When we think about setting goals with type1 diabetes, what comes to mind? A1C targets? Difficult discussions with your doctor? Eliminating that pesky “post breakfast spike” or upgrading your devices to the latest technology? I’d like to offer a different perspective on setting diabetes goals and share some of what I am going to be tackling in the coming months (and years?). Let’s take a step back from blood sugar and numbers and ratios for a moment. I’ve never found a way to do unpleasant tasks without motivation–without a reason. Fear of long term complications and far-off consequences just don’t cut it. I’ll worry about it when it becomes a problem. I need something more immediate and something that offers positive incentive.

So I climb.

Less now than I did before I had a job and a 1 year old, but I think about climbing a lot and I’ve managed to actually get stronger through finding new ways to train and tweak my diet. You may be thinking that it’s odd that my motivation for taking care of myself isn’t the ‘I want to make sure I’m here to dance at her wedding’ trope that has appeared in many insufferable television commercials. Here’s my logic; I don’t want to dance at anyone’s wedding. Ever. For any reason. The thought of even my daughter dating is the last thing I want to envision. The idea of motivation being connected to something that actually benefits from physical performance is key for diabetes goals–because that is the “other” way to interact with diabetes that isn’t just numbers and data.

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When we hear the words “performance” we are conditioned to think that this is reserved for people pushing their limits at a very high athletic level. You don’t have to be an athlete to push your limits. You just have to have a goal–something you want your body to do better than it does currently–or some place you want your body to be better adapted to play or survive.

My life has changed over the last year–a lot. But in that process my goals have actually become more crystalized. The steps I’ll need to take to reach those goals may vary wildly with work and family responsibilities but at the end of the day, taking those steps are how I will measure my progress.

My goals (in the next five years):

  • Free climb Moonlight Buttress 5.12+, Zion National Park 1100 feet–a route that I’ve climbed in the past but it punished me and I didn’t climb it free.
  • Free climb Regular Northwest Face on Half dome 5.12, Yosemite National Park 2000 feet–this route has always inspired me and I have not tried it yet. I may save this for last because it would be really awesome to get it on my first attempt once I am thoroughly prepared.
  • Ascend the Nose of El Capitan  5.11 C1, in a day 2900 feet–I didn’t triumph on El Capitan during Project 365 and so I have some unfinished business there. This would be a lifetime achievement for me.

Our goals (simply put: what we want out of life) are the lens that diabetes must be seen through in order to be managed. I believe that training and diet fine-tuning necessary to pursue these goals will ultimately benefit my blood sugar in the big picture despite inevitable pitfalls along the way. My goals aren’t numbers–my goals are my experience. I will share as much of the process as is reasonable to facilitate a discussion. If my blood sugar runs high while I’m on the walls (which has happened) the benefit is still there in the long term–especially if that’s what it takes to get the climbs done safely. If that elevates my A1C a bit, is that really the worst thing?

Will this be a “project“? Will anyone care? I’m not sure. Maybe. Maybe not. I realized recently that awareness projects come organically from people pursuing goals–and some goals wind up being great to share and reach others–and some goals are more personal and not viable for a big audience. I think that getting our bodies to feel better while going farther is something that we all can appreciate on some level even if climbing isn’t part of the picture. That’s why I will be sharing my ups and downs–and asking to hear YOUR ups and downs, because the point of all this is not about climbing but about seeing others set goals, fit diabetes into that framework and then make it happen!

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I’m stoked to see what will come of all this. I believe that the process of trying–is really important. That’s what climbing is all about. That’s what diabetes is all about. Coming back with greater knowledge and linking the pieces of the puzzle together. This isn’t something we should be quiet about–we should take pride in it. I’ll start. Will you join me?


If you like what we are doing and you want to get involved there’s a lot you can do: subscribe to the blog,  buy a photo print, follow and promote our work on social media and share your goals and experience going beyond type 1 diabetes.