Why I Relish Going to the Gym


For many of us, throwing off the blankets and crawling out of bed on cold winter mornings to go to the gym seems pretty dumb.

I felt that way too until my pre-diabetic diagnosis several years ago which meant that if I didn’t do something about it, I might well succumb to full-blown diabetes with its many lethal complications that include heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even limb amputation.

Still, I didn’t do anything about it until a chiropractor friend had me do a full blood workup that showed I had moved even closer to diabetes with an A1c of 5.9 and ominous glucose average of 123.   If you get to 125, you’ve got the disease, for which there’s no cure, only management.

Now, fifteen month later, I’ve gotten the A1c down to 5.2. The A1c tests your blood for glucose management over the previous two to three months. The pre-diabetic range is 5.7-6.4. In short, I’m no longer pre-diabetic.

How did I do it? Quite plainly, by cutting carbs and exercising regularly.

Exercise is good for you no matter what ails you or–if you’re an outlier–from nothing at all, promoting good health, better sleep, stress reduction, more energy, and self-esteem.   What’s nicer than people commenting on how good you look?

But let me add to these verities several other reasons exercise has become a mainstay of my daily regimen.

Personally, I can wax euphoric at the gym like this morning walking my fourteen laps (2 miles), with Herbie Hancock’s pulsating jazz rhythms funneling into my ears via my wireless headset, making me pump my arms still more vigorously.

I like, too, the camaraderie going to the gym gives me, a sense of being part of a group. I see many of these people regularly, of both sexes and of all ages and body types. On occasion, we say our hellos or share smiles and sometimes conversation. Call it tribalism. I like the feeling.

I admire many I see at the gym for the obviously hard work they put into their workouts, whether pumping weights, walking raised treadmills or elliptical machines, or doing stair-steppers, etc. I see the payoffs in their lithe bodies with muscular arms, wide shoulders, and developed pecs. I know it didn’t come easily. Many of them exercise before going to work.   No wonder they inspire me.

But I also get a sense of personal satisfaction, or of time well spent. Call it a relish in self-discipline: I haven’t surrendered to the couch or big screen TV. I take pride in that, knowing my former tendency to both procrastinate and be downright lazy.

Every session becomes a moral lesson, and I remember what my high school track coach told me: “We all get stiches in our side. The good runner, win or lose, ignores the stich, holding out for the second wind that propels him to the finish line.” Today, I resisted cutting my four sets of curls to three. I like to think such lessons learned at the gym can help me better cope with life at large.

And then there’s that sense of jubilation in sharing my good news with my dear wife that today I did 70 sit-ups. Just a few months ago, I could barely do 25!

The Chinese have this wonderful saying that “the longest journey begins with the first step.” In going to the gym, I’ve taken more than one step now and I’m eager to do infinitely more in the climb to good health and the contentment it confers.










Pre-diabetic musings

prediabetesI got a rude awakening last week. I had taken just maybe my most comprehensive blood test ever. Disturbingly, my A1C was 5.9, although my fasting glucose was 96.

I’ve known for two years I’m pre-diabetic, but 5.9 is a new threshold for me. Not long ago, through careful eating and nearly daily elliptical machine stints, I had whittled it down to 5.4, though I admit my previous scores have nearly always been from finger sticks rather than lab tests, which my endocrinologist says are more accurate.

Anyway, I’m scratching my head, asking myself, What’s going on? Why should I be even pre-diabetic?

Hey, I’m slender at 175 on a 6’1 frame.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years; in fact, nearly vegan.

I’ve been careful to avoid foods with high sugar content–pastries, cakes, candies, etc.

I don’t eat much fat, at least the bad kind like saturated and trans. I admit, however, to liking nuts. (I eat about 4 ounces daily, mainly to keep my weight up, especially as I’m trying to reduce carbs, the main source for blood sugar and weight gain.)

My nemesis, I think, has been indulging in starchy foods, especially In restaurants, compounded by their normally large portions. I used to have trigs in the 150 range. Giving up potatoes, I find my trigs have stayed below 100. Potatoes, like other starchy foods, are a high GI food, meaning they turn into glucose quickly.

At home, I still indulge in other starches–pasta, rice, and bread–though I always follow the formula for whole wheat sources only and brown rice.

While unrefined grains have lower GI and GL, they can peak your blood sugar several hours later, so you need to check your glucose beyond the usual two hour post meal regimen

My thinking is that if I can eliminate the grains, I can reduce the glucose. But I also know l like these foods so much that I haven’t watched my portions.

It would be easier in all of this if if had the usual excess weight problem. Eighty percent of diabetics do, and when they shed the pounds, the blood results can be impressive.

Skinny diabetics have twice the mortality rate of heavy diabetics. No one really knows why.

The problem with such diets is that confining yourself to greens and beans gets old really fast.

Before closing, I want to mention a recent book on diabetes by endocrinologist Sarfraz Zaidi, called Reverse Your Diabetes. It recommends a five step approach, which includes overcoming stress and using key supplements in addition to the traditional lifestyle changes through diet, exercise, and medication as needed.

His section on supplements is the best I’ve come upon in books dealing with diabetes, with extensive reviews, backed with research findings. Zaidi focuses on reducing insulin resistance foremost in managing diabetes and argues some supplements can help.

I found his take on vitamin D especially good in keeping with his wisdom throughout the book. He points out how the effects of vitamin D are “astounding,” extending to all the organs.

Low vitamin D contributes to insulin resistance.

Nearly all Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics show vitamin D deficiency.

In a landmark Finnish study (2001), later published in the prestigious medical journal, Lancet, children receiving 2000 IU of vitamin D in their first year were then tracked for 31-years for the development of Type 1.

These children showed an 80% reduction in risk for developing Type 1 compared to other children not given vitamin D supplements.

As for Type 2, while being sedentary, obese and over 65 contributes substantially to developing diabetes, all of these factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency as well.

This doesn’t mean that overcoming vitamin D deficiency will right your diabetes, but it can help reduce insulin resistance and thus help you manage it better.

If you’re pre-diabetic like me, there are extensive studies, Zaidi says, that suggest it can help prevent full blown diabetes up to 50%

Though not everyone may agree with Dr. Zaidi, I find his extensive review of the research on vitamin D compelling.









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