Swimming for Diabetes UK: now and then – by Liz Young

Guest blogger Liz Young has been taking part in Swim22 – and it’s not the first time she’s taken to the pool to raise money for Diabetes UK.

Liz YoungWell this is a surprise, as I seemed to have finished Swim22! Although it is scheduled to take place over three months, being me I thought it would make a better target to swim 22 miles in 22 days.

So, knowing that managing my insulin pump with endurance exercise, and trying to avoid extreme high and low blood sugars, would be a step into the unknown, I started with the intention to swim on average one mile per day.

I prepared a personal chart for each swim recording my pre-swim blood tests two hours, one hour and half an hour before the swim. I then monitored my blood sugar by doing tests poolside every 20 lengths and soon discovered some new ways of using the pump at intervals during the swim in conjunction with orange juice when I needed a carbohydrate top-up.

I quickly found that I performed at my best when my blood sugar level was between four and eight – which is a very narrow range. Above 10 and I started to feel that I was swimming through runny treacle. After each swim I monitored my blood sugars closely for a further three hours. To my delight, I was able to increase the distances swum every time. I reached a new PB distance of three miles continuous swimming and a fastest PB for one mile at 41 minutes.

When I was first diagnosed Type 1 diabetic in 1966, at the age of 6, and treated at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, my mother’s greatest fear was that I would not cope with a life of injections, urine testing (as it was then) and carefully calculating everything I ate. My greatest challenge has always been how to cope with exercise and the effect it has on diabetes management.

Liz (second left) with her dad, Norman, brother Richard and older sister, Mandy
Liz (second left) with her dad, Norman, brother Richard and older sister, Mandy
When I was 12 I swam my first mile with my father, sister and brother at Solihull Swimming Baths and raised £460 for the British Diabetic Association (as Diabetes UK was known then).

Last year I received an insulin pump and this has definitely enabled me reach new milestones in terms of fitness and exercise, and I have lost almost three stone in weight. In my 50th year of living with diabetes I climbed Snowdon, swam 2 kilometres and cycled over 30 miles. I am now extremely proud to add to this swimming 22 miles for Swim22.

I swam 22 miles, in 11 days – an average of 2 miles per day. In the process I eliminated the screw kick I have had since the age 12 and developed muscles in my arms like Popeye – but I have not lost any weight… not even an ounce! However, I have so far raised over £300 for Diabetes UK.

Whether it’s for her swim in 1972 or this year’s Swim22, you can show Liz your support by sponsoring her on her JustGiving page.

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