The #1 thing this former pro basketball player factors into his T1D workout strategy

June 8, 2023

Rob Howe, former professional basketball player, entrepreneur, marketing strategist, and podcaster  recently shared on the Reclaim Your Rise Podcast, “What I've learned is that when I do exercise that I really like, my brain gets fired up and my heart gets fired up because I love doing it… when I'm focused and I'm locked in on something, my heart rate increases and my brain's getting flooded with all those great chemicals because, you know, ultimately I'm an athlete and I've accepted that about myself, even though nobody pays me to play sports anymore, that's still who I am."

Rob says that whether he’s playing “two on two at the park against a bunch of high high school kids”  or “a playoff men’s league game” the #1 thing he takes into consideration is how adrenaline and cortisol impact his blood sugar.

”My blood sugar's gonna go up because my adrenaline and cortisol [are] firing on all cylinders and powering me to the performance that I want. And I know now after 18 years of living with [T1D], that after I sit down and I'm done playing, my blood sugar's gonna naturally come down a little bit.”

Rob admits, “I don't like being out of range. I hate it. It makes me feel bad. It makes me feel thirsty, it makes me feel irritable.” Sound familiar?

BUT, at the same time, he’s learned to not be too reactive to those numbers while he’s playing.

So what are Rob’s go-to tools for maintaining his blood sugars with his active lifestyle?

  1. Rooting down into acceptance. Rob says, “How do I accept what's true? I have diabetes and high and low blood sugars come alongside exercise. But what do I know about myself? Short, high intensity workouts or basketball, make my blood sugar go up. Extended long walks, hikes, steady state cardio, tend to make my blood sugar go down.”
  2. Optimizing his technology. While closed loop systems aren’t for everyone, Rob likes using the Medtronic seven 70 G him stay in range. He finds that it allows him to stay in range more often than not and gives him the flexibility that he wants.
  3. Learning from experiences. “Knowledge is power.” Rob recommends noting down what happens to your blood sugars with different types of exercise and going back and revisiting what has happened when you do certain things. This is how you build your own personalized strategies.
  4. Factoring in adrenaline. This is one of the main things Rob has learned about his specific body’s response to the exercise he likes to do. He’s developed his own strategy for combating adrenaline during competition. “I like to have a little bit of insulin on board to mitigate that first spike, but not enough that I crash afterwards because I wanna maintain that through the game.”
  5. Removing judgment. "I think many of us want to be so hyper controlled about our blood sugars and don't want them to get out of range at any cost. And I understand that. I'm that way too, but can I look at that high blood sugar during the first half of a basketball game without judgment, knowing that when I untie my shoes and walk to my car and drive home, that number is gonna be going back to where it should be?”

Rob’s biggest piece of advice? Don’t let fear of what might happen to your blood sugar keep you from doing things you love. “Fear can rob you of joy so quick. It can make you turn you into a person  that you don't even recognize.”

PS Adrenaline doesn't just impact athletes! If you are an enthusiastic sports fan, you might notice your blood sugar rising even from the sidelines. This graph is from Coach Trista's CGM while she was watching a high school championship basketball game.