Interview with A Ninja Warrior: Kyle Cochran.
American Ninja Warrior is a show I had never heard of before, but then Facebook exploded with this buzz about "some guy on the show wearing an insulin pump." After Abby conducted a little research, it turned out the rumors were true: there WAS a guy on ANW who has type 1 diabetes. His name is Kyle Cochran, he was diagnosed at the age of five, and he's the first person on an insulin pump to qualify for the show. Kyle was willing to hop on the phone with Abby for a quick chat, to talk ninja-chop-shop about diabetes and the show.
Abby: What was your impetus for doing American Ninja Warrior, and was diabetes your biggest challenge while training for the show?
Kyle: I have always loved obstacle courses ever since I was little. When I saw ANW, I immediately knew that I would be on it one day. [Abby's note - I used to sit on the monkey bars and play sticker club on the playground - guess we're not all destined to be ninjas.] One of the main factors that drove me to compete on the show was to encourage other people who may have diabetes or other disabilities to overcome their own personal obstacles. It really upsets me when I see diabetics using their diabetes as an excuse not to do something that they love to do. Hopefully seeing me on the show and pushing through the obstacles will inspire other diabetics to push themselves in their own lives.
There is no way of really denying that diabetes will have an affect on athletes competing at high levels. The need to take breaks for high or low blood sugars is inevitable. However, my Animas pump has made a huge difference in my athletics. Before I got the pump, I was 5 feet tall and 100 lbs as a sophomore in high school. The year I got the pump, I grew 9 inches and put on about 50 lbs. [Kerri's note: Going on an insulin pump will not make you grow nine inches and pack on the muscle. But it does make you a cool robot.] The amount of time I spent on the sidelines of sports checking my blood sugar and correcting dropped dramatically. When most people find out that I have diabetes now, they are usually shocked.
Kyle: I typically train a couple of times per day. When I am weight training I keep my pump on me with a sports strap. If I am doing some of the higher intensity/movement training, I suspend the pump and keep it near me.
Abby: What was your last meal before the ninja competition?
Kyle: Haha! I actually get that question all the time. I try not to eat anything heavy before I compete so my last meal was carrots with some natural peanut butter and grapes. (Another Abby note: he does not eat the grapes with the peanut butter. But I did suggest grapes with ranch dressing, which is delicious I swear.)
Abby: How did you manage/keep track of your blood sugars during the ninja competition?
Kyle: To be honest, I was pretty nervous during the competition so it was a little more difficult for me to feel whether I had a high or low blood sugar. I basically just tested constantly to be safe. When I am competing, I try to keep my blood sugar levels a little higher. Between 150 and 180 mg/dL is what I shoot for. I've found that for me, I perform best in that range.
Abby: What was the most difficult obstacle in the ninja competition?
Kyle: The most difficult obstacle for me in the regional runs was the spinning log. Most people can't believe that that was the hardest, but for me it was by far!
Abby: Haha, the one with the bar where you had to jump up the levels - that was ridiculous.
Kyle: That was called the salmon ladder. I trained a lot for that one so for me it wasn't too hard. [Abby's note - yeah I mean, of course, that one was really easy. Psssh.]
Abby: During the episode it was mentioned that you wanted to inspire kids to do anything they want with diabetes; have you thought about visiting camps during the summer to talk to kids with diabetes?
Kyle: I actually have thought of this. I recently became one of the Animas Heroes so hopefully I can schedule something through them. I remember diabetes camps from when I was a kid and I would love an opportunity to go talk and hang out with them! [Abby's note: I may or may not have asked him to come to CBC and Joslin at this point. Shameless Pluggery is my middle name. I lured him with the high ropes course.]
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Kyle is currently a junior at San Diego State University and is an amazing athlete involved in many high intensity and extreme sports (coed Cheer Team took 2nd in the world, expert skier, accomplished paragliding pilot, rock climber, dirt bike rider, basketball player). He has refused to allow his diabetes be an excuse for sitting on the sidelines. Kyle is also active in his church and a straight A student, studying physical therapy. Oh, and he's a ninja warrior.