Written by Sarah Strong
Linda Franklin holds multiple world, national, and state records in powerlifting. She performs at an elite level and achieves this success while living with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Many who suffer from type 1 diabetes are diagnosed at a young age. For Linda, it was at age 26. Now at age 63, she has proven that this condition won’t stand in the way of her goals.
Always an athlete, Linda found powerlifting after being heavily active and succeeding in Crossfit. In her late 50s, she placed 40th worldwide in the 2014 CrossFit Open. However, due to some injuries and a melanoma that needed to be removed from her bicep and the downtime and recovery from that, Linda transitioned into powerlifting.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels while exercising is vital for those with type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, “it’s very important to balance your insulin doses with the food you eat and the activity that you do–even when you are doing house or yard work.” Those with type 1 diabetes can be successful in the gym as long as they plan ahead of time and know their body’s response to exercise. Linda commented that overall, lifting and type 1 diabetes has been a huge positive for her. But, there are challenges, and sometimes it’s best to rest when blood sugar levels need to recover:
“Daily training can be challenging at times. Because heavy lifting can spike blood sugars and lighter lifting can make it drop. It means I have to stop and address the situation by taking more insulin when it’s high or eating fast-acting glucose when it’s low. Lows are the worst because it takes time to recover. On rare occasions, I’ve had to pack it up and try again another day.”
Linda uses an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to ensure her blood sugar levels are stable. If you see her at a meet, you might notice a patch on the back of her right arm. This is the Dexcom CGM—it sends signals via Bluetooth to her pump to help her see trends in glucose levels. The insulin pump is a small, computerized device that mimics the way the pancreas works by delivering small doses of short-acting insulin continuously. Linda explained that “Basically, it’s a ‘smart’ pump that automates insulin delivery 24/7 through a cannula inserted by needle under the skin. It delivers a very low dose of insulin every few minutes based on my activity, diet, stress, etc. I manage my levels by a Bolus (a single dose of insulin) to try to keep optimal blood sugar ranges.” Linda said she can clip this on her pants or on the inside of her flip belt. She created an instructional video HERE
Exercise can have many health benefits for those with type 1 diabetes. Linda remarked that her overall health has never been better. Her consistency in training has resulted in more stable blood sugars. When asked for advice for fellow type 1s interested in powerlifting, she exclaimed, “DO IT.” Linda explained, “Building muscle can increase insulin sensitivity and consistent training makes it easier to manage blood sugar levels. You can do everything anyone else does with a few precautions. Let gym management know you have diabetes. They will appreciate it and you will too. Always carry low blood sugar snacks and backup supplies, like a meter and insulin. Huge bonus points if you wear a CGM so you can avert an impending high or low blood sugar. Also, wearing a pump can give you the freedom to train if you can’t keep consistent training hours from day to day.”
Even with occasional setbacks, Linda proves that having type 1 diabetes will not stop her from a successful powerlifting career. She aims to compete at IPL Drug Tested World’s this year and break her currents PRs. Long term, her goal is to prove that women at any age can be happy, healthy, and strong by lifting heavy. It is safe to say that Linda practices what she preaches and that she embodies strength inside and out.
Linda currently lifts in the Masters (60-64) 67.5kg class in the USPA. Her best lifts to date are squat: 259lb, bench: 148.8lb, and deadlift: 325.1lb. Follow her on Instagram
For more information about exercise and Type 1 Diabetes check out diabetes.org