I’ve been Managing diabetes as a dancer for a few years now so I thought I would share some of the ways that I am able to deal with it as well as I do. I mean, I’m not perfect as it is pretty complex job at times but I have been able to refine certain ways of working with it in order to help keep my blood sugars steady. Before I get into it, you have to understand that what works for me might not work for you. It is a very big game of trial and error. If you follow me on Instagram you will have noticed that I have to make adjustments fairly often and I often use this social platform as a way to keep track of how certain exercises affect my blood sugar. So, tip number one is to start keeping notes of your blood sugars, what you ate before class and how much your bolus was. You will begin to see trends which will give you something to work with.
If you are already taking dance you may already be aware of the pace of certain classes, but if you’re thinking of going to a new dance class, don’t assume that all classes work the same way. I mean, yes, generally, most contemporary dance classes follow a specific structure but some teachers work much quicker than others and allow much less time for water breaks. Whenever I know I am going to be working with a new teacher or choreographer I always let my blood sugar run a little high before class just in case of a low – a high during a dance class is much easier for me to deal with than a low. Also, just in case there is no one in the class who knows you’re diabetic you should let the teacher know before class starts. I generally dance amongst friends which is why I never warn new teachers. I never tell events co coordinators that I perform at either, but writing this now I will make a note to myself to do so in the future.
Towards the end of a dance class you might feel weak and shaky because of the work load, but if you are unsure of whether it is a hypo or not, just check because the sooner you do that, the sooner your mind is able to focus on the dancing which is the whole reason why you’re there. If you do check and you are low mid class, have some glucose drink or a quick snack and then get back to it as quick as you can. Don’t let it ruin your dancing fun. On average I would say that I check my blood sugar once before class, once during and once straight after. If it is a little low beforehand I usually eat a banana or a granola bar. Same process applies for rehearsals.
Learn About Your Own Training
Hopefully you take some time outside of dance class to practice, if so, this means that you should be monitoring your blood sugar with regards to your own training too. Notice if it differs or shares some similarities to your dance class and mark it down. Usually when I get the blood sugar / insulin combination just right, this means that it’s time to up my game in my own training because my body has become accustomed to what I’m giving it and therefore isn’t as challenging as it could be.
When you have a performance coming up you will likely do a little bit more training during the rehearsal period which will allow you to build up some stamina. If you are committed to building up that stamina, what worked when you learned the dance in the beginning, may not work during the lead up to performance because of how your body has adapted to the workload. Also, if you get really nervous about performance you are more likely to respond to the adrenaline rush which can raise your blood sugar. Be wary of this and don’t be scared to take insulin to cover the adrenaline rush. I can’t say how much it would be for you, but I am starting with the bare minimum and it has helped the last couple of times I performed. Similar to the above I check my blood sugar about 5 minutes before going on stage and as soon as possible when I have finished, length of performance times do vary, but checking where possible keeps my mind at ease and allows me to focus.
Timing of food is everything for me. I tend to eat at least every 3 hours, but depending on what I am doing in those three hours will really dictate the amount of carbs I eat and the amount of insulin I take. If I have morning class I will eat a little less for breakfast and then have a piece of fruit right before I enter the classroom if my blood sugar is at a normal level. However, if for some reason my blood sugar is high, I won’t eat the snack because I know there is room for a drop. Same goes for performances which are mainly afternoon or evening – I will eat a little bit less during the meal before it and then have a snack right before performance.
This is more important than anything else. The other day I was in class and I had to stop mid-way through to check my blood sugar, it was a convenient time because the teacher suggested that we work on our own for a few minutes in order to go over the movement. Whilst I was pricking my finger and waiting for the number on my meter to show up I realised that when I stood up I would have to work harder than anyone else in order to catch up. I have this mind set anyway. I am one of the hardest working people in the room and diabetes, rather than letting it slow me down, I use it as fuel to speed me up. I have to pick up and retain movement quicker so I have time to fit in the diabetes thoughts too.
I hope this helps. Please email me if you have any questions because dancing, although it is quite a challenge to manage, it is also a way to help you attain a steady blood sugar and is a way to increase in insulin sensitivity. Similar to other cardiovascular activities.