When you truly believe in what you want to achieve, overcoming any obstacle that life throws your way becomes possible. Sometimes we are our own limitation, we hinder our very own success and we fail to believe that we can aim higher and reach higher.
Dalia Badrawi is a real-life inspiration of what personal success can look like. She is a mother of three, a cross-fitter since 2012 and most importantly a type 1 diabetic who just recently climbed Mt.Elbrus, which is the highest mountain in Russia and in Europe, and the tenth most prominent peak in the world. Badrawi considered her mountain hike, her own personal challenge and risk, as it required a lot of preparations from her side to make sure she was fully equipped and capable of handling any diabetes-related situation that she might’ve faced while climbing the mountain. Badrawi’s achievements coupled with her feelings of self-worth always push her to push her limits and keep her motivated to always challenge herself. Just last month she competed in El-Fit competition (a cross-Fit competition which is held in Egypt that attracts many athletes from all over the world who travel to compete) earning third place in the Masters women for 35+.
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Badrawi got married to her high school sweetheart, and they have been happily married for 12 years now. She is also a mother to three girls, 10, 8 and 3 years old. And a partner in CrossFit Engine38, which is a CrossFit box along with three other partners.
Recently I’ve chatted with Badrawi to learn more about her journey and how she manages her family life, daily athletic life and all her future plans with an on going daily challenge of dealing with type 1 diabetes, which usually requires her to manage and watch her blood sugar regularly everyday.
1- Tell me more about being a diabetic, a mother and a cross-fitter? How do you manage all together?
I consider myself very lucky. After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and after being overwhelmed and dealing with this big change in my life, I decided to take control. Still that wasn’t easy. But I didn’t want to be a victim to my disease, and I didn’t want my children to ever think of me as sick or incapable… because ultimately what I represent to them is the most important thing. So I became my own doctor. I decided to make diabetes my best friend. The more I learned, the more I accepted, the more I tried, the more I just got to really understand diabetes and understand what it does to me, the more I became in control. And when you’re in control you can really do anything, live a normal life, exercise and do everything you please. And for me it all just comes together in a perfect cycle. CrossFit empowers me, as an athlete and as a woman. To be able to set goals, to commit, and work hard everyday and get results is an amazing feeling. My first pull-up, my first handstand push-up, breaking my own personal records in lifts. And a happy woman makes a happy mother and a happy wife.
2- What challenges did you face at the beginning when you started Cross-Fit?
Honestly the main challenge I faced at first was coming to terms with the idea that I really enjoyed lifting weights haha. I remember I started at first, and then stopped because I wasn’t used to lifting a bar and I thought maybe it’s not for me, but within a few weeks I started missing it and nothing else I did with my workouts gave me that same empowering feeling. So I went back and that was it.
3- Describe your good days and the bad ones when it comes to working out and dealing with diabetes?
With diabetes you have good days and bad days with and without CrossFit. I can get hypos (when my blood sugar drops below normal), when that happens I get really dizzy, blurry and in a way I lose control and if not treated right away it can lead to fainting. But I am very fortunate to be very aware of my body and I check my blood sugar regularly so I always treat it right away. This is more complicated to manage with CrossFit, because for example I can’t take insulin and then workout, I have to wait at least three hours, so I always have to manage my meal times and my workouts in advance. And there are days when my blood sugar is really high, and when that happens I get really exhausted and tired and I won’t be able to do a workout or perform in the same way I usually do. So it can get frustrating because I workout once and sometimes twice a day. But I choose to always stay positive and try to always take it well. And most importantly I always check my blood sugar before I start a workout and if I don’t feel great then I check in the middle of the workout as well, and I deal accordingly.
4- Why did you decide to climb mountain Mt.Elbrus? and how did you prepare for it?
Preparing for it was very intense. My best friend told me he was going to climb the highest peak in Europe. And this wasn’t going to be his first climb, and he told me he thinks I would love it, and honestly I love a challenge, and a challenge that I’ll be doing with my close friends, I didn’t think twice, I agreed to do it right away. But when I went back and started researching diabetes and mountain climbing I found that it could actually be way more challenging than I thought. But there was no way I was going to change my mind or decide not to do it because of diabetes. Quiet the opposite, I was going to do it to prove to myself that I really can do anything! I just needed to prepare myself well and be wise about it. So I researched A LOT! I contacted bloggers from all over the world who are diabetic and climbed mountains, asked them about their experiences. I started using an insulin pump instead of insulin pens, I got a glucose monitor (actually 3) that I could place on my stomach and on my arms and they continuously check my blood sugar without having to prick my finger. Because basically, the altitude and the weather would have made it very difficult for me to check my blood sugar using the regular meter. The blood could freeze before I’m able to check.
5- How challenging was it?
It was all a challenge to be honest. The cold weather made it difficult to check my blood sugar, but I found a way and managed it. On day three we reached 4,700m and all my equipment malfunctioned temporarily. Fortunately my insulin pump was still working but I had to follow my instincts and I was feeling strong so I kept going.
6- Describe your experience…
I was in awe of the beauty surrounding me all the time. When you’re up there you really are in the present, no stress, I turned off my phone, and I just let myself be in the now. It’s actually overwhelming how beautiful it is. And you realise that there is so much beauty in this world and we need to get out there and see it, and just do more.
7- Your worst fear when you were climbing the mountain?
My worst fear was that I wouldn’t be able to check my blood sugar because of any malfunctions of my equipment and then getting a low blood sugar and not realising, and this could lead to me losing consciousness.
8- How did this experience change you or affect you?
My experience was an experience of support and friendship. You’d think it’s about the mountain itself. But for me, what stays with me is how every person in our group was so kind and supportive with me. We all were like that with each other but with my diabetes they were all aware that I was dealing with so much more and they were so willing to be helpful and to learn everything about what I needed to do in case of an emergency. I wasn’t alone on this climb. There was always a voice of one of my team in my ear telling me I can do it, asking me if I was ok, offering to stop so we could check my blood sugar, that kind of support and that kind of selflessness is what got to me in my core. I know it sounds cheesy but I am so thankful for each one of them.
9- What’s your message to others who are diabetic and face challenges when it comes to playing sports?
I would say anything is possible. Being a diabetic should not stop you from doing sports or following any of your dreams.
10- Family support is important, how does your family help and support you?
I am so blessed. I can’t even say it enough. My husband is very supportive with everything that I do. Mountains, CrossFit, marathon, triathlons…He thinks I’m crazy most of the time but he does nothing but support me. My kids always cheer me on, and I’m hoping one day they join me in what I’m doing! My father is a doctor, so you can imagine what his role is in my life. He probably gets me the most because he really understands my condition. So he gets the breakdown phone calls, the medical phone calls, and he knows how to make it all ok. My mother is my guardian angel. My brother encourages me to always reach higher, my cousins, and all my friends are always there for me, and always aware of what is going on with my diabetes and my little adventures and constantly cheer me on. So yes, I’m a a very fortunate girl.
11- Can you give me an example of how usually your day goes? In terms of work, working out…etc
I wake up at 6 am, get the kids ready for school and get in my workout clothes. I drop off the kids at school and head to the box. I usually workout then I coach 1 or 2 sessions. I’m done by noon. I have from noon to 3pm before I head to pick up the kids from school. That’s when I see my friends, or coffee with my parents, or get work done. 3 pm I pick the girls, they have after school activities on most days, and homework. Some days I’ll go for an afternoon run or go back to the box for another workout and the kids will join me (they love coming to the box) and then we have family dinner (if we can) and bedtime!
12- Any athlete usually follows a healthy eating plan to get the maximum out of their workout and manage a healthy lifestyle, how is yours any different?
I can’t follow anything that is extreme. I have to have a balanced diet that includes carbs, veggies, protein and fruit. I need to carb count in order to manage the right amount of insulin I need to take. So with every meal and snack I know exactly how much carbs I’m having, which honestly was very annoying at first but it became second nature. But the beauty of all this is that diabetes forced me to be a healthier person. It’s my gift in disguise.
13- What do you usually eat in a day, your typical plan?
I’ll have a banana in the morning
After my workout I’ll usually have a protein shake
Then I have a breakfast/brunch meal that is usually eggs and salad or oats and fruit or foul and bread
I’ll have a snack (usually a fruit and sometimes a healthy smoothie)
When the girls are home from school I’ll have a salad (my favorite is quinoa salad) I try my best to play around with the ingredients to make it yummy and different.
Then dinner time I usually either have a piece of protein and veggies, or whatever my husband is having on the days I get really hungry! Haha
I try my best to eat clean just because it makes managing my diabetes so much easier and makes me feel energetic and just puts me in a good mood!