Felicity Testa

Felicity Testa

CrossFit Athlete

Felicity manages the effects of the difficult combination of weightlifting and cardio and continues to compete. By trying her best every day, she takes diabetes head on.

Aaron: Can you explain in basic terms what CrossFit is?

Felicity: Yea, It’s basically a combination of different types of workout regimes like cardio, Olympic lifting, some gymnastics. It also differs in how the workouts are structured.

Aaron: How old were you when you were diagnosed?

Felicity: I was diagnosed when I was 10, so it will be 15 years come this March.

Aaron: What was your diagnosis experience like?

Felicity: It was traumatic. I, like everyone else, lost a lot of weight. But as a 10 year old child that’s really bad. I kept going to the doctor, but I had symptoms for all sorts of other things so they kept treating me for all those other things and not for the Diabetes so I went undiagnosed for a long time essentially. Until I finally went to the doctor and I had a really tough time breathing. They sent me to the hospital by ambulance because the doctor didn’t know what was really going on with me. As soon as I got to the hospital they were like, “Oh, she definitely has Type 1”. After that, I really don’t remember a thing, I was so in and out of consciousness that I don’t remember too much until after they told me I had Type 1.

Aaron: That sounds similar to my experience. Do you by any chance remember what your blood sugar was when you were first diagnosed?

Felicity: No, but they did tell me that my A1C was over 16.

Aaron: You were 10 years old so I assume you weren’t really into CrossFit before that.

Felicity: I didn’t start CrossFit until I was 19. Growing up, I did ballet most of the time. That was kind of like my athletic thing as a child.

Aaron: How did being diagnosed affect your ability to do ballet?

Felicity: I wasn’t overly discouraged. I was still kind of confident that I would be able to live my life the exact same way that I had been. But that was kind of from the positivity that the doctors gave me. I think it made ballet a little more challenging obviously but I wouldn’t say it was completely discouraging. But it was never really my intent to become a professional dancer.

Aaron: Are you on a pump, CGM, or injections now?

Felicity: I’ve had a pump almost the entire time. I was only on injections for about 6 months. I’ve had a CGM for about 4 years, maybe a little bit longer. I have the Tandem T-Slim pump and the Dexcom G6.

Aaron: What does a typical competition day look like with regard to managing your Diabetes from start to finish?

Felicity: Those days were really hard for me because I’m one of those people that when adrenaline hits my blood sugar is like 300. I’d wake up in the morning, my blood sugar already being high. I was always very weary of working out with a lot of food in my stomach so I’d usually eat a banana before I went to the competition. I kept an eye on my blood sugar the whole day but it was basically high the entire time. I would take small doses of insulin just to try and get it to drop a little bit, but most of the time it didn’t move until the competition was over. Throughout the entire competition I basically didn’t eat anything, I only drank water.

Aaron: How long is a CrossFit competition?

Felicity: It depends on how many people are there, but the ones I went to were typically a couple hours. One of them we had to travel kind of far so it was more of an all day thing, but another was close by so it was only a couple hours, like 4 or 5.

Aaron: Would you keep your pump on throughout the competition?

Felicity: In the first competition I ever did I took my pump off for every single workout. So there was some time in between every workout. You would do a really intense workout for like 5-10 minutes or whatever it was. Then, in the downtime while other people were competing, I would put my pump back on and that’s when I would decide to take some insulin. But my blood sugars were still really high that time. So after that competition, I decided to keep my pump on for all my workouts, and my blood sugars were much lower for the entire competition. They were still pretty high but not as high as the first time.

Aaron: I play lacrosse and football for my high school and I find that adrenaline is always bringing my sugar up, especially right before games. That was one of my biggest challenges after I was diagnosed and was playing sports. For those intervals where you would have your pump off in the first competition, how long would you have it off for?

Felicity: It would only be up to 30 minutes maximum. It was probably closer to 15 or 20. It wasn’t too long. When I was doing ballet, I was taking my pump off for basically the entire time I was performing. So I would perform for hours at a time and not have my pump on which was a really bad decision on my part.

Aaron: Where do you want your blood sugar to be before you start a competition?

Felicity: Oh man. Obviously I’d prefer it to be a lot lower. I would say, on a good day, it would be in the upper 100’s. On the most intense days, I’d go up to around 300. It just depends on the day, because there’s always so many factors that go into how your blood sugar is going to respond.

Aaron: Has your sugar ever gone too low or high during a competition and what have you done about it?

Felicity: My blood sugar hasn’t gone too low during a competition but it has gone low just working out, and I would just stop immediately. The hard part is that while I’m working out, I don’t really feel lows, which is why the CGM is so great because it tells me that I’m low, otherwise I probably wouldn't know. If I went low during a competition, the same thing applies, I would just stop and take the loss on the workout.

Aaron: A lot of athletes, including myself, find that weightlifting drives your sugar up and cardio obviously drives your sugar lower. Crossfit is kind of a mix of both, do you find those effects in CrossFit and how do you deal with them?

Felicity: When I’m just lifting alone with nothing else I do see the spike for sure. And obviously if I’m just doing cardio I’ll see the drop. But typically during a normal CrossFit workout it’s a little more cardio based and less lifting based, so I typically don’t have too much of a problem going low during the middle of a workout on a daily basis. I definitely shift my schedule around to make sure that I don’t go low. For example, I find the best time for me to workout is 8 to 9 in the morning cause that’s when my sugar is stubborn and doesn’t really want to drop so if I workout at the time it helps it stabilize. So I basically build my schedule around that.

Aaron: Do you find that when your sugar is running high, it starts to come down after the competition? Personally, after one of my games, about an hour after it ends my sugar will start to crash and I might need to eat something right before I go to bed and not cover for it.

Felicity: Not necessarily. I’m one of those people where, when my blood sugar is high, it takes forever for it to come down. It’s more like it will start dropping in the middle of the night but not really to the point where I’m low. Sometimes even the next morning I’ll still be a little high. It honestly just depends on the time of the competition because if it’s in the late afternoon, who knows how long I could be high for.

Aaron: What drinks and snacks do you typically use to treat lows?

Felicity: I actually really like using baby food which is kind of odd. The pouches are usually about 15 carbs and filled with lots of whole fruits and vegetables which I really like. If I need something a lot faster acting I’ll just drink juice, it doesn’t really matter what kind, I hate it all. I hate juice, but I force myself to drink it.

Aaron: I usually drink Gatorade but I’ve come to the point where I don’t like drinking it anymore because I’m forced to drink it.

Felicity: Exactly.

Aaron: I’m just curious, what kind of baby food?

Felicity: So they have those little pouches, kind of like how they have the applesauce patches. Typically those have the perfect amount of carbs and I like them because they come in a lot of different flavors.

Aaron: Has there ever been a specific moment that stands out to you where Diabetes has made it hard for you to compete or keep going in general?

Felicity: Not necessarily in a competition. I honestly haven’t competed that much, especially because I started competing not too long before the pandemic hit, and then everything shut down so there weren’t too many opportunities after that. But, it’s definitely very bothersome if my blood sugar goes low while I’m working out, it’s like the worst thing and it kind of ruins my day to be honest.

Aaron: Do you have any advice to any newly diagnosed athletes or anything else you want to share to some people that might be reading this?

Felicity: Hmmm. I think that the best thing you can do is just try your hardest because there are so many days where you feel like you’re losing, but you’re not, you’re just doing the best you can. As a person, I’m very much a perfectionist so it really gets me when I feel like I’m doing everything right but everything is still going wrong with my sugar. Just do your best, and know that it’s gonna be okay. You’ll live to see another day, tomorrow’s a new day, it’s gonna be alright.

Aaron: Alright, I think I’m all set. Thank you so much!

Felicity: Great! It was nice speaking with you.

Aaron: It was nice speaking with you too.

Felicity: Just wondering, are your plans to one day play sports professionally?

Aaron: I don’t think so…The reason that I kind of want to do this is because I know when I was first diagnosed my parents were told that I was never going to be able to play sports competitively and go to sleepaway camp.

Felicity: That’s so sad!

Aaron: Yea, that kind of motivated me to do this.

Felicity: Alright well I appreciate talking with you.

Aaron: Me too, thank you again.