January 5, 2012

Living Vertical: Project 365

"Our message is very simple. Diabetes is what you make of it. We each have the choice to make diabetes an obstacle that slows us down or a motivator that moves us forward. Be empowered through fitness and a better diet – not letting diabetes manage US is our personal responsibility." – Steve Richert, Project 365

Through social media, Calling All Types has made great connections with people with diabetes. Everyone we’ve met has been instrumental in working with us to grow the Calling All Types online health movement. Two of the people we’ve met are Stephen and Stefanie Richert. Stephen has been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was a child and Stefanie’s grandfather had Type 2 Diabetes. Together, they are embarking on a year-long journey, climbing and scaling mountains and cliffs across the United States, while making a documentary film about it called Living Vetical: Project 365. Their goal is to, “overcome the challenges of traveling, managing, and re-imagining what it means to get over diabetes.” When Calling All Types first learned about this project, we were immediately intrigued and reached out to the Richert’s to learn more. Stephen has been kind enough to answer a few questions about Project 365.

CallingAllTypes: What is Project 365? And what inspired you to launch this project?

Stephen: Project 365 is a 365 day climbing challenge which will take my wife Stefanie and I all across North America and into some of the wildest and most beautiful mountains ranges on the continent. We will be climbing every single day for an entire year, logging a vertical mile or more each month. We will climb mountains, rocks, cliffs and anything with vertical relief – there will be different obstacles from day to day and we will have to change up our approaches from time to time – but the goal always remains the same – getting to the top! It’s similar to managing diabetes – there are always a lot of adjustments to make, but the end result is what we are after.

Our inspiration for this project was initially as a fundraiser for cure research, but after looking into it more we felt that there were enough organizations covering that area. Overcoming diabetes is something that can be done even if you still have to inject your insulin and that taking on an extreme challenge like this would be a good way to demonstrate that – and filming it would be an interesting way to share that initiative with others.

CallingAllTypes: What is the message you want to send to other diabetes patients through this project?

Stephen: Our message is very simple. Diabetes is what you make of it. We each have the choice to make diabetes an obstacle that slows us down or a motivator that moves us forward. Be empowered through fitness and a better diet – not letting diabetes manage US is our personal responsibility.

We don’t expect everyone to be a climber after we are done – climbing is just one of many exciting ways for people to connect to nature through fitness – but we hope to inspire everyone to involve themselves in the natural world more and to accept more responsibility for their lifestyle as it relates to the management of diabetes. We are challenging ourselves and others to do more with less – naturally and to see how we can eat better, play better and use less – less stuff, less drugs, etc. and ultimately get more out of life.

CallingAllTypes: What has been your biggest challenge managing your diabetes while leading this project?

Stephen: Honestly, management is basically the same for me regardless what I am doing. By eating a plant based diet and avoiding starches and large amounts of carbs, I am able to use very little insulin and hypos are not severe or sudden and I am often able to anticipate them. Highs happen too, but I test four to six times a day – and that helps me gauge my sensitivity and I simply mitigate that by eating more or less to balance it out.

As irrational as it might sound, I do worry that somehow the success I have had managing diabetes these 13 years will suddenly evaporate and I will spiral off into the oblivion of uncontrollable BGs. Really, your mind is where the battle with diabetes occurs. Keeping a positive, confident attitude and seeing beyond the bumps in the road can be a lot harder than managing the sugar itself. Being in remote areas can be tough psychologically because you have to accept the fact that you are completely responsible for yourself – but accepting that responsibility on a day to day basis helps you acclimate mentally before you get out into the backcountry.

CallingAllTypes: What is your favorite mountain you’ve climbed so far and which one are you looking forward to climbing?

Stephen: I love the Sierra Nevada range in California – Cathedral Peak has been my favorite and I am most looking forward to climbing in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia (also Mt Ranier in WA). I have to draw a distinction between “climbing” as a general term and “mountain climbing” or “mountaineering” as specific disciplines. Climbing simply implies going “up” and this can refer to shorter, more gymnastic routes on boulders, cliffs or climbing ice and snow in the mountains. We are going to be doing ALL types of climbing during Project 365 and look forward to showing the difference between them all – and their commonalities as we go along.

CallingAllTypes: What has surprised you the most about the positive reaction you have received to Project 365?

Stephen: We have gotten a lot of support from friends and relatives – and we have made great new friends even with the project in its infancy. We have been surprised at how many people have told us that we inspired them to make changes in their diet or their fitness routines. It all seems so normal to us that it’s really awesome to hear that it is reaching other people on that level!

CallingAllTypes: How has social media helped you manage your diabetes? And how do you think it can help others?

Stephen: Social media and diabetes management have always been completely separate concepts for me. I manage my diabetes by not making it a defining factor in my life, but rather normalizing it as part of a routine that I do in order to do more. Only recently did I even think to include anything about diabetes as part of my social media persona, in order to connect more with other people. I have always been a fairly analog type of person, viewing social media as more of a time-waster, a necessary evil.

I am now learning more about social media as it can be more of a positive and useful tool – basically it is a way to share information which can be very useful if that information is applied. I do think that there is a danger in simply getting so inundated with information that we become focused on the sharing instead of actually doing more with it. All the information in the world is useless without the commitment to implement and use it!

To learn more about Living Vertical: Project 365, check out their website at, www.livingvertical.com. Living Vertical: Project 365 is a 501c3 organization, and you can support this wonderful cause by clicking here. On behalf of the entire Calling All Types team, we’d like to thank Stephen for taking the time to share this story and we wish him and Stephanie the best of luck going forward.

The decision to participate is always yours and your feedback is always wanted. At CallingAllTypes, we believe finding the right online resources to better manage your diabetes should be a whole lot easier! So sign up and be a part of our growing online health movement. Once you’ve joined, stay connected with us through Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube.

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