How to train and recover properly if you are a runner with Type 2 diabetes

Having diabetes should not be a barrier to taking part in physical activity such as running, which is why Simplyhealth has chosen Diabetes UK as the official charity partner of the Simplyhealth Great Run Series 2019; encouraging people to become more active to help manage the condition or reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Not managing diabetes well, however, can lead to devastating health complications. Here, Emma Elvin, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, explains the key things to factor into your training and recovery if you are living with Type 2 diabetes.


Emma Elvin, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK

For people living with Type 2 diabetes, there are a few things to think about when it comes to ensuring your exercise routine is as safe as it can be.


Test your blood glucose levels before and after exercise

Not everyone with Type 2 diabetes has to test their blood glucose levels at home but if you use home blood glucose monitors, it’s really useful to get into the habit of testing around periods of exercise and physical activities such as running.


This is to get an idea of what effect exercise has on your blood glucose levels. You can test before and after to see if it has any impact and to what extent it has an effect.


Factor in the medication you’re taking

If you are managing your Type 2 diabetes through the use of insulin or certain medications such as sulphonylureas, you are at risk of their blood glucose levels becoming too low (hypo). For some people, exercise may also lower blood glucose so it’s worthwhile knowing the impact exercise can have when taking these medications, as it may mean the doses need to be altered to lower that risk. Always speak to your diabetes healthcare team before making any changes to medications.


Safety first: speak to a medical professional

If running is a new activity for you then you should think about having a conversation with a health professional, such as a diabetes doctor or nurse to see if you have any existing complications which should be considered before taking up activities such as running. This will give you an opportunity to make any necessary changes to the way you manage your diabetes, especially if you are going to be doing intensive levels of running.


Check your feet

When you have diabetes you are at risk of certain complications, such as damage to the nerves (neuropathy). This is because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, affecting how blood flows to the feet and legs, which can cause ulcers and infections.  You could also experience loss of feeling in the feet, which means you are less likely to notice minor injuries. These can quickly develop into something more serious such as an ulcer or infection that can be hard to treat and could lead to amputations.


You should check your feet every day, whether you’re running or not, for any changes that may have occurred, such as colour changes, swelling, pain, cuts or bruises, build-up of hard skin, or anything unusual. Seek medical attention if you spot any signs of foot problems.


Regular check-ups are essential

As well as looking after your feet, it’s important to manage your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood fats too.


Make sure you are attending all your diabetes reviews so you get all the health checks you need. Doing regular exercise is a really important way to help manage your condition better. Being aware of the possible complications of diabetes, such as sight loss, amputation, kidney failure and stroke, is important as it will ensure you are getting all the help you need to manage the condition.


Hydration and refuel are key

Make sure you are well hydrated before a race. You will likely need to sip on fluids while running too. After a race make sure to drink some water, but also try to include some electrolytes and salt too (this will help with rehydration). Rehydrating well will help replenish the fluid you have lost as a result of sweating.


A balanced meal after the race can help you to recover. A balanced post-race meal should include wholegrain carbohydrates and lean protein (to aid muscle repair and replenish their glycogen stores) as well as some vegetables or salad.  Although you might choose different foods during a race, once it’s completed try to get back to making healthier food choices to help manage your diabetes.


Simplyhealth has partnered with Diabetes UK for the 2019 Simplyhealth Great Run Series. For expert tips and training advice visit