I’d usually consider myself a lover not a fighter, but last week I got swept up in the sweat, tears and joy of intensive Muay Thai training at Tiger Muay Thai, Phuket, Thailand. Not knowing how my diabetic body would react to four hours plus of daily sparring in the heat, I only booked a week. Now I wish I had booked a month. With very regular snacks and blood tests, the monkey in my pocket (AKA my diabetes) thrived on the high intensity workouts that challenge both body and mind.
Why Muay Thai?
The Thailand sports scene is not limited to ladies playing Ping-Pong sans racket. Chalong, Phuket is a mecca for workout junkies, martial arts professionals and Muay Thai big guns. Mixing in amongst the highly sculpted and muscular are distinctly average individuals like me, so why did I go? I am getting married in August, and like all brides to be, I want to look and feel spectacular when I walk down the aisle. I considered doing a yoga detox week, but the idea of liquid dinners, and regular colonics didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. Plus if you have type one diabetes, it’s unwise to put your food intake in someone else’s militant hands. What would happen if I got caught with gummy bears and cereal bars? A super fit and gorgeous friend of mine, Sammoorai, suggested Tiger Muay Thai instead. Get fit and lean rather than willowy and green. I had massive reservations that it could turn into a week from diabetes hell with endless glucose spikes and crashes as I navigated the following insane schedule:
|8 am – 10 am||Group Muay Thai classes; running, sparring, technique training, push-ups, sit ups, kicks, punches and stretches.|
|2pm – 3pm||High Intensity Body Conditioning; burpees, squats, weights, sprints etc till you drop.|
|5pm – 6pm||One on one Muay Thai Training|
|8pm – 9pm||Power Yoga|
Muay Thai Training With Diabetes
Apart from a few hypoglycaemic episodes at night, I didn’t drop through the day and was able to keep up with the training, which felt awesome. The secret to keeping everything under control was constant blood tests and regular food choices. On the first day, I made the mistake of over lowering my basal and fast acting insulin. This resulted in a glucose reading of eleven at the end of the first group training session. I watched my blood sugar climb, but angst over a sudden crash meant I didn’t inject. The next day, I kept my basal as normal and just reduced my fast acting insulin. I had a starting sugar of seven, which dropped to five after thirty minutes of Muay Thai. When my sugar reached five, I ate one to two jelly sweets and re-tested fifteen minutes later. If the re test was five or less I ate again. If it was six plus, I jumped back into the ring. Keeping my food choices regular also helped me control my diabetes. Luckily in Chalong, you don’t have to guess how much carbohydrate you are eating as most menus display this information. I stayed at Cocoville and started each day with a no sugar added, protein rich banana frappe. For dinner, I made sure to have a slow release carbohydrate like brown rice to see me through the night yoga and get me safely to the next morning.
Sweat, Humidity, and Continuous Glucose Monitors
Doing so many blood tests sucks, but when you’re pushing your diabetic body, think safety first. I started the week with Abbots continuous glucose monitor on my arm and to Abbots credit it did exceptionally well. The CGM survived snorkelling, swimming and excessive sweating – for a time. By day two, I covered it with a clear plaster, by day 3 I bandaged my whole arm, and on day 4, I took it off. I worried that the constant sweating, showering and swimming would cause infection. Removing it was the right choice, as small spots had started to develop on my skin underneath the sensor. I was back on blood pricks and test strips, groan. I got through a box of fifty in two and half days, but the old machine didn’t slow me down nearly as much as hypo or hyperglycaemia would have. In humid Thailand you sweat standing still, so hydration is key. Hyperglycaemia sucks you dry, and hypoglycaemia has you on the floor. Avoid both with multiple blood tests while exercising.
Keep Challenging your Diabetes
The end result is I feel phenomenal. Intensive Muay Thai training with diabetes is totally doable. I am fitter, slimmer and more confident. Plus I learnt a new skill, or at least I gave it my best shot. Unlike with sprints and squats, Muay Thai requires brainpower as well as will power. I love the spinning limbs, jumping kicks and high knees that are part of the experience. Tiger Muay Thai provides top level training with fierce but patient coaches. My aim wasn’t exactly weight loss. I wanted to tone up and improve my fitness both of which I achieved. I’ve lost an inch around my stomach and legs. My arms are much stronger. I can now just about do the crow, I am half way to a handstand and I can box for 120 minutes straight. I also learnt the invaluable lesson that with careful management, I can push my diabetic body to fitter and healthier heights. If I can do this, you can. Now that I am back home, I going to keep the Muay Thai up with a couple of classes of week. I can’t imagine ever stepping into a ring with a real opponent, but I am more than happy to keep (carefully) challenging myself, and my diabetes to go further, harder and longer.