Rodney has type 1 diabetes and participates in powerlifting and strongman competitions around the world. When you hear about his story and the research he’s done to be a successful strength athlete with diabetes, it just might inspire you to pick up a kettlebell yourself.
I don’t want to spoil everything he has to say, so watch the video or read the transcript to get all the juicy details. Fair warning, we went longer than usual with this episode! It’s a great conversation. Listen to it below, then visit Rodney’s site in the resources to get more information or find the nearest event to you. Thanks for tuning in!
- Rodney’s diagnosis story
- His transition to current insulins and management tools
- What made him go from puny to powerful
- Learning and sharing on his Instagram channel
- Contributing to an active Facebook group for athletes with diabetes
- The first Bolus and Barbells event
- Using strength training to inspire young people with diabetes
- More Bolus and Barbells events to come
Scott Johnson: Good morning, welcome to another episode of “Live, with Scott!” Thanks so much for tuning in. My name is Scott Johnson, I’ve been living with diabetes since I was five years old, and the diabetes social media space, that’s you, by the way, has been an important part of my well being for a long, long time.
Scott Johnson: Thanks for helping me along. As your host today, I am thrilled to connect you with strongman and powerlifter Rodney Miller. Rodney is amazing, and I can’t wait for you to meet him. But first, last week’s winners.
Scott Johnson: Congratulations to Jennifer Hepler, who just won some fun mySugr swag. We’ll send you a message on Facebook after the show to coordinate details, stick with us to learn how you can also win some cool, fun mySugr stuff too.
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Scott Johnson: Today’s episode is sponsored by the mySugr Bundle. Get unlimited strips, automatic supply refills, personalized support, and more all for just $49 every month. Learn more at https://mySugr.com/facebooklive.
Scott Johnson: Now, more on this week’s guest. Rodney Miller, strongman and powerlifter, living with type 1 diabetes. Rodney was diagnosed at age four and has been on MDI for most of his life. MDI stands for Multiple Daily Injections for anyone who might be curious about that acronym.
Scott Johnson: He recently began using an OmniPod insulin pump and has used a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor for many years. While competing in powerlifting and strongman, Rodney noticed a lack of support for type 1 diabetic strength athletes. And this is when he got the idea for Bolus and Barbells, the nonprofit organization that he runs.
Scott Johnson: And the rest, as they say, is history. Rodney uses strongman demonstrations such as lifting cars and trucks, as you can see there, as a way to portray people with diabetes in a positive light and to inspire young people with diabetes to grow up and be strong members of the community. A member of the diabetes sports project, he regularly presents at conferences and diabetic camps. In addition to his day job, Rodney also provides strength, coaching, and nutrition programs for people with and without diabetes.
Scott Johnson: So lots to talk about with Rodney, super amazing and inspiring guy, and I think you’ll enjoy the interview. So let’s dive right into it.
Scott Johnson: Alright, hey Rodney! Thanks so much for joining us.
Rodney Miller: Thanks for having me.
Scott Johnson: Yeah, a pleasure to have you on. Maybe starting at the start, for those who don’t know much about you or your story, can you tell us a little bit about your connection to diabetes?
Rodney Miller: So, mines probably a diagnosis story that a lot of people are gonna find familiar. I was four years old, I was like drinking a three liter of soda every day. Far more than a normal child’s consumption. And my parents thought something was wrong, and eventually my mother took me to the ER, and they did a finger stick, and blood sugar of 800 came back. Yeah, so I was obviously in full-blown DKA at that point. Now, where it does differ a little bit is that I actually went into a coma for two weeks.
Scott Johnson: Oh wow.
Rodney Miller: And can vaguely remember flashes of light and sound from that period. It was really weird, it was … I understand what an out of body experience is like, because that’s about the closest approximation of something I could recall. But, I just … anyone that’s ever met me knows that I’m incredibly stubborn, and so just due to … naw, it’s not my time. And so after two weeks, I did come around and came back, and was lucky to not suffer any permanent damage from that little stint.
Rodney Miller: But that kinda began the journey, I was always a very small, a very sickly child. There were a couple of school years that I missed three-plus months, ’cause I would be … I would get the cold, then turn into the flu, turn into pneumonia. And we didn’t really didn’t have a lot of on par diabetic care. I could even remember one doctor telling us, “You know it better than we do, you deal with it.”
Rodney Miller: So, yeah. I in fact … and I was 20, in my early 20s, before I met another type 1 … and so, I was obviously very isolated growing up in southern Oklahoma, on a cattle ranch. And then I didn’t even come off of NPH and Humulin R until I was 24. So for the majority of time there it was using those old school insulin analogs. So, you go through that, and everything. And I was of never really great control per se.
Scott Johnson: And when you talk about like the challenges of managing blood sugars on NPH and regular insulin, so maybe that’s … dive into that for a second. How did you transition off? Like did someone come and shine the light, or like, “Rodney, man, this is so old school [inaudible 00:05:50]”
Rodney Miller: It took … and for the longest time, I would just go to the pharmacy and you could still … even regular pharmacies at that time would still sell you NPH and Humulin R over the counter. And so that’s what we did for the longest time. I didn’t see a doctor for probably seven or eight years. As far as I didn’t see my first endocrinologist until I was in my early 20s. But we just … my parents were extremely strict, if my blood sugar was high, I waited, I took a correction, a big dose of insulin. And then I waited 45 minutes. They made me wait. If I was high, I didn’t eat.
Rodney Miller: That led to some problems. You go through a rapid growth spurt of like six inches over a summer. And I can remember being curled up in a fetal position and just kinda my insides were all knotted up from hunger pains. And so, yeah, there was definitely some good and bad with that. If anything, it instilled some discipline on … I can obviously wait out a high a little bit longer to try to give the insulin a little bit of a head start. So if anything, we were pre-bolusing before I even knew what pre-bolusing was.
Scott Johnson: Yeah, for sure. And for those who are watching who may not know about like the regular insulin. So you mentioned that 45 minute time window, and back in the days of regular insulin, it was a solid 45 to 60 minutes before we would even see that type of insulin start working. And now we’ve got Humulin R, Novolin R, Fiasp, like these insulins that are much faster. And even they seem slow, but it’s amazing progress compared to the regular insulin.
Rodney Miller: Right, it’s light years. Well, and even on that note, the blood beaters. Well, I can remember, you had to sacrifice a liter of blood and wait three minutes to get a reading out of our first meter. I mean, literally-
Scott Johnson: You couldn’t even bring with you, they were so big you … like, you know, yeah …
Rodney Miller: But when I got to … I grew up in southern Oklahoma. I did a short stint in college in northern Oklahoma, and then I moved to Texas where I started my career as … I think I was 23 at the time. And that was when I started to take the health a little more seriously. I got to a point financially where I could afford to go to the doctor a little bit more. And so I went to an internal med doctor, and he basically looked at me like I was an idiot. Like, “Why are you still taking these antiquated insulins?” And I was like, “Well, because I didn’t know anything else existed, so that’s why I take ’em.” And you go a little bit-
Scott Johnson: That’s a common thing. Right?
Rodney Miller: Right.
Scott Johnson: Because why would you ever know that there’s other tools and methods out there unless you are in a position where you’re able to go get that knowledge.
Rodney Miller: Right. And at that point, like I said, I had been so isolated from an in-person community, I had no idea that there was even the beginning stages of an online community. And I still didn’t for a long number of years. I mean, as far as being online, I’ve been around for a few years, but there had been people that have had diabetes less than me that have been on the diabetes online community wagon from day one. So there’s a lot of that I’ve missed out on that.
Rodney Miller: When my wife came to me and told me that she was pregnant with my daughter, that was the catalyst turning point for me. So that was when there was fixing to be a life depending on me to take care of her, and I’m very much a family-oriented person, and I wanted to be there to see her graduate, to walk her down the aisle when she got married.
Rodney Miller: And so that was what started the kinda health and fitness thing for me at that point. ‘Cause prior to that I was just … I was eating tacos and drinking beer and I was just having a grand time, and blood sugar reflected such. But I had always been a small guy, so when I graduated high school I was 5’5″ and 117 pounds. To say I was a runt would be an understatement.
Scott Johnson: Yeah, and now you’re lifting cars and stuff, and we’re getting to that in a bit, but, yeah …
Rodney Miller: Right. So that was when health management took a prime step. I knew that exercise was always gonna be a big component of it. I had always seen that working on the cattle ranch when you don’t do nearly as much in the winter as you do in the summer. In the summer we’re cutting and we’re harvesting hay to put up for the winter to feed the cattle.
Rodney Miller: So, we would get up in the mornings and we’d work from sun-up to sun-down, and I could eat copious amounts of food, largely because I was burning through it, but my insulin seemed to be more effective, I had to take less of it, so that there was always that kinda kernel of thought already in my head that this physical activity improved my health. And so I just made an easy correlation.
Rodney Miller: Well, now I’m in a professional setting, I’m not gonna go back to hauling hay just to improve my health. So what can I do. And so then the gym became the physical activity. And I kinda fell in love with it. I’m just kinda that little bit of off in the head that I can kinda turn off pain and other things to push myself to a point that most people probably shouldn’t push themselves to, but it worked really well for me.
Rodney Miller: And so I just kept going on down that road, and I looked at everything as an athlete. So everything that I did was based on being a better athlete, and diabetes would just have to conform to it. It was never the other way around.
Scott Johnson: It’s surprising though how much … so years ago I trained for a 100-mile bike ride, and I was amazed to find out how much just a general athletic knowledge improved my diabetes management and know-how. So, going down that path of learning about an athlete’s needs and fueling the body, and building … there’s nothing but good things for someone with diabetes.
Rodney Miller: Right, and that’s where you look at the efficiency of muscle-building, the efficiency of fueling the body, and you learn that these metabolic processes are … they’re somewhat altered because we’re missing some of those key hormones, insulin being the primary, amylin being a secondary hormone, and a lot of diabetics are not too familiar with, and it is a very important hormone. But a large amount of how the body metabolizes food, and then uses it to fuel or repair, restructure of the body is the same in a non-diabetic and diabetics alike. So, you can’t discount some of the research on the non-diabetic population as it applies to general metabolic syndromes as stuff.
Rodney Miller: So, if you start learning that … and that’s what interested me, and so I went kinda whole hog into that. And over those years of trying to be better and fine-tune my own control. I happen to work with two different doctors of biochemistry, specifically, one that worked in the nutrition industry. One of which is a third party consultant for supplement companies, that helps to formulate new products for them, and the other one is a very highly sought-after nutrition coach.
Rodney Miller: And so we kind of picked apart a few of the things that were happening, and to try to gain a better understanding. Now bear in mind, this is before I ever even knew about the DOC. So I’m still just off in my own little world, thinking I’m the only one trying to figure this out. And I just kinda kept plugging along and plugging along and plugging along.
Rodney Miller: And I don’t even remember. I wanna say it was about six or seven years ago I happened to start posting to Instagram, and I hash-tagged something diabetes or type 1, or something. ‘Cause I didn’t know what hashtags were, just like, whatever.
Scott Johnson: Yeah, why not? Yeah.
Rodney Miller: Right. And I had a mother kind of track me down on there, and then find me on Facebook, and she sent me a message, and she goes, I showed this to my son, and he thought that was so cool, mom, he’s doing the strongman stuff. If he can do that, well then I can do anything.
Scott Johnson: Nice.
Rodney Miller: Well after I stopped bawling like a small child, I realized that this kinda pre-conceived notion in my head that I’d always had, I don’t need to tell anyone I’m a diabetic, because it’s just gonna look like me bragging or saying, “Oh, look at me, I can do this despite this.” That didn’t have anything to do with it, at all. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rodney Miller: What I could do is I could be a living example of what is possible. And I’d be the first one to tell you, it’s not like I’m a world record athlete or anything like that. I’m just a crazy guy that picks up rocks and cars and folds frying pans with my hands and stuff like that. But when these kids go to the doctor and unfortunately sometimes they’re told what they can’t do, they could be like, “We watched a dude fold a frying pan with his hands, like I think I can go run around on a basketball court. That seems like something far less difficult.” So, that was kind of …
Scott Johnson: There’s so much misinformation out there. So I think it’s quite common to hear about athletes being told how their diabetes will negatively affect what they love to do. One great example that I can think of off the top of my head, we had professional Nascar driver Ryan Reed on, and that was what his first doctor told him was, “You know what, this is probably not going to work out for you,” and mentally he pushed against that and found some better medical advice. So yeah, I think those, being an inspiration, and showing the world what is possible with diabetes is a super, super important thing that we don’t have enough of.
Rodney Miller: Yeah, and that kinda started the journey, and then as I got to be more involved I came across a gentleman by the name of Daniel Borba who had started the type one diabetic athletes group. And at that time I think there were 300 members, and I was brought on. He asked me if I wanted to help admin the group. And so I brought kind of this years of self-research and empirical data, and then working with the doctors that I had to bring to the forefront and break some of the misconceptions that surrounded it.
Rodney Miller: One of the big ones being that diabetics that engage in resistance training or high-intensity exercise will typically see a spike in glucose levels. Well, for some reason, it’s propagated that that’s adrenaline. And if you’re in the middle of a competition, or in some sort of high-stress environment, there’s a possibility that it is.
Rodney Miller: But if you’re in the gym doing dumbbell curls and your blood sugar spike, I wanna come do dumb bell curves with you ’cause if you’re that excited that you’re getting adrenaline. I mean, is one of these things trying to eat you? Is it like chomp chomp from Mario Brothers? I don’t understand.
Rodney Miller: So what it actually is you have two places that store glycogen in the body, you have muscle tissue, and you have the liver. Right? So when you’re doing high-intensity exercise, what differs … and that’s called anaerobic, versus aerobic. And so the difference is is that an aerobic is a much slower drain on the body, so your body has time to uncouple fat, turn it into glucose, and then use that. And that’s typically why you see a steady decrease of glucose level out of the bloodstream.
Rodney Miller: Well in anaerobic, that energy cycle has to be much quicker. Much, much quicker. And once you’ve exhausted the muscle tissue, it has to get it from the only other storage capacity in the body, the liver. So how do we get glycogen out of the liver? This is our fail-safe. It’s glucagon. And through your body will actually pulse small amounts of glucagon into the blood stream to get the glycogen out of the liver.
Rodney Miller: And this is why we typically see … and you’ll see these if you read through enough posts and everything, you’ll see people say, “Well I don’t even treat this high, because it just goes away later,” and so typically what that is is it’s because they’ve got enough [basil 00:19:13] on board to then shuttle that glycogen from the liver into the muscle tissue. So that high that you’re seeing is like a transient high like it’s just that momentary … we’re seeing the snapshot of the glycogen leaving the liver, trying to get to the muscle tissue in the bloodstream. ‘Cause that’s where it has to go. It has to go through the bloodstream.
Rodney Miller: So a lot of times you can … it’s not great to let it cross 185, because that’s the renal threshold. So above 185 is when we start to spill sugar near the kidneys. And that’s gonna rapidly dehydrate you, especially during high-intensity exercise where dehydration is already happening. So it … you don’t want that to necessarily happen. And so that’s why a lot of people can dose a little bit usually, and negate it. But that’s why the people that don’t, that’s why it goes away later, is because eventually the glycogen gets circulated around to the bloodstream, and usually, your basal is enough to get it shuttled into the body.
Rodney Miller: It’s just not optimal, and it’s not very effective, that’s why it takes hours for it to happen, instead of in a non-diabetic, they would just pulse some insulin to shuttle it into the muscle tissue. So this is a normal biological occurrence that happens in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. It has very little to do with adrenaline.
Scott Johnson: Interesting.
Rodney Miller: As I said, if you’re that excited doing dumbbell curls, I wanna see a video of this, I don’t understand how that functions. But so that’s why we would try to post these articles, we would try to post these studies, and eventually, in 2016, the idea occurred to me, it’s like, hey, we’ve got this diabetic athletes’ group, it’s now grown to like 5000 members. It would be really cool if we could get all these people that liked to use a barbell to improve their health together and let’s do something with that. And so, I kinda had a moment of brilliance and came up with the name Bolus and Barbells.
Scott Johnson: I love it, yeah.
Rodney Miller: And said, hey, let’s go to Austin, Texas, and I’ll find a gym that’ll host us. We’ll come in, we’ll have speakers talk about some different things. We’ll have them talk about new drugs on the market, new technologies, we’ll have some motivational speakers. Maybe I’ll talk about why resistance training is important, and how to effectively use it. And then, we’ll just get together and we’ll lift. And we all like to lift as it is, and so that was the first Bolus and Barbells. It was in Austin, Texas. It was the middle of June, which my fellow Texans will go, that was not smart. It’s extremely hot and we were in a non-air conditioned gym. Yeah, it was brutal.
Rodney Miller: But that was where one of the first attendees was a woman by the name of Rosalind Sutch, Ros Sutch, who is now my best friend, and is kind of … was my co-partner in setting up 501(c)3 status for Bolus and Barbells so we could be an official non-profit. And yeah, I mean, she’s been … I’m the kind of like, “Whoo, let’s go!” And she’s the one like, “Well this is what we have to do to get there, Rodney.”
Scott Johnson: It takes both types.
Rodney Miller: Absolutely. Without her, there would never be a Bolus and Barbells event ever, because it would just be so chaotic from my side of things that they would just never get done.
Rodney Miller: So, but she was at the very first one, and she had been kind of starting her journey into physical fitness and she was had gotten used to training and comfortable with using a barbell, and she had kinda been contemplating doing powerlifting and everything. Well after that event she just, she did it, she went for it. And she signed up.
Rodney Miller: So that was in June, she did her first contest, I believe, December of that year, and I just went to Philly this past December, and this is where we had eight diabetic, eight type 1 women competing at this one meet.
Scott Johnson: Wow!
Rodney Miller: Yep, yep. Two of which … I’m not sure what everyone’s numbers were, but two of which gained their national qualification. One of which was Rosalind Sutch. And so she will be competing on a national stage this October. And it all stemmed from finding your people, I mean …
Scott Johnson: Finding your people. Finding like-minded people that are … what’s the saying? Iron sharpens iron. Right?
Rodney Miller: Right. And so now we’ve kind of … we tried to expand it. And so if you’ve never touched a barbell before, we still do events all over the US. We try to move region to region so that everyone has access to it. But we’ve expanded it, and so now we still have the speakers come in and everything. We have coaches at every station now. And so if you’ve never touched a barbell in your life, you can come learn how to do these lifts properly, with supervision and qualified coaching staff, so that you can learn how to do these things safely and effectively, because there are some things that happen with anaerobic exercise that does not happen with aerobic exercise.
Rodney Miller: So if … once again we go back to what are the two things in the body that store carbohydrates, store glycogen? Muscle tissue in the liver. No one wants their liver to get bigger. Like that’s a sign of poor health for your liver to grow. But we can make the muscle tissue bigger. So now we’ve expanded our ability to store carbohydrates, and when we have that capacity, that means any of the carbs that we do eat have a ready-made warehouse for them to go into.
Rodney Miller: And so the more warehouse space you have, the greater propensity you have for storing carbohydrates so that you’re going to see less blood sugar fluctuations because of that. Because it has somewhere to go.
Rodney Miller: Everyone’s had those like real bad stubborn highs where it doesn’t really matter how much insulin you take, just it’s high, and then it gradually over four or five, six, seven hours, will come back down.
Rodney Miller: And there’s a lot of reasons why that happens. One of which is that you flat out, you run out of space. And so then you have to wait for the insulin and the carbs to get turned into fat to be stored. So, I mean, it’s just, it’s got to go somewhere. It’s either going in the bloodstream, and then it’s going to go into the liver, the muscle tissue, in the fat storage, or through your kidneys. But those are really the only four ways for you to use.
Rodney Miller: And so I like to use the analogy of a glass of water. So that’s your body’s storage capacity for glycogen. You get up in the morning, you have breakfast, say you have a couple of pieces of toast. Where mornings, resistance in the morning due to various hormones. So you may fill the glass half full. You rock along to lunch, it’s now drained itself down a little bit. You eat lunch. Say you have cheeseburger and fries. I say that because I’m a bad burger eater. And so you fill the glass full, because there’s a lot of carbs. So you fill the glass full, there’s not really room for anything else. Then you go walk along, do your daily activities. You may probably gonna burn it down a little bit, but you’re not gonna burn it all the way down. You’re probably not gonna even get to half.
Rodney Miller: And then you get to dinner, and you just, you go, I’m gonna eat pasta, or I’m gonna eat some other sort of high carb for dinner. Well now you’re full. And past that, you’ve now overflowed the glass. So it’s just spilling over the sides, and it has to go somewhere, because it’s still contained. Your body is a box that the glass is sitting in. So it has to either be stored as fat, go into the liver, go into the muscle tissue, or be secreted through urine. And so, your body goes above 185, you start secreting it. And so that’s why these newer SG-
Scott Johnson: SGLT2s, right.
Rodney Miller: Right, so that’s why they work, is because you’re now excreting more glucose through the kidneys.
Scott Johnson: On another level. Yep.
Rodney Miller: Yep. So you know, if you kinda think about that, and you go, “Oh, well that’s not good. So how do I negate some of that from happening?” You make your glass bigger. You can’t make the liver bigger, but you can make the muscle tissue bigger. More importantly, you are … and this is something that bodybuilders have known about this for decades, and we hear about it, those of us at fitness, we hear about it, but we don’t understand how it correlates to type 1. So a lot of times people hear about this anabolic window that happens when you finish training, and you have this period of time where the body is really hungry for nutrients, and it uptakes things really well. That kinda sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That kinda sounds like insulin resistance being lowered, and that’s exactly what it is.
Rodney Miller: So, post-training, especially when I do something like strongman that might take three to four hours to do these workouts that are usually done outside in the heat, where there’s this huge energy drain on the body. For the next 48 hours, I can reduce my bolus amount by somewhere around 20 to 30%.
Scott Johnson: Wow, that’s amazing.
Rodney Miller: Right. So, but that’s the anabolic window. And it goes on … there’s … and we’ve got plenty of clinical studies done on this anabolic window. And it’s actually 48 to 72 hours. But let’s face it, we’re not as efficient as someone with a functioning pancreas, so the more insulin we use, the more our resistance climbs. So we kinda cut that window off a little sooner, but …
Scott Johnson: Diving into this a little bit more, right, because I think this is one of the things that we hear about where it’s an example of exercising and strength training just makes your insulin more efficient and makes your body more efficient, and using it, and I think that something that many of us, we see it when we work out, but don’t really understand it very well.
Rodney Miller: Right. So, and it’s … we had to think about this two-pronged. So one, we’ve now emptied the glass some. Right? So we’ve used the glycogen that’s stored in the muscle. We’ve probably used some of it that’s been stored in the liver. So now we have somewhere for the carbs to go, that’s readily open and available to take in the carbohydrates.
Rodney Miller: What we’ve also done is we have made the body into a sensitive receptacle for insulin and nutrients. So when the non-diabetics that talk about, oh, your body’s wanting to take up nutrients, what they’re actually saying is that your insulin resistance is really low. So even in a non-diabetic, their insulin resistance drops after weight training.
Rodney Miller: And this really doesn’t occur to the same level as aerobic exercise. It just doesn’t have that same effect. So anaerobic exercise, high intensity. And this even falls under like sprinting, anything that crosses that 80% of maximum output threshold. That brings … that makes the body need to take up nutrients to replenish what it had, to start the recovery process. So, we’re talking about a drastic reduction of insulin resistance, we’re talking about now an open capacity to store carbohydrates and other nutrients. The body is basically, it’s telling you, you’ve put me under a lot of stress, you need to give me something to repair myself with.
Rodney Miller: And so, this prolonged window of insulin sensitivity is an … and I’m going to reference Gary Scheiner because he talks about this every time I’ve been around him. That man tries to do some form of exercise every day. Now I said some form. So it’s not necessarily that you have to kill yourself every day by going and doing this super intense workout. But he travels a lot and everything, and so I’m … multiple times I’ve seen him going into the hotel gym and doing 10 to 15 minutes of something.
Rodney Miller: And that’s what he’s doing, he’s negating that rise of insulin resistance from him sitting on a plane, from sitting in a car, from sitting at a desk. And it’s just enough, it’s not enough to tear the body down, or really induce a lot of fatigue. It’s enough to get the body’s metabolism to be acceptable to take it up a large scale nutrient. And that’s lowering your insulin resistance.
Scott Johnson: And so he’s basically using that as just part of his regular therapy.
Rodney Miller: Yep. I mean, and that’s why resistance training is such a powerful tool in your management plan, is because it has such a profound effect, long-term even, it’s up to 48 hours. It’s typically the most that I’ve seen. Clinical data says that it’s 72, and for those people that are … maybe they’re LADA or they’re a lot more sensitive to insulin, they take a lot less insulin overall. They may still see that extent of that full 72 hours.
Rodney Miller: So if you tell someone, “How do you permanently reduce the amount of insulin you have to take by even 10%?” I think most everyone would be onboard for that. Train every other day.
Scott Johnson: Okay.
Rodney Miller: That’s it. You don’t even have to train every day. I would say as long as you’re not eating copious amounts of carbs, post-training, you could train every other day and still be within that 48-hour window of increased insulin sensitivity.
Rodney Miller: And so, and this isn’t like … a lot of people, they look at strength sports and they look at stuff that I do, and they’re like, “Man, I don’t know if I can go in the gym every other day and do what you do.” Well, you don’t have to. What I do, I do for a sport. And obviously, that’s not a normal functioning … you’re not going to do that all the time. That’s not how that works.
Rodney Miller: But you can go in the gym, and you can lift weights for 30 to 45 minutes every other day. And it’s perfectly healthy, especially when we talk about later stages of life. Right? Quality of life later on.
Rodney Miller: One of the biggest things that affect the female population later on in life is osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise increases bone density. So they did a study where they took elderly women, and they put half in water aerobics, and they put half on a leg press. That was it. No other exercise but a leg press. I think it was four sets of 12. And that was it. And after the study was over they compared bone density, and in the group that did the leg press, it was 40% greater.
Scott Johnson: Wow!
Rodney Miller: We are meant to be load bearing creatures. Everything about the body is meant to move and function, to carry things, to have load on the body, and when we stop doing it, especially if we let our muscles atrophy from inactivity, that’s when we start to see large-scale systemic health defects. So, it’s exercise has so much, above and beyond just the type 1, above and beyond the increased insulin sensitivity, the ability to store more carbohydrates, weight-bearing exercise has a profound effect and increase of your longevity in all matters of health.
Scott Johnson: That’s so great to know. You know, speaking of loaded bearing, before the interview comes on, I got a couple of pictures of you. One, lifting the tail-end of a pickup truck, and the other lifting a car. Now when you talk about load bearing, what in the world made you start lifting vehicles?
Rodney Miller: So, we go back to … I mean, narcissism. I mean if you’ve always been the runt, to no longer be the runt is a little gratifying to yourself. But a lot of it is that I competed in powerlifting for a number of years, and that’s a contest of the squat, the bench press, and the dead lift.
Rodney Miller: And it kinds got a little boring after a while for me, I was kinda looking for something else. I’d suffered a couple of muscle tears at this point. And I was kinda looking for another direction to go.
Rodney Miller: Well, about that same time, a world’s strongest man competitor had opened up a two-day seminar at his home gym in Houston. And it was insanely low cost, I think it was like 150 bucks for both days, which is minuscule for that kinda coaching experience. And I was like, “Hey, this sounds like fun.”
Rodney Miller: I’ve grown up kinda watching the strongest man on TV and stuff, and I was like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll go down there and see if I can do any of this.” And so I jumped on a plane, and I flew to Houston, did the seminar, and fell in love.
Rodney Miller: Like it’s every … and I’m a better strongman than I ever was a powerlifter. But it’s kind of the … strongman is the epitome of functional fitness. And as a trainer, I hate the word functional fitness, ’cause nothing in your life is a barbell, is a dumbbell, is a kettlebell. Like few things that we really need to pick up in our day-to-day life is going to have a handle. Right?
Rodney Miller: But you know what doesn’t have a handle? An atlas stone. The round concrete ball, there’s just not a handle. It’s a box of dishes. If you can pick an atlas stone up off the ground and put it on a platform, you can safely pick up a box of dishes off the ground and put it on a shelf. That’s real life functional fitness.
Rodney Miller: And so, and everything’s kind of a circus showman type of act. Right? Like, I would love to say, “Yes, I’ve picked up a 3700-pound car, or I have picked up my extended cab truck,” and that thing weighs like 7600 pounds.
Rodney Miller: I would love to say that I have lifted that, but it’s a fulcrum. Like I’m using a giant lever that the vehicle sits on to pick up the butt end. So that 7600 becomes 700. The 3700 pound car becomes 370, 400 pounds. Right? And but it’s big. It’s visually impressive.
Scott Johnson: Super. It’s super impressive. Yeah, I love it. I could watch those videos all day long.
Rodney Miller: Yeah, and it’s a lot of fun. And the thing about it is is that, the community surrounding these two sports. Strong sports is very unique in that it’s not a team sport. There’s no one else, you can’t turn to someone else if you have a bad day and go it’s your fault. You can’t make that excuse.
Rodney Miller: But on the same token is, if you put in the work, you get the result. And so it’s one of the few things left in life that it doesn’t matter who you know or where you go, or if you can put a barbell or a dumbbell on your hand, and you put in effort, you can improve yourself.
Rodney Miller: And I think that that’s one of the greatest things, and I think that that’s a huge thing and a correlation to type 1, is it’s work. I mean, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s work. And sometimes we get burned out. After 31 years I get burned out, and there’s times I’m like, “I’m done, I’m out, I’m taking a time out, I’m gonna go have some pizza.”
Rodney Miller: But if you put in the work, and you stay on top of things. There is no such thing as control. There’s management, and you can increase your health by putting in the work. And it’s a direct correlation. You put in the work with a barbell, you’re going to get stronger, you put in the work with your type one, you’re going to improve your numbers. And it’s gratifying in that you kinda regain a bit of self-reliance and independence through that, I feel like.
Rodney Miller: If you put in the time and you learn that these insulins have different half-lives, you learn that they take different times to take effect, you kinda put in the time and the effort to figure out how much you need to pre-bolus for this food, or that food. You’re gonna see a return benefit of that. Is it exhausting? Yes. Are you going to be able to do it continuously for your entire life? Probably not.
Rodney Miller: But, the one other point that I wanna make is this year I did a lot more speaking to parents of type ones. One of the most important things that I hope people hear is that you are not the number on the meter. You are not your A1c. That is not a reflection of who you are as a person. It has nothing to do with it, it is merely a data point. And that number will change a million times in your life. And one number is not the end-all, be-all.
Scott Johnson: Something that you’ve talked about, and I want to touch on it quickly, is living with diabetes is like having a superpower.
Rodney Miller: Yes.
Scott Johnson: Go into that a bit.
Rodney Miller: Absolutely. So … and people are like, whaaat? So having type 1 is having a superpower. So a superpower is something normal people don’t possess, something they can’t do. And especially in today’s society where the Marvel movies are such a big deal and everything, we look for these like superhuman strengths and blah, blah, blah.
Rodney Miller: But if you are a type one, you are living with the disease that requires constant management, constant control, constant effort at control, constant evaluating. You are living on a wire. And if you woke up this morning, you won. That’s it. Nothing else is required of you, because you are already doing something far more difficult than any other person on this earth could contend with.
Rodney Miller: Your kids show up to play a sport, they’re already there. They’ve won. I don’t care how many goals they score, baskets they make, home runs they hit. They have already won, because they’ve accepted the challenge of type 1 and they’ve stepped onto the field. They’ve put themselves out there.
Scott Johnson: There’s so much involved in that, and we often … because we know that it’s just required of us to figure this diabetes thing out. And so I love that point that you make because I don’t feel we give ourselves enough credit for all that we do, so it’s … a lot of it, it becomes kind of habits and routines, and we kind of compartmentalize those into chunks in our head, just out of pure efficiency. But it is remarkable what we do to do a normal day or stay alive or whatever.
Rodney Miller: Right. When I wake up in the morning, if I know I’m going to train that night, every dose, every food is geared towards me training that night. Ask how many other lifters that are non-diabetics think about that kind of in depth. They don’t.
Rodney Miller: The other thing — and I’ll try to keep it brief — the other thing that is huge is that you understand type 1s in a way that their own families, wives, friends can’t. Being a type 1 gives you a level of empathy that few humans will ever possess because when I meet another type 1, I instinctively know what it’s like for them to have a high, for what they feel like when they’re low. For what the Dexcom beep kinda … ugh! The jarring that it sends through your nerves.
Rodney Miller: I know what DKA feels like. I know what these things feel like. This is not something … it doesn’t matter how often I try to describe it to my wife, she can’t understand. It’s just not going to ever mean to her what it means to me and another type 1. When you have that level of empathy with another human being, you have an opportunity to help and aid that human being. And that to me is the greatest thing that you can ever do with your life, is to aid another human being.
Rodney Miller: And so that’s why these conferences, these camps, Bolus and Barbells, that’s why these things become such bigger than life things. And people think it’s silly that we all cry on the last day when we have to leave and go home, and we’re leaving our family, we’re leaving our brethren, the only other people on this earth that get what it’s like to be a type 1 is another type 1.
Rodney Miller: And that is an immensely powerful tool that we all possess, a power that we all possess. And it’s something that we kinda instinctively all know, but when you can accept that that’s within you, it makes your own journey a little easier.
Scott Johnson: Absolutely, absolutely. So touching back on Bolus and Barbells, what’s coming up? How can people get involved? We’ll put the website and Instagram channel, and all the social properties up on the screen and in the notes, but like what’s coming next.
Rodney Miller: So we … I was hoping we’d be a little further along in our planning, but we have two events coming up this year. We have one in May, one in November. The locations we’re nailing down the finer details on those, but look for those to be announced very soon. Obviously on the website we have a mail list that notifies you when we update the website. Also, look for our Facebook group, just Bolus and Barbells. And we release updates on that whenever new news comes up.
Rodney Miller: But we will be in two different regions. As I said, we move around every time, and we try to give people as much heads up as possible. I think that we did our first two-day event in Wilmington, North Carolina this past November, and it went over really well. And so I think that we’re gonna continue that two day model, and that way we’re not trying to cram everything into one day. We have speakers both days, we have physical activity both days, and it’s … A lot of people think that it’s a competition. It’s not, it’s a place to come enjoy the community aspect of being around other type 1s and to learn some new tools in your management plan.
Rodney Miller: And so, we’ll be hopefully in the next two weeks we can get the final details nailed down and release both locations for our events this year.
Scott Johnson: That’s great. Yeah, it sounds like an amazing time, and being able to connect with other people who understand what you’re going through and who can, you guys, all build upon each other’s knowledge and experiences, and come out the end just a stronger person living with diabetes who is better equipped with more knowledge and experience as well.
Scott Johnson: So, thank you for putting all of that time and effort into those events and Bolus and Barbells the organization. Big thanks to Ros as well for being your partner in crime with those, you guys, and everyone who was involved in supporting Bolus and Barbells. You’re making the world a better place for the rest of us. So, that’s really great.
Rodney Miller: Yeah, and thankfully we’ve brought on new board members. We’ve got Michelle Marshall and Nicole Coan, Pamela MacElree have come aboard and they’ve really kinda rounded out our expertise profile. So, big thanks to them, and our events just keep getting better, because we’re bringing in more people that know more stuff than I do.
Scott Johnson: I love it, yeah, surround yourself with people smarter than you are and you’re going to be in a great place.
Rodney Miller: Exactly.
Scott Johnson: Yeah, well great. Folks, head over to https://bolusandbarbells.org, their website, sign up to the newsletter, stay in the loop on everything that’s going on. Rodney, anything else that I haven’t asked about, or you want to dive in and go through.
Rodney Miller: You know, I really can’t think of a lot. I just kinda ramble, shotgun approach everything. I really want to appreciate you having me on today. Anytime that we can put content out there in every resource possible, what you do is extremely important, and so just as a type 1 myself, I just want to say thank you for all that you do over at mySugr, and all of that stuff.
Scott Johnson: Very kind, much appreciated. And I couldn’t do it without friends and family like you out there helping us along. So, with that, let’s wrap up the interview, and we will be sure to push the news out when you get the locations for the upcoming events. Rodney, thank you very much!
Rodney Miller: Thank you for having me.
Scott Johnson: And there we have it. I hope you also enjoy getting to know Rodney and learning about all he’s doing. You can learn more about him and his activities and the foundation at https://bolusandbarbells.org. I’ll pop a link into the comments down below as well.
Scott Johnson: And as a special thanks to all you watching, I have a special mySugr tote-bag with some goodies inside, like a pop socket and a few stickers, and I can’t wait to give one away to you guys. To enter, leave a comment below, and let me and Rodney know if you enjoy today’s episode, and before next week’s show, I’ll randomly pick one or two lucky winners, and announce them during the start of next week’s broadcast.
Scott Johnson: And as we are into February, I can’t let an opportunity go by without sharing a little bit about Spare a Rose. So Spare a Rose is an effort to support Life for a Child, which provides insulin and diabetes supplies to children in need in underserved areas. So the Spare a Rose happens every year around this time of the year, and the idea is very simple. You buy one less rose for your loved one, and donate the cost of that rose to Life for a Child. And you would be amazed at how much a little bit of money can do for that organization. So, to learn more about that and to make your donation head to https://sparearose.org, and I’ll also put the link to that in the comments as well.
Scott Johnson: And once again, today’s episode is sponsored by the mySugr Bundle. Get unlimited strips, automatic supply refills, personalized support, and more, all for just $49 every month. Learn more at https://mySugr.com/facebooklive. And then, be sure to tune in next week to learn more about Diabetes Sisters Minority Initiative, increasing awareness, education, peer support, and resources for underserved populations of women living with diabetes, or pre-diabetes.
Scott Johnson: Now we had Karen Graffeo on a few weeks ago, and this time we are going to host DiabetesSisters executive director and all-around great friend Anna Norton, who will tell us more about the program. Alright?
Scott Johnson: Thank you so much for joining. Please like this video and share it with your friends. Have another amazing day, and I’ll see you next week.