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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.

Abby:  Where do you keep your pump while ninja training? We saw it was off during the episode, but you surely can't have it off all the time while practicing those crazy tricks?

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.]

*   *   *

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.    


Awesome story! Congratulations, Kyle, on all of your accomplishments. Also, Kyle mentions that he uses sports bands to hold his pump in place. Does anyone have any brand recommendations for holding a DexCom in place when wearing a skirt or dress (or really, anything that doesn't have a pocket)? I would love to hear from others on what they have used. Thanks!

awesome interview. I hope ye comes to camp! :)

I love this:"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."

What Kyle might not know is that people with diabetes got calls and messages from their friends and family members saying, "There's a guy on American Ninja Warrior who has what you have!" Although I know that I can do anything with (or despite) diabetes, it sent a message to some of the people in my life who were afraid of me being active.

This guy is an isperation for all


Great article. You don't mention if his A1c is in good range. It is assumed but if an athlete is going to say you can overcome an obstacle but can you do it while keeping your A1c in a good range?

I loved this! Reading about athletes/celebrities with D is always interesting, but even more so coming from a ninja warrior!!!

Maybe I'll see him at camp....?

Wow! What a great story and Kyle sounds like someone to look up to. As for his A1c, it is just a number and though we all strive for good numbers, in the end they are just numbers... You have to live!

My boys are pick fans of of ANW, creating their own course in our yard every season. My 10 year old T1 jumped out of his seat when he first saw Kyle's story on the show. He was even more excited when he saw Kyle wearing a Ping just like his. We were all laughing when the show's commentators kept mentioning that Kyle's inset didn't seem to be effecting his performance on the course. Yeah, they were concerned about a disconnected inset weighing him down. Hilarious. We're rooting for you Kyle-first ANW??!! Can't wait to find out. You are a hero to my son.

The problem with Type I Diabetes is that when you are young you can do anything. I thought I could! However, long-term clinical professional observations of Type I's tell us that Diabetes starts to affect US in a "negative fashion after TEN YEARS w/the Disease- over the age of 20. So, in Kyle's situation... these types of daily routines and activities would be awesome & more impressive- if he can still do it all around the age of 35 or 40 plus... As this is where Diabetes starts to get us diagnoised with this disease! ... a ''chronic Degenerative disease.'' Youth and Ignorance go together in this disease ~ "it won't happen to me." Ha, it does, and it will to 98.5% of all Type I diabetics over time ~ one way or the other.

A diabetic ninja living in my city?!? Super cool. I wonder if he meets up with Insulindependence?


I'm pretty surprised at the negative tone to your comment. It really seemed as though you were downplaying this man's accomplishments. He has had diabetes for over 15 years (diagnosed at 5, now a junior in college) and is accomplishing feats that many of us could only hope to do. He never made comment about doing things that were irrational or which made ME feel as though he was playing the "it can't happen to me card" in relation to his diabetes. Where in the post did it say that?

I say kudos for this person's dedication. In my experience (I'm a physical therapist) the athletes at the younger age tend to be much more fit in their later years also.

Just a thought. I'm going to watch the show just to see how he does!

Abby, and Kerri, thanks so much for this post. I loved it so much!! I also know diabetes does not stand in our way. We can achieve our goals and have a long, healthy lives. I have accomplished that with 66 years of type 1.

Awesome! I'm forwarding this to my type 1 son.

My hubby was watching and when he saw Kyle he had to pause the tv and get me into the front room to watch. The commentators made me giggle when talking about his site not hindering him. I guess not everyone understands! Imagine that!

I'm Kyle's father. In response to Kerri's comment that "Going on an insulin pump will not make you grow nine inches and pack on the muscle," I will say that I believe the pump was the primary catalyst triggering this metabolic change. Once Kyle started receiving a steady supply of insulin through out the day (vs 3 doses via syringe injection) I believe switching to a pump triggered the dramatic growth spurt and helped him put on muscle when he worked out. He now had insulin being delivered 24 hours a day to help metabolize food and kickstart his growth.

Hey Mark - I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek. I meant more that an insulin pump isn't going to make someone look as fit as your son does. Exercise is a big part of that level of fitness. Thanks for the clarification, though, and for reading!

Hey, it's Kyle. Thank you everyone so so much for the encouragement and support! You are truly inspiring me.

1.5% odds sound good enough for me to keep living life to the fullest :)

I would like to talk to this Kyle Cochran. I was kind of in the same situation myself. I was in a terrible truck accident in 2005. I was in a coma for about 9 months. The doctors pretty much gave up on me. But me and my mom didn't care what they said. I am on Facebook if he can contact me.

Hey i was a college basketball player at the top of my game some say i could have made it to the NBA but my freshman yr of college 3 games into the season i was diagnosed with diabetes and for a long time i was down didnt think i could make my dream come true but whatching Kyle it inspired me to get back on the court and follow my dreams Thanks people like you is what make the world a better place.

I just watched Kyle on my DVR. My husband and I are both diabetic--my hubby is on the pump, and I started insulin shots a few years ago. We are trying to get in healthy shape.
Kyle is such an inspiration and motivator for us. We will never be on ANW, but with God's help and Kyle's example we feel like we can get in shape!

Kyle, may God continue to bless you in all your endeavors--ANW and being a warrior for God!

Kyle's parents: your obvious support of your children is what has made them the great people they are today! "Train up a child...!"
Thank you!!

Kerri...love your writing style and humor! Keep it up!

Hi. Kyle mentioned a sports strap for his pump. What is that and where can it be purchased? Thanks.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes about 6 years ago, I began dealing with various physical problems. They included frozen shoulder, tinnitus, nerve damage, circulation problems, and blurry vision. I figured I would never be able to remain the active person I once was. But hearing Kyle's story TRULY inspired me. I started going to the gym three times a week and focused on what I COULD do, rather than on my limitations. It's been a month now, and I can see the results already. I have Kyle to thank for helping me find the drive and ambition to make this change in my life.

My 8 year old son was diagnosed with T1D on Easter this year. So this is all new to us. When channel hopping 1 night we stopped on ANW since we have watched it in the past. When he saw Kyle being profiled and making a big deal of having T1D, my son leaped off the couch. It was unbelievable. I think for the first time my son felt he could lead a "normal" life. Kyle is like a super hero in his eyes....he says he "beasts". (A good thing, ha ha) Does Kyle have a facebook or any way of being contacted? Would love for my son to just say hi. Thank you Kyle!

Wow! Amazing story! This makes me so happy to know that T1D does not have to hold you back in life! I have T1D and sometimes feel I cannot live an adventurous life because I am scared of going low! Thank you for sharing, I feel motivated and confident that T1D Does not have to hold me or anyone else with it back.

I was ecstatic when I saw Kyle compete on AMW and be so open about having T1. My son was diagnosed almost 2 years ago at age 12. It's a HUGE change and challenge, and it is AWESOME to see someone act as a positive athletic role model. I think it's pretty common for teens to have a hard time staying on top of their T1 management, and having someone like Kyle talk about checking constantly and eating healthy is just wonderful. Go Kyle - you rock!!!

Thank you Kyle!! The love we feel for our children is incomparable to any other love. When you have a child with T1D, the world as you once knew it no longer exists. You have brought tears to my eyes as I watch you compete and joy to my heart as I watch you succeed. You are truly an inspiration to me and my son. Aiden was diagnosed 4 years ago and is 14 now. A Freshman in high school, he breathes basketball and he's quite the ball player.
You have made T1D not an excuse but a reason to persevere!!

This is very inspirational. Ninja Warrior is a very intense obstacle course. Great job for not giving up!


Hey Everyone, this is Kyle. Thank you so much again for all of the encouragement! You guys truly inspire me to keep pushing myself. A few people asked about contacting me. My name on Facebook is Kyle Cochran and I would LOVE to chat! I'm pretty busy, but any free time I have I'm happy to talk. Thank you again!

Hey kyle! I met you earlier tonight! Would it be possible to add me on facebook? Ahahha sorry thats a odd question. :$

There are a ton of Kyle Cochran's on Facebook. What's your Facebook URL so we can contact you?
You amaze me. My son was diagnosed a little over a year ago at 15 months old. Crazy, right?! He is 2 1/2 now and we were watching NBC's reruns of the show last night and pulled him away from his trains and showed him your pump. We have the Ping too. I don't think he really understood but we kept telling him, "He has diabetes just like you!"
We believe it when the doctors say that he will be able to do whatever he wants in life, but it makes it more real when we see people like you inspiring everyone. Thanks for getting out there and showing the world what diabetics can really do.

I saw you perform on tv and your a real inspiration to me a was currently diagnosed with type 1 on January 23, 2013! its bean hard. thanks!

Ummm....is he single?
A single, fellow type one diabetic. ;)

Yup Crystal he is single. I've known Kyle since 2008, we used to work together.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kyle this weekend at Children with Diabetes - Friends for Life conference in Toronto and he is such a nice guy.

My son said that he is his new hero because he won’t let diabetes beat him. Plus it is super cool he can flip in the air without a trampoline. :)

Marcus wanted me to give Kyle our card because he was too scared to talk to him because of the muscles he has. Lol Super cute! Oh, and Marcus wants to go skiing with him sometime so Marcus can show him what a “real” skier skis like. I think my kid has a bit of an ego. :D

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