diabetics are already very good at!)

If you have made it to the end of the blog then thank you so much for taking the time to read my guest blog and of course, thank you to Alyssa for having me 😊

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