Type 1 Powerlifter Redefines “Disability”


As someone who has consciously built my career around having the opportunity to get to know and work with incredibly inspiring people who happen to have diabetes, I have found time and time again that the diabetes community is overflowing with mind-blowing stories and amazing, caring, empathetic human beings that never cease to amaze me with their generosity and positivity. I consider myself blessed to call so many of them friends and colleagues, and I’m happy to be able to bring their stories to you so you can be as inspired by them as I am!

Chris Ruden may very well be the only seven-fingered, powerlifter with diabetes and motivational speaker you will ever know! However, unapologetically living out his dreams and passions in life wasn’t always the case for Chris. “I was born with two fingers on my left hand and a shorter left arm. Doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do much,” said Ruden. “But I’m too stubborn to listen.”

“I struggled with body image issues and self-confidence growing up, but I eventually learned to overcome my adversity through dance, martial arts and even playing drums competitively,” explained Ruden. “I started getting into fitness because I saw it as an impossible task given the way I was born, and I always loved a challenge. When I first started to love fitness, it was still just a hobby as my main goal was to become a lawyer,” said Ruden.

Diabetes diagnosis

At age 19, just one year into college, Chris was hospitalized and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “It was the BEST thing that could’ve happened to me,” said Chris. This is a sentiment that I’ve found resonates across the board with the over 50 people who are thriving with diabetes that I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing so far; diabetes is a blessing in disguise that makes us stronger and more capable in every area of life if we choose to view it as such.

His diagnosis changed his life and his priorities for his future. His desire to become a lawyer changed when he found true fulfillment in helping others who are struggling with perceived hardships in their lives by showing them how to overcome and adapt to these challenges. Chris then went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in exercise science and health promotion. “I’ve dedicated my life to educating and inspiring people through fitness to never back down from a hardship and always focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do.”

Adapting to adversity

Over the last five years, Chris has helped hundreds of people lose body fat and build strength—both physically and mentally. From helping an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy run on the beach for the first time, to helping an 85-year-old woman who relapsed from cancer twice get her life back—all through physical and mental fitness. “I fully believe that diabetes was what I needed to discover my purpose in life which is to inspire people to overcome any hardship put in their way. Limitations are self-imposed.”

Chris currently uses a t:slim G4 insulin pump with Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and loves his diabetes tech tools. “I wear my pump like a badge of honor, and I am very open to discussing my diabetes with everyone I meet.” He aspires to speak to people around the country about how we can all thrive with diabetes.

Overcoming the odds

As far as personal fitness accomplishments, Chris currently holds four state records for powerlifting, and is on track to become a pro powerlifter. “I can deadlift 606 pounds which is almost 3.5 times my body weight—even with only one fully functional hand.” He has won his weight class in four out of five powerlifting meets, and his fitness work and personal story have been featured in a variety of magazines and online publications, and even on national news on Right This Minute.

“I currently represent adaptive athletes worldwide through a nonprofit called I Am Adaptive where I am on their international compete team,” said Chris. I Am Adaptive uses innovative avenues to help rid the world of the words “handicapped and disabled.” Chris has recently expanded his workout and nutrition program to include life coaching as well.

His first eBook The Art of Losing Body Fat: Starving Yourself Fat is now available. Chris also started a YouTube channel to showcase how an adaptive athlete with diabetes lives and manages his conditions day to day. More information on his eBook, training tips and life coaching can be found on his website.

WRITTEN BY Daniele Hargenrader, POSTED 07/02/16, UPDATED 09/28/22

Daniele Hargenrader, founder of Diabetes Dominator Coaching, is a diabetes expert, nutritionist, health coach, bestselling author, international speaker and certified personal trainer. She helps individuals from all walks of life to think, eat and move in ways that allow them to achieve a quality of health and life they previously thought unattainable, and turn adversity into advantage. She has presented at Fortune 100 companies and top ranked hospitals, and has dedicated herself to teaching people how to live the life they imagined and not let diabetes get in the way through optimal health and our power or choice. Visit her website at http://diabetesdominator.com.