Back to Sports Corner Doug Burns Pumps Weights and Insulin

2006-2007 INBA Natural Universe
Open Medium Class Champion Doug Burns
showing off his Animas IR-1250 insulin pump
Doug Burns, an athlete with type 1 diabetes, uses an insulin pump to manage his disease. Doug was diagnosed at the tender age of 7. At that time it was difficult to keep blood glucose in an acceptable range because home blood glucose meters were not available yet. He remembers going to his doctor's office with a blood glucose as high as 1100 mg/dl. He was so thin from a number of occurrences of DKA his weight was only 53lbs at the age of 12!

Doug knew he needed to do something so he turned to lifting weights against his doctor's initial wishes. Having blood sugars that high and lifting weights would have been dangerous so the first step was trying to get better control. He lived in rural Mississippi with literally no gyms to follow his passion so he decided to make his own. Using scrap metal for weights and a muscle magazine for guidance he started lifting weights to get away from his scrawny physique. He did not see results in the beginning perhaps due to his blood sugars being so out of whack. During this time home blood glucose meters became available giving him the added incentive to keep blood sugars within a safe range which also gave him more strength to lift weights.

Doug started to see positive results and began power lifting at age 16. Power lifting is weightlifting competition where individuals compete in three types of lifts, the squat, dead lift, and bench press. The winner is crowned by adding up the total amount of weight lifted on all three lifts. Self-assured he entered his first competition but placed dead last. Ever the optimist, Doug was excited to say he entered his first show and within one year he won his first competition. He also began breaking state, regional, and national records.

Not satisfied with the status quo Doug decided to explore body building. This type of lifting is geared more towards how the body looks rather than increasing strength. Both types have challenges when it comes to monitoring blood sugar. When lifting heavily for power lifting competitions high blood sugars were a concern due to increase adrenaline. Often times this high blood sugar came crashing down hours after heavy lifting. When training for a body building competition cutting weight was often a goal leading up to the event. Body builders typically want very low body fat to impress the judges. This type of training had its unique challenges with Doug's diabetes. A partial example of a typical training week for a power lifter and a body builder are listed in the tables below:

Power Lifting
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Bench Press Squats Rest Dead-lifts Bench Press
135/15 225/8 135/15 225/10   135/10 225/8 Light Day
315/6 405/5 315/6 405/5   315/6 405/5  
435/3 *3 495/5 585/5   495/5 585/5  
Clean & Press Partial-635/5 *5   615/3 *2  
135/8 205/5 Leg Ex 200/12*4   Back, Biceps  
Arms & Shoulders L Curl 200/15*4      

Body Building
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Chest, Shoulders,
Triceps, Cardio
Legs & Cardio
(> reps up to 20)
Back & Bicep Legs & Cardio Upper Body & Cardio
3-5 sets of 2-4
exercises per body part
4-6 sets of 3-4
exercises per body part
3-5 sets of 2-4
exercises per body part
5 sets of 3
exercises per body part
4 sets of
combined exercises
  Squats 6 sets      
  Leg Curls 5 sets      
Cardio 30-40 min Outside Cardio 50 min Cardio 30 min Cardio 40 min Cardio 30 min

Doug found insulin pump therapy easier to handle these swings in blood sugar during training or competition. During a heavy lifting session if a high blood sugar came on his insulin pump could be programmed to give a little more insulin to help bring down a high blood sugar. He also was able to decrease the amount of insulin for hours afterwards to reduce the risk of low blood sugar too. One of the big advantages though was the ability to fine tune the basal rate on the pump to meet the decreasing insulin needs during training.

At the height of winning Mr. Universe, Doug began working on a new book on diabetes called the "The Diabetes Antidote" to be released early this summer. He is also to be hosting a fitness talk radio show for people with diabetes called SugarFitness. Finally he'll be on the cover of "Diabetes Explorer" this June available at your local Barnes & Noble. The goals are to spread the knowledge, excitement, tools and fitness coaching to millions of Americans who struggle with diabetes and obesity!

Whether it is power lifting or body building insulin pump therapy has made lifting sessions and competition easier for Doug to succeed without having diabetes get in the way. Doug credits insulin pump therapy and the folks at Animas as a big part of his plan leading up to a Mr. Universe contest that was far harder than he anticipated. He competed with very capable teams from Norway, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. In the end, Doug Burns, Type 1 diabetes, insulin pump user is the reigning 2006-2007 Mr. Universe!

Rick Philbin, MBA, M.Ed., ATC

February 2007

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