If you ever wondered if you could be an award-winning weightlifter with type 1 diabetes, just look to Hawaii, where D-peep Jameson (Jamie) Dahl is showing us how it's done.
The thirty-something on Oahu (one of the most northwest of Hawaii's eight-island chain and home to state capital Honolulu) has earned achieved four state weightlifting titles and made several national-level appearances including in the US Nationals and the American Open. He was recently featured on local Hawaii News Now sharing his story.
But Dahl doesn't think of himself as anywhere close to Olympic, he tells us, and in fact he only started in this sport out of boredom and a desire to stay healthy -- something that might be inspiring in itself to see how far he's come!
Diagnosed at age 24 in October 2008, Dahl was the first in his family to contract T1D. Cue the quick succession of common symptoms – extreme weakness, bloodshot eyes, extreme thirst and urination, easy bruising, weight loss of roughly 45 pounds in two weeks – and eventually an ER visit to reach the diagnosis.
It was a surprise, he recalls, since he was the only one in his family and had always been athletic growing up, participating in variety of sports including basketball, baseball, hockey, water polo, football, and swimming.
Originally from San Jose, CA, and living there at the time, Dahl didn’t move to the islands until 2013. He went to school in San Francisco studying animation and worked in that industry a short time, doing rotoscoping and node-based compositing for motion picture production as well as VFX animation for film.
Eventually, he wound up running ad campaigns for radio sales and hosting a talk show program called Empire Broadcasting at KRTY/KLIV in San Jose, and later transitioned to where he is now working in property management and real estate development in Hawaii. Dahl says that state’s development is on the upswing these days, with a construction boom that means many new housing and commercial developments expected during over the next 10 years in Oahu.
How to Become a Weightlifter
Dahl had nothing to do with weightlifting until age 26, he says.
“I was bored and needed a physical outlet, so decided to join a gym and enjoyed lifting something heavy and putting it right back where it was,” he chuckles. “I’d really never weight-trained before, then over a few years of hard work I became pretty good.”
“Weight training is a job in and of itself, and managing diabetes is just like having a second job on top of it,” he says. “But high-caliber strength sports are not out of reach for type 1 diabetics.”
He tells us there aren’t really any specific tricks as to diabetes management while lifting, other than the typical advice such as keeping ample D-supplies and glucose on hand – particularly when traveling. He currently uses the Medtronic 530G system with Enlite CGM sensor, a device he says helps a great deal in not having to worry about scar tissue that inhibits insulin absorption during his lifting routine, problem he had previously with injections.
Dahl insists that he's by no means an Olympic athlete, as the highest ranking he’s achieved is #25 in the country for his 85 and 94kg weight class – which is about 2,000 athletes! But there are also those four state titles, and national competitions including the US Nationals and the American Open. Talk about modesty...
“I don't really have any magic words in terms of pushing yourself to the limits,” he admits. “If I had to coin something, I would say commitment is as close as you will get to a silver bullet. While commitment does not guarantee you will be the best, it does guarantee that you will get awfully good in whatever you pursue. You have to stick with it, separate yourself emotionally from your endeavors so you can coach yourself and look at issues and challenges objectively and rationally.”
Sounds like good advice, no?
And it mirrors what we've heard from other weightlifters and bodybuilders in the Diabetes Community, including powerlifter Ginger Vieira, former Mr. Universe Doug Burns (who had a well-publicized issue with hypoglycemia some years back), fitness bikini champion Christel Oerum, and Rodney Miller in Texas who last year hosted the first "Bolus & Barbells" event to encourage a whole community of PWDS who enjoy weightlifting.
What we appreciate about all these folks is their humility, and how they showcase the real-life challenges of mastering both their sport and diabetes. Their stories -- especially Dahl's -- also illustrate how people can sometimes find their way into a seemingly intimidating sport like weightlifting just by happenstance, and can still thrive and succeed!
As always, we have to echo the whole You Can Do This! mantra for anyone who wonders what's possible... or might feel they can't lift themselves out a diabetes funk.
Here's to knowing that YOU CAN, and thank you today to Jamie Dahl for sharing your experience!