At this year’s Tour de Cure, besides it being one of the biggest days of my life, I had the pleasure of meeting a diabetes hero of mine named Mari Ruddy. Mari is a two time cancer survivor and has also had diabetes for decades. She’s also an avid cyclist, and when she went to her first bike ride to benefit cancer research, she was amazed at the outpouring of support the cancer survivors at the ride received. Then she went to a diabetes ride and there was…nothing. Out of her disappointment, Mari created the Red Rider program, which all Tour de Cure rides across the country have now adopted. The program gives every single person who rides with diabetes in a Tour de Cure a free jersey that proudly proclaims their status on the back. On the day of the event, you know who all the people are with diabetes by their bright red jerseys, and the amount of support us folks with diabetes receive is amazing. Mari’s idea was born out of her frustrations, and became something so incredibly positive and uplifting. It was so fun to finally meet her and get a chance to pick her brain.
As it turns out, Mari hasn’t stopped with her creative ideas: she now runs Team Wild, a cycling and sports camp/advocacy group for women with diabetes. When I talked to her about Team Wild, she said something that fascinated me: she told me that if all people with Type 1 diabetes were able to train like an elite-level athlete, and have the opportunity to understand their diabetes through the lens of a pro sportsman, we’d all have better management.
Whoa – wait a minute was my first reaction. Not everyone has the desire to even get on a bicycle, let alone ride for a 100 miles on one or train for an Ironman. But she further explained that that wasn’t her point. The idea is that if just for a few days or weeks, a person could see how exercise, food, rest, stress and everything else that goes along with sports training affects their blood sugars, we’d all have a better understanding of our bodies, this disease, and how to manage it. And that’s an idea I fully stand behind. Elite diabetic athletes like the members of Team Type 1 train with some of the best endocrinologists, CDEs, dieticians, and exercise physiologists to understand what their diabetes is doing all the time. They use the latest technology to understand patterns, and what works for them and what doesn’t. Often with diabetes, the more you know, the better you manage. Why not train like an athlete for a period of time and gain invaluable insight to your personal diabetes?
Fortunately for those of us who don’t have access to Team Type 1’s fleet of experts, or even the latest gadgets, there are several diabetes camps for adults cropping up throughout the U.S. Team Wild is one of them (camps in Colorado and other locations), and Diabetes Training Camp in Pennsylvania. If you ever went to diabetes camp as a kid, then you know it was an amazing experience to be around a bunch of people who know exactly what you’re going through. Now imagine that same experience as an adult, and a chance to reboot your diabetes know-how. Unleash your inner athlete, and kick some ‘betes but while you’re at it. Sounds pretty fun to me!