Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

How Type 1 Diabetes Inspired Him to Move (Craig Vaream)

Jump To section

  • June 4, 2020

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that life doesn’t always go the way you planned. Sometimes the world shifts in a way you didn’t anticipate, and you have to make a decision: are you going to let it derail you, or will you ultimately adapt and overcome? 

This week’s guest Craig Vaream faced that decision when he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. One second he was healthy, athletic and living life to its fullest — and the next he was learning to live with and manage a complicated disease. 

Rather than let it sideline him, he chose a different path — and used it to fuel his fire. In this episode Craig, now an inspirational speaker and author of the new book No Limits: Adventures and Lessons from Living with Diabetes, shares how spending time in the outdoors helped him do so, and how people can do the same.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:00] Craig’s favorite outdoor space
[2:41] Craig’s diabetes story
[4:44] The difference between working through diabetes today and in the past
[7:01] How diabetes changed his life
[10:06] How his diagnosis changed his life outside
[12:00] The role of intentionality
[14:14] Defiance vs. living with
[17:04] How learning to deal with diabetes changed how he deals with other challenges
[21:35] Diabetics and adventure sports
[22:42] Why Craig became a mountain climber
[26:39] How mountain climbing changed him
[32:11] Craig’s advice for people dealing with a big life challenge
[35:28] Craig’s favorite outdoor gear
[36:15] Craig’s most essential outdoor gear
[37:11] Craig’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Mentioned in the show:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

Insulin

Pancreas

Marathon

Insulin pump

Blood sugar

Rainstorm

Public use cabin Alaska 

Everything is Figuroutable 

Mount Kilimanjaro
Weighted vests

Slide Mountain, New York

 

Favorite Gear:

Salomon Hiking Boots

 

Most Essential Gear:

Outdoor Research rain jacket  

 

Affiliate links above.

 

—–

Register for our newsletter for a chance to win a free Humans Outside decal: https://humansoutside.com/contact-us/

Don’t forget to follow @HumansOutside on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/humansoutside/

Share your own outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Connect with us on Facebook: https://humansoutside.com/

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

 

Amy Bushatz: An active and healthy 22-year-old, Craig Vaream  was still living with his parents and getting ready for his first job out of college in 1991 when he started feeling off one day. The problem got worse over time — he was extremely thirsty and couldn’t keep up his energy while playing sports with friends. He went to the doctor and discovered that he had developed Type 1 Diabetes — and his life changed forever. 

Unlike Type 2 Diabetes which can be largely regulated by diet, Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone which allows your body to process sugar to produce energy. There is no cure, and it requires near constant monitoring to make sure your blood sugar is maintained correctly. 25 million people in the US have Type 1 Diabetes. 

Like any chronic disease, learning how to manage it is a constant battle. It’s easy to think that it might limit you. But then there’s another option: proving that it doesn’t have to be that way and heading outside to conquer big things anyway. 

And, if you’re Craig, there’s secret option number three — writing about it in a book so others can be inspired, too. 

Craig, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

 

Craig Vaream: Thank you so much for having me today, Amy.

 

AB: So we like to start the show by imagining ourselves hanging out with our guests in our favorite outdoor space. So where are you today? Where are we hanging out with you and how many dogs are there? Because we love dogs.

 

CV: Well, my favorite spot is the Rockefeller State Preserve. It’s in Westchester County, New York. It’s about 1400 acres, all trails, great running, lots of dogs and horses. It’s a fun, serene place for me, where I collect my thoughts and I push myself physically when I’m training for some of the feats I attempt to do.

 

AB: So, your book, No Limits chronicles your experience defying Type One Diabetes and not letting it define you and the expectations that can put on you. Tell us a little bit about your experiences of learning you have the condition and the mental switch that flipped that made you decide how you wanted to handle it.

 

CV: Yeah. So at the time, I was still young, I was out of college. I was 22 years old. I had previously ran a marathon, the New York City Marathon, the prior fall. I was training to run another marathon out in Portland, Oregon, and I was really struggling to finish the runs. And as you may know, New York summers can be incredibly humid, hazy days where you know, it’s harder to run anyway. So initially I just felt — Gee, I’m kind of run down from the run from the heat from pushing myself too hard. And then it ultimately led to a point where I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I would literally drink a pitcher of water and still be thirsty. And I lost a dramatic amount of weight over a period of probably 30 to 60 days.

 

AB: What did you do to tackle it?

 

CV: I wasn’t a big fan of going to doctors, but I told my parents I need to see a physician because something is not right with me. You just get that sense, when you’re physically active, you know when your body’s not quite right. So we went and the doctor proposed many solutions, infections, viruses, whatever it may be. Diabetes was one of the options and again, at that time, pre-internet, didn’t really know what that was. Didn’t really worry about it, but it was just run down, ultimately diagnosed with Type One Diabetes requiring immediate insulin injections to better control my sugars as well as a need to stop exercising, so that I could better monitor my body to understand how much insulin I would need without the additional variable of exercise, which actually helps diabetics. But initially, you need to kind of tune in on what your body’s ratio of insulin needs to be based on your level of activity.

 

AB: So these days, we have these monitors. I have some friends with kids with Type One Diabetes, and they wear these monitors all the time and they’re hooked up to the smartphones, and they give them instant information and alerts every time their sugars dip. But that did not exist at the time. And so monitoring your blood sugar was a whole, like a whole different world. Is that an accurate understanding that I have?

 

CV: That’s exactly right. So at the time in the early 90s, I was basically finger pricking my body for blood, somewhere between 10 and 12 times a day to get a sense of where my blood sugars were and then taking insulin based on that, as well as documenting what I was eating, when I was eating, so he can get a sense of how much insulin my body needed based on the condition that I had and how extreme it was. So for the first year, I literally just did nothing but that and then ultimately, I was able to begin exercising again a year later, in trying to kind of, you know, better control the sugar as well as kind of continue to pursue my goals of living an active lifestyle.

 

AB: And so, for somebody who’s diagnosed today, does the diagnosis still come along with that sort of stop movement order, not to, you know, bring in a term that we’re maybe too familiar with right now, because the current virus but, you know, to stop exercising and stop having to have that physical movement does does the diagnosis usually bring that today as well? Just like you did for you.

 

CV: Yeah, I don’t think it’s as prevalent today as it was back when I was originally diagnosed. Mainly because, to your earlier point, the continuous glucose monitors that many of us wear now give us instant information, as do the insulin pumps. So you have a lot of data that you didn’t have back then. Now every five minutes, I know what my blood sugar is, I know which way it’s going. I know where it’s been, I can look at it, you know, for the time of day for the past month, for the past year. So I have the ability now to actually better understand it so I could see the effect that exercise would have. So I’m sure now people are being more active because it does help dramatically control your blood glucose, your blood sugars when you’re exercising, although I’m sure it’s a little bit more, you know, you’re doing more walking than marathon running initially, but ultimately, we can all get to that place.

 

AB: Yeah. But for you, that wasn’t the experience. So at the time, spending that time, time outside, running and doing other movement related activities was just a really major part of your life and Type One Diabetes stepped in and that had to change. Talk about that.

 

CV: Yeah. So when I was originally diagnosed, and I had a quite active lifestyle before that, I think the first things that go through your mind, or you know — Why me? Why is this happening? And at that age are still young immature. So I was really just angry about it initially. And then, as you know, the days and weeks and months progressed, I viewed it as something that you know, I needed to accept and it’s easier said than done. No matter what your age is, when you see a dramatic lifestyle change where you have to eat things differently, you have to take shots, you have to prick your fingers, these are things you’re doing that are not normal. And to be quite honest, at the time, I was embarrassed and ashamed a bit that I was diabetic, so I didn’t take insulin shots in front of other people. I rarely pricked my finger in front of other people because I didn’t want people to know I was diabetic. I believe today it’s a far more accepting society that we live in where people can be themselves that have the disease and you don’t have to worry about people, you know, discussing it or seeing you wearing an insulin pod or a pump. But back then it was very different. So I felt that was another challenge. And honestly at the beginning, not being able to exercise kind of provided a way of blocking my mental state in a good way, in terms of being an outlet for me to kind of think creatively, because I’m outdoors, I think, do my best thinking. And at the time, I was unable to do that and be active. So it was just really trying to hunker down and improve my discipline, among other things around what I eat, when I eat, how I eat. Not that this is different from when I was training for a marathon before I was diagnosed, right? There’s a discipline that’s required to complete marathon training as well and complete the race on race day. It was just a different kind of discipline, and was one that I didn’t choose. So it was a great deal of frustration initially. And then I learned that if I continued to be frustrated by it, I was burning out and that’s not helpful for anybody. It created a lot of negative energy for myself and those around me. So I realized I had to change my attitude towards the disease, accept it and adapt to the new changing environment in which I lived.

 

AB: So you say that you appreciate time outside because it helps you think. And when we are facing a major life change, you know, something maybe we didn’t anticipate or just you know, any of these challenges that come, yours was Type One Diabetes, but it really could be anything that really changes your ability maybe to access going outside or to really experiencing spirits that the way you had experienced before. You have to sort of adapt and overcome and find new ways to get to what you wanted to do or to what helps you. Is there a way that tackling the disease helped you appreciate that tool of being outside more or a way that it changed how you approach being outside?

 

CV: Yeah, well for me, it gave me a lot more gratitude towards having the opportunity to do that, because it was taken away from me for a year. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. I would go in Central Park quite frequently in New York City and sit on the bench and watch the runners go by and sit where the finish line was from the only marathon I had previously run, and wish I could be out there on a beautiful spring day. Basically, I had to use that as fuel. Seeing others and being outdoors is kind of fueling my desire to kind of be active again at some point, not knowing where the diabetes was going to take me – was going to get it worse? I had a lot of unknowns and honestly at that time, because of the lack of information readily available, since there was no internet, a lot of confusion on my part about what the future might hold for me. But like I said, I turned positive, after a few weeks of struggling with it, to kind of really address it in a more positive light. And again, being outdoors always helps, even if he was just going for walks, but even then I would limit how long I would walk for, just to make sure I was able to understand the effect that would have on my body and I would document all the all the all those type of things, to see if I could better learn how my body was functioning with this disease.

 

AB: I keep coming back to this idea of intentionality, that when we experience these setbacks or these uphill battles in life, that it changes the level to which we must be intentional. It makes us have to try harder. And I don’t know about you, but I find more value in an experience after I’ve been forced to be intentional about it. Maybe I just don’t take it for granted anymore. Do you find that? 

 

CV: Yes, when things are easy, it’s not nearly as satisfying as when you got to work, right? And be thoughtful about what you’re doing, how you’re doing, when you’re doing it. And to be clear, there are good days and bad days in that process, right? So, there are days when I’m like, this is great. And I have done everything I want, you know, I eat and everything, I think I’m in a great place with diabetes. I’m gonna go for a walk, my sugar plummets dangerously low, where I have to take juices, I have to stop because I’m about to pass out. So even when you do it right, it makes it more rewarding when you do it well, and you get that result. Sometimes you don’t always get it. But that’s just kind of part of the process of learning — why was today different than yesterday? And sometimes you know why that is because you see it documented. Other times, you don’t really know. You just gotta let it go.

 

AB: Yeah, okay. So I’m finding that I’m spending more time with my children right now than I have in the past, in the school year, maybe. And just because it’s different world events, right? And I have been faced with sort of like — Okay, what are we going to do about this? Right? And I realized that one of the differences between when they’re home all the time in the summer and when they’re home in the school year when I didn’t plan on it, is the level to which I’m intentional about different things that we do and the perspective I take and looking at the challenge. So in the summer, I look at the challenge from the perspective of freedom — oh, they’re home all the time and that means we’re free to do all these things. And right now, I look at the change with the perspective of a barrier — oh, they’re home all the time. That means I have to do all of these things. Right? See the difference there, free versus have to. And so I have thought about it just this in the last couple days, that maybe if I tackled some of these challenges as an I get to versus I have to do that that would change my perspective. Reading your book, I feel like maybe that’s exactly what you’re saying, that I get to defy this versus I have to deal with it.

 

CV: Certainly being a diabetic and living with a disease, it’s something that I didn’t want to let define me or limit me in terms of what I could do. Because I got it when I was still young and active. I really found that I wanted to live the life that I always thought I could growing up and just kind of continue to, like I said, understand it and understand the effects it’s having on my body and how my body is reacting to it, but also not wanting to stop my dreams and stop living and chasing the things I always wanted to do. So for me, I really had to understand that I had to be really smart and thoughtful about what I did, when I did it, and how I did it. I’ll never forget that, you know, the one year after I was originally diagnosed that day, I went for a run in Central Park for a mile when I hadn’t been able to run for a year, and was chomping at the bit to do it, and it was probably one of my most satisfying runs just because I finished, but intensely, intensely emotional. And just something to this day, I can remember the emotional effects and how I finished and how I felt. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live and I think not letting the disease stop me from wanting to do that, but yet being thoughtful about taking the year to document everything and understand how my body was processing the disease, and how it was affecting me was important to allow me to kind of move forward.

 

AB: Your book talks a lot about dealing with diabetes and dealing with your diagnosis. It’s, in fact, what the book is about. I don’t want listeners to think that Craig is all diabetes all the time, right? But we are here to talk about your book,No Limits. So your book really focuses on that. I’m wondering how you see the lessons that you learned through that as translating to other challenges that folks have, because not everybody thankfully deals with Type One Diabetes, but we all deal with challenges.

 

CV: Yeah, I think about it in a couple of different ways. The first way I think about it is, no matter what challenge I face, and it could be diabetes, or it could be something else, in my career or other things that I’ve got, you know, going on in my life dealing with my family, or relatives is, you know, making sure you’re trying to set a goal for yourself. You want to move forward, you know, and you’re not sure how, so what is it you want to move towards achieving? So for me, even with the disease, I always wanted to push myself with a goal of ultimately running a marathon again, and not letting the disease define me, but rather, me define it. I own the diabetes, righ? It doesn’t own me. That is how I’ve always lived, you know, after that initial diagnosis. So for me, a lot of it’s around, you know, no matter what your situation is, find a goal you want to achieve. And then, you know, simple goals simply work is what I say in the book. Which is, you know, create small goals to start moving forward. You just need to be moving. In some road races when I run, I might not be moving the fastest. There’s a lot of people running faster than me, especially at my age now, right? I don’t let it bother me because I’m running against myself. I’m running against the disease, I’m running for me. Right? So it’s just a mindset you take towards, you know, setting a goal, making sure it’s realistic, because we’re not Olympic athletes, and we’re all not all gonna run fast. We don’t all have all day to train, we’ve got family things to do, job things and career things to take care of and address. So you have to realize what’s realistic in terms of what you can and cannot do, and really just push yourself forward in that regard. 

I think also for me, another thing that I learned because of the disease, which I talk a lot about a lot in the book is asking for help. And for me, I felt that when you have an obstacle in front of you or a challenge, you’re trying to overcome it. You know, none of us are self made. We’ve all been successful, overcoming things because of the help of others. It could be our medical team that helps me with my diabetes. It’s certainly my family who’s adjusted their diets and lifestyle to accommodate me. And I’m incredibly grateful for that. As well as people I’ve worked with who have kept juice boxes or kept an eye on me to make sure that I was okay. But we all need help and asking for it is incredibly uncomfortable. And for me, it took many, many years before I realized that I needed to do that. So now when I run races, I have people along the route who have sugars with me, some of them have extra blood testers in case I need to prick my finger, some are carrying insulin in case the insulin pump doesn’t work. Because for whatever reason, you know, I’m in a pouring rainstorm running a race or I’m sweating too much and it’s sliding off. So asking for help, I think is another way of helping us all kind of, you know, achieve the goals that we all want to do.

 

AB: And if you feel like you don’t have enough challenges in your personal life, check out just being outside. Talk about something that’ll throw a lot of things at you. Just to make sure you actually want to do it, you know, whether that’s a rainstorm on a hike when you didn’t expect rain. My family and I recently went to a public use cabin in a local state park to sort of get away for the night and while nature specifically was not behind the fact that the heater decided not to work in the cabin, you know, the weather certainly played into that and it was just you know, it was an adapt and overcome, right. So to what level did we want to actually be there? How gritty are we? I’ll tell you what, like working through those problems and being out there anyway and problem solving that stuff, it was a great lesson, right? In the moment it was not comfortable. And at the end we learned, to quote the title of a book I just read, all problems are figure-out-able. But we persevered and overcame and had a great time anyway. But nature has a way of throwing all sorts of things at you to make you say — No thanks. And do the really convenient thing, which in my experience, by the way, heavily features my couch. My couch is super convenient, right? But being outside, maybe not so much. 

One of the incredible things that you did with intentionality was climb Mount Kilimanjaro. So can you give me a sense if you happen to know how many type one diabetics are also mountain climbers? How common is this?

 

CV: I think it’s becoming an ever growing group of type one diabetics, mainly because of the technological advances in the last seven to 10 years, which, as mentioned earlier, allow us to understand our blood sugar levels without having to prick our fingers, so you could wear gloves and stay warm, and hold on to the rope and the climbing poles. So I think it’s becoming more common. For me, one of the challenges I was trying to understand was how well my insulin and my testing devices work at high altitudes. And how is insulin affected at the altitude level of Kilimanjaro, which is 19,341 feet at the summit? So for me, it was a lot of prep work to make sure that I’d be comfortable and my things would work the way they wanted to. But it’s a growing population, for sure, of individuals that are really pushing ourselves past our limits.

 

AB: So talk to me about your decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, like where did that come from? You’d wake up one morning and say — I think I’ll climb Africa’s tallest peak today. How did that go?

 

CV: Well, it came about in a couple of ways. So it was actually going into the 25th year of me being a type one diabetic. So I was starting to enter into that year and I said to myself — what can I do that would be really amazing? So I had already qualified to run the New York City Marathon that November, which was 25 years later than the first time I ran it before I was diagnosed. So I thought that was kind of a cool moment to have. But I said — that’s a long way off. I need something to do before then. And I really want to prove that the disease doesn’t define me, right? I define it. I’m going to show it who’s boss after 25 years, that I could still live with no limits. So it was kind of a decision where the mountain’s a little bit less technical than perhaps some of the other taller speaks, particularly across the many continents, because I like to hike, but I’m not like a real, you know, mountain climbing kind of guy. So for me, I felt I could learn what I needed to learn, I could get fit, I could push myself, which and again, out of my comfort zone a little bit and go into Africa certainly would do that. So it was a whole bunch of factors. But the main one driving me really was, you know, I wanted to prove that I’m going to do something that not a lot of people in this world do, let alone diabetics, especially after having a disease for 25 years. 

 

AB: So how did that go? 

 

CV: Well, the climb certainly had its ups and downs as the book features. I would say for me, you know, the fitness level I had was pretty good. Training with, you know, weighted packs and weighted vests and, you know, doing a lot of steep inclines and stairwells in New York City apartment buildings with weight on my back was helpful. There were a few days there though, and a few moments where it was, you know, more challenging than others. The second day, the long hike, I passed out right near our camp for the evening. I’m not sure if it was the sun or the sugar. I don’t know what it was, but I know I was out cold. So that was a little harrowing. 

And then certainly later in that trip, I had the challenge because the weather changes and temperatures are so dramatic on the mountain, even hour to hour when you’re hiking. It’s like amazing and you’d be sunny and warm and it’s windy and cold and hailing and then next thing you know it’s warm again. 

But in the evening, it was so cold that several of my diabetic devices froze. And I had to basically realize what was happening, because my brain wasn’t functioning as well as it does in New York City level altitudes. So in that environment I was trying to figure out what that error message was, I realized it was cold just because it was the only thing I could deduce in my head. And then I also had to warm them up, and then keep them functioning, the remainder of the trip. So there was a lot of use of hand warmers for the diabetic supplies, not for my body, and sleeping with them in the bags, as I know many diabetics do. 

And I said the last challenge I had, which was really more on summit day, was trying to do the mathematical calculations of how much insulin I take. So when I do that calculation on a daily basis, I look at how many carbohydrates I’m taking, I know what my ratio of how much insulin per carb I take, and I take the insulin level that’s calculated. I couldn’t really think clearly because I was so high up, my brain wasn’t working the way I wanted on what the numbers would be and there were moments where I would do the same calculation multiple times and get different answers every time. So I always erred on you know, not taking enough insulin because I could always take more. If I took too much, I might pass out and that would be a really, really unfortunate event, especially at that altitude for my body. So I had to make some adjustments in how I treated the disease for those eight days on the mountain.

 

AB: How did the experience of climbing that peak and spending all that time in just that really incredible nature and I mean, it changes moment by moment and you go through all sorts of different climate zones? How did that change your perspective on everyday life?

 

CV: Yeah, for me, it was really life altering. You know, being outside always provides invigoration and gets my brain going in a different way, but being on the mountain and kind of separated from all the devices that we all feel are mandatory these days was really life altering. 

I mean, I’m sitting on the mountain, writing in the dark and we’re pretty much in our tents by six. We’re up at six the next day for the most part. And, you know, you’re sitting there by yourself, no devices, knowing and just thinking, you know about all the things you’ve done, you’ve accomplished. And for me at that point, I had a successful career but I was traveling a lot. I wasn’t home as much as I wanted to be for my family and my kids especially. So I felt like I had missed out on things that I would prefer to be more of a part of going forward. 

And then I also really learned to appreciate – in Tanzania the local Tanzanians, be it the guides or the porters who helped us carry our gear, even the locals in the cities that we stayed in before you climbed, you know, very simple lives they lead. Not a lot of electronic devices, yet happier and less stressed than any of us are, you know, certainly in the environment that I was in. So I found it to be a time of incredible self reflection on you know, what’s next for Craig. And the mountain really changed kind of my arc of my life from then on in many ways.

 

AB: Talk to me more about that. Give me some examples of how it did change it.

 

CV: Well, there are a couple of ways. So one, I realized, right, I wanted to be home more. So for me, a big part of the decision was — what do I do to spend more time with my family? Obviously changing and leaving the job I was in was one of them. Also, one of the things that changed my life, really in a way I did not expect at all, was when I got back, I started speaking to the diabetic community, in particular, younger children that were newly diagnosed within a year of being diagnosed like I was, you know, those 25 years previously. And so these are more eight to 18 year old children. And I started sharing my story about how I climbed Kilimanjaro and the response and reaction was actually overwhelming at times for me. I remember the first event I spoke at and I shared with the group that I had climbed Kilimanjaro and you know, did marathons and stuff, and they literally gave me a standing ovation, they were applauding me. And I really, truly wasn’t really sure why, but then they feel that’s impossible. So just sitting down and speaking, and there’s one boy that I always discuss, because he really changed my life and moves me to this day. A 13 year old boy came up to me after one of my events speaking, and basically said to me, he’s like — I was diagnosed, you know, nine months ago. I always wanted to be like Michael Phelps and be an Olympic swimmer. But now that I’ve gotten this disease, I was told I couldn’t, but after hearing you share your story, now I know I can. So for me, I decided in that moment, these events are how can I make more of a difference in the diabetic community for children who don’t feel like they can live a normal life and active life and they can chase their dreams no matter what, regardless of whether they’ve got diabetes or some other disease. So, for me, I left my job and really just spend my time speaking to young diabetic children and others who face challenges, and it really was Kilimanjaro that helped change my life and that arc of my path dramatically.

 

AB: Yeah, many people might not know that type one is often referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, because it is most often diagnosed in children. That’s, that’s correct?

 

CV: Yes, it is.

 

AB: And so, when you talk about this disease, you’re really talking to kids who are grappling with this. And, you know, you never really know how a young child is really sorting through that this is their new reality and here’s what it might mean for the thing that you said you wanted to do. Even though we know that if you’re four, what you say you want to be when you grow up, may not be the thing you want to be. But, you know, it’s just sort of a process and it’s like a learning curve and something you just have to sort through over time, right? 

 

CV: Absolutely. I mean, again, another example I have – actually an adult with diabetes. I was actually visiting my accountant and in this he introduced me to a woman who worked in his office who’s in her early 30s. She has some young children, was, you know, diabetic her whole life and really struggling with living with that disease and worried about her children’s well being in her own health. I’ shared my story and she didn’t think it was possible. She was shaking and teary eyed. She said — I didn’t think this was possible for people like us. She told me two weeks later, she emailed me because I had been asking her how I could help, and she basically started going to a gym and walking on a treadmill, which she hadn’t done in 10 years. So I think all of us could use a little push sometimes. And especially those in the diabetic community, who at times, because it is a you know, you have to manage this every hour of every day. It can get exhausting and you can burn out really quick.

 

AB: Yeah, so on that I’m wondering if you had two pieces of advice to give people who are staring down a really big life altering challenge. Maybe it’s health related, maybe it’s diabetes, maybe it’s a relationship or job. What would you tell them based on your experience?

 

CV: Well, for me, I think the one thing that kind of helped me turn the corner early on, after I was diagnosed, was not allowing myself to be the victim. So no matter what the situation is, and again, you know, we could all look at ourselves and say — Gee, I don’t know why this happened to me, why is this? Why am I going through this? Why is this so hard? You’re never allowing yourself to feel like you’re the victim and feel like you own it, and say, — gee, I’ve got this, I think is helpful, and allowing yourself to kind of think bigger than, you know, kind of kind of the situation you’re in. So that would be, you know, kind of one piece of advice. 

 

And as I mentioned earlier, I think for sure, asking for help, no matter what it is, I think is incredibly powerful, not only for yourself, but for those who help you. And I have found it incredibly surprising, I’m in Kilimanjaro and doing some of the things that I’ve achieved, even when I climbed Kilimanjaro, I had people helping me at work, people helping me understand what kind of gear I needed, be it relatives or friends. And every one of those people went with me on that trip in my mind, right? Those are the people who allowed me to get to reach that summit. And they were all with me along the way. And I could literally think of hundreds of people who helped make that happen, be it colleagues, friends, family, whatever. And I think asking for help, not only does it allow you to overcome things and achieve great things, but it makes them feel better because they’re helping somebody else. And I think, in my mind, the way I think about that, and again, this was a realization that took me many years to realize, so even when I share this with young diabetics, I’m not sure they fully appreciate it. The analogy I use for them is if your best friend needed help, and didn’t ask you for it, how would you feel? I’d be really annoyed. Like, why didn’t you ask me for help? I could have helped you. Right? So why would you not ask them if you needed help, and it makes them feel better also. So I think, you know, I’m asking more of yourself and giving more to others is always a good motto to live by.

 

AB: Yeah, absolutely. Man, what a great lesson because, you know, I think I feel exactly what you’re saying, right? That if I am sitting here, and I knew that you would need help, I would be so upset that you didn’t ask me, you know, because I’m not psychic. But although that would be really handy sometimes. Right?

 

But at the same time, how would I possibly be able to help you if you didn’t ask, right? I want you to ask, I guess is what I’m saying. And so it’s almost a gift. I think I’ve heard it said that being asked to help is a gift or asking somebody to help is giving them a gift because people really do want to be there for each other. They just need the opportunity. That’s such a great takeaway. 

 

Okay, so we’ve reached the part of our show where we do sort of our left turn into the things I like to ask that I don’t get to ask – just some leftovers, if you will. So you’ve been a runner, a marathoner, those are to me the same things but not necessarily to everybody. You’re a mountain climber. Talk to us about your favorite outdoor gear. What’s something that you just love that you take outside with you?

 

CV: Well for me, it’s obviously my hiking boots. I wear those even when I’m not out in nature. They’re comfortable. They made the trek up to the summit and they’re kind of like how a baby blanket is to a baby. Right? I can’t go anywhere without them. So for sure my hiking boots are by far my tmost favorite outdoor gear.

 

AB: What kind of boots do you like? 

 

CV: I like Salomons. I wear a lot of Salomons and got a couple of pairs, but I enjoy wearing those for sure.

 

AB: I hear that a lot these days, popular brand. I think you’re the second person who flagged the Salomon hiker as their favorite thing. So it’s great. 

What’s your most essential outdoor gear? Maybe it’s the same as your favorite?

 

CV: Yeah, no for me, I would say it’s definitely the rain poncho or a raincoat. I actually wear an outdoor research jacket. I use it as a windbreaker and rain, but it’s always on me when I’m hiking because I learned quickly in Africa that the weather changes within minutes and you want to get caught short. So even now, if I’m you know in New York and I can always carry it around with me on a long day just to make sure that I’m covered, but for sure it’s most essential for me to stay dry.

 

AB: Yeah, I have an outdoor research ferrosi, I think is the title of my jacket and strong concur, love it. That is the most essential gear. I’m glad you mentioned it because I probably would have forgotten that if someone asked me that question, but yeah, big time. 

Okay, so favorite outdoor moment ever. You close your eyes. Where are you and what are you doing?

 

CV: Well, for me, I think it was a moment right when I was starting to train for Kilimanjaro – it was the first kind of hike I did solo. I went up to upstate New York, in the Catskill Mountains to a place called Slide Mountain. So it was a December day. And when I think about it, I was the only one on the trail. I was glad that I navigated properly and got to this beautiful spot where I was able to kind of sit down and overlook thousands of acres of trees. And I was just proud of myself that I did that on my own and my sugars were kept in check. And I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started that hike that day with the weight on my back, but when I look back, it’s such a rewarding moment for me. It kind of gave me hope that, you know, Kilimanjaro is within grasp. I still have time to train, but I’m heading in the right direction. And I just think about that moment – just sitting there on the ledge looking out on the other mountains in the range was just really an incredibly satisfying moment for me. So for sure that would be that favorite outdoor moment for me.

 

AB: Craig, thanks so much for being on Humans Outside Podcast today.

CV: Thank you for having me today, Amy. I really appreciate the invitation in the time we spent together.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FOLLOW US

Jump To section

Categories

FEATURED POSTS

Humans Outside Instagram

How does spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day since Sept. 1, 2017 change your life? 

We’re on a mission to find out.

JOIN Us Today

THE HUMANS OUTSIDE NEWSLETTER

Keep up with the latest podcast episodes, resources and announcements