Rolling with My Pancreas: Riding Out the Highs and Lows
One way in which diabetes and jiu-jitsu share some similarities is in the need for practitioners of each to maintain a balance. Don’t let the highs get too high; don’t let the lows get too low.
It’s kind of obvious from the diabetes perspective: Maintain a healthy blood sugar. Don’t let it go to high (hyperglycemia, which can cause organ damage, blindness, circulatory issues and all those other fun byproducts people associate with the condition) or the lows too low (hypoglycemia, or insulin shock, which can cause anxiety in loved ones, and, at worst, death).
It’s really the point of getting back into the gym: Get active, lose some weight, try to cut back on my insulin consumption and just get healthier in general. I think over the past year I’ve been back training in BJJ, I’ve accomplished a few of these goals. I’ve found, however, that once I start getting comfortable with my basal rates (the amount of insulin my pump feeds me on a constant basis), things inevitably start to change.
People (read: my current endocrinologist) don’t think this really happens, but I kid you not. As soon as I consciously think my sugars have been good, or steady, or that I have something figured out, my body responds with “No, dipshit. Take this” and something (metabolism? my liver? spite?) causes my sugars to either spike or drop precipitously without warning. This is why I have to stay on my toes and never get complacent.
Which leads to the “highs and lows” analogy with jiu-jitsu. When training, there are times where I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what’s happening (rarely) and others where I feel embarrassed to be on the mat and wearing a blue belt (usually). Training usually consists of warm-ups, working on a technique and then sparring. In the sparring sessions we get to roll (read: grapple) with our training partners for anywhere from five to 10 minutes, working on everything from takedowns to attacks to defense, all while trying to incorporate the new techniques we’ve been learning into our games.
A few weeks ago I started having a good string of sessions. I felt like I was in control. I was able to rely on my technique instead of just having to utilize strength to keep bad things from happening. I got a few comments from training partners that I was doing well. I felt good.
Then I made a terrible, terrible mistake: I started to think I was doing well.
I remember the first class I went to after I thought that. I remember because I got smashed. Everyone I rolled with destroyed me. I couldn’t do the most basic techniques and kept making fundamental mistakes. This continued for another few classes, until I realized that I went from a peak to a valley in my training.
From what I’ve been told by other people who train, this is incredibly common. There’ll be times when everything works, and other times when nothing does. I’ve been more conscious about keeping the same attitude every time I enter the gym and step foot on the mats: Just try to learn, and be better than the last time. Work on the basics and keep pushing yourself.
I subscribe to a number of Instagram feeds for jiu-jitsu practitioners, and get some inspiration from reading that I’m not the only one who’s dealing with these issues. One I read recently suggested “Don’t stay on the fence; it’s the worst place to be” (meaning, keep pushing yourself and try to work on new techniques and skills).
And, once and for all, stop thinking you’ve got anything figured out. That just leads to life or fate or whatever may be deciding it’s time to pull the rug out from under you to show just how little you really know.
The key, in jiu-jitsu as well as in controlling my diabetes, is to not let the highs get too high, or the lows too low. And, of course, to always remember that if I ever make the mistake of thinking I know anything, life will surely put me back in my place quickly.