Travelling and time zone changes – by Barney Storey
Our final points qualification event for the London 2012 Paralympic Games is the Paracycling World Track Champs in Los Angeles. It is a crucial event for the team to gain the maximum amount of points for a large team for the Games. Competing at these championships involves the 11 hour flight to Los Angeles, plus the 8 hour time zone change. Having travelled to a few different places around the world, it gives me another opportunity to put into practice my strategy for travel and time zone change with my diabetes.
I always have a plan with the time zone change, and also with travelling on the 11 hour flight. Most general travel plans can be used, such as setting your watch to the destination time as soon as you get on the plane, and making sure you don’t sleep at particular points on the plane. Sleeping at the correct time is critical on arrival at the hotel. I usually make sure I am well hydrated for the flight, both prior to, and after the flight has landed, as this can all affect your sleep patterns.
The main area I pay particular attention to are my insulin doses. Travelling west is always easier than travelling east, as you are essentially extending your day. This means that it’s reasonably easy to delay the night time injection (Levemir) and then top up with insulin to keep your blood sugar down with the short acting insulin (Novorapid).
Then you can effectively have your normal dose of insulin before you go to bed. I’m not a medical expert, so this approach is something I have had to work on over the years that I’ve been travelling with the national team. I have also had guidance from the team’s medical staff. Once I am in the new time zone it doesn’t take long for me to adjust, and within a day or so I have converted to US time.
The travelling back is where things get a little trickier for me; travelling west to east. This means you are shortening your day, so from the previous nights long acting insulin I have to adjust accordingly. It’s crucial not to double dose on this leg, as you lose 8 hours of your day. Again, the long acting insulin is the one I change, and the short acting insulin is the one which is just used when I eat my food.
I do test my blood sugar a lot more at these crucial times. I think it’s important to have a real understanding of where you are with you readings, as tiredness can make it difficult to feel where your blood sugar levels stand. This could mean testing yourself every hour on the plane, and then continue this testing once off the plane. This may be slight overkill for some people, but I like to know exactly what’s going on, especially with one of the biggest events on my racing calendar coming up just days after travelling!
These are all my personal experiences and I do believe each individual will have different priorities and preferences, but after some pretty good results for blood sugar level readings and racing results, this approach always tends to work for me.
The first race day isn’t that far away now, and I’m pretty confident of the form based on training sessions at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester just before we left, so hopefully I will have some good news of medals from the World Championships very soon.