We discuss in this interview:

  • How Larry Nolan was diagnosed with RA and Reynaud’s at age 15
  • His use of fitness training as a means to defeat his condition and achieve the life he envisioned
  • The ups and downs he had to go through in his personal life
  • Using regular workouts to eliminate RA symptoms
  • Exploring the correlation between nutrition and symptoms
  • Larry’s long and inspirational journey to build a big corporate gym chain
  • Guidelines for training with RA
  • Dealing with the emotional aspect
  • Maintaining our own health

Clint – Today’s guest is going to be inspirational. He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and Reynaud’s at age 15. But that did not stop him, and in fact, motivated him to grow one of the largest corporate gym chains around the world called hardcore fitness. He used fitness as a way to eliminate his symptoms and lead an amazing life. In fact, getting his body to a position where he was ranked twice in the top 10 world WBFF pro muscle model. The man is seriously ripped and he’s an inspiration. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Larry Nolan to the episode.

Larry – Awesome. Thank you. I mean, I need to bring you around with me for that introduction and it makes me feel great.

Clint – Yeah, wonderful. We’re going to have some fun here and let’s start with the big challenge. You were diagnosed at the age of 15 and see if we can get back into how you felt with that diagnosis. Also, whether or not you realized at the time just how severe a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis is.

Larry – Yeah. When I was young, I was pretty active. I love to go surfing, I love to play sports and do things. At the age of 15, I was just getting more into those things. I had a very active group of friends, we would go to the beach and we would surf. However, we have a lower income and we didn’t have wetsuits or anything. It was the time when the water is pretty cold and I would turn very blue or around the nose, mouth, and hands. With that, they started nicknaming me as the Blueberry Larry. Then, one day I was at home and they were calling me Blueberry Larry. Then my mom is like, what’s the name of Blueberry Larry? They’re like, every time he gets cold his face is bright blue and his hands are swollen and blue. She was a medical transcriptionist, so she’s not a doctor but knowledgeable in the medical field and she realized that was an issue. We went to a general doctor and they said, there’s an issue and then sent me to a specialist. I still had no clue what any of this was. They ran some tests and they came back in. The initial diagnosis was severe and with the secondary it’s really bad. You’re never going to play sports, you’re not going to get insurance for your life. I was 15 years old at that time and I was pretty shocked. They gave me a list of some medications, some corticosteroids, and we went home. My mom and I had a really good relationship. With that, we sat down and I was really distressed. She had said, you get to make this decision of what you want to do and now you’re not an adult, but you’re 15. She also said that I don’t want to force you to take medications, but I want you to understand what it means. Then she said, I’d like you to talk to the doctor and really understand what the repercussions are of each situation. I had another visit with the doctor. They wanted to send me to another specialist, and we talked about things. I’m sure many of your viewers have gone through this and it’s not super concise. It’s like, this could help but it could cause these problems. It almost confused me more than help me. The more I talked to him, it just felt like I was being pulled in two very different directions. I went home and I think that part of it is being a young man. As men, we don’t like to do what we’re supposed to do. We go against the grain and do things we’re told not to do. I don’t know who your role models were when you were young. But I was like, I loved watching Rocky and Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits. With that, I saw of myself when I got older or it was being very physically fit and active. I kind of came to this conclusion that I’m making a decision about what my life is going to look like, than what I’m going to do right now. I going to accept the reality that my life is going to be that I don’t play sports, I can’t exercise, and I’m going to take these medications forever. Is it going to be the reality that the doctor said or am I at least going to go out and try to find a different solution? With that, it was more how I rationalized it was. Those are the two choices I’m really making right now. For me I was saying, that isn’t an option and I’m not going to live that life. I’m also not going to just totally go against what was being said. But I started to I got the first book that I ever read because I did not like school. The first book that I ever read was on biomechanics, exercise and things like that. I started seeing like some of these things could be beneficial, but the doctor told me about flare-ups and things like that. I went into the garage and my dad had given me an old rusty standard weight set. With that, I just started kind of experimenting. Like again, many of your viewers are probably related to it was not a good reaction initially. My hands swelled up, my wrists were swollen, I was in pain, and it made things feel worse. I decided what I’m going to do is I just felt my body and felt like at a certain point it felt good, but at a certain point it felt bad. I just kind of pulled back a little bit. I did a little bit less exercise, a little bit less weight and just kind of took time over a period of about six months to really learn my body. When I do certain things, how do I feel after? It was very much like a controlled study just of myself. With that, I was taking notes on everything and I had a little notebook. I just kind of analyzed how I was feeling and I got to this really great place. Wherein, you not only did I not feel bad after the workouts, but I also didn’t feel bad after even the workouts that made me feel bad originally. I didn’t even see a lot of symptoms even in the cold and things like that. I really noticed a very big difference and that was kind of it. At that point, we would even go on vacation to my grandparent’s house to Yosemite. Then, they’d find me in a trailer reading a book on fitness. I was just really at that point, super interested in what it was able to do for me again. I never did a ton of research on the actual rheumatoid arthritis arena. It was more the interest in the different ways the fitness was helping me. Also, I had to use a fake ID at the age of 16 to become a personal trainer because I had to be 18 at the time. Most kids were using a fake ID to go to clubs and I had to use it to get a job as a trainer. With that, it’s kind of where everything started and I went through corporate gyms. I started my own and I ended up working with a few really instrumental clients that made this journey really cool for me was being able to help a few clients as well.

Clint – Where do you get it because you dropped out of school, right? What was your relationship like with your father, who you mentioned bought you a weights kit? Which parent gave you this sort of attribute of I can do this, or there’s going to be an answer. Where does that come from? It is because it obviously hasn’t come through your formal education here. However, there’s something in you that was like, nothing’s going to stop me here.

Larry – I would say both of them. My dad was an amazing father. He was a kid that would pick us up in his Volkswagen van with all the kids on the block, take us for ice cream and take us to the beach. The relationship at the time when this had happened, I think it fueled me in both ways what he had instilled in me. But with our relationship, he had an addiction problem. With that, we weren’t really speaking a lot at that time. But I almost feel like the lessons he taught me and the drive to be better than the situation he was in. Both kind of really at that point really lit a fire in me. The school wasn’t good, my relationship with my dad wasn’t good, and my relationship with my mom kind of dwindled. However, I almost feel like it was a combination of them who were great parents and instilled lessons in me. For example, you aren’t restricted by the fact that we don’t have money or these are just the situations we’re in that aren’t who we are. They really kind of implanted that in me, and I feel like a lot of kids. We’re all told when we’re young, you could be an astronaut or you could be the president. Over time because of failures, we stopped believing that. I feel like sometimes our parents get defeated and kind of stop instilling that too. However, mine really never did or no matter what. When I even got in trouble with the law as I was going to jail, my dad told me he was proud of me. It was like there were always those things that, like whatever situation I was in. It didn’t define who I was and they really instilled that in me. As a result, it kind of carried through onto other things that I did.

Clint – You just dropped a heavy nugget there when I was going to jail. I can’t ask about that, given that one’s just been dropped. But before we touch upon that because we’re not going to gloss over reality because life is ups and downs. I think that’s what’s so appealing about your story and what you’ve done is that you’ve hit rock bottom. You’re not only with your health out of teenage years, but we’ll talk about stuff I don’t know about. I have no idea what happened thereafter with what you just said, but let’s explore that in a minute, if you don’t mind. In terms of the rheumatoid and the Reynaud’s though you were able to as a teen, eliminate those physical symptoms that you’re observing. Through regular workouts at home with your own equipment. Also, you start out real gentle and then slowly ramp up. You are being mindful of what hurts, what doesn’t, and pacing yourself.

Larry – Yeah, and then nutrition, too. I realized that certain foods made me feel those symptoms much worse. It wasn’t so much the food by itself, but I noticed the correlation of the things I was eating. Also, the stress I put on my body really made things feel very bad. As I started experimenting with different things, I started to feel really good. When I would change one of those, I guess if you would call them an experimental variable, that one variable would change. As a result, it really changed the outcome of how I felt. I kind of was able to meander through both of those areas.

Clint – In which is precise with what we teach and talk about with other guests, we need to get our exercise and diet right. It’s exactly the same concept as what’s consistent with everything else that we talk about. Coming out of this situation, you’ve now wanted to become a personal trainer at the age of 16 and you’ve got a fake ID. Was that what got you into trouble? How long did you do personal training and what did you learn from personal training?

Larry – The fake I.D. was actually and like I had said at that point, my relationship with my parents really started to disintegrate. I had a stepdad that came into the picture and it was a very volatile relationship. We ended up in a physical altercation and then I was out so 16 years old. I was living in the Antelope Valley, which some of the rappers sing about it. It was a bad area and I lived in a house with a few grown men that I had met at a party. I was 16, I had to take the bus to school and the bus to the 24 hour fitness after because I didn’t have a car. The fake ID was actually a roommate’s cousin’s military ID, it just looked like me, and that kind of worked out. However, that didn’t end up being the thing that got me in trouble. I always wanted to be a police officer, so I never really did anything that was wrong or illegal. I was the kid that was calling the police on people that would tag on a wall or something? I was kind of they would joke and say I was a narc, but I was always the kid that was very on the path. I’m able to definitely relate with people that make bad life decisions and not say that they can blame it on their circumstances but be empathetic. It is because I truly do feel like that’s what kind of led me into some of the decisions that I made. The situations weren’t necessarily things that I regret, but continuing down the path was bad. The reason I got in trouble was there was a friend of mine that was threatened by another guy. Then, I had approached him and thought that maybe it was just in the heat of the moment. Then he said, no and if I see her I’m going to physically harm her. We ended up in an altercation and he ended up just very unluckily becoming very injured or permanently injured. At that point, I just felt like my life is over and I’m going to end up in a lot of trouble. Literally, two weeks later, another friend’s girlfriend ends up having a guy try to attack her and we end up in a fight. Then, he ends up getting a cauliflower ear and he was supposed to go in the navy the next day. Now I have the military police after me, it was one of those where you just feel like this was just horrible luck. I don’t really regret defending this woman, but I’m very sorry that it ended badly. Then it was those decisions after were just more careless because I just felt like my life was over. I’m in so much trouble and I’m never going to be able to get out of this. I don’t talk to my parents and I live on my own. It’s just, life’s just so bad and it kind of led to that situation. I ended up getting two felonies, was sent to jail at a very young age, and was working on my third strike. At that point, they considered it a violent offense.

Clint – Trying to find positives in this. My dad often gives examples of people like Nelson Mandela who spent a lot of time in jail. Also, he also has a lot of time to contemplate, and make really deep considerations about life and the world. Were you able to, during that time, rethink your situation and what you needed to do differently? Would you say that you made some big connections for the better?

Larry – Yeah, I mean, they’ll hear a lot of the story and people hear more of it. One of the first questions was like, do you wish you’d had a better run of luck or wish these things hadn’t happened? We hear it a lot and it’s true that I really wouldn’t change anything. It is because every single one of these things was so pivotal in where I ended up when I went in. I think there’s a lot of people and when you go to jail, you’ll see people that really are almost just fine there. It really isn’t a hard time and they’re very fine. Like, this is they just are good as long as I’m here. For me, it was absolutely terrible and I hated every second of it. Then I was like, this is not ever happening again. Now, if they’re still no-goes even if somebody were to physically try to harm my wife or something like that, I could still potentially end up there. But I’m going to be very careful and I’m never going to do something careless to end up in that position, for sure. It really drove me because at that point is when I really wanted to pursue fitness more. It is because I had that time to reflect and realize that’s really what made me happy. At that point I was doing fitness, but I was doing other stuff and I was trying to go in directions that made more money. Then I realized like, I need to get away from the money aspect. Even if I don’t make a lot of money doing this, it’s what makes me happy and I need to pursue this. The other thing was people don’t realize the difficulty of trying to start your life when you get out of jail and you have a felony. It is because it is nearly impossible. Then the reality I came to before I got out was knowing this is going to be hard, which I still didn’t know how hard it was truly going to be. But I need to start my own business of some because I’m not going to get hired. I might be able to get hired at a gym as a personal trainer. If I want the life I want, which was always to retire my mom. Also, I want to take care of my family and I don’t want I want my family to be good. If I want that, there’s one path and the rest of the paths don’t exist. Nobody’s going to trust me or hire me, so I’m going to have to create my own destiny. There were many times when I probably had other offers or opportunities that I realized wouldn’t work because of this situation, and it made me stay on the right path.

Clint – It’s fascinating. It’s almost like the only way you were ever going to create such a successful gym chain is by starting your own business. But other easier paths probably would have been on the table and attractive. Have you not had only one option?

Larry – Yeah. I mean, it’s looking back is seeing that as the times when I would want to give up and things were so bad. Again, it didn’t happen overnight and I made every mistake possible. It was all the time for about 10 years that I wanted to quit. It was just really hard all the time. However, I am resilient and this is what I wanted. But another that was always in the back of my mind. My mom never owned her own car that ran for more than a few weeks. You want to buy her a car, you want to retire her, you want to buy her a house, you better keep going like this is your path. You’re going to accept that life, that you’re not going to do that for your family or yourself, or you’re going to keep going down this. I do think that it was it had that not happened, I don’t know where I would have been.

Clint – Now, a lot of your other interviews may have been fascinated with how to build a big corporate gym chain and also that sort of stuff. My audience is going to be interested in that a little bit, so we’ll talk about that a little bit. But I want to talk about you working with other people with rheumatoid arthritis as well. I know you mentioned that you’ve assisted other people with rheumatoid arthritis with their physical ailments and made great progress with them. For those people wondering if we’re going to go back more to rheumatoid arthritis, we absolutely will. But let’s, first of all, just close out your personal sort of career journey here. Then, tell us at what point did you think you know what, I’ve done it. For example, with your gym empire or your accomplishments. Did you realize, holy crap, I have crushed this and it’s huge?

Larry – I don’t know that there was a single time because again it didn’t really. I had all these little goals, so I made sure to always feel good about each one. I remember growing up and hearing about people that would make six figures was the life. You could do great things for people and all that you love if you could make six figures. Even though it wasn’t all the money I brought home, I set a goal of when my business makes $ 100,000. Even though I have expenses, I’ll feel really good because that’s a milestone. I remember the exact spot, the car I was driving in and I was looking at my phone. Then, I told my wife we did it and we’ve made a hundred thousand dollars. I remember a lot of those moments that I felt just so good. But honestly, they were from the beginning of like getting the first few clients, or we were very early on with Groupon. We were one of the first people to do a fitness deal and we got a lot of clients out of that. There are these moments where even though we weren’t making a lot of money and it wasn’t a big name, I felt very accomplished to reach these little milestones. I feel like it’s like that very much relatable to rheumatoid arthritis or other things is it isn’t going to happen overnight. If you’re only going to be happy when everything is perfect, it’s going to be hard to endure that period of time when you have to go through those struggles. For me, it was a lot of those moments. The moment that I really felt like I could be done at this moment and be taken from this world. It was the moment that I was able to retire my mom and buy her first home. I was like, that’ll be the best moment of my life forever and that’ll never be taught. For me, that was the point where I realized the business has gotten to a point to empower me to do the things I always wanted to do and dreamed of as a kid. With that, it was probably the biggest moment that it felt like this has done something really powerful. At least for me, where there have been other moments where it’s done powerful things for other people.

Clint – Are you still as passionate about the corporate space and have you still got these ongoing goals for yourself? Are we only just seeing the beginning of what we’re going to achieve?

Larry – We’ve something that I think is interesting is that I didn’t realize wasn’t common. I’ve never with myself or now with any of our staff or corporate team ever set financial goals. I don’t ever say by the end of this year, I want to make another $ 5,000,000 or I want the company to grow. Since there’s never been a single conversation about that topic. It is because it’s always about how it started as a passion. It was just like, I was at corporate gyms and I got away from that. Then, I went to a city park and we did an outdoor fitness boot camp. It is because those didn’t exist and then this was in 2006. The fitness boot camp that we all think of now didn’t exist. If you said boot camp, you thought military, but I had no money and I had no other way. You just have to go to a park and I’ll be able to offer training for less money to more people. Then, I’ll leverage my time and their value. It’s always been a value proposition to me and this is what I love. I always think, how do I offer more value and offer something better? Even though I don’t know anything about business. This just makes sense to me and I’ll probably do fine, and so that’s always what it’s been. I continue to be passionate about it because I don’t have to wake up and worry about it, are we going to make an extra $5,000,000 or are we going to open 10 more gyms? It’s always a fun project of how do we make this better or what is something we could add? Today we just added a new aspect of home workouts that are free to our members. Those little value ads are exciting to me. How do we leverage this in a way where we can figure out how to optimize this or to give this to these people and just be the best at what we do? At the end of the day, the chips will probably fall in our favor and that keeps me passionate all the time. There’s always something that you can do to improve on the process, the procedure, the product, and make this better for everybody.

Clint – You’re very customer-focused because you’re thinking about what will help my customers or will this make their lives better or make them happy to get more results for them. All your decisions are around, will it be good for the customer? In which, you found that by focusing all energy into that thought and everything takes care of itself.

Larry – Yeah. I always that felt in the beginning. I think a lot of people relate to it as you feel almost uneducated. It is because you don’t really understand how to get where you want to be. You’re always like, I’m just trying this because it’s the best I know, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. Sometimes you wake up and just realize always what I was doing was the right thing. This is one of those scenarios where I just felt like all I know is training and helping people. I know that’s what I like and that’s what I’m going to do. With that, I made a very real decision. I downsized, got rid of cars, went to an apartment and I got away from those other jobs. I did selling foods to Costco and things like that sushi. They made more money, but I didn’t love it. I said, if I don’t make money doing this, that’ll be fine but I’m going to try. But if I don’t make money doing this, I’ll be fine waking up each day and doing something that I love. With that, it was the first realization. Then when I did the business stuff, I felt like I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m probably dumb. However, I’m going to do what I’m happy to do and what I think I’m good at. I’m a good trainer and I like helping people. As I went down that road, that just kind of was the road I stayed on. As it became every aspect of the business, it just continued to kind of be the process. Then all these years later, I look back and I wouldn’t have changed any of that. I think that’s really what made us special and made the program good in each way. I think that it’s a testament to just kind of trusting not just our mind, but our heart when something feels right and a lot of the time it usually is.

Clint – Let’s talk about working with people and working with people with rheumatoid arthritis. After you started to do your personal training at age 16, you had people in the outdoor boot camp at the park and so on. Did any of those groups at that time have any physical ailments that enabled you to get that experience of what it’s like to work with people who have certain challenges? What did you first learn about working with people who don’t maybe want to exercise or have trouble exercising? How do you get them to get it done?

Larry – Yeah, those are some good topics. At that point, I had started training at 16. At this point, I was about 22 and I already had some pretty good experience or a decent level of experience with the training I had pro athletes. I had people that had a lot of weight to lose and I had established some good experience at that point. By the time we were out at the park, it started with just my mom and my now wife. Those were my only two, and so my mom has other ailments. She had to have her thyroid removed and other things like that. She was over a hundred pounds overweight at 5 feet tall. She’d never been able to never exercise because she didn’t like exercise. As some of your viewers could probably attest to as a mom, it doesn’t matter whether you want to do it. You sacrifice for your kids and that was what she did. She drove 45 minutes each way up and down a canyon to come and she would come to multiple classes a day. It is because I didn’t have clients and I felt embarrassed if a new client came. It was awkward for them, so she would come sometimes multiple times a day and do these grueling workouts for her son. Then, she would pretend she was a member and be running with them. Like, isn’t this great? My mom was out there doing the most as she always did and she ended up losing one hundred pounds before our first year was up. With that, she has been one of the first posters of our transformation. We just wanted a time started getting more clients and a lot of them had had issues. It was a group of moms at first, and they all had their different ailments. It wasn’t long probably a year or so of us being at the park and my biggest rheumatoid arthritis client had come along.

Larry – There were a lot of things kind of working against us when it came to rheumatoid arthritis. In which, we’re outdoors and our classes a lot of time are in the morning, so it’s cold. Joanne Manzo, who’s become a lifelong friend now and is just an amazing person. She comes out, we’re at a park, and it’s dark. I’ve got a flashlight out there, she comes out and she’s about a hundred pounds overweight. Then, I would always do an assessment with each person. I ask, what are your needs or what are your health needs? She starts telling me about rheumatoid arthritis and she was on her way that day after the stores opened to go get a wheelchair. They had told her, you need to get a wheelchair because that’s going to be what you need to do. It was a kind of perplexing situation because I so badly wanted to help her. But I also realized we were outside, it’s cold and I wanted to be really honest with her. I just said I have rheumatoid arthritis. Then she said, I wouldn’t guess and it doesn’t seem like. I said, it doesn’t ever go away but I don’t really feel those symptoms. Then, I said I would love to be able to help you, but it’s going to be a slow process. I’m going to need you to bundle up, you’re going to be in all these clothes, and you’re going to be sweating more. I was like, it’s going to be a challenge. We just connected and she just from that moment on, she was literally a different person. From that moment on maybe a week later or 2 weeks later, she came and said she’d been coming every day. Then, every day she came we did a very little bit and she would stand next to me. Then I would tell her, while everyone else does something else you’re going to stand next to me and I’ll have you do something. Then she came and said, I’ve got this issue because my husband doesn’t really understand rheumatoid arthritis. She also said that her husband doesn’t understand her weight and isn’t supportive. Just as a friend and I just kind of told her, you need to talk to him and tell him how important it is. Then if you want to be healthy, this is what you have to do and you have to be able to make these changes. Then, talk to him and try to get him on board. She came back the next day or two days later and said, he doesn’t understand and he’s not being kind about it. She also said that she is divorcing him and she was so serious about fixing this problem. Then she said, we’ve tried to have these talks and we’re not on the same page. He’s not about this lifestyle, doesn’t want me to exercise, doesn’t want that, and so I’m divorcing him. I said, I didn’t encourage you to do that and I don’t want to be or I’m not that guy. But I said, I’m very proud of you for being so serious about not ending up in that wheelchair. She said, I don’t want to go get that wheelchair and I don’t want to do that. It’s been 15 years and she still comes to my gym all the time. She’s done a fitness competition and sits on the stage, but I think she was over 60 at the time. She’s lost over one hundred pounds, done triathlons, and done every physical activity that you can probably think. She’s the most inspiring person that to this day, you wouldn’t guess that she has a single ailment. She runs circles around 20-year-olds in our classes. Then, she decreased her medication over time and eventually completely stop taking everything. She’s been doing really good since, so she’s my most inspiring client that has been. She came from the park outdoors with limited equipment. She has just been able to stay with us and slowly progress to this amazing place. I mean, we’ve got pictures of her with a group of competitors. We added a bikini competition and she’s 30 years older than some of these girls. She just looks amazing and strutted her stuff. As a trainer, this moment of pride or seeing everything she sacrificed to get that place was really cool.

Clint – Just that story alone would make you feel like everything that you’ve done is worth it. I mean, the contribution to that individual’s life is so profound that you only have to think about her and you realize this is worth it.

Larry – She’s an amazing person and you’ll see her at my birthday parties. I always said that when my mom lost her weight, I felt like I truly got to know my mom for the first time. It is because she was happier, healthier, and more energetic because she didn’t have to take naps. I felt that way about Joanne, it was the woman that came to the park. The first day was not the woman that she is today. It could be 15 years later, but she acts 15 years younger than the day I met her and she’s way more. She’s friends with everybody and she dances at class. I mean, it’s just really a cool thing to see when you take charge of your life. Then, you face those obstacles head on. It’s not just that you’re not getting in that wheelchair, but I don’t think you realize all the other differences in your life. Your relationships and everything else, and it’s just been really cool to see her thrive in such an amazing way.

Clint – It’s almost like the pain, concern, anxiety, heaviness, and darkness of having that ongoing diagnosis and physical condition. It does cloak us and keep us almost hidden from who we truly are underneath, especially when some of us are taking medications. I used to take a drug called methotrexate and that drug had certain side effects on me. In which, made me feel flat and lethargic all the time. Then you add that to the mix in some instances if there are side effects like that. It’s like, where is the real Larry under there or where is the real Joanne? It is because it’s just so heavy on this person to unveil that real person and get that childlike behavior back out again. With that, it is just that extraordinary.

Larry – Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better and I feel like it’s that way. My mom has a thyroid issue, but she was on medication as well. Some of my clients are just very obese and that’s you’re dealing with the depression of dealing with something that limits you. You’re dealing with medications that make you not yourself. You’re dealing with the feeling of defeat embarrassment. It changes so many things we would talk about and I still do in orientation. We do different programs at our gym and I do live orientations. I still use my mom as an example, where she was my biggest hater critic a lot of the time. It would frustrate me and we would go out to eat. Then, she would eat a burger and I’d eat a salad. Also, she would give me a hard time and be like you have to eat a salad. After she lost weight, she really opened up and it made us even closer. She said, I was embarrassed and I felt like I wasn’t capable of having the self-control you did or making good life decisions. She also said that she was not able to be where she wanted to be. Then, being around me and seeing her do it made me feel uncomfortable or made her feel bad. I think it’s like that in so many of these areas and rheumatoid arthritis is definitely included. Also, seeing somebody else go do something physical. I could see sometimes where you might be negative towards that person, not because you want to be but you’re just so frustrated. You see other people doing things you can’t do and you just feel really limited or depressed or unhappy. With that, it really does affect people more than they even realize.

Clint – Absolutely. You can almost be forgiven for any behavioral trait when you have so much frustration and pain. With any kind of behavior is it is somewhat understandable if even forgivable. It is because that person just isn’t going through a normal life process at that time. It’s hard and it’s horrible.

Larry – Yeah, I think that empathy is the thing is really a lot of people may run through it. But being able to just at least even from the outside, try to understand what they’re going through and it can help you be more forgiving. It is because my mom would say, you got to go work out again or you’re going to eat healthily? I’m like, you’re supposed to be my mom and you’re supposed to be supportive. But now looking back, it’s so easy to understand why that wasn’t the case and it’s just so easy to see her point of view. With the reason why that was so hard for her to go through. She wants to be the leader and she feels like she’s a disappointment. I want to go for a walk, I invite her and she gives me a hard time. It was because, in her mind, I can’t go for that walk. I know I’m going to die out there on that walk and I can’t do it. I think that it’s important for people that are friends or family of people that have rheumatoid arthritis or other ailments is to really understand that. As you said, these are some of those things that are said or done, or some of those behaviors are absolutely not targeted towards the individual that is doing those things. It’s because they’re in a position that’s making them feel a certain way.

Clint – Have you got any other examples or case studies with rheumatoid arthritis or do you have a set of guidelines? General principles that you could speak to for people who are thinking, I’m going to try a bit more of this.

Larry – Yeah. I had one other girl named Corey, both towards the end of Joanne starting to get to more of a serious state of fitness. Wherein, she really wanted to be intense with her workouts. She was starting to feel some issues and some flare-ups. Then I had another girl, Corey, that had lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and so she ended up having these flare-ups. Also, she was friends with her doctor. Then I said, let me talk to your doctor and I’d like to learn more. As a result, we ended up speaking. He was a specialist and he was a really cool guy. We went through stuff and he said, why don’t you look into these things? These are some of the tests we do and let’s see how they correlate with your knowledge of biomechanics. Also, these other things that see physiology and let’s see how these things work. The key indicator that I use that just seemed to work, I guess very easily as far as simplifying things was CPK testing and CPK levels. With that test, it uses those muscle enzymes. Also, what happens a lot of the time that’s correlated that we noticed when we first tested it with Corey. They will test it a lot of the time with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or any other inflammatory disease. They try to test these levels that are these muscle enzymes. They’ll notice that when they get elevated to a certain state, that can be an indication of additional stress. As well as, issues in the body that are now trying to fight that and that can sometimes be a correlating factor. It hadn’t really been looked at as far as exercising. It was just a test to see like, this is high and this high or you’re probably not in a good place. When we started looking at different variables, that one key indicator ended up being kind of my go-to with anybody that had these things. Wherein each person there isn’t a set number, it is because some people see peak levels can be higher and not cause certain levels of distress or inflammation. We noticed that when we would test Joanne’s and Corey’s, they were different. Corey could have a higher level of CPK and be fine, and where Joanne’s was lower. I don’t know if it was because she’s older or just tolerance if it is just individuals or genetics. With that, what we would do is instead of testing not only with a flare-up or every often, we would test them weekly. Then I would say, you’re going to come in and we’re going to do this low tolerance workout. You’re going to do a couple of these exercises lightweight and then you’re going to go get tested. Pretty quickly over a period of 2-4 weeks, we would start to know. We would say, this was too much exercise. We really knew at that point we were able to correlate the too much exercise with the CPK levels that were causing these effects. They were able to feel lethargic, swollen, and feeling not good. At that point, it became a lot easier for us over a period of maybe 3-4 months. Wherein, we wouldn’t necessarily have to test as often because we’d find a rhythm. Then we’d say, this is the volume of exercise that you’re able to tolerate and this is that level of CPK. With that, we know this much causes this much muscle enzyme. Then from there, it was just very gradual.

Larry – One of the key things I would suggest to the listeners is you don’t want to do individual body part training. Let’s say doing a lot of bicep curls or something like that is isolating. One muscle group causes a lot of muscle trauma and increases CPK a lot. Also, doing like a squat to a press or doing a squat with a pull. You should kind of working the whole body a little bit at a time resting and just do that a few times. You’ve probably seen those suspension straps or the TRX straps that hang off a wall that has the handles. If you got something like that and you squatted down to the ground, stand and pull. Then, you did that for a handful of reps just until it starts to feel like you’re getting fatigued. It is because you don’t want to push yourself to absolute failure. Then from there, give yourself 2-3 minutes rest and adequate rest do that again. Maybe do that 3 times and that would be it. With that, it would be your whole first workout and then assess yourself days later. Give yourself time for your body to fully respond to that and assess if you don’t if you feel sore. For most people with these ailments, soreness is correlated with the problem. That is the hard part with people that have their own arthritis. The similar aches that are natural from resistance training can feel like rheumatoid or like those other symptoms. In the beginning, I always be careful with them to say, give your body a little time. I also say, let’s see if it has that same response because you’ll start to feel sore. Then they’ll say to you, this doesn’t feel the same, it’s kind of hard to straighten my arms out, my thighs are kind of sore. But then a few days later, they feel fine and they haven’t had the joint flare-ups and things like that or they may normally associate. Then from there, you would just add a few repetitions or maybe you were able to do 15 of those squat pulls. The next time you’ll do 18 each time and then rest. Then you’ll add one extra step or maybe you’ll do it 4 times. Now, you’ll add in a different exercise. It’s just constantly doing that, in the beginning, is patience because it can be frustrating to see other people doing more or it’s very natural for these people. They start to feel a little better and then they’re like, they’re hooked. Then they say, I want to go do five more. With that, I noticed that was a normal theme. We had talked about feeling unhappy and feeling bad. As soon as you start to feel good, you want more of that. It’s natural to kind of want to overdo it and that’s part of my job is to reel them in. Like that’s going to do more harm than good and we really have to be patient. Even though I’m happy you’re feeling better, doing more is going to set us back and it’s not going to move the needle forward just be really patient. Then slowly add in more weight, more repetitions, and more exercises. I’ve noticed that through those two severe cases and many other clients that have it, but not as severe. Corey ended up being a fitness competitor as well and she ended up doing very well in NPC national bikini competitions with people that had no ailments. She also worked out at the highest level of fitness. As a result, she ended up being able to be very tolerant to do amazing exercise. It just took maybe a year whereas another person might take a month.

Clint – Yeah, but still incredible and absolutely incredible.

Larry – Yeah. I mean, it was definitely very cool and it was a cool learning experience for me. Also, working with the doctor and he was very intrigued by it. He was able to correlate those same things with basically autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases. Also, he was able to kind of use it as an example with other patients. It became cool and that was kind of the one thing. Now, as I have people that come in, that’s usually the advice that I give them is the same type of thing. Let’s monitor those CPK levels and a lot of the time it’s the AHA moment. Wherein they go, I feel this way or you’re right my levels are below that number. Now, I know that I just have to work out where I can kind of stay within those bounds.

Clint – Yes, I’m going to have to look into the CPK testing and do a little research on that. I haven’t come across that before, so that’s going to be interesting for me to look into. How is it measured? Is it urine or a blood sample?

Larry – I think that they can test it in several different ways, but hers was a blood sample.

Clint – It’s not so easy to do too often, but it’s interesting to know that it can be done.

Larry – There might be other ways that they’re able to test that now. The second example was still probably 8 years ago, so there might be different ways now. Ours was probably once a week for the first couple of weeks. Then, I would say it was probably once every few weeks after that or once a month. The doctor at that point wanted to be able to just make sure that even if she wasn’t feeling the symptoms, we weren’t still seeing those elevated levels.

Clint – I think you get into a rhythm, as you said, you can start to almost predict what the levels will be based on how the person feels. You also know that you’ve pushed a little bit too much. I think the rest of us who are doing this without the measurement is just sort of going on a gut feeling. I think as long as you start low enough, then you’re going to be fine. It’s only going to go wrong if you start too hard too soon.

Larry – Yeah. I mean, mine obviously was the exact same situation. I didn’t have any testing when I was young. It was just that was too much and I don’t feel good. It was something to do and a lot of the stuff that we correlated or that the doctor was correlating was the autoimmune diseases. Also, a lot of that stuff was again between the diet and the CPK levels. It was just really measuring any type of stress that would induce any sort of inflammation that was something that we were trying to eliminate. The resistance training increases circulation and transports damaged tissue. As a result, that stuff is very therapeutic for the rheumatoid as well because you’re getting all of this fresh blood. Also not just through the muscle, but it does transfer through the joints and that whole region. However, you’re intentionally creating inflammation at that point because you’re trying to damage the muscles. Now the question is how do we damage the muscles in a small way without incurring that attack from the immune system and getting these flare-ups? As you stated, it just really is. If you’re patient enough, anybody watching can do very little exercise or hold on to a pole and squat your butt down 10 times. You can do squats by assisting yourself and be done. If you’re patient enough to just start really low, you can find that success by just growing a tiny bit every time things feel fine.

Clint – Yeah, I love it. Let’s talk about your maintenance of your own health. I was interested to hear you say something that certainly we believe as a rheumatoid community, which is that it never really goes away. You can become asymptomatic and we’ve had plenty of case studies. Wherein, we’ve shared where people have become asymptomatic without medications. It’s as though the disease doesn’t exist anymore. Yet, we need to be cautious not to go crazy off the rails because it’s it has the potential to bite us. With that, you mentioned salad before and I found that interesting. It is because I encourage people to eat lots of salad. In fact, our recommendations are more towards a plant-based diet. Are there any dietary landmines that you have to avoid stepping on for your health? Do you find that if you’re not super careful that things start to irritate you a little bit in a joint or two?

Larry – Yeah. There have been some really interesting studies that have been done over the last five years. Also, a few major people that I’m influenced by have actually published these studies and posted them. They’re really interesting because they were studies that were either done because of a sickness or because of weight loss or obesity. With that, they ended up correlating with one another and finding very interesting findings. Like the ketogenic diet initially, for seizures or for adolescent seizures, it was not meant to lose weight. Then, they found that some people adhered to that diet and liked eating those foods. Then, some of those crossover studies started to become more prominent. The really interesting thing that’s happened over the last few years that I think is really cool. They’ve done all of these studies to almost take away these simple solutions that are moneymakers in nutrition, which are like, just eat this or don’t ever eat this, and your problems are solved. In which, I’m definitely not about and I don’t think that overall health is treating an ailment is a one solution thing. For example, eat this barrier or just don’t eat carbs. The one thing that they have correlated across the board when they’ve done studies against each of these specific diet types. It was when you eat within a specific calorie range that is within maintenance or below maintenance. All of these other things end up becoming better cholesterol markers and blood pressure. Also, all of these health markers that are correlated with these studies are simply to take calories, inflammation, gut inflammation, and things like that. The really cool thing is for a lot of people, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be a perfect diet off the bat. If you can equate calories to maintenance, calories help when you’re losing weight. Also, blood markers in every area become phenomenally better and the blood markers are from everywhere. As I was saying, from inflammation down to chronic diseases, heart disease, and things like that. People that were eating, they have one diet that was all junk food. Whereas, somebody was eating like Twinkies every day and it is a horrible food in our mind. However, it is at the right calorie range to lose weight. They not only lost a comparable amount of weight to people that were eating “healthy foods”, but all of these health markers change as well. I’m not saying that you should eat Twinkies or the proper foods don’t help. The biggest mover of the needle in each of those areas was just portion control and eating the right amount of calories really helps the body optimize all of those functions. Now, on top of that, I do try to eat more technically healthy foods and less processed foods. I think that the big thing is distinguishing between somebody that wants better overall health or somebody that has ailments and wants better health. It is because I think that just eating in a calorie range will help either person. However, you’re going to be much more limited or probably in the help that you have if you’re eating a lot of bad foods, but in a calorie range. For those people, I have an uncle that was diagnosed with leukemia, and we treated him with an all plant-based and a lot of fruits. With that, a lot of fruit and plant-based where protein is is very hard to digest. I mean, over 30 percent of the calories consumed by protein are essentially burned just through digestion. It is because it’s so difficult for the body to break down this amylase, especially proteins. Those things are not necessarily bad for a healthy individual, but for somebody that has certain inflammation problems or health issues. It does put additional strain on the body. So switching over with what we’ve seen for health reasons is switching over to more of fruits and vegetables-based diet. It ends up being something that people see on a cellular level and a lot more health overall. It’s still very important to be noted that protein intake is incredibly important even on those diets. With that, it ends up being an area where personal critics come out and say it didn’t work or it was very bad. Most of the time, that’s the one variable that they miss. They’re eating these fruits and vegetables, but they’re not eating enough protein. As a result, they start to see muscle wasting, they start to feel a lot weaker, and things like that. You should make sure that you’re getting adequate protein and it ends up being a very important thing for it as well.

Clint – Yeah, a couple of things that they one completely agree that the calorie side of things is fascinating. I can compliment what you said by the studies that have been done on all the different animal types. In which, this has been researched that calorie restriction leads to longer life and less disease in every single animal that’s been studied. Whereas, the animals are not allowed to overeat and so overeating is one of the most detrimental things that we can do. It’s easy to do if we’re eating a lot of high-fat food because it’s so calorie-dense, isn’t it?

Larry – You eat a lot more when it tastes good too.

Clint – Exactly! Then the other thing that you mentioned about just managing protein intake on a plant-based diet. Also, the sphere of social network that you have is going to be more focused on that than my sphere of a network. It is because you are surrounded also by people who are elite bodybuilders or people who want to, as a career, have a wonderful physique. However, here it’s the heightened requirement for protein focus and protein intake. With that, it completely makes sense as well.

Larry – Yeah. I mean, definitely the focus of the level of protein is definitely higher in an athlete or somebody that’s incredibly physically active. Nevertheless, you always want to try to look and anybody that’s watching this can just simply Google, macronutrients for my age or proper macronutrients for somebody that has an ailment (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis or inflammation). Then, you’ll see that the protein requirement that I have or someone as an athlete is definitely higher. Nonetheless, the level of protein is still associated with so many things that are beneficial to them. As far as I said, just muscle maintenance is so important because those things are the proper strength in the circulation. Also, those things that the proper amount of muscle mass has become very important. As well, it is the thing that’s super important to realize. When it’s hard to be mobile, it’s easy to lose muscle already. When they’re not able to exercise and do things, it’s very easy to waste muscle away. One of the clients that I had, we spent almost a year just trying to get him to be able to do a shoulder press. Whereas, he would straighten his arms all the way up because just the mobility of straightening his elbow out was hard. With that, we had to try to grow his triceps and other supporting muscles to help aid in pushing that little by little. It’s incredibly difficult to gain muscle when you have an advanced state of Rheumatoid Arthritis because you’re at that point. As a result, little can cause flare-ups and you have so little muscle to support the mobility exercises, which we are trying to accomplish.

Larry – You’re fighting a really big uphill battle. One thing like you had mentioned, how does it still affect me? With that, it is the key thing that affects me. The times that I’ve had surgeries because I had hernia surgery. When I have to go back to exercise, it reminds me with a slap in the face that I have rheumatoid arthritis. It is because anybody that’s been an athlete for a very long time, and has four weeks off can go back and do a little less than they normally do. You might have lost a little muscle or you put on a little fat or you’re not as strong, but you just work your way back in over a week or two and feel good. It could take me 4-5 months to be able to be at the tolerance I was again and I feel so sore. With that soreness, I can do 2 exercises and I’m done. Whereas, normally I might do 6 exercises at a higher weight and higher intensity. The big thing is that protein requirement is definitely less, but it’s an important factor to keep in there even with the fruits and vegetables. It is because it’s going to maintain that muscle mass or help you build it. Then once you do, don’t stop moving and that’s the key. I’ve told each of my clients that don’t stop moving now. One of the clients said that was his main goal was just mobility and he didn’t want to be a big or strong guy. He just said I want to be able to pick my grandkids up, I want to be able to open a door and push my arms straight. Once we got there and I just told him, your job now is just to don’t lose it and you know what I mean? Just keep moving because you saw how hard it was to get this thing moving again. Once you get that mobility and you build that muscle, consider it to be a precious commodity. Also, be very careful with continuing that diet, protein, and exercise.

Clint – Yeah, I love it. I’ve highlighted that that’s going to go in the little clips that go on. Thank you, that’s fantastic! I’d love to get Joanne and potentially even Correy to be in future episodes. Then have them come on and tell their stories if you could help.

Larry – Yeah, for sure! She’s a riot and she’ll be entertaining. As I said, her story is amazing and I would love to connect you with her.

Clint – That would be tremendous, so just to wrap up, I’d just like to say thank you. This has been fun and really inspiring and educational. You’ve got this unique position where you’ve had, as I said, some really low in your life and some really high successes. Is there a sort of mindset or self-belief that you have about your life or about life in general? In which, you fall back onto when times are tough that you would like to share.

Larry – Yeah, I think there are a few of them. One is, like I’d mentioned before, that just became super key as my current situation does not define me. I might be somebody who’s immobile or I might be somebody who can’t go for a walk. However, that’s not who I need to be, that’s not who I am, and that’s my current situation. It was really important because a lot of us that are in a spot of being feeling defeated start to believe that is who you are. Then, you start to use negative voices. Unless you start to be really hard on yourself with the ways that you associate with the person you see in the mirror. In which, that is something that is so easy to do, so natural and so many of us do it. Rather than that is something that I’ve refused to do. My dad used to always say that it was a bad word to use the word “can’t”. At the dinner table, if I said can’t, it was like saying the F-word. He would always have a corny saying that I hate it as a kid because it was so annoying. Wherein, he’d say there is no such thing as can’t. If you take off the “t”, then you have can. It’s one of those annoying dad sayings. But what I noticed was as I got older, I never said can’t. Then when somebody would say, could you do something? I’d say, I’ll try or let’s see and I never counted myself out because I just wasn’t in the mindset of saying I can’t do something. If we can eliminate saying can’t and it’s something I tell my clients now. If I put a barbell on the floor and say, I want you to deadlift that and it looks like a lot of weight. Then most of them say, I can’t and they won’t even try. However, you shouldn’t count yourself out of the fight before you’ve given yourself a chance to prove yourself wrong. Like, go in there and give yourself a benefit of a doubt. Then say, I don’t know how much weight that is, but let me give it a shot. Also, you can say like, let me try because I don’t know what I’m capable of and let me see before I count myself out. I would say those would be two big things. We should always remember to don’t let ourselves be identified as the person in the situation we’re in. It is because that is not who you are and that is your current state or your current situation. Also, don’t count yourself out in these situations. I have a shirt that says, 0.000009 is the percentage chance that I would have with the history I’ve had as far as legally in school that I would have had the income that I’ve had. I relate that back to when I had teachers that would talk to me. They will say, if you drop out of school, you get in trouble. Here are the odds that you’ll end up dead or in prison. With that, they do it to be helpful or to show you that it’s bad. Then, you start to believe those odds are so against you. Somebody watching this might say, I have so many friends that have this, or I watch this, and so few people end up asymptomatic. Why can’t you be one of those few people? It sounds corny, but that’s what we have to believe. If you’re going to wake up tomorrow and go from the person that has to go by a wheelchair later to the person that’s going to end up being able to do all the things you ever dreamed of. Then, nobody else has to believe it except one person and that is you. You have to at least believe that it’s a possibility. I hope that some of the people watching can try to understand the message. I understand how defeating it can feel, but don’t allow that to be who you are and you have to just little by little set very small goals. For somebody who is watching this, for me to say, you have to believe that in a year from now, you could be a fitness competitor. As with the example that I’ve given, I don’t expect and I don’t think that’s natural for people. But just that one small goal today is to say, I think that tomorrow I could eat a little better. I think tomorrow I could go out, go for a short walk, and see how that feels. For example, those 10 squats that I’d mentioned on here. Also, what’s natural is when you start to do those little things, they start to build confidence. Then you go, I went for that walk and I’m kind of proud of myself. I didn’t let myself down like I thought I would. I never started off doing this to say, I’m going to create a multinational corporation. I just wanted to do something I loved. I felt fairly defeated as an individual, but I was willing to set those small goals. Before you know it, you wake up and just go I do have the confidence in myself to set these huge astronomical or ridiculous goals. It is because I’ve built up that faith in myself and proven myself right enough time. Take the leap today to set that first small goal and see how that snowball can kind of build.

Clint – Thank you. It’s absolutely fantastic and I really appreciate the amount of time you spent with us. It’s been amazing. Larry, thank you so much, my friend.

Larry – Awesome. Thank you and we’ll talk soon. Thank you!

Clint Paddison

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  1. Inspiring. I really need to put on weight and I guess eating more protein and carbs and building more muscle is key. I do quite a bit of gentle cardio (cycling and walking) so my general fitness level is good but would value more tips on how to gain weight (especially exercise tips) whilst on a whole food low fat low sugar plant based diet.

  2. Thank you one million times for this interview. It is the most interesting, inspiring and tend to confirm my view on how to reduce the pain of RA.

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