Paul Coker & Rachael Hunter Dunn – Diabetes & Swimming; Managing Blood Glucose Levels After a Swim

Today I’m here with Rachael Hunter Dunn. Rachael is a long distance open water swimmer and she has type one diabetes. She’s an expert athlete and if you want to see how she prepares for an open water swim or how she manages her diabetes in an open water swim, please see the previous two videos that we’ve created on those very subjects. This video in particular, we’re going to be talking to Rachael about how she manages her diabetes after a long distance open water swim. So Rachael, thank you for joining us here today.

And thank you for sharing your expert knowledge with us on what you do before and during a swim. So, obviously, they are critical steps, but for me when I go and do a run, a half marathon, I find that it’s highly likely I’m gonna go hypo after a half marathon. And I’m guessing that you have a similar experience when you do a long distance open water swim.

So, how do you manage your diabetes afterwards? Are there any special measures that you take after you’ve done a long distance open water swim in terms of managing your diabetes? For example, do you need to run a lower basal rate? Do you need to eat more carbohydrates?

Yeah. So, I tend to make sure that I've got a lot of food lined up after an open water swim. You want to come out of the sea and eat cake basically.
All swimmers love cake. But, yeah. My sugar level tends to drop after a long distance swim, so get ready to do carbs definitely and sometimes what I have done and what works is to lower my basal rate on my insulin pump and then I just test my sugar level more because you just don't want to run into ... Prevent a hypo is just much more important than actually having one. So, if you can prevent it and not have one, than that's always key. So, I'm just aware that it will probably drop after a swim. So, just test more. Yep.

Do you find that there are particular times of day that are better for you to do a long distance open water swim? And I ask because I know that if I run a half marathon in the morning, the recovery time in which I’m most likely to go hypo is whilst I’m still awake, it’s in the evening. Is that the same for you when you swim?

I tend to do my exercise in the morning, just because that's the sort of routine I've got into and I can, I suppose what's ... I mean, it's difficult if you want to do a temporary basal rate sort of a couple of hours before. If you're doing that first thing in the morning, that can be quite tricky, but I think it's just knowing in advanced what you're gonna do. I find it quite easy, sorry, quite useful to plan my exercise for that week and just know sort of what I'm eating the night before. So, I'm ready for the morning. So, yeah. I do prefer to sort of get it done in the morning and then I find that it's easier to manage my levels throughout the day if I'm exercising in the morning and adjusting the pump accordingly. Yeah.

I think that’s really important because most people if they decide they’re gonna go for a run or they’re gonna go for a swim, they just in that spur of the moment say “Oh, I’m gonna go for a run. I’m gonna go for a swim.”

But for those of us with diabetes, we’re actually planning that out hours before, perhaps even days before we actually do it. And that’s really the one big concession I make to my diabetes is that I don’t go out and do a “Oh, today I’m gonna go for a 10 mile run.” You know, just go and do it. I’ve actually thought about it and it sounds to say that’s the same for you when you do a swim.

It is. Yeah, especially if you're doing long distance stuff. I mean, there are times when I don't plan for it and then you have to sort of adjust accordingly, but it's just so much better when you do plan. Like with anything, but it just works when you plan.