Running With Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

As the race weekend is coming up quickly, I am sharing stories about the athletes from clients, employees or Cigna foundation partners.  Cheryl Murphy is an insulin-dependent diabetic. When her endocrinologist read her latest test results, he asked, “What in the world have you been doing? Whatever it is, keep doing it. You are saving your own life!”

How Running Helped Cheryl

Taking up running last yearis what transformed Cheryl’s health.  As Wellness Manager for the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, Cheryl is responsible for improving the health of over 6,000 county employees.  When Cheryl was diagnosed with diabetes 4 years ago, she didn’t really do anything about it.  “I didn’t have the education about the disease to know what to do. Had I known the changes I needed to make, I could have made lifestyle changes when I was pre-diabetic.”  Now, she takes insulin, cholesterol and triglyceride meds, and has to be careful to maintain her sugar levels.

Running With Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Last year she walked the 5k as part of Team Cigna during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  After watching her friend finish her first full marathon that same weekend, she decided to pick up the pace and make running a part of her lifestyle.  She started following the Jeff Galloway Run Walk Run program, and actually met Jeff at Disney’s Wine & Dine race Expo. She was already registered for the 5k but was hoping to also run the 10k; however, only half marathon registrations remained.  She was feeling daunted when she met Jeff and his wife Barb, who both encouraged her to go for it.  She finished the half with flying colors, and cannot wait to be back at the Disney Marathon in 2018, where once again she’ll participate as part of Team Cigna! Cheryl’s goal for 2018 is to run a half marathon in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris to tackle the Castle to Chateau Challenge.

Running With Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Cheryl’s Wellness Role at HCBOCC

In her Wellness role at HCBOCC, Cheryl’s goal is to encourage colleagues to take an active role in understanding their own health and with the help of onsite Cigna Health Coach Holli Rahmings, she is doing just that through a program that focuses on physical, social, emotional and financial well-being.  In recognition of their commitment to health, Hillsborough County recently received the Cigna Well-Being Award.  “We’ve more than doubled the number of physicals employees took this year.  Our Weight Loss Challenge had over 1,000 participants, and our Water Challenge this summer had more than 1600 staff walking around with their reusable water bottles instead of sugary drinks!”

Just as important as those numbers are Cheryl’s own: since taking up running and improving nutrition, her total cholesterol level fell from 208 to 164, triglycerides from 595 to 169, and her A1C dropped from 8.8 to 5.8.  Reducing her numbers to normal levels reduces her risk for arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, etc.  Not only did this health improvement result in higher energy levels and a reduction in medication, it also had an effect on her mental health and stress levels.  “Running has now become a way for me to clear my head and let go of some of the frustrations in life.”  She not only looks forward to the possibility of one day becoming insulin free, but also the possibility of spending her retirement at Disney World with her grandchildren instead of sitting in a doctor’s office.

Cigna Health Coach Holli Rahmings explains, “Cheryl has taken many powerful strides to improving her health.  She adapted a predominantly plant-based diet and found a passion for competitive races!  What started as a 5k has evolved into successfully completing half-marathons.  Cheryl has truly demonstrated a firm commitment to resuming control of her health and no longer allowing her conditions to control her passions for living!”

Cheryl’s tips for diabetic runners

It’s really important for diabetic runners to follow all the steps:

  • Consider your nutrition and hydration a few days before a race. Make sure you drink plenty of water and eat the right foods to ensure you fuel your body. No, this doesn’t give you permission to eat whatever you want!It’s more important than ever to choose healthy foods that will stick with you.
  • Continue to take your prescribed medications.
  • Take blood sugar levels before you run, make sure the levels are slightly elevated since you’ll burn off sugar so quickly. Nourish yourself throughout the race to keep your sugar level and your energy up.
  • Stay hydrated at all times. Drink plenty of water and Powerade or Nuun along the route.
  • Stay ahead of your diabetes, don’t wait until you feel light-heated to take action-by then it’s too late.  If you start feeling weak or dizzy, slow down and eat a snack until you feel better.
  • As you’re training, it is important to experiment and find out what works for you.  For example, I can’t run with food on my stomach, so the energy gels work best for me during a run.  But I was so elated to be near the finish line during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon that I forgot to eat my last gel.  When I crossed the finish line, my blood sugar plummeted and I had to go to the medical tent.Knowing this, I now make sure I stay ahead of my body signals and immediately have a medic take my blood sugar after crossing the finish line.


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Pamela Frost

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