When sisters Jenna and Maddie founded Senita Athletics, they were building not just a business, but a family. Here at Senita Athletics, we are continually inspired by our customers and the many incredible women we are privileged to collaborate with. We want to share their stories so we can all benefit from one another’s successes. Look for Senita Sister Spotlights here on our blog and be part of our family!
Turning lemons into lemonade is no passing cliché for Sarah Hannon. A type 1 diabetic, Sarah took control of her health through challenging exercise and diet maintenance. But she didn’t stop there! She now inspires others both through social media and as the founder of StongHer Dynasty, a team of she coaches and works out alongside.
Sarah maintains a popular following with her Instagram account on which she posts about her personal journey through staying active and healthy, while managing her type 1 diabetes. Her posts range from videos of her challenging workouts, to the food and shakes that help keep her blood sugar in check. Sarah also keeps it real and is open and honest through the tough moments of T1D, and the challenges she faces on a daily basis to maintain her health.
Sarah has a very special place in our hearts. She has been a Senita Sister almost from the get-go, and she is the inspiration for our popular Sarah Sports Bra. When Sarah saw Senita advertisements that highlighted our unique large pocket designs, she reached out and shared her idea for a sports bra with a pocket in order to more easily carry some of the necessary equipment to help manage diabetes while working out. Jenna and Maddie’s younger brother Dallin also has type one diabetes, so creating a product to assist others struggling with the disease felt so important and personal.
We asked Sarah a few questions about her experiences with balancing fitness, healthy eating and being an example to others, diabetic and non-diabetic alike.
On your Instagram, you’ve alluded to your “rebellious” phase, where you ignored your T1D. How did you combat this to get your health to where it is today?
My rebellious phase was much earlier in my life around the age of 13-17, but then it hit again when I went off to college and lived on my own. I started to realize how dangerous it was to my health. I first started to notice the effects when I received my first CGM (continuous glucose monitor), where you are able to track your blood sugars 24/7, so I had no choice but to face the reality of this disease head on. The device would constantly beep when my blood sugars were high or low, and when they were high I was able to use exercise to naturally bring them back down.
How has social media played a role in your health journey?
Before I made a presence on social media (mainly Instagram), I felt really alone. I grew up in a small town and I knew of a few other t1ds, but the only connection we had was that. We weren't really friends otherwise. Social media gives you a whole new world of people to connect with and the community of t1ds is incredible. There are so many others like yourself out there, and they are so welcoming and friendly. It really pushed me to better myself. I wanted to provide [an example] to the world that diabetes doesn't have to hold you back and that you are not alone if you feel like no one understands what you are going through.
What are some of the unique challenges you face during your workout routine as a diabetic and how do you overcome them?
When I first started on my health and fitness journey, I didn't know how my body would react to fitness and exercise. I would work out for an hour and then go home and my blood sugar would crash and I’d end up eating anything I could get my hands on. I had to do a little external research on how to body works and which types of workouts effect blood sugars in different aspects. Also, I had to figure out a way to balance my diet with how/when I exercise because that played a role in all of it. Obviously, everyone’s bodies are a little different and it takes some time to figure out what works for you.
I enjoy working out at home because food is easily available and I don't need to get into my car to get something to fix a low blood sugar. I don't have to carry around a ton of things when I work out at home. When I used to go to the gym I would have to carry what felt like so much: headphones, phone, iPad, Dexcom CGM receiver, juice box, water bottle. So much stuff for a quick workout!
How do you stay motivated to work out and eat healthy?
Social media and my challengers have a huge influence on my motivation. Every month I host a challenge/accountability/bootcamp and you are required to post in there what you are working on. When I see the posts from the other girls (diabetic and non-diabetic) that motivates me to push through. I have a team of diabetics behind me and they motivate me because they understand when you have a bad day, but they help you push through.
Social media is also huge. When I see comments from parents of younger t1d’s say that they look up to me and use me as an example for their child, I feel like I need to hold myself to the best I can be. I don't want any child to feel like I felt when I was younger. This disease is hard. You shouldn't have to struggle alone.
What’s your favorite type of workout?
I really like arm workouts! And as strange as it sounds, I really like push-ups!
What initially drew you to Senita Athletics?
I reached out to Senita on Instagram because I saw that they were advertising their products with pockets. For t1ds, having somewhere secure and safe to store your insulin pump and/or CGM is huge. Often times pants have the key pockets, but they aren't big enough for what we need them for. I told [Jenna and Maddie] that they may be onto something with the pockets if they would modify them a little so that t1ds would benefit as well. [Senita] had a new market approach!
What is your favorite piece from Senita Athletics?
Obviously the Sarah Bra ;) but I really do love everything they offer!
What was it like to help design the Sarah bra?
I really enjoyed the process, It was interesting to see how it came out and all the input! Jenna and Maddie and great to work with and I love that they are a small business!
Any advice for others struggling to balance working out and healthy eating with type 1 diabetes?
I know balancing a diet can be really tricky especially with low blood sugars. That’s where I fell short a lot of the time because when your blood sugar is low, you want to eat everything in sight! Planning ahead and planning out your meals is a really good way to stay on top of things.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
If you are newly diagnosed or you are just started to accept and handle your diabetes, you are not alone. There is a whole world of people out there, just like you! IF you ever need a friend or just someone to talk too about it, I'm here. I know sometimes it’s hard for people to understand what you are going through when they don't have to live with this disease day in and day out.
Parents of children with t1d: Try to be supportive, I know it’s hard to watch your child go through this. It’s hard on them too, They are going to have bad days, bad weeks, but it will be okay. Let them have a little fun, let them learn the ropes because it is their life and their body. They will realize, one day, they are not harming anyone’s body but their own.
Follow Sarah on Instagram: @Sarahkhannon, and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.hannon.k