Greetings! If you are reading this, thank you! This is my second entry to this blog chronicling my journey to the Kamloops Spring Triathlon in May 2020. It’s designed to keep you in the loop of what it’s like to train for a multi-sport event and to do so from the perspective of an Indigenous person who grew up pretty far removed from sports altogether.
There are a couple things that make my training important to me. One, and this might be the most important, is the fact that I live with type 2 diabetes. This is a chronic illness, one that I guess I’m carrying for the rest of my life. I was diagnosed four years ago and the diagnosis was fairly expected but still pretty unhappy. Health-wise, I was a wreck. The impact of a poor diet and too much alcohol had taken its toll on me, and while I don’t know if diabetes runs in my family putting me at a greater risk of the disease on account of being adopted out and never knowing my bio parents, I think I can say with confidence that I wasn’t doing myself any favors along the way, that I possibly ate as part of coping with depression as opposed to viewing food as a fuel to help me move my body in ways that feel good.
I can relate to wanting to avoid bad news. I can understand the fear associated with the prospect of a total lifestyle overhaul. It’s almost impossible to truly see where you will end up in life once you start making healthy choices as a personal guide to healing. Taking steps towards an uncertain future is a seemingly irrational direction to go, especially if you are like me and are afraid of change. I was sick, emotionally and physically and at the time I remember feeling like I had just about run out of places to hide from my feelings of anger, sadness, shame and guilt and the overall fear that nothing was ever going to get better for me.
By the time I was diagnosed, I had been riding my bike pretty hard and maybe that was part of the reason why I went to get testing done. I had made enough progress in pursuing my fitness that I had some progress to hold onto when I was finally told that I had a disease that is an epidemic in First Nations communities. I remember needing to be able to say that I was trying to get some exercise and really paying attention to my new Diabetic Bible book which gave me all kinds of recipes on better food choices I could be making for myself. By the time I made it from the nurse -practitioners office with a referral to the Diabetic clinic to get schooled on my new diagnosis, I had prepared a 30 day food diary to show the nurse what changes I had already made. I explained how much I was riding my bike and that the weight was coming off. By that time, I’m sure I had lost over 50 lbs. And had decided that my time to take advantage of being clean and sober was past due and that I owed it to myself to really prioritize my health.
I’m really lucky that I live in British Columbia, Canada. The cycling here is beautiful 9 months of the year in many locations. Not only is it one sight to behold after another, but the terrain offers up a lot of resistance by way of hills and mountains that my prairie body was totally unprepared for. I think the idea is to add some low-impact cardiovascular activity to help control diabetes. Things like cycling and swimming are great ways to get a good workout in for people like me who were new to fitness. So not only was I riding for 10+ hours a week, I was doing a lot of climbing on my bike as well which introduced the idea of strength training to my regimen. This was important to me because I would find myself attacking the same unforgiving climbs, and day after day I was developing more strength to keep at it until after in some cases months of work, finally conquered these hills that I had never been able to complete without stopping to rest at least once. I felt the sensation of real physical change to my body in its ability to perform which motivated me to keep going.
I’m required to go for A1C blood work every six months so that a doctor can look to see how my blood sugar levels are doing. If they are too high, I get put onto medication to try to stabilize them. I’m told that my body can’t process sugar very well and if I can’t process it, it has a negative effect on my body. I think people encourage folks with diabetes to focus on diet and exercise because these things help a body that cannot produce enough insulin to stay healthy.
For a few years now, I have been off any diabetic medication. My blood sugar levels are about the same as a person who does not live with diabetes. I look forward to getting my blood sugars checked because I feel pretty optimistic about my health. This gives me a lot of confidence which helps. I think a lot of Indigenous people lack confidence to change, to grow and to amaze ourselves and every piece of encouragement matters.
Reclaiming my health has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done. It is a long, hard road into the unknown, one that seemed terrifying at first. I can say without a doubt, the journey is worth it, and if you are thinking about starting 2020 off in a good way, may I encourage you to take those first few steps? You don’t need to think big. Just think about slotting in some exercise and sticking with a plan. Aim for an achievable goal and then go after it. That’s how it begins. Try some new delicious foods that you have never tried before. Find out how it was cooked and try making something using a recipe that’s new to you.
We are stepping into a new year and a new decade. It’s not too late and there are so many more adventures and exciting things to do with a positive mental attitude and an open mind. What are your goals for 2020? You can make them happen. No doubt about it.