My sports bags – by Helen May

Helen-May-letterbox-150x150My Mum never called it a sports bag: the first one I remember was always referred to as a plimpsoll bag. This was devastating to a seven-year-old kid who knew that she wore “trainers” – no one called them “plimpsolls”. Nevertheless, I liked the bag. My Mum had made it for me and no one had anything like it.

There was no picture of the Wombles or a Cindy doll (the UK equivalent of Barbie) on it. It was a plain emerald green draw-string bag. But it wasn’t the colour or the style that I really liked: it was its history.

Before anyone had heard the chant, “reduce, reuse, recycle”, my Mum had decided the best way to get some use out of my first bridesmaid’s dress was to cut off the bottom twelve inches or so, leaving a short dress which was appropriate for wearing to birthday parties. I couldn’t wear a long dress whilst playing musical chair because I would trip over. The removed 12 inches became my first sports bag.

I don’t know what became of that bag but I know it wouldn’t be big enough to hold my sports kit now. Actually, I have multiple sports bags depending on the sport. I have a backpack I use when I go walking. Inside the bag emblazoned with the slogan “Climb Now, Work Later”, I have a rope and harness. I also have a box containing a helmet and fluorescent jacket for cycling.

Whichever sport I am partaking in, I have another bag. It is a little smaller than my childhood plimpsoll bag but I manage to fit a lot of stuff into it. There’s the padlock for a locker. There’s a number of membership cards for the gym and climbing centres. There’s a couple of hair-ties. And there’s my diabetes stuff.

Since I have had my pump, I’ve reduced my day-to-day diabetes kit. I no longer have to carry insulin pens around with me so I can usually fit my meter, test strips, pricker, spare insulin and a small syringe in a pocket of my work or hand bag. Unless I am staying overnight, I don’t carry a spare set change with me as I hope I can get by with the syringe for a few hours until I get home if I have a problem with my pump.

When I am participating in sports, the diabetes kit – meter, test strips and pricker – comes with me in my sports bag. Through trial and error, I am getting better at avoiding hypos when exercising, but I still take dextrose tablets in my sports bag just in case. Actually, one method I use to avoid the hypos is to take sugar as I run or cycle. I add a squirt of squash to my water bottle. It’s not the most accurate measurement but I seem to do well with one squirt per 500ml of water for an hour work long out: it helps to keep my blood glucose from dropping too low when I go for it on the cross-trainer. So, the other thing in my sports bag is a small squirty bottle of berry-flavoured squash.

Today, my sports bag is small enough to fit in my back-pack when walking and my “Climb Now, Work Later” bag when I climb, I wrap it around my handle-bars when I cycle or sling it over my shoulder as I move from machine to machine at the gym. It has become a bit of an exercise comfort blanket: whilst I use most of the contents, I know some of the contents like the dextrose are there to give me the confidence to get my heart pumping without worrying about hypoing.

Find out more about hypos

Read more about exercising with diabetes

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