Monday, January 21, 2013

Jorell Woodward, Diabetes, and Training for a new Journey

He was a physical education coach, taught after-school programs.

He started teaching boxing two years ago and now teaches boxing and TRX at Stanford.

He’s a personal trainer and runs a kickboxing boot camp on Sunday’s with his friend Jonathan Hoskins for their company, Pound for Pound Fitness.

Jorell standing on the ball
 in the gym.
And, he used to have a training company with his brother Tory and a childhood friend, Teddy Gaines. This is how I met him…at the gym more than a year ago.

On the side he competed in kickboxing and Jiu -Jitsu.

It couldn’t happen to him…right? Not to a guy who’s whole life revolved around fitness.

But it did…and, in his own words, it was...“Boom…you have diabetes.”

These are the words Jorell Woodward heard nearly two years ago. Three words that have changed his life completely.

He used to work out…a lot, and was in great shape…yet it still happened to him. It could happen to any of us.

I sat down recently with Jorell and he shared his story.

PJ: What were the signs that you had diabetes?

Jorell: I was competing in a Jiu-Jitsu competition and needed to make weight. I need to be less than 167 pounds and was between 175 and 180 at the time. So, I layered up [on clothes and ran] and lost 17 pounds in 2 days. I was used to cutting weight, but this worked fast, too fast. It was weird. I never lost that much that quick…17 pounds in 2 days! After the competition I couldn’t gain the weight back.

And, when they say frequent urination, they mean it! I couldn’t stop. At night, every 15 minutes I’d have to go. I didn’t want to go to sleep because the moment I laid down I had to get up. I also was thirsty for sugary stuff. I’d drink a two liter root beer in less than two minutes.

PJ: What happened when you were diagnosed?

Jorell: It was like Boom…you have diabetes. I was diagnosed between a year-and-a-half and two years ago. I saw the doctor’s mouth moving, but when she said diabetes, I just shut down. I was just listening to voices in my head. My dad was diagnosed when he was 42. I saw it coming down the road, but thought it would be much later. At first they thought I had Type 2 and gave me some pills. They worked for six months and then stopped working. I got sick again.

I got a second opinion and I liked how that doctor approached it. He was straight forward and told me…whoever said you had Type 2 lied to you. He showed me the chart of my insulin levels and the only reason the meds worked for a while was because I was working out so much. I took it hard, but I’m taking care of myself and got in better shape. I’m not happy I got diabetes, but I’m happy it opened a new door for me.

Jorell ready to swing the hammer.
PJ: What helped move you from that shock of finding out you had diabetes to the place you are now?

Jorell: My dad was very supportive and my mom, too. But, Dad could relate to it…it was not the end of the road. I did the research on athletes with diabetes…NBA player, Adam Morrison, who played at Gonzaga, and in the NFL, Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, have it. You think if this dude has diabetes, I’ll be all right.

PJ: What is your routine medication-wise these days?

Jorell: I take two insulin shots a day. Humalog, a fast-acting one in the morning, and Lantus while sleeping. If I don’t take Lantus I find it’s not that effective and my blood sugar goes up. I know now that I have to use both insulins. If I lose weight out of nowhere, I check my sugar. It’s just about finding a pattern. Certain foods make your sugar go up…like a dinner roll. Subway doesn’t do anything. And, yeah, it can get frustrating thinking you have your pattern going…and then…uh oh! But, then you figure out the problem and you fix it.

PJ: How has your nutrition changed?

Jorell: I indulge at times, but it’s more of a privilege. Taking insulin is not a green light to eat whatever you want. If you do this, you could become an amputee, you could have issues with your eyes, and problems with other parts of your body. Diabetes affects your whole body.

I eat way more protein now. I was a bread eater. I’m that guy who would sit down with a French baguette and butter and eat the whole loaf. Now, I eat way more vegetables…spinach like crazy. Think Popeye! I have a problem with cooked vegies…I don’t like them soft. I need a crisp, so I eat a lot of raw vegies. You save more nutrients by not cooking them. I cut out 90% of my bread intake. The diet is still a work in progress.

PJ: How has your training changed?

Jorell: I keep sweets close so I don’t fall into hypoglycemia [when his blood sugar gets too low]. I run a lot and sweat. So, I need to start with my sugar over 200. I need to start high to work back down. If I’m at normal levels before running, I eat a cookie. I sweat a lot, so I always make sure I check my levels. Sugar is still burning after a workout. Just like a car is still hot after you turn the engine off. You need to let it cool down. I carry sweets everywhere…right now I have 6 granola bars in my car.

I think it would be awesome to reach out to diabetics about fitness. Yes, there are pre-cautions you have to take, but if you take care of yourself it will be way better.

PJ: How has your diabetes affected you and those around you?

Jorell: At first I didn’t like it when people thought I couldn’t be around anything with sugar in it. People were like…you can’t eat that. I had a chip on my shoulder. But, then I looked at it from a different perspective. They cared and didn’t want me to get hurt or sick. I gained 16 pounds in three days once I started with insulin. Once I started taking care of myself I was in 10 times better shape. This all brought my family closer. It made me appreciate things more.

This has all been for the best, in so many ways I can’t explain. It’s my life’s journey. I wouldn’t change a moment.

PJ: What advice would you give others who have been diagnosed with diabetes?

Jorell: It’s not the end of the road. With proper nutrition and the right workout you can live life to the fullest extent. Yes, it is overwhelming at times. But, keep your head up. Fitness has helped me have a more positive outlook on life. Keep running with it.