From medication weakness to bike riding with Andy

We discuss how:

– Andy was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about 10 years ago
– Medications were piling up severely affecting his strength
– A couple of years ago he found the Paddison Program online
– Now he has just completed a 110km cycle ride
– He’s now off Plaquenil and anti-inflammatory drugs
– Biking is a great cardiovascular exercise for him
– Andy describes how he has made the Paddison Program work for him and how cycling has been the perfect partner for him and his healing

Clint: Welcome back to the Paddison podcast. I’ve got a guest today who’s one of our members of our Paddison Program Support. Who’s inspired many people over the last few years with his tremendous improvements with rheumatoid arthritis. He’s originally from the UK, as you’ll hear in a second from his accent. But he’s currently in South Africa, where he has just completed a mammoth bike ride which is an astounding incredible achievement given where he was just a few years ago. Welcome Andy.

Andy: Nice to meet you Clint.

Clint: Yeah. Face to face, we’ve had a lot of correspondence online where we’ve worked together with your health for a couple of years. Give everyone just a short glimpse of what they’re about to hear in the next half hour or so with your transformation.

Andy: Okay well a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about 10 years ago. About a couple of years ago, the medication was going up. They were adding, consultant was adding more and more different medication. And one day I found I couldn’t get out of the bath. I had a bath, and literally didn’t have enough strength in my wrists to get out and I thought to myself I’ve got to do something about this. They’re just piling on more and more, going to injections, variety of drugs, and I thought maybe there must be a different way. So I luckily found your program just by sort of searching the Internet really, and then really put all my effort into following it religiously. And here I am two years later, 15 kilograms lighter, just 110 km cycle ride in 5 hours and I could do it quicker next time. So just the transformation over two years is just unbelievable.

Clint: Wow. And how have you gone with the, just in terms of medication comparison before and after.

Andy: Well two years ago I was on Methotrexate 15 mg, Plaquenil, and also anti-inflammatory. And now I’m down to 12 mg methotrexate, no Plaquenil, no anti-inflammatory, no swelling at all in the joints. and basically, the pain is sort of minimal. It comes and goes a little bit but compared to when I was two years ago it’s just a whole new world where I’m back to being active again. So it’s just been, it’s been an incredible journey but it’s not over yet there’s still room for a lot of improvement.

Clint: Yeah well there always is isn’t there? Whether or not your kind of, you know at the point where you’re at you’ve made tremendous improvements. Got off a whole bunch of bad medications, or bad in terms of their potential side effects. Or whether or not you’re like me where the damage that I had to my joints during my inflammation years, I’m still working with you know and probably will for life. And you know whether it be, you know hanging from bars at the gym trying to stretch the connective tissue and straighten those arms, or at yoga trying to straighten them, or try and sit on my heels which I’ve still not been able to achieve in yoga for nearly 900 odd classes. We’re always working on the next step and trying to make continual improvements. now to deviate a little bit from our usual format which is just to you know just in a linear fashion just go through your story from start finish. Tell us your, let’s just sort of jump around a bit and just have a chat about this. You’re your son has been with you throughout these biking adventures recently too. Has it been great to have him involved, and to be by your side as he witnesses how much you’ve improved?

Andy: Yeah it’s been fantastic, he’s been involved in some of the training I did prior to the race because I came to South Africa 3 weeks before the race to get sort of a to get used to the heat, and take my fur coat off after a winter in Britain. So he was he was part of the training, and then also came on the day so it was just really nice to have him there. And also, my father in law who’s 76, he did the race as well.

Clint: Wow.

Andy: So it was a big, sort of big, big family effort. So yeah, it’s always nice to have someone at the finish line that can give you a hug.

Clint: Oh most definitely. And he must be happy with his old man, and how the improvements have unraveled over the last few years.

Andy: Yeah I mean he can’t believe when I first started cycling with him, I could see his backside disappearing over the horizon about every five minutes. But now it’s now it’s the other way round where he sees me disappearing, and he just he’s absolutely finds it gob smacked at the fact of where I am now compared to where I was two years ago just through to diet and exercise really.

Clint: How do you compare to other riders in your age bracket? Do you find that you keep up with other folks, or is it still you’ve still got some ground to go with that?

Andy: No I’m pretty well. I mean one I’ve been in mountain bike races here I’ve been, I’ve come quite high up in my age group which has been quite good. The worry in fact really is the fear of falling off, and landing on my wrists, or hurting my ankles. So one of the biggest sort of hurdles in the race wasn’t so much the distance surprisingly, it was just the fact that there’s 30,000 other cyclists that I was trying to avoid. So I just had a real fear of being knocked off, and landing on one of my wrists, or ankles. Because as you know if you with my ankles if I twist an ankle sort of agony. Even if I step on a table, if you twist the ankle it can be sore. So yeah, to be honest in a mountain bike races I did really well, and in this Yeah Pretty good.

Clint: Yeah awesome, yeah fantastic. Well let’s explore a little bit more about bike riding. It’s one of the, sort of you know when I normally list my favorite exercises for rheumatoid I say become yoga covers everything. Well let’s take a step back, what we need to do is we need to have a cardiovascular approach for all the little joints. There are our fingers at the metatarsals, and our feet, ankles, wrists, and so on. They’d send to respond really well to cardiovascular exercise, the sort of stuff that you get when your heart rates high your blood pump and really fast, so that’s that. And then all the other joints, the major joints they require targeted exercise. So our ankles, and our shoulders, and our knees, all require a specific set of exercises that I’ve laid out inside our forum and also inside the advance package. So which are just a couple of our products where people can just go through step by step.

Clint: Now, with cycling you get the cardiovascular exercise, and you also get the for the knees you get the targeted exercise, because you’ve got for the knees what we want to do is we want to be pushing our feet lower the legs away from our body to build up the quads and also the glut muscles, and particularly the quads where it connects to the top of your knees. So did you always want to cycle, or was it because you found that beneficial to rheumatoid? And what little, and so talk about that and also what adjustments you’ve had to make because of your condition when cycling particularly in the early stages?

Andy: Well one of the factors, one the reasons I wanted to cycle is because these non-weight bearing, and also as you say brings movement to you yours, it develops your quads but also your calves. And there’s some movement in your ankles, because my ankles were quite stiff. So even in the, even just by turning the paddles you are getting some movement in your ankles. And I’d cycled a bit when I was younger, but it just seemed I was looking for something that would give me exercise without pain to my joints. I couldn’t run, prior to having RA I was playing football, and played rugby earlier in my life, and badminton, things tennis. But all those things I was unable to do, so I was looking at something that I enjoyed, and I’d been relatively good at before. I mean swimming, to be honest where a British person is sort of a, we don’t really live in the pool like you guys. Learning to swim in Britain is sort of the teacher has got a sheepskin jacket on in October, and you have to break the icebergs in an outdoor pool, so swimming is out.

Andy: So I built on something I already enjoyed really. And then, one of the things I had to do was I did put some bars on the end of the handlebars of my bike to make my wrists more comfortable. If you cycle and your wrists in that position, it can sometimes hurt. But then you can get a little bars that go on the end where your hands can go can rest like that easily without putting too much pressure on the on the restraint.

Clint: Oh, I recall, sorry I recall seeing them. So that you’re actually, your forearms actually rest on a platform, don’t they?

Andy: Yeah

Clint: Yeah. Gotcha.

Andy: That can do. That’s more for your sophisticated sort of speed cyclist, but the rest on the side is a little bit where you can sort of your hands are sort of in this shape if you can see my hands.

Clint: Okay.

Andy: I just personally find it much more comfortable.

Clint: Right. So instead of gripping down, and so gripping down like that on the handlebars you’re gripping like that?

Andy: Or almost with a V, with your fam and your fingers as a V in this sort of shape.

Clint: Okay, alright. Yeah.

Andy: And there’s less pressure there, less pressure on your wrists.

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Clint: Excellent, because I was going to ask you about that because I used to find sometimes if I’d go on a bike ride when I was in Hawaii we rent some bikes, this was back after our honeymoon, you know going back a while. The vibration through the road used to upset my wrists exactly what you said, and my elbows. So both of them felt that, I guess they were you know they just irritated them. So that’s very interesting, and also kind of predictable that I thought there’s got to be something that you’ve done to alleviate that because, it’s a consistent issue that everyone reports when they’re using a bike outside of a stationary bike.

Andy: Yeah. It’s also quite important to have your seat adjusted to exactly the right height for your riding style. Because that makes your whole-body position more comfortable. If your seat is too high or too low, and you’re overreaching or under reaching. You can have sort of back pain, so it’s a case of getting to know your bike and adjusting it to the height that suits you. I mean you can, if you go to a bike shop a good bike shop they’ll do that for you. But it’s also a matter of, you know it’s like any sport people have got their own style of riding, the exact position so all of that takes time and effort. But with those bars on the side it just made a huge difference and felt comfortable.

Clint: What we might do is I might get you to flick me an image of that, that people can see and we’ll put it in the show notes of this episode on www.paddisonprogram.com. And that way they can go and have a look at the image, and if they want to get that adjustment for the bike then they can. With regards to the height of the seat, I found that very important when I was on a stationary bike which is where it began for me. I spent most of my time alternating between Bikram yoga, and a stationary bike at the gym. And later my exercise routine then became Bikram Yoga, alternating with just regular weight type workouts at the gym. And I found that, I didn’t have to do as much cardio certainly didn’t need to do it every day to have good results. But at the gym what I used to do with my stationary bike is I’d raise the seat quite high, so probably higher than your average person. So that when my knee came up, I wasn’t exceeding the 90-degree angle, or at least it wasn’t exceeding it by much. And because I was finding that if, so if the seat was low and my knees came up so that my knee was going quite into an acute position. It was causing a lot of pain. So I was trying to basically raise the seat so that, I wasn’t really compressing too much through the knee. Did you ever explore this as well?

Andy: Yeah, I found I had to adjust it quite a bit because, when you’re actually cycling you don’t fully extend your legs so that is completely straight. You’re supposed to have it so that on the downstroke there’s still a slight angle behind your knee, because sometimes people have the seat too high. So I mean a good tip really is, when you’re sitting on the bike just the tips of your toe should be touching the floor.

Clint: Right. Okay so sit there and let your legs dangle, and tips of the toes on the floor.

Andy: Yeah. That should be a good one. But funny enough in the race I was just in my seat. I hadn’t tightened my seat properly, and I was halfway round and my knees started hurting and I suddenly realized that was like a Charlie Karoly the circus performer. My seat had been dropping, and dropping, and dropping, and I was like peering over the handlebars. So, I had to bail out, and adjusted to the correct tight again. So to balance it really, it showed me that within 10 minutes of the seat inadvertently dropping, I was getting knee pain. So that shows that the setup of what you do, has to be spot on for you to get the correct benefits and feel comfortable.

Clint: Now what about with regards to your heart rate. Do you find as an aside that when you’re doing these long races, that your body responds best in terms of pain relief to certain intensity, or is there a relationship that is you’ve observed specifically for pain reduction with inflammation?

Andy: I found, I try and go really at about 70% capacity, and then not getting too much out of breath but I mean, I’m a bit of a masochist. I really enjoy cycling up mountains and not so much down them.

Clint: Right

Andy: So, and that’s where the heart rate goes up. But also I don’t want it to go up too much. But it’s important as I’ve seen new stress is all about getting a sort of a sweat on.

Clint: Good.

Andy: When you got that sweat, that’s when you know that you’re doing some good. So really I didn’t have to go, I’m not really interested in going maximum power on a bike. But keeping sort of steady, sort of 70% of what I could do, or if I was in a tight corner.

Clint: Isn’t that interesting? It seems we see these Consistency’s all the time and it’s so reassuring to hear them that what works for you, is the same thing that I’ve found works for me and others. And we’re seeing that, you know you want to get to a point of exertion where your body is like a hang on a sec. Do we really have to be doing this? The body needs to actually start to let you know that it’s a little uncomfortable, and that’s where you want to sort of play your game at right at that point. So the body is a little uncomfortable, it has to be engaged, the body needs to have to wake up, and be used, and to start to sweat. As we start to sweat it’s just an indicator that we’ve hit that threshold that we need, that we’re actually going to get some pain relief the next day. So that’s very very interesting. Did you find that, how did your joints feel, from an inflammation viewpoint? From longer rides like this one, did you feel really great after each day?

Andy: Yeah. I mean to be honest, the more I exercise the better I feel. If I have a period where I go 10 days without exercising, I start to feel I start to regress and start to feel worse than I normally do. So for me it’s sort of I have to, either every day. I’ve been cycling every other day, because it’s also important to get rest, and to sort of let your body recuperate a bit. But I just find if I cut down my exercise, it’s not good for me personally. I mean, I really makes me take and I feel a lot better with doing it.

Clint: Great.

Andy: But I mean, I did follow what you suggested as well I did. I’ve done quite a lot of Bikram yoga, and that was just amazing for flexibility, just stretching. So, I Before and After cycling I still do a lot of stretching to make sure that everything sorts of in working order.

Clint: Yeah let’s talk about that. What do you stretch, and how do you go about it? Anything elaborate or have you just got some conventional stretches that you do for the major leg muscles?

Andy: Well I often do, before I start I often do a little bit of the beginning sort of Bikram one, where you bend sideways when you’re standing tall. And also do the, I don’t know about you but be the one-legged balances in Bikram virtually impossible for me. It sorts of frustrates me every time I find, when I get to do the floor exercises I’m as good as anybody in the room. And some of the ones at the start, but soon as it gets on one leg I really struggle with balance. I don’t know if there’s an issue with balance and rheumatoid arthritis, but I do, I stretch the quads by doing the one-legged balance where you lift your one of your legs behind and pull it back up.

Clint: Ah that’s interesting. Yeah, I like that too and stretches the upper quiet doesn’t it gets right into the hip flexor. So yeah standing bow. Okay great, I did the same thing you know if I’m at the gym, and I’ve done a workout. And I feel like just doing a few stretches, I always feel inclined to want to do that one. I find it always helps to relieve my quads. Which is interesting, because most people would think oh well you just hold the bar, reach down, grab the ankle, and just pull it up, and then just reef it onto that quad. It’s funny that, my left knee sometimes doesn’t like that, but it always likes that standing bow pulling pose, or standing arrow or whatever it’s called. And Yeah, never seems to irritate my left knee, yeah cool.

Clint: And so over the years, have you found that you’ve been able to switch out your diet, explore more foods, or did you keep it fairly simple, where’s that at at the moment?

Andy: Well I sort of, what I’ve done I followed your program religiously. So over the two years I’ve not really “Cheated”. I’ve sort of started, I did the fasting at the beginning, and the juice cleanse. Which was first two days are really hard, and I could hardly come out, hardly get out of my bedroom, it was horrendous. Then I started introducing food gradually according to the list, and then I’ve sort of built up from that. And really developed, you know I followed some of your recipes, but I found a good online cookbook from America which is, Allen recommended that’s “Plant Based and No Oils”.

Clint: Yeah.

Andy: Can’t remember the name of the author now, but that’s quite a good source. So I’ve just then been adding things to, less eating lots of fruit. But one of the things about me compared to some of the other people is it doesn’t seem to be a specific trigger with me. I mean since I’ve gone on the program the pain levels have gone down, the swelling has gone down, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that I’ve reintroduced that caused any swelling. So it’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what if there is a trigger, or what the trigger is. So I noticed on the forum lots of people might be something specific.

Clint: Yeah

Andy: An individual that sets them off, but for me it’s I can’t really put a finger on it.

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Clint: And that’s fine, you know. That’s what you’re working with, and that’s how your body responds, and that’s just a different sort of mechanism at play. But you noticed that for instance if you back off on the exercise symptoms come back. And I’m sure if you went and did something grossly unhelpful like fast food, and lots of oils, and stuff, you’d notice symptoms come back. So, you might have this kind of a general direction change that you can sense without it being you know, food specific and that’s fine.

Clint: What’s next for you? So what’s your goals over the next couple of, let’s say over the next 12 months, where would you like to be?

Andy: Well, I mean ultimately I’m looking to like you come off all medication, that’s the ultimate goal. So as I say, I’ve dropped a few drugs, and I’ve already gone down a few milligrams. So that’s that’s on the horizon for what I’m looking for, although interestingly last time when they suggested I could come down I was a little bit wary. You always saw something at the back of your mind thinking, if I completely got rid of this now what would happen? But it’s sort of a long road so, ultimately that’s what I’m trying to do. I probably go and enter more bike races and build on it. I mean I haven’t done this race once, I think while I could do an hour quicker.

Clint: Wow.

Andy: Yeah. I’m the sort of guy that wants to, once I’d done something I think to myself well. How can I better that? What could I do? There’s sort of 3 or 4 things I know, from experience now that I could do better than I did this time. So it’s about finding a physical challenge really for me, but also keeping on with the day. And to be honest I’m amazed how much I love vegetables, compared to when I first started I thought this is going to be horrendous, and how Am I gonna cope? This is so much out of my comfort zone. But really, now if I go to a restaurant and other people are eating (inaudible), I don’t, I’m not envious in any way at all. I mean it’s luckily in London there’s lots of vegan restaurants now where you can eat out as well because obviously restaurants is a bit of a problem for us isn’t it?

Clint: Yeah absolutely. It can be challenging there’s no doubt about that. The thing with that though is that often, as you say you developed a change in what you’re looking for and that you can be out at night and something like oils for instance, or the meat dishes don’t feel appealing whatsoever like you’ve just said. And when I’m washing dishes when someone’s had oil on them on a salad a guest or someone, you know I find it not repulsive but certainly unpleasant, I just think imagine what that’s doing on the inside. This is hard to get off the plate it’s not even, it doesn’t mix with water and with 75% water. So why are we putting something in that doesn’t even mix with the core of our own body. So yeah, so you get used to it and besides we’re not it’s not like we eat out every night of the week. It’s something that we only do occasionally. We can pick our restaurants carefully, and find that most the time we can find a place that accommodates what we’re looking for and we love.

Andy: Yup that’s the way forward.

Clint: Well those goals sound amazing, have you got anything you’d like to share to someone who is watching this, who might be in a place where you were a couple of years ago? Is there anything that you’d like to impart in terms of ways of wisdom or advice?

Andy: Yeah in a way you’ve got to sort of keep the faith. It’s a long journey, and I think particularly at the start of the program you can with the fasting and with the reduced variety of food, you can make quite big gains quickly. And then when it slows down, I imagine people can become disenchanted and pack in and think well this is not gonna work. And really, you’ve got to see it as a long journey, and just stick to it, and keep going really and have some sort of really persevere, that’s what I would say. Because the rewards are there, but it doesn’t come in a day, it doesn’t come in a week, or a month. I’m too is into it, and I’ve still got more places to go. But you’ve always got to look, I often look back and think, well what was the worst time, and if you’re just a little bit better than you were then, then that’s a gain. You can’t lose sight, you mustn’t lose sight of where you were at at the start of the journey. And I often sort of look back at the dark days and think Well, I’m glad I persevered, I’m glad I’ve stuck with this, and it’s something I’ll do for life in terms of diet. I’m going to need to do it for life, and I’m quite happy with that, but it’s really don’t give up.

Clint: Very well put, that’s right. We do become, we don’t look very far in the rear-view mirror quite often once we’ve made improvements. We like to compare to just a few weeks ago and say why am I only 1% better or 2% better than what I was then. And it’s as you say when we look back to when we couldn’t get up off the floor, we couldn’t get out of the bath, because your wrists as you said. That’s when we realize that now when we’re cycling you know, all around near Cape Town in South Africa, leaving your teenage son behind you because you’re powering ahead and beating most people in your age group. That’s when you realize how far you have actually come, and it is life changing. Right? This is life changing stuff, So yeah, thank you. That’s a good way to think about this stuff. And I’m sure that’ll be useful for people when they reflect on a really bad situation that they were in compared to how they are now.

Andy: To use the bike analogy again really, say Team Sky (inaudible) they go a bit faster by doing lots of little things which add up to a big thing. So for example, they might have a suit that’s aerodynamic, they might think of something with the gears, or with the setup of the bike. And really that’s a bit like, what we do is sort of by tinkering with small things, by doing the exercise, by changing the diet. Just little things they all add up to a big thing which is what we’re looking for. And it’s just about keeping the faith, keeping steady, and not worrying too much. Sometimes you if you get up one day and you feel not quite as good as you did the day before, and you can read a lot of things into that. Whereas really, look at where you were at the start, look at where you are now, and see the bigger picture.

Clint: Yeah nice. Some of my clients that I work with on a weekly basis, you know they’ll say oh six days were good but today oh it’s not so good. and then they’ll be say what should I do about this? What needs to be done? What changes do I need to make? But as exactly just point out, look six days were great, today is a bit off. But on average you are better than last week, and that’s how we should interpret the week. And that these micro variations, which could have been influenced from so many infinite factors in fact. As the microbiome is influenced by so many different things from emotional, to external things that we bury then, to you know stress levels, to what we eat, to the supplements that we take. And literally the whole time they are a moving and dynamic organism that they themselves are trying to breed, and to multiply, and to take over other cultures. I mean, we’ve got so many moving parts here that if we have one morning that’s a little different to all the others but generally we’re on an improvement trend, then by looking at the big picture which is exactly what you’re saying, can allow us to you know take that intense scrutiny away from that particular one day, and just look at it week to week, months to months. And are we climbing the mountain.

Andy: Yeah. And also if you, I suppose worry too much this. I think stress is a big factor with rheumatoid arthritis, I think if you if you’re stressed, you’re worrying too much that’s gonna be in a way unhealthy. So you’ve got to try and ride out the little blips, you’re going to have blips, we all have blips. You’ve got to ride them out, and just look at the bigger picture, where were you at the start, and just think well I am so much better than I was and just keep believing

Clint: Yeah great. And I’m sure that you’ve found that your stress levels have gone down simply by spending a lot of time on the bike.

Andy: Yeah, I know they have, they have certainly.

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Clint: Yeah I say that you get stress reduction for free when you exercise a lot. So we don’t need to sit down and try and meditate for 20 minutes a day which is obviously good. But for a lot of us we find that more difficult than just going on a bike, or going to yoga class, or something where we can really get an opportunity to clear our mind and reduce stress and so we can get it for free when we exercise and I find that that is sufficient. And if you exercise like you do Andy, and you get out on a bike, and you just ride for hours on end. I’m sure by half an hour into it you’re not worried about much else other than just staying focused, and feeling your body, feeling the wind in your face, and feeling that elation that you know you’ve come so far and you have really achieved so much.

Andy: Well thank you.

Clint: Well thank you for coming on the episode today, and I’ve learnt some great things about biking, and being inspired by how far you’ve come. And it was great to meet you face to face since we communicate online, but this is the first time we’ve actually had this level of conversation. And I just want to thank you as well for inspiring other people within Paddison Program Support who watch your progress and are encouraged.

Andy: Okay. Well thank you. And thank you really for you know I found you by chance really by researching ways to improve my health. And it was a lucky day when I did. So thank you really for inspiring me and thousands of others. You do you’re a remarkable man.

Andy: Thank you Andy.

Clint Paddison

Clint Paddison has recovered from crippling Rheumatoid Arthitis and now assists others with this disease via the Paddison Program for Rheumatoid Arthritis, the Paddison Podcast and the blogs on www.paddisonprogram.com