Professional wrestling has been a big part of my life, and particularly how I cope with life, for the best part of 16 years. Escapism, entertainment and strength. When I was angry at the world, wrestling gave me a “safe place” where no one would judge me, or expect anything from me. Chyna, the Nineth Wonder of the World, taught me how to lift weights when society was obsessing about being skinny. The wrestling industry doesn’t conform to the “norm”. Even though wrestling has been my dream for some time, I didn’t have a clue where to start!
Enter the #ProJo. This is the wrestling school run by Progress Wrestling in Brixton, London. The first session of an 8-week beginners course started on the 16th of April, so now I had an idea of where to start. Impulsive decision made, I signed up without reeeaaally thinking about the elephant that’s always in my room: Type 1 diabetes.
It’s probably a credit to myself and to the many parts of my past/present healthcare team that I don’t consider diabetes to be a barrier at all. But this would be the first real practical test of my two-year insulin pumping life. One thing that my brilliant diabetes consultant has taught me is that we can use strategies to try and anticipate/be as prepared as possible. Without knowing exactly how it would be structured, I went into the first session having done a lot of guess work but I strategised with the intention that I’d leave with plenty of data to tweak things for next time.
Week one: totally petrified, not entirely sure what the hell I’ve got myself in for, can I really do this, what if I fail? The many questions/feelings running through my mind as I stood in the dark alley waiting for coach Darrell to open the ProJo.
Week two: still a little petrified, I really struggled with rolls last week so can I do them again this week, what if I let the team down, what’s in store for us this week? The answer: flip bumps!
Week three: flip bumps test my mental toughness big time, time to pull that out of the bag this week. But it’s scary. But I really want to do this well.
Blood glucose control and going pumpless
There are certain elements of wrestling training that mean my insulin pump has to be off for a fairly prolonged amount of time. It isn’t recommendedthat pumps be disconnected for more than one hour at a time due to the risk of ketoacidosis. So don’t try this at home guys! *
First week was such a blur and I couldn’t really remember how long my pump had been disconnected for during rolls but ending with a blood glucose of 9.3 mmols wasn’t a bad effort.
Second week was a little more structured but air bubbles ruined a well-planned strategy.
Third week: nailed it! Starting blood glucose was 5.4 mmols, ending on a very respectable 6.9 mmols.
Fourth week: for a few days, I’ve been very sensitive to insulin and exercise (probably the summer weather gracing the south of England) and so a hypo before and during training meant that the strategy was modified slightly. But aside from the hypos, starting on 4.7 mmols and ending on 8.5 mmols – that’ll do.
The Strategy ** (please read footnote)
Breakfast at 8am using the same 1:15g insulin to carbohydrate ratio, as well as a finely tuned insulin to fat/protein ratio.
Before training (10:30): a small snack of 10g of carbs (usually 1/2 a protein bar or 1/2 a packet of Nakd raisins)
Training is usually stretching and intense conditioning until 11:45am. Pump stays on.
Next is rolls (front, back, shoulder), bumps (front, back, flip) and in-ring work. As it could potentially hurt me to keep it on, as well as the possibility of the tubing becoming tangled, I take my pump off for the entirety of this section (1h 45m).
11:45am: pre-bolus for 1hour of “missed” basal (0.6u).
1:30pm: bolus for remainder of “missed” basal (0.45).
For my post-training meal (usually a much-needed coffee and protein bar), I change my ratio from 1:12 to 1:15. And set a -20% temporary basal from 5pm. Any yoga, dynamic stretching or foam rolling after training requires a -50% temporary basal. The -20% temporary basal is extended until 4am (to avoid any nocturnal hypos).
When I see all that information written down, it’s not difficult to see why in some elements of wrestling training, my mind goes into overdrive and overthinks movements. If there’s any one thing that could hinder my progress, it’ll be my mind and certainly not my diabetes. Practicing yoga during the week (particularly before work) has really been helping to not only improve my flexibility/mobility but also to free my mind. At the WWE’s stellar performance centre, yoga is high on the training schedule for all new recruits. Darrell’s advice during flip bumps has stayed with me: the more apprehensive you are in a movement, the more likely it is to go wrong and potentially someone gets hurt. So it’s all about practicing the moves and removing the fear for me.
Life, wrestling and diabetes would be very difficult without the support of team mates. Our first training session began with neck exercises in pairs that certainly broke down any awkward barriers! But the trust required between two complete strangers was a big building block. The guys support each other through the good and the bad. Wrestling is three things: a sport, a performance, a show. The aim is to work together to entertain people in a safe, athletic manner. Watching others and learning from someone else’s strengths is a big part of every session. I hope that my fellow trainees don’t see my gender or my diabetes as a barrier. My height (or lack of) maybe, but nothing else!
And in #WrestlingWithT1D, the confidence that Dr L has instilled in me is the biggest support I could ask for. And he somehow kept a straight face as I described (in detail!) the various requirements of those neck exercises! Managing Type 1 diabetes is 24/7 for each individual but receiving the coaching and education necessary to be able to self-manage as best as possible should be the very centre piece of the jigsaw.
Good coaches and team mates make the #Projo, and they make #WrestlingWithT1D that little bit easier.
* As insulin pumps only deliver fast acting insulin, this means there is no circulating background basal insulin, hence why ketoacidosis can occur if the pump becomes disconnected for any reason. Being conscious of any potential ketones is a fundamental part of the strategy.
** These numbers and this strategy are wholly individual to me. The strategy is an overview and/or provides a starting point. Any changes in ratios, insulin sensitivity factors and basal options should be discussed between individuals and their healthcare professionals.