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Intensely Inspiring Others with Type 1 Diabetes

By Amanda Sheldon

Managing Editor

Posted:  3/13/2014 9:29 PM


As a college student, Lyndsay Riffe studied nutrition to become a dietitian. She had developed a deep understanding and passion for the human body’s complex relationship with food during her childhood, after she was diagnosed with diabetes at age three. Lyndsay thought the influence of diabetes on her professional life would end there.

“At the time, I didn’t think I wanted to do ‘everything diabetes,'” Lyndsay recalled. “But I learned that I was relatable and could develop a good rapport with people, so after becoming a registered dietitian, I found a job working for an endocrinologist, as a diabetes educator.” At about the same time, Lyndsay started wearing a Medtronic insulin pump. Those two decisions have combined to guide her to professional success and remarkable physical achievements.

A self-described exercise junkie, Lyndsay has always been active. “Anytime I can be outside, I am,” she said. “The moment I stop exercising, my blood sugars are more challenging to deal with. I try to incorporate exercise on a daily basis, in every season -- skiing, crossfit, and stand up paddle boarding. I’ve even taken up speed skating.”

In 2007, she dove into endurance training and completed her first half-marathon. With her Medtronic pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) allowing her to closely monitor and manage her blood sugars, Lyndsay entered more races, extending the distances each time.

Word spread about the unique skillset that Lyndsay was developing. She began giving talks about sports training and nutrition for people with diabetes, which led to more invitations for endurance events. “I was invited to join the staff of Diabetes Training Camp, a diabetes exercise organization providing resources and support strategies for managing diabetes during exercise, which was a lot of fun,” she said. “A few of the attendees set a goal to have an all-woman triathlon team and they wanted me to join. I said, ‘I don’t know how to swim and I don’t own a bike, but I like to run!’”

In 2009, Lyndsay competed with Team WILD – Women Inspiring Life with Diabetes, first in a sprint triathlon (which consists of a half-mile swim, 12.5 mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run), then an Olympic triathlon (twice as long as a sprint) and then then a half-ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run). “I was really fortunate because, of the 20 women on the team, five were in Chicago where I lived. We had conference calls about diabetes management during the training and became good friends,” she said.

Team WILD went on to complete another half-ironman in 2010 and then full Ironman races in 2011 and 2013. “I had the best of all worlds, I was helping people with their exercise and diabetes management strategies and using it in my own life at the same time,” Lyndsay recalls. “As a 21-year-old I thought I was too active to have a pump, and I was not nearly at the level of activity I am now. I thought it would get in the way and I didn’t understand the benefits,” she said. “I look back now and I can’t imagine being able to do what I do without it.”

Following the completion of her first Ironman in 2011, Lyndsay relocated to Milwaukee to join Medtronic as a diabetes clinical manager. In her work counseling people with diabetes and training them to use their Medtronic insulin pump and continuous glucose monitors, Lyndsay enjoys the opportunity to discuss how these devices can help achieve fitness and healthy eating goals.  Although she admits there can be times where people have trouble relating to her.

“Most people with diabetes find going to the gym overwhelming and frustrating, much less at the intense level that I enjoy,” she said. “But five years ago I hadn’t done anything remotely close to what I’ve achieved, and I hope I do convey the message that it’s amazing what you can get your body to do when you set your mind to it. With the right information and tools, we can do it!”

Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems. Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day. Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory finger stick is required prior to treatment. Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

Please visit for additional details.


Dave Barnes

Posted on Fri Mar 14 00:45:07 GMT 2014

She is doing what I aspire to do. I have trained several hours already this week and just finished a 10k run I'm 48 minutes. I have a Sprint triathlon coming up next week and am getting psyched to do well in that. My insulin pump is ready to rock and without it I would never be as active as I am now. Don't get me wrong, I have been very active my entire 40 years of diabetes but now I can be an athlete as we'll. I am milking the opportunities as best (I've got abs again my wife loves them!)as I can. I also enjoy sharing the benefits with every diabetic I meet. Its so important that our peers know that their life can get even better with a pump and yes, if you can afford it, CGM. I would be happy to work for Medronic too?

Tim Kayes

Posted on Fri Mar 14 02:22:21 GMT 2014

Love to get on Lyndsey's email news letter list if she has one. I have been an insulin dependent diabetic for almost 42 years and just recently joined a gym but my eating habits are terrible and would love some advice..pump wearer for plus 20 years now.

Mary Elizabeth

Posted on Fri Mar 14 19:23:52 GMT 2014

Your story is so inspiring Lyndey!


Posted on Mon Mar 17 17:54:33 GMT 2014

Dave, thanks for sharing your story with us! That’s great to hear you are still very active, and doing well on insulin pump therapy. Good luck on your sprint triathlon this week!

Thanks for reaching out, Tim. For advice on eating well, your healthcare team would be a great resource because they can give you the best advice to meet your individual needs. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.

Scott K. Johnson

Posted on Mon Mar 31 06:37:53 GMT 2014

Way to go, Lyndsay! You rock! Thanks for being such an inspiration, and for working so hard to help so many.

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