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Chris Pennell: Managing Diabetes on and off the Rugby Pitch

Part 2 of 3 - We hope you enjoyed last weeks blog post. This week we are looking at how Chris Pennell manages his diabetes as a professional athlete on and off the pitch, and as a father of two.

Diabetes management can often be difficult, especially for those with type 1 diabetes. It is crucial to establish what works best for you, to find available support systems and to also seek medical advice, especially for those newly diagnosed with the condition.

In the early stages of Chris' diabetes diagnosis, he was lucky enough to spend some time with Dr Ian Gallen, a leading expert in diabetes and sport. The local diabetes team that Chris had access to were also an excellent support system. Chris acknowledges "that these were all just guidelines" and that he had to learn about his own diabetes and find the strategies that worked best for him.

"My (diabetes) management plan revolves around my diet and knowing my schedule" Chris says.

As a professional athlete, Chris has had to trial and adjust his diet depending on his training regime. This is applicable to anyone managing their condition, as it is so important to find a diet that you enjoy/is going to be sustainable and more importantly one that will help to stabilise your blood sugars.

"I can plan when and what I'm going to eat depending on the intensity of the training that day and from the years of testing behind me. My diet has changed significantly recently, which has made my daily management much easier" Chris acknowledges.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes is not linked to lifestyle. However, food presents an opportunity to nourish our bodies and to better manage a condition. Chris feels that in professional sport "diet is a massive part of being successful".

Chris at present follows a high-fat, low-carb diet, which fascinatingly has reduced his insulin intake by about 75%. This diet differs from his previous 'normal' carbohydrate based diet.

Whilst low-carb diets may not be for everyone, those that maintain this type of diet generally achieve very good blood glucose control and enjoy a renewed sense of well-being.

In order to be a successful athlete, a great deal of discipline and commitment is required, which are transferable attributes to managing diabetes.

"It (diabetes) has taught me about discipline and being self-aware, which is key to being a good professional athlete. The most important thing though, diabetes aside, is that rugby has always been a passion and something I love to do. If you love doing something then success is almost inevitable," Chris suggests.

In next weeks blog, we will be asking Chris about the power of positivity in managing diabetes... Stay tuned!

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