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Welcome to ACSM's Sports Performance Center Blog

An international resource fueled by the science of sports medicine

The ACSM Sports Performance Center blog brings you up-to-date commentary from top ACSM experts around the world.

Opinions expressed in the Sports Performance Blog are the authors’. They do not necessarily reflect positions of ACSM.

Two athletes from different backgrounds both diagnosed with progressive conditions that have no cure. How can these athletes pursue their athletic endeavors?

by Lauren Johnson | Feb 21, 2014

Written by Kristin Duquette, US Paralympic Swimmer

For athletes like myself and Gary Hall, Jr. being physically active proved to be an important part of our lives. Not only are we both swimmers, but both of us learned how to manage and deal with our conditions through physical activity. As Hall was faced with Type 1 Diabetes and I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, we both learned how to properly train and ultimately succeed in our sport.

Much of our training came with lots of trial and error: mentally focusing and refocusing on what is possible. With Type 1 Diabetes, practices for Hall consisted of glucose monitoring and insulin treatments during his workout sets and competitions. During this process, Hall learned how to maintain a steady insulin level by matching carbohydrates consumed with the amount and level of physical activity. Training with Muscular Dystrophy brought its own challenges. With a body having the potential to constantly change, much of my training was finding what strokes should be modified for best water dynamics in addition to avoid fatiguing. Another challenge included how to isolate and engage a muscle without compensating from other parts of my body. And with an unconventional body, training and physical activity requires innovative thinking from the athlete, parents, coaches, trainers, and doctors.

Having a progressive condition is not only manageable, but one can benefit from physically activity. I realized this epiphany a few months after I did not make the 2012 US London Paralympic Team. Different doctors told me that training helped maintain my strength and mobility. Swimming was, and will always be one of the best things I can do for my condition. Even before I was diagnosed at age 9, swimming established the neural pathways and mental memory in my brain which became evident when I retaught a different body how to swim after a 6 year break. Regardless of competition, sport and physical activity provide more benefits than we may know. Physical activity can truly shatter our limitations on one’s potential and how far the human body can truly go. 

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