Optimizing Athletic Performance While Managing DiabetesFriday, April 05, 2013
When longtime runner Bill Brody decided he wanted to do a marathon he attended Diabetes Training Camp to learn how to excel at such a long distance and manage his type 1 diabetes simultaneously.
By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator, DiabetesCare.net
Bill Brody (pictured here) knows he has a full marathon in him. He has been running for years and has completed a half marathon (13.1 miles) and a small triathlon.
Yet, as a person with type 1 diabetes, he wasn’t sure what he would need to get him across the finish line for a full marathon (26.2 miles) both endurance-wise but also with his disease management.
Brody is like many people who have diabetes and exercise in that there is an uncertainty about pushing beyond one’s typical boundaries. For people who have diabetes, there is a fear that getting out of one’s comfort zone could potentially lead to a hypoglycemic episode.
Left with this underlying uncertainty about how to plan for a marathon, Brody decided to wait to run the marathon.
This was until a few years ago when he came across an article in Newsweek magazine about Diabetes Training Camp (DTC). After reading the article, he believed his chances for competing in a marathon increased greatly, and he kept the idea of possibly attending the DTC in the back of his mind.
Last year Brody decided to leave his home in Wisconsin and attend the camp in Lancaster, Pa.
DTC is set up as a week-long camp for teens and adults with diabetes and offers campers athletic training combined with diabetes management instruction in an environment suited to make all the campers feel comfortable. Through a series of classes and working with coaches, the training camp can help everyone meet their individual management and athletic goals.
DTC is intimate enough so that campers will get the individual instruction they need. The camp was founded by Matt Corcoran, MD, CDE. Corcoran has a staff of medical professionals and athletic trainers working with him and they are tireless in their efforts to tailor the program to each of the individual camper’s goals.
For Brody, the timing of the camp was perfect because it was being held on the week of June 11 and the Milwaukee Marathon was being held on October 7, 2012. This gave this regular runner nearly four months to train for it.
DiabetesCare.net sat down with Brody to find out more about his diabetes, and his personal experience in attending DTC.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you tell us about your diabetes background, including when you were diagnosed and your overall control?
Brody: I was diagnosed in 1995 when I was 38 years old. I had a twin brother who had type 1 diabetes. He passed away from diabetic complications in 1994 at 37—the year before I was diagnosed.
Fear is a great motivator for me, and so I have been very dedicated to managing my diabetes. I work out every day, and I’m good with my diet. My professional background is in quantitative math, and with all the data revolved around diabetes, it is easy for me to look at daily numbers.
I have always remained in an acceptable range for my control.
DiabetesCare.net: What made you decide to want do a marathon?
Brody: My daughter had signed up for the Milwaukee Marathon and part of my reason was to run it with her and the other was it was also on my bucket list.
DiabetesCare.net: What made you decide to attend the DTC?
Brody: I had run a half marathon previously, but I didn’t know how to manage endurance exercise over two hours with insulin and nutrition.
One of the main reasons I decided to go to Diabetes Training Camp was to get a program that would teach me how to run a marathon while considering the aforementioned things.
DiabetesCare.net: What was a typical day like at DTC?
Brody: It was jam-packed with activity. You had a choice of sports, including running, biking, or swimming. And this was combined with the diabetes classroom management component. These classes included things such as nutritional seminars, pump training, and fueling up for long endurance activities.
In the morning, you had breakfast followed by an educational module and then a sports training activity. We took a break for lunch, and then we repeated the education and sports modules. After this, we had some downtime and then dinner. In the evening there were medical lectures, usually done by Matt Corcoran.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about the mindset of the camp and how it helped you?
Brody: I thought it would be really difficult to do the marathon prior to attending the camp. When I went to the camp they said to me, ‘Bill, with the shape you are in, it’s a no-brainer that you could do the marathon.’
Some of the people at the camp had done full triathlons. Here were type 1s who had done this, so my frame of reference changed. It was much more plausible for me to do a marathon; it wasn’t as rare an accomplishment as I thought.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about what the staff was like?
Brody: They had an unbelievable medical team led by Dr. Corcoran, including nutritionists, diabetes educators, and coaches.
I had never had any type of running coach before the camp; I just put on a pair of sneakers and went outside.
Part of the allure of the camp was to be coached to learn how to run.
I worked with one coach who was phenomenal. I basically changed my running style. I was striking the ground with my heel, and I was able to adjust my strike to mid-foot. The coach got me running on grass because you want that uneven surface so every foot strike is different.
For four Saturdays after the camp, I went out and ran 15 or 16 miles and I felt great. Previously, I struggled to do a half-marathon, and here I was going out and doing these long runs without a problem. I learned how to fuel my body properly for the longer athletic events. Although I didn’t do the marathon, I felt great.
DiabetesCare.net: You learned training strategies to do the Milwaukee Marathon. Can you tell us what happened that prevented you from doing it?
Brody: The coach had given me the plan, and I did an eight-week base training. I began running 6 days a week. I was slowly ramping up my mileage and using a heart monitor to make sure I stayed at 70 percent of my heart rate. As the distances got longer, I tested my blood sugars every 20 to 30 minutes, and based on my reading, I would figure out which type of snack I would eat. And of course, everything you do with diabetes is trial and error, so I would fine tune my program.
I began to have some IT Band issues, which precluded me from running the marathon. After not running for seven or eight weeks, I slowly got back into doing it.
After I recovered from my IT injury, I got back on the treadmill, and it was natural to have a mid foot strike again. I thought I might go back to heel strikes but I didn’t.
DiabetesCare.net: Do you want to pick up where you left off and do a marathon?
Brody: I do. And when I put my mind to something, I usually do it. I will run a marathon in the near future.
(Editor`s update: Brody completed this year`s Milwaukee Marathon!)
DiabetesCare.net: Was there anything you learned in terms of your diabetes management at the camp?
Brody: Diabetes is the first thing I think of in the morning and it’s the last thing I think of when I go to bed. I am in good control, but prior to camp I was toying with the idea of getting the pump. And in talking to Matt at the camp, he gave me the confidence to stay the course of my current diabetes management regimen.
Brody and DTC staff talking at the camp.
DiabetesCare.net: How would you characterize the overall experience you had and would you consider going back to the camp?
Brody: It was a sense of camaraderie and learning from one another. I would go to a meal and test my blood sugar or give myself a shot, and I would look around and all of a sudden these activities were normal. Everyone at the dinner table was doing it.
Instead of feeling like an outsider, you are just like everyone else. For many of the campers, they don’t have any other people with diabetes in their lives. If you had a low blood sugar episode, for example, everyone else had been through that too.
I would consider going back to the camp. Learning and being around people that get you and what you are going through is tremendous. When I went last summer, there were 22 campers overall and 7 return campers. I was never on Facebook before, but now I am and have friends from the camp.
DiabetesCare.net: Who would you recommend Diabetes Training Camp to?
Brody: I think a wide range of people can do this camp. There was an 18 year old young lady who was on the rowing team at Boston College and on the other end of the spectrum there was 72 year old woman.
People who attend the camp are at different stages of diabetes management and athleticism. I think this camp is appropriate for anyone, but the key is you have to be motivated. You have to want to make some changes whether it is about managing diabetes or training differently. You just have to put in the time and effort.
The way Matt runs the camp, he will meet you at the level you are at and customize the program to your needs.
Diabetes Training Camp is going to be held on the week of June 10-15 this year at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. DiabetesCare.net and Diabetes Training Camp are cosponsoring a contest to have one lucky person win a week at Diabetes Training Camp this year! The contest runs through Friday, April 12, so go here to sign up today!