Diabetes Training Camp: Reaching Fitness Goals with Dr. Matt Corcoran
Training for anything can be intimidating and, for those living with diabetes, there may be additional challenges, both physical and mental. That’s where Dr. Matt Corcoran comes in. He’s an endocrinologist with the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at Atlanticare and the founder of Diabetes Training Camp, which offers a comprehensive program designed to help people living with diabetes meet their fitness goals, no matter what their fitness level. Today I’m happy to introduce you to Dr. Corcoran and share the story of his inspiring work.
Q: What led you to become an endocrinologist, and why did you decide to specialize in exercise?
A: I’ve been a clinical endocrinologist for nearly 14 years. One of my residency mentors inspired me to specialize in the field. Then, with about four to six weeks left in my fellowship, my niece was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At that point in time, the work I wanted to pursue as a job and a livelihood became much more of a passion, and it’s just grown from there.
I’ve always had a personal interest in exercise and fitness and the implications of healthy living on diseases, such as diabetes. Over the years, I have tried to meld those two interests and impact diabetes healthcare in a unique way, by focusing on a more comprehensive and holistic approach to it.
Q: How did your Diabetes Training Camp get started?
A: I was inspired by my niece to create a resource for people with diabetes, so I started Diabetes Training Camp in 2006. I wanted to fill a common void of what was not happening in the traditional healthcare system in my area. For people living with diabetes, it’s often difficult to find an expert who considers the disease state when pursuing fitness goals. The intention of Diabetes Training Camp was to create a place where a specialized team works with individuals living with diabetes to help them achieve their goals, whether it was learning how to run a few miles or optimizing their triathlon training and everything in between.
We wanted to create an advanced education course in diabetes management to help and inspire people living with diabetes to be exercisers and athletes. It’s evolved to become a true community of people living and thriving with diabetes who look to us as part of their healthcare team. It is a place to come and immerse themselves in the world of healthy living with diabetes. The camp really offers them a fresh approach to managing their diabetes in a very proactive and helpful way and with a community of campers and staff who “gets it.”
Q: What’s involved in the Camp? How does it work?
A: The week-long camp intertwines training and fitness sessions with an entire curriculum designed to educate the person living with diabetes about the physiology of diabetes, including managing their diabetes during exercise and sports, health and nutrition, and probably most importantly, the mental skills to help them achieve their fitness goals.
I have to credit my staff. They’re really incredible. I have a team of about 12 to 15 including myself, diabetes educators, registered dietitians, coaches, fitness specialists and a mental skills coach. Probably about a third of the staff has diabetes themselves. They’re all so talented that they’re able to pick out individual needs, even while working with a group.
We keep our numbers small. Our ideal session is somewhere around 25 or 30 campers. I think that helps meet the individual needs while working with diverse fitness levels.
The camps are usually held in a university setting which makes it fun. We all eat together in the cafeteria and stay in the dorms. It’s like going back to college. We go from about 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every night, with training sessions, plus education in one-on-one counseling and small groups.
Q: Who participates in the Camp and do you have people return?
A: We’ve had folks from the age of 15 to 75, but most of our campers are usually somewhere in the 30 to 50 year age range. It’s really inspiring. The majority of campers who come through have type 1, though we usually have a few folks who have type 2, too. We’ve hosted more than 225 campers from about 40 states and five countries.
Most of the people that come through are of an average or slightly above average fitness level, but we’ve had all levels join us. Some of them might be training for endurance events, while others have struggled to walk or run for more than a few miles because of challenges with their diabetes management. They want to be able to do that and feel good about it. No matter their fitness level, the campers share a common bond. Even if they come in fearful about their abilities, the participants inspire each other. At the end of the day, everyone’s looking out for each other.
We have a 25 to 30 percent return rate. It’s very clear to me now that people are looking to us to be part of their overall healthcare team as a resource for their fitness endeavors.
Q: What are your plans for the future of the Camp?
A: The vision remains similar to what it was at the beginning, which is to create a year-round resource for people. Longer-term, I want to create a center where people can come and learn how to live a healthy lifestyle with their diabetes and really try to be in control. I’d also like to be able to help other healthcare professionals do this work. I’d like for it to be a training ground for other passionate people to introduce into their communities. The fact that campers have come from all over to attend this camp just speaks to the universal need for this type of work. We’d like to be able to help people grow the resource.
It never fails to amaze me what a group of passionate people can accomplish when gathered together to achieve a common goal. I’m appreciative of Dr. Corcoran for taking time from his busy schedule to share about his camp. He and his staff are doing inspiring work to help people living with diabetes. To learn more about Diabetes Training Camp, visit www.diabetestrainingcamp.com or visit the Diabetes Training Camp Facebook page. Dr. Corcoran will host his next camp June 10-15, 2013 at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.
All the best,
Disclosures: Matt Corcoran received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.