Swim22 is the motivation I need – by Michelle Gibson

This year’s SwiMichelle-Gibson-150x150m22 started very close to 11 months after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2015. These past 11 months have no doubt been some of the toughest, but strangely also some of the most positive.

People look at me oddly when I say there have been benefits and there is a silver lining. Yes, you have to have whirlwind lessons on injecting and testing and the endless hospital, doctors and pharmacy trips, but I also really felt the need to do as much research as possible and take every step possible to make managing my diabetes as smoothly as possible. The reading and lifestyle changes I feel really helped me in adjusting to a new, and very different, way of living.

Of course, there are so many horror stories on the Internet and a lot of doom and gloom, as well as conflicting information. However, there is also a lot of extremely helpful documents and hints and tips floating around. My outlook from the start was that I cannot (unfortunately) change it or stop it happening, so despite however much I hate it, let’s make the best of the situation and use it as the biggest motivation to lead the healthiest and fullest life possible.

Note I say fullest life possible, being healthy and fit does not mean boring by any means. This was a concern I had at the start, but trust me it really does not have to be the case. I think I had approximately three months of being really strict with what I ate. I followed, and still do, a low carb diet, however I think it is really important to try everything and take note and understand the impact it has on your levels. You will only find out by trial and error and as long as you learn and understand why your levels soar or plummet, then you can make the correct changes for the future.

Once I began feeling confident in managing my diabetes through food, it was time to consider the impact and benefits of exercising, hence signing up to take part in the Swim22 challenge as soon as I saw it advertised. Not only was I hoping to raise money for this amazing cause, it was also the motivation I need to make exercise part of my everyday life.

Swimming was the natural starting point for me. It was something I’d previously really enjoyed and was confident there was a chance I could complete the challenge. I started my training by jumping straight into the pool, and after the first session quickly realised I needed a better understanding of how exercise would affect me. I decided it would be safer and easier to gain this understanding outside of the pool.

I quickly learnt with a bit of organisation and forward planning (eating before exercise), I was able to maintain fairly consistent levels. Once confidence was found I was back in the pool being competitive with myself trying to swim as many lengths as possible.

So far I have really enjoyed the swimming – it has stopped becoming a chore and now it’s a habit. I’m grateful that the challenge has given me another kick to take my journey further.  My tip to myself for the next three months? Remember to count the lengths.

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