Meet Becky Furuta: Athlete Living with Diabetes

Meet Becky Furuta: Athlete Living with Diabetes

We had the opportunity to meet Becky Furuta a few weeks ago, thanks to our partners at Novo Nordisk and Team Novo Nordisk. Becky is an Elite Cyclist for Team Novo Nordisk (TNN) - a global all-diabetes sports team of cyclists, triathletes, and runners spearheaded by the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. Becky shared with us her motivations and inspirations as a woman, athlete, and person living with diabetes.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I live just outside of Boulder, CO with my husband, our son and daughter, and our hound dog. This will be my fifth year racing a bike with Team Novo Nordisk, and I also work as a sports vision specialist at a family eye care practice in Golden, CO. I have lived with diabetes for about 10 years.

What is your current diabetes treatment plan?
I use multiple daily injections and frequently monitor my blood glucose to manage my diabetes. I also use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) during longer training blocks and races. And, of course, I believe that exercise is an important part of any diabetes management plan.

What do you consider your great diabetes successes? 
I was first diagnosed with diabetes while pregnant with my now nine-year-old daughter, about 20 weeks into my pregnancy. For me, the biggest success following my diagnosis was holding my healthy baby girl. I worked so hard while I was pregnant to ensure that she and I would be fine and I feel like focusing on my health now is really a continuation of that process. Taking the time to care for my diabetes and exercise daily models the importance of self-care to my children and encourages them to be active.

Any challenges?
I decided to return to bike racing when my daughter was about two. My doctor advised me that I might not be able to compete effectively as someone living with diabetes. That was when I first learned about the organization that is now Team Novo Nordisk. I was searching for information on cycling and diabetes when I came across an article on the team. I reached out to the organization and found new health care providers who were more supportive of my goals, and I have been racing ever since. Every year, I set bigger goals for myself. Currently, I am ranked first in the state of Colorado by USA Cycling and in the top 20% of women in the country. I am proud of that challenge turned into success and hope it serves as inspiration for others.

Another challenge is the misconceptions about diabetes in public. Even though the team lives with diabetes, we sometimes encounter stigma about diabetes from the general public. We try to dispell those as best we can.

What motivates you to be a healthy woman living with diabetes?
My motivation has changed with time. When I was first diagnosed, I was motivated to have a healthy pregnancy. When I wanted to return to competitive cycling, I was motivated by the thought of winning races again. Now? I am motivated by the idea of serving as an example to those who have been impacted by diabetes.

What inspired you to join Team Novo Nordisk Pro Cycling? How does the team dynamic work when everyone lives with diabetes?
TNN riders not only have a shared love of cycling, but we also have the shared experience of living with diabetes combined with the desire to be top athletes in our sport. That creates a very strong sense of camaraderie and an experience with teammates like no other. I spend a lot of time on the road with my teammates, sharing the ups and downs of the season and diabetes. We celebrate one another when things go well, and we work together to fix the things that are not working. Last season, I was really struggling the first two days at Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago. I was losing a lot of ground in the corners, and it cost me in every race. My teammates finally took me aside and made me devote an hour to working on staying on top of the pedals in the turns and being really aggressive in the corners. It paid off. Sometimes, being a good teammate means telling people what they don’t want to hear, and then working together to find solutions.

Tell us how you manage diabetes while training, racing and exercising? Do you have any special tricks that have worked for you that you might share with other women living with diabetes who also lead active lifestyles?
I work closely with a great team of health care providers to find solutions specific to my needs. I think the key is to find health care professionals who share your goals and are responsive to your needs. We are always fine-tuning my diabetes management plan. That partnership has been really important in helping me to be successful on the bike.

I also work very closely with my coach, Garrett White. Having a coach takes a lot of the pressure off me. I don’t have to worry about what workout to do on what day or what will be the best use of my time. Instead, I can pay attention to my performance and hit my targets during each session. Because I am juggling family, work, racing and travel, my training has to be really focused. I have to ditch what he calls “junk miles.” My training needs to either enhance my fitness or help me recover. One of theses objectives frames each workout. I think narrowing the focus of exercise makes it easier for me to advance my goals.

What about mental strategies that keep you motivated?
First, I love being on my bike. There really is no place I would rather be than seeing the world from the seat of my bicycle. Having said that, no one looks at their morning training plan and sees 90 minutes of hill repeats or lactate intervals on the schedule and gets excited. Sometimes, training is a grind. Motivation isn’t ever really enough. For me, it helps to stick to a very specific training schedule. I plan my workouts early in the morning when I know nothing can interfere with them, and then I often ride on my lunch hour, too. I have to choose times where I know I won’t get sidelined by distractions.

I find goal setting is really critical for me. I like to set big, audacious goals. I know that if I skip a workout, I’m giving up ground to my competition, and I am not going to meet the goals I have established. That compels me to work harder.

Additionally, my teammates keep me accountable. Training shows in a race. If I’m not the athlete or the teammate I should be, the guys will let me know.

What message do you wish to share with other women who are managing it all as well – marriage, motherhood, career, commitments and diabetes?
We are all busy. It doesn’t matter whether you work in or outside the home, are a single parent, married or have a partner. I have never met another parent who doesn’t feel they are constantly juggling the demands of raising kids and keeping a home and all of the other commitments in daily life. For me, exercise isn’t “one more box to check”. Instead, it is the thing that makes it possible for me to accomplish everything else on my “to do” list. When I carve out an hour for myself to exercise, I feel less stressed and less anxious, I’m more focused and productive, and I can be fully present with my family. For me, exercise is the thing that makes all the other things possible.

I think women sometimes feel guilty for taking time out for themselves, but it’s really a tremendous gift to your family. 

Thank you, Becky, for sharing your story. Your experiences motive us to continue to thrive with diabetes.