It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 4 (Zak Brown)

In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:

“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.

The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.

The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.

Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…

Zak Brown

UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”

If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown

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It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 3 (Jack O’Brien)

In our third addition we share the thoughts of Jack O’Brien… Jack has a fresh outlook on the way Diabetes has impacted his life having been diagnosed quite recently! His account offers some great insight into how a newbie to type 1 Diabetes feels about the challenge of this condition coming into their life… No more words from us let Jack do the talking…

“First of all, I think I should point out that I am a relative newbie in the Diabetic world having only been Diagnosed 2 years ago today! (I wrote this on 6th Feb). DiaEuro was only the second time I was going to be away from home, and all the supposed safety that comes with that, since I was diagnosed.

To say I was nervous doesn’t really do it justice! I was fully aware that I was going to be spending the week with a group of people who have for the most part been Type 1 Diabetic for a long time. The fear or seeming like I don’t really know what I’m doing, or “messing up” all the time was playing on my mind because this was for me the first time I would be spending a prolonged period of time with other Diabetics. It’s funny how weird things like this can play on your mind! I was seriously still at a stage where I felt like it was only me who suffered from hypos because everyone else would have it under control!

The first morning we are there, we all go down to breakfast together as a squad to enjoy the spread of food that was being put on. It was this experience that alleviated all the pre concerns I had. Seeing most of us checking sugar levels and injecting insulin immediately eased my nerves. This was something that I found awkward to do beforehand.

Before you knew it, Diabetic chat was bouncing around the table. The same problems I found, others were also talking about. In a weird way, if felt so liberating! That sense of not being in something alone, that others have found ways to overcome similar situations and have come through them to find solutions was amazing for a newbie to hear.

You hear the phrase “trial and error” thrown around a lot when it comes to Diabetes, and I really understood that so much more after this journey. A corner was well and truly turned for me during this week. I am now playing sports more regularly, because I feel more confident. Understanding food on the day of playing football is something that is so important. Seeing other people using the Dexcom looked brilliant. Once I finished my trial run, I missed it so much that I signed up for 12 months.

 

 

 

 

 

The whole experience was invaluable to me. I learned more in that week than I would have done in years studying books and speaking to specialists. Seeing people who regularly play sport and manage their Diabetes gave me so many tips and ideas that I use myself now. There really is no better experience than experience itself.”

Thank you to Jack for sharing his thoughts on how TDFC has helped him and the UK DiaEuro team in particular. If you want to follow Jack on social media you can find him on Twitter @DalstonGooner … If you want to know what’s going on at Arsenal FC Jack’s your man to follow!!

#SporT1Day Reaction: One of the Speakers (Alex Richards)

Hi guys, just thought I’d write a blog post reflecting on my experience at the #SporT1Day conference that happened on the 13th May. The conference gave the chance for several speakers including myself, to cover a range of topics that impact type 1 diabetes. I wanted to write this post to share my opinions about the day whilst I also wanted to give a little summary of my talk for those who missed it.

So my thoughts on the day…. I think Chris and Paul Coker did a great job at making sure the day ran smoothly. There were a couple of hurdles to jump over such as the fire alarm going off during Paul’s talk. Despite a couple of things like this happening Chris and Paul managed to keep the day running nicely. One thing that really stood out to me was the variety of speakers at the conference. The speakers included professional athletes, women, diabetic nurses and people who had lived with the condition for over 60 years. It was great to see such a diverse line up which resulted in a wide range of experiences being shared. The take home message for me was that type 1 management is very much an individual thing. Therefore, it’s important to find out what works for you. This requires you to experiment and constantly keep learning what works and what doesn’t. The other great result of such a diverse line up was the breadth of topics covered. As there were so many different topics I think everyone could come away with something they found interesting. Topics ranged from management tips, to nutrition, psychology and some stories of inspiration. It’s a real credit to Chris and Paul for being able to put together such a great line up. The last thing I’ll say about the speakers is that hearing their stories has been invaluable to me. As someone who does not have type 1 diabetes I am constantly working hard to understand what people go through as best I can. So learning more about the condition from other personal experiences of type 1 is really important. I can’t thank people enough for sharing their stories with me.

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The previous point leads nicely into my own talk. I’m not going to recap it all here but I will write a post in the future that gives you guys some more detail. So, the main points of my talk. Diabetes has been viewed for the longest time as a medical condition; which of course it is. However, from the perspective of someone that lives with the condition it’s much more. It’s a 24/7 job that you didn’t ask for but have to do. It’s a condition that requires you to make constant decisions. As a result, how you think and feel impact how you manage the condition. This being the case, what you put in your head is as important as what you put in your body. However, psychology support is an underused resource for people with type 1 and I’m really passionate about changing that. The psychological load of managing type 1 daily and during sport or exercise is heavy and psychological skills training can help you cope with the load. As I’m conscious about making this an overly long read I’ll expand on this in my next psych series. Before I finish, I’d like to briefly mention the main part of my talk which was self-compassion. In a nutshell self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself like you would treat a loved one. When they experience difficulties, do you criticize them? Do you constantly remind them how rubbish they are? Or do you try and understand that this is a difficult time for them? Do you try your best to help them move past the difficulty? My take home message to the people in the audience was that Type 1 is a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. When you experience tough times, try and treat yourself with the compassion you would treat a loved one. If you wouldn’t say it to a close friend, don’t say it to yourself.

Thanks,

Alex.

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Psych Series: Just Relax (Chapter 2)

Considering Chris’ fabulous display in his futsal cup final recently, I’d like to write about playing football with the right amount of intensity. Nerves are a funny thing and if you let them control you it can be tough to get the best out of yourself on the pitch. Nerves get your body pumping and you can feel the adrenaline throughout your body. When you play an important game, nerves will be there, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, without practice your nerves can get the best of you. Nerves can have two effects on your performance, mentally they can distract you from your task and physically they can tighten your muscles, raise your heart rate and impact your blood glucose levels. So, being able to reduce the nerves that you feel before a game will have an impact on your ability to regulate your diabetes and let you play your best stuff!

Sport psychologist have suggested that anxiety is different to arousal. Put simply, anxiety is the negative perception of arousal. Arousal can be thought of as the body preparing itself for either fight or flight. So when your hands are shaking or you can feel your heart beating faster, this is the body preparing itself to perform. It does not necessarily mean you are nervous, you could be excited. What’s more is that sport performers often suggest that they need a little bit of nerves to play their best.

It is possible to have too much arousal which can lead poor performances. In a football match, if you are too psyched up, you might make reckless challenges or perhaps give the ball away because you try and get rid of the ball as soon as you receive it. Or even worse, your blood glucose levels may shoot up. Over arousal or playing with too much intensity can be a problem and can get in the way of playing your best football when you most desperately want to. For a moment, think of arousal on a scale of 1-10. If you are not up for the game at all, say a one or two you probably won’t play your best. On the flipside, if you’re a 9-10 you may run around like a headless chicken or play hot potato with the ball, or your levels may be to high. Not the best way to allow your talent to show, you need to relax.

Now, relaxing can be easier said than done and I don’t think that anyone ever calmed down when someone told them, just relax. However, there are somethings you can do to help bring your arousal down and give you a chance to play your best.

TIP ONE: BREATHE – It sounds simple I know. However, when we feel under pressure and stressed, our breaths become shorter and our bodies become tense. When this happens it’s harder to produce the free-flowing footwork that allows you to beat a defender. Or the co-ordination you need to control a pass from your teammates. Before you step on the pitch, take some deep breaths, concentrate on inhaling and filling your lungs with air. Then, when you exhale, try to feel the stress leave your body. Do this for 30 seconds and then return to your regular breathing.

TIP TWO: PROGRESSIVE MUSCULE RELAXTION – This technique requires a little more time and regular practice to master. However, if you practice it frequently, it can really help you relax and perform on the big days. Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) is a series of tensing and relaxing your muscles. When you are under pressure, your muscles can tighten and one of the best ways to loosen them is actually to tighten them some more first. Just as an example, right now try tensing your fist for 10 seconds, then relax it. Notice how loose your hand feels and compare it to the difference you felt when your fist was clenched. PMR usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete and can help calm yourself down when you feel nervous. Chris and I will also go over this on our podcast so stay tuned for that!

TIP THREE: SLOW DOWN – As I mentioned earlier pressure can cause us to speed up and rush. Sometimes we play as if we want to get it over as fast as possible. This can happen even when we have worked really hard to get ourselves to this point. Remember, nerves can be a sign that you care. So when you find yourself in a big game, try slowing down. Take a little longer on the ball, get your head up and have a look around for your teammates. You probably have more time than your realise. Even though you may feel like you’re in slow motion, you probably won’t be far from your normal playing speed.

TIP FOUR: FOCUS ON THE PROCESS – Thoughts about winning, losing or anything outside of the here and now is a distraction and can cause anxiety. This anxiety then takes you out of your normal game. You become focused on things that make you worry and not things that make you play well. So try and focus on the here and now. Take a moment to think about when you play your best stuff, what do you do? Do you get on the ball and find your teammates, run in behind the defenders, win tackles? Whatever you do on the days you play well is your game. Focus on playing your game, if you play your game well, you will give yourself the best chance of winning.

Right sorry for the long read, I’ve tried to make it as short as possible but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Until next time!

Have a great week,

Alex.