Who is Tony Robinson?
I was Born in Birkenhead, Liverpool then moved to South Africa aged two years old, remaining in South Africa until High School. I loved living in South Africa, as I thoroughly enjoyed the sports & outdoors lifestyle. I think of myself an English South African, however I only have eyes for supporting the Springbok Rugby team. ????
How has sport featured in your life?
Growing up in Cape Town, I was always outside playing sport and rugby. I believe playing a team sport such as rugby, gave me respect and appreciation for others. Growing up, I experimented with lots of sports including Hockey, 800m athletics, Water Polo and underwater Hockey. My high jump days were short lived, as I kept knocking the bar off with my head…
What do you do for work?
Whilst in education, I was not a naturally academic, often more focused on sport. When I finished High School, I moved back to the UK, qualifying to become a Personal Trainer & Gym Manager. Following a decade in the Health Industry, I was accepted at the prestigious Moulton College at Northampton University to study as a Sports Therapist as a mature student. Now I am a qualified Sports Therapist and I have a large list of clients, working with Henley Practice and also for the Reading Rams Rugby Team.
Dealing with Diabetes
Aged 24, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which came as a complete surprise. I had no idea what diabetes was and I had no idea why I had it. In the lead up to the diagnoses, I started to rapidly lose weight. I had the feeling of constantly being thirsty, coupled with the need to urinate more frequently. I thought my running was the reason why I was shedding the weight so quickly and I could not understand why I was urinating so often. In the end, it was the constant tiredness that forced me to go to my GP. I was unable to get a decent night sleep and I did not have the energy to do a full day in an active job.
When I arrived at the GP, he took one look at me and immediately sent me to the hospital. Further tests at hospital confirmed I was a diabetic. The NHS were amazing! I have friends back in South Africa who have struggled with the diagnoses and you are also required to pay for your insulin, compared to being provided it free of charge in the UK.
Knowing what I know about diabetes now; if you are male and you start to experience thrush – visit your GP. In the months leading up to my diabetes diagnosis, I experienced thrush for the first time. I had no idea what is was and did not visit my GP. If I went to GP when my symptoms started, I would have been on insulin a lot quicker and I could have potentially avoided the symptoms of Hyperglycaemia (elevated blood glucose level).
How does being diabetic impact your life and sporting activities?
I have lived with diabetes type 1 for 16 years and I have never let my condition control me. It was a shock to be diagnosed as a diabetic, aged 24, fit & healthy with no hereditary diabetes in the family. Diabetes normally affects children & teenagers during puberty when the body is going through radical changes. I feel the best way to tackle my diabetes is to remain active, as that stabilises my blood glucose level. My easy motto is ‘the more I’m active, the less I have to rely on insulin”. I am required to take insulin five times a day and I will always be dependent on it. I can take less units per injection whilst I’m active as this burns the glucose in my blood.
How do you manage your diabetes?
Before any activity, I take a simple blood glucose test to ensure my levels are in the range adequate for the exercise intensity I am going to do. Generally, I want my level at around 10 mmol/l (millimoles per litre of blood). Normal mmol/l range is 4 – 7. I must always be aware that I can go ‘low’, which is when the glucose in my blood drops below 4mmol/l. During activity, I may not be in the position to take a test, but as any diabetic knows, there are signs that you know you are ‘low’. You tend to feel an increased level of hunger, even though you may just have eaten. Your brow and hands become sweaty or if really low, an increase in sweating all over your body. A sense of agitation or even despair, as your brain is lacking sugar and simple activities become challenging. If all these symptoms escalate, you are going into Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
How do you feel when people with type one and type two diabetes blame their weight on being diabetic? (rather than lack of exercise or bad diet)
I always say being diabetic shouldn’t be seen as a ‘negative’ or a ‘disposition’. There are positives to be taken out of having diabetes, however I feel your diet and lifestyle have to be taken into serious consideration. You have no choice but to look at what you are eating and how you live your life. Being overweight is not a symptom or direct result of diabetes. However high blood pressure can cause more long-term effects.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with health, diet and diabetes?
Strangely, the reason I am so fit now is because I am diabetic! Before I was diagnosed, I thought I could eat and drink what I wanted. Now I do not take anything for granted. Sport has also been central to my life and that did not change once I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I believe there is no ’normal’ way to live with diabetes, as everyone one is different. That said, I do follow the NHS Diabetes guidelines. There is a guideline given by NHS of blood glucose levels, 4 -7 mmol/l but that shouldn’t be seen as the norm. Everyone is different and each diabetic has a different range.
What sport are you currently doing?
I am dabbling in a few sports as always been a multi-sport enthusiast. I am your typical, good at a few things but no a master of anything! Swim, bike, run has been the basis of all my training, but now I have recently started to enjoy Dragon Boat Racing for Henley Dragon’s. I have spent many years swimming, but I have missed being on the water since I left South Africa. I am focussing on Dragon Boating and then ocean paddling when weather/water conditions improve. Swimming helps paddling, as it is all about how you catch the water in both. Different sports can complement each other and that is why I prefer multi-sports.
What are your sporting highlights?
I have many sporting highlights which I can remember starting in school, running 800m in athletics to playing under water hockey! Now I am very proud to be part of Henley Dragons, as we are the current British National Champions, winning the recent BDA Championships (British Dragon Boat Association) at Nottingham.
What is on the horizon for Tony?
2020 will be a transition year for me, as I will be shifting my focus from Long Distance Triathlon to running shorter distances (5k to 10km only) and to keep on improving my paddling. I have previously represented Great Britain at Age Group level in Triathlon. For 2020 I would like to qualify for Great Britain at Dragon Boating. A big shift and a tough goal to set but aim high as you will then train harder!
What news outlets, blogs or diabetes related websites do you follow?
The Podcast, which is one of the best in terms of nutrition is “Nourish Balance Thrive” as designed to help you perform better as an athlete. NBT follows the Low Carb/High Fat eating regime which now Diabetes UK uses as to maintain a stable blood glucose level. Then a diabetic focussed website is “Runsweet” http://www.runsweet.com.