At TeamWILD, we are guided by our mission to empower people with diabetes to take charge of their health by teaching how to be an athlete first, and a person with diabetes second.
This sounds slightly radical, right? For those of us who spent the summers of our youth finding a quiet, shady spot in which to read a book, it can be a big leap to self-identifying as an Athlete, never mind the diabetes part.
But, it’s not just the bookworms who take some time getting used to the Athlete mantel. As I put together my vision board, I pulled words and images from several health and fitness magazines. Not one of them used the term “athlete” anywhere in their pages. Not the ads, not the articles, not the headlines or captions. All offered advice on getting fitter, stronger, healthier, faster, and finding the right gear. None suggested setting a goal of becoming an athlete, much less starting with that attitude shift. They don’t even refer to the professionals as athletes (Bicycling Magazine came closest with “pro cyclists”). The absence of the word makes it seem an unattainable abstract concept.
I can attest to the positive shift in the way I take care of myself because of this new title I’ve adopted. Putting diabetes second does not mean ignoring it. In fact I probably pay it even more attention, just with a different perspective. It seems to me this could easily apply to anyone, living with a chronic condition or not. Identifying as an athlete positively affects how you address the myriad choices you face every day.
Because I am training for an epic (for me) bike ride, I address my choices about what I eat and drink, how much I sleep, how often I test my blood sugar, etc. with those 100 miles in mind. Do I always make the best choices? No. (for a host of reasons including the fact that being my kind of athlete does not pay the rent) But I do consider those choices differently. Where I might have eaten an ice cream cone as a too-frequent act of defiance against diabetes and the d-police, now I consider how much I want it and how it affects my overall well-being. After a long ride, it might be the perfect thing. In the middle of rest week, I find I don’t mind skipping it.
I’m not saying this is a quick, easy fix, but it is the first mental approach to a significant lifestyle change that makes sense to me and is one I feel is worth working to hold onto after I finish that century – starting with CampWILD where I will and you can take diabetes and exercise to the next level!
I must admit, this Athlete attitude has not spilled over into my logging habits. Something tells me I’m going to need at least another season to really adopt that good habit.