A Diabetic Coach’s Remarks

Coaching the diabetic member.On June 29, CrossFit tweeted a quote attributed to its CEO and founder, Greg Glassman: “Pour some out for your dead homies.” The accompanying image was a Coca-Cola bottle that had been doctored to say, “Open diabetes.”

In a later statement, the company clarified that the quote was geared only toward Type 2 diabetics. The responses from CrossFitters and diabetics alike indicated no one cared about the clarification and everyone was outraged at the insensitivity.

Steve Rodriguez felt the opposite. The Affiliate of CrossFit Acro in Vancouver, Washington, has been a Type 1 diabetic for 11 years. He found out when he was 25 that he had the autoimmune disease that rendered his pancreas ineffective. Rodriguez joined CrossFit shortly after being diagnosed with the disease, and was one of the first people who openly talked about competing and coaching CrossFit with diabetes.

Although he understands why the tweet angered so many, he was also somewhat grateful for the publicity. “I’m glad he put that out there because I think it woke a lot of people up,” he said.

Diabetics in your gym want to be treated like the rest of your members, Rodriguez said. But, it’s imperative to have open communication with your members about their blood sugar levels and how they’re feeling before, during and after each workout.

There are three different ways diabetics can get insulin. There’s an injection, a flexpen and a pump. Rodriguez has used all three, but currently has a wireless pump. He attaches the pump to himself in a fatty area of the body like the thigh or belly, and it regulates his sugar for him. “The insulin pump that I’m on is by far the best decision I think anyone can make just because it’s kind of like having your pancreas’ back, but it’s constantly working for you,” he said.

Rodriguez said working with a diabetic member takes extra communication, but that is what the member deserves. “I think those type of people deserve that special attention from their Coaches,” he said. “And it’s not like they have to go 100 extra miles. Ask the right questions, ‘What are your sugar levels? How are you feeling?’ The open communication is key with people who have diabetes.”

One in 11 Americans has diabetes. Chances are you know one, or one of your members is diabetic. Taking time to educate yourself about each type of diabetes and how you can best serve that member will make their gym experience much easier. Rodriguez suggested taking a class. “If I have a heart attack, you know what to do, right?” he said. “We all have to be CPR certified. You take a class and that’s how it goes. They have classes for diabetes and how to teach you and you can go online and learn a ton about it.”

As far as drinking Coke goes, Rodriguez dismissed the argument. “If you’re drinking Coke to bring up your sugar levels, that’s not good,” he said. “You need to get a new nutritionist or a new endocrinologist. For me, I’m like, ‘OK, instead of a Coke, I’m going to have orange juice that has way better sugar content and glycemic index. It’s just easier to deal with and you can control your body better than with Coke that has high fructose corn syrup and things like that.”

Kayla Boyd is an intern for Peake Media. She can be reached at kayla@peakemedia.com.