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No Limits by Catherine Cochran - CrossFit Journal

No Limits

By Catherine Cochran

In Medical/Injuries, Reference

June 21, 2010

PDF Article

Catherine Cochran isn’t allowing diabetes to prevent her from CrossFitting. With very careful management of blood glucose levels, she’s hitting WODs and getting fitter.

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s being told that I shouldn’t or can’t do something because I have diabetes. That said, controlling diabetes is extremely important, no matter what activities I choose to do. I knew I had a greater challenge in front of me than I had originally anticipated, but CrossFit had already given me more will than I ever had before. I was committed to striving for elite fitness, which for me includes maintaining tight control over diabetes.

For all Type 1 diabetics, many medical doctors will tell you not to do CrossFit. Most of you are probably just as stubborn as I am when it comes to anyone telling you to limit your activities due to diabetes. It is, without a doubt, more difficult to control your blood sugar with the intense WODs that you will encounter, but it is certainly not impossible. And if you are coaching Type 1 diabetics, make sure they learn how to take care of themselves. CrossFit is safe for everyone, but just like a CrossFitter with a chronic injury, diabetics have to know how to be safe.

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18 Comments on “No Limits”


wrote …

Way to go Catherine! I am inspired and grateful for your story.


wrote …

thank you Cat!


wrote …

Thanks for the article Catherine! My brother, cousin, and uncle are all Type 1 diabetics, and though they have only ever done CrossFit on a semi-regular basis, they have seen the effects on their blood glucose levels. This is great info and ideas that I will pass on to them to help them better control and track their blood sugar when doing CrossFit. Thanks again!


wrote …

Catherine, thank you for sharing your experiences with the CF community. That was an excellent article.

In CF we are concerned with measurable, observable, repeatable data. We record our WODs, our times, the loads, and many other factors. It seems like Catherine has taken this same approach and collected data on her blood glucose levels, observed the facts, and has taken the appropriate steps so that SHE controls her diabetes instead of IT controlling her.

Awesome work!


wrote …

Catherine, from one type 1 to another, well done. I know the struggle, the mental and physical toll. It never goes away and it never gets easier. The lovely paradox, much like CF. Keep up the good work. Here's a link to an article of mine you might enjoy. Not a plug, I promise: (wfs)


Eric Devine


wrote …

I meant to comment on this yesterday Catherine I hope you read this. Great Job. I'm a Type 1 diabetic as well. I've been doing crossfit for over a year and a half. I've seen dramatic changes in my A1c and can pretty much keep my blood sugar under control. The only time I have an issue is after the WOD's. I've recently adopted the paleo diet and am seeing that this is becoming less and less an issue. I came to pretty much the same conclusions as you did except there are a few more things that I discovered. I found that the blood sugar spike is more dramatic if and when what you ate the night before or earlier that day happened to be a higher glycemic food. I talk to my doctor about it and she said it was caused by adrenaline. I found the video on Insulin Resistance on the journal and listening to certain experts on the paleo diet helps me to discover new things everyday. I've learned that the change in body weight and speed of fat loss are directly dependent on the amount of insulin I take. I've taken conservative steps to lower the amount of insulin by eating more veggies and protein and less fruit and in the last month the results have been fantastic.


wrote …

Catherine, that was outstanding! Thank you for sharing it with us!!


replied to comment from Daniel Borba

When I first started CrossFit, my doc was not supportive of my new obsession. I wasn't overweight so he wasn't sure why I thought I needed to be so intense about exercise. However, as body fat was replaced with muscle mass, and my insulin needs went way down, including a lower basal rate, he quickly changed his mind. I'm pretty strict on Zone Diet but have heard positive things about Paleo too. Zone is easy for me, because 1 block is about 9 carbs, so I know how much of a bolus I need for meals and snacks.

Thanks for reading my article and commenting!



replied to comment from Donna Connelly

Great article, thanks for sharing! Prior to CrossFit and Zone Diet, I had real problems with low blood glucose and often woke up in the middle of the night in the 30s and dropping. A1Cs were in the low 5s. After finding that balance during CrossFit WODs, my levels are more stable now than ever, and I'm using less insulin than I've ever needed.

I'm so glad you haven't let your diabetes get in the way of your WODs either!



wrote …


Great article!



wrote …

You are an amazing woman and I love to watch you push yourself everyday. You never let anything stop you from your goal. You make me work harder every time I see you. I think your article shows people that there are no limits to what you can do if you know your body and are as intense with its care as you are about your WODs.
Thanks for sharing :)



wrote …

Very interesting- being type 1 diabetic myself, I can say that my body has few of the same reactions as her. I never have higher sugar levels after workouts, and don't really worry about lower ones during a workout either unless it takes a really long time. I might, though, have a lower one after a post-workout meal because of momentary insulin sensitivity changes (or something else, I don't know), but that's all. Lately, though, even that doesn't seem to happen (I wonder if it's the huge amount of fat in my diet?), possibly due to my job which is hours of physical labor.

The one thing neat about this crappy stupid condition is that we can know exactly what affects insulin sensitivity and can even experiment with it. Hint- I have found that it goes down eventually (takes a week or two to kick in usually) when you significantly cut your carbohydrate consumption.

It also increases within a few days when you are more active- working out or just working, the more the better is what I have found (if your heart rate elevates, straight lifting has no big effect) but goes drops even quicker when you are very inactive, like, say, when you take the weekend off and veg all day. Turns out all that stuff you heard from Sears and Mark's Apple and all that was certifiably true- I for one can attest to it.

Anyway, doctors usually suck, so if they tell you not to do something that's good for you, find a new doctor.

Any more insulin junkies out there?


wrote …

My point in pointing out our different reactions, by the way, was to emphasize the importance of knowing your own body and how it reacts to things.


replied to comment from Troy Becker

Doctors don't all suck. They trust medical literature over a patients opinion about a new fad! Patients regularly mention junk diets, exercise "programs" (6 minute ab garbage), this cream for joints, that pill for memory and energy, etc etc. It's easy for a doctor to brush off an idea on a frustrating day. And trust me, saying, "But this exercise program REALLY works" doesn't cut it, because who everyone says that. Consistently improved test results count.

Your doctor should be appreciative of a healthy obsession like Crossfit, just don't expect them to 'get it' in one consult...


wrote …

Powerful story, thanks Catherine. Paul


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

That's not why doctors suck (and not ALL of them do...) They suck because they are the doctors and yet I come up with my own treatments for various blood sugar problems and so on (ask me about how I cured my own acne after fruitless years at a very popular dermatologist), and if I tell them about said treatments, they get a thoughtful look and say, "yea... that could work." Well @#$#@ doc, why am I coming to you again? Oh yea, I can't write my own insulin Rx, that's all.

Besides, CrossFit is nothing more than high intensity exercise- obviously good for you. If they say not to do something so obviously good for you, they suck.


wrote …

I have to say (as everyone else has) great article. I was at my gym the other night and our coach, who knows I am type 1, said I should read this article on the journal. So I want home and looked it up. I was reading through it and found it very similar to my own experiences. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age and from that moment have had restrictions put on what I can and can't do. Like you, I can't stand this mentality it is way too negative. For example I was initially told I couldn't join the police force, a dream I had had for a long time, but with the help of my doctor and my own stubbornness I eventually became a police officer, one of only a few type 1 diabetics allowed to do this at the time.

In a previous life I played football at a high level and was reasonable fit, well not compared to Crossfitters, but the intensity level of football training varies and the spikes in my insulin levels weren't as noticeable. I took up Crossfit about a year ago, I too went to my doctor and he couldn't understand why I was doing this (my HBA1C has always been really good) but acknowledged that if it was what I wanted to do then he will help me work it out. It has been difficutl to understand the ups and downs of my blood glucose levels and have on occasion woken up in the middle of the night with the dreaded 'hypo'.

Last week I saw my doctor and dietician for my check-up and will be switching insulin and fixing my diet. I am hoping to see changes in my blood glucose level and body fat composition. It is hard work you have to record and monitor everything. This means a food diary, blood glucose level log, exercise log and for myself, a WOD log. (I have actually designed my own logs reflecting all of these requirements) I read all I can about training and diabetes and am a qualified trainer, currently studying exercise physiology and looking to do my Cert 1. My main goal is to educate those with typi1 diabetes and promote fitness and CrossFit.t to all diabetics.

Thanks for your inspiring article and good luck.


wrote …

Very inspiring Catherine. I am also Type 1 and am somewhat new to Crossfit, less than 4 months now and very addicted. I had started living a good share of my life at a gym some years back when I figured out it was the only way I could put weight on and keep it on. Lifting on a regular basis helped me to develope my diet and lower my insulin use and actually put me on a controllable schedule. What it didn't help me with was my drastic sugar level drops whenever I did anything close to a cardio workout. I was worried when I first stopped in to try a Crossfit session but our coach was aware of my problems and did an excellent job of scaling the WOD to fit me. I was strong and had no problem lifting the recommended weight but to do it repeatedly with changeovers was a problem for me. I look back now and see how he taylored some of the WOD's to condition me. It was also a great learning tool for me to make changes to my diet and insulin needs. I am far from attaining my goals or times I would like to see but there is no more scaling for me and I love to step up to each new challenge. Like you, I am loving every minute of my Crossfit and can't recommend it enough to any and all. Keep up the good work. There are many of us out here who are following in your tracks and getting healthier for it.

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