My name is Kiersten Lenz and I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in May 2016, at the age of 26. Before my diagnosis, hiking was a weekly activity I looked forward to. Whether it be the nearby mountains of Santa Fe, NM, or an impromptu weekend trip to Colorado to tackle a 14er, I was excited and ready to hike.
As you may remember, the first two weeks after diagnosis were miserable. I was getting used to a new diet that included proper insulin dosing and coming down from glucose toxicity. After that initial adjustment period, I was anxious to get back into the mountains. My boyfriend and I decided to do one of our regular hikes, which is about 6 miles in total with 1800ft elevation gain. At the time, I didn’t know much about IOB or how exercise would affect my insulin sensitivity, but I did know enough to at least bring lots of sugary snacks with me.
We started the hike and I was happy to be outdoors again after a few weeks of nothing but resting and learning about my new disease. After about 30 minutes of climbing, I started to feel what are now the familiar signs of low blood sugar. Shaking, sweating, weakening muscles, I felt like I was going to pass out.
I sat on a tree root and began eating Skittles, crying from fear and frustration. Three weeks ago I could hike this mountain with no problem, and now I was only about a quarter of the way up and I had to stop and rest! Was this disease going to take away one of my favorite activities that I share with my boyfriend? How would this affect our relationship if I was constantly being left behind?
Since that first attempt, I have hiked many times, each time tweaking something in the hopes that I can get back to where I was pre-diagnosis. I have also gotten an insulin pump, which has helped immensely with exercise in general.
However, I still almost always go low when I do intense hikes. There is something off-putting about blaring Dexcom alarms every 20 minutes when you are trying to enjoy the tranquility of being in nature. I also do not feel comfortable hiking alone or for extended periods of time for fear of having a low blood sugar event that turns tragic.
I would love some advice on how to conquer hiking with Type 1 Diabetes! Any and all recommendations are appreciated.
'How To Hike The World' is a month long series covering hiking with type 1 diabetes from the beginner to the extreme outdoorsman. Please reach out with your comments and questions.