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In His New Book, D1 Training Owner Shares What’s Possible as an Athlete Living with Type 1 Diabetes

The Fearless Diabetic book cover

At D1 Training we paint our walls with words like determination, perseverance, and integrity, and talk about being fearless, confident, and dedicated. Ben Milsom, owner of soon-to-be open D1 Training Westchase, near Tampa, knows a little something about what those words mean inside and outside of the gym. In Milsom’s new book, The Fearless Diabetic, he strives to give families living with Type 1 diabetes a new word to think about: Optimism.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing beta cells produced by the pancreas. T1D can be genetic. It occurs in children and adults. The causes aren’t yet fully known, and there is currently no cure. Those diagnosed with T1D are dependent on injected or pumped insulin to live.

Milsom was diagnosed with T1D over twenty years ago when he was transitioning his training from high school sports to college athletics, having already been accepted to play football for John Caroll University. He has since become a marathon-running billboard for what is possible for people living with a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and has served on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Board of Directors for over two decades, serving two terms as President. He is informed and writes through personal experience and data-driven research.

Milsom’s diagnosis was in 1997, though he says he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“I was training for college football with a buddy of mine, and I noticed I was getting weaker,” Milsom said. Some typical symptoms of T1D are excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, itchy skin or rashes, frequent urination, and increased appetite, but those weren’t the red flags for Milsom. “My friend and I were training together in the weight room, and he was getting bigger and stronger, and I wasn’t. I went from benching 185 to 135, and my friend said, ‘you’re never going to make it in college.'”

Milsom knew something was wrong and decided to be seen by a doctor. Back then, a T1D diagnosis meant a week in the hospital, so that’s where Milsom found himself, but with only one question on his mind. “Can I still play ball?”

When the doctor told him yes, but with some tweaks, he said he just got angry.

“It was a great motivator to keep training no matter what that looked like from that day forward.” Milsom tells a great story about asking the doctors and nurses to put a stationary bike in his room so he could keep training. He’d go to the hospital weight room and ask if he could lift weights, and they would monitor him as he trained. It was evident from that moment that this kid from western Pennsylvania was not going to let T1D dictate what he could and could not do with his life.

Milsom went on to play football at John Caroll University, continues to train and run, has had an incredible corporate career in sports as an executive with the Sacramento Kings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and was even named one of Sports Business Journal’s Forty Under 40. Today, as a new D1 Training owner and published author, he hopes to share what he has learned about being The Fearless Diabetic, in hopes of spreading optimism to others.

When it comes to training, coaches aren’t doctors. But with new technology like automatic insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, it is easier to monitor athletes throughout a training program.

“Aerobic exercise often brings blood sugar levels down, while weightlifting can raise it,” said Milsom. “But advancements in technology with pumps and monitors are a game changer because they adjust as you go.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, the reason for glucose fluctuations during exercise is explained as follows. When someone with T1D uses their muscles, it helps to burn glucose and improve the way insulin does its job. When it comes to other workouts like heavy weightlifting, a T1D athlete may produce stress hormones like adrenaline, which raises blood glucose levels because it stimulates the liver to release glucose.

This is just a small example of information families will learn throughout the lives of their athletes. Milsom looks forward to the day when every family feels confident to let their kids train, and when every gym can accommodate T1D athletes.

“We are NOT doctors at D1 Training,” Milsom said. “But imagine if every mother knew that D1 Training Westchase (and perhaps other locations) knew how to accommodate athletes with diabetes. That would be something.” He has already reached out to the D1 home office, willing to share his story and what he brings to the D1 Training table, as an athlete with T1D.

Milsom is passionate about the work he does at JDRF and continues to serve there. He utilizes his sales and marketing expertise, and now as a D1 Training Westchase owner, will continue to raise money for the Foundation.

“I’m involved because I want to raise money for families who can’t afford the tools needed to live fearlessly with this disease.”

There have been monumental technological and pharmacological advances made over the past twenty years, and Milsom believes a cure will come. Until then, he will keep sharing his story, and the stories of many other families and athletes who are all Fearless Diabetics.

Learn more about Milsom’s story at