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How Nixon fought diabetes by cycling

By Shobha Warrier
Last updated on: June 16, 2015 18:37 IST
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He was just 35 when he was diagnosed with high blood sugar.

The doctors at the hospital prescribed either insulin injection or high doses of medicines.

Nixon decided to "tear the prescription up and start cycling to control my blood sugar."

After two years, not only is his blood sugar normal, but he feels fitter, healthier and more energetic.

This is Joseph Nixon's inspiring story.

Joseph Nixon with his family

He has won the title, Super Randonneur given to riders who cycle 1,500 km in a year, in four rides -- 200, 300, 400 and 600 km.

Giving him company are two other cyclists from Kerala, 50-year-old Leju K D and Jayaprasad. Encouraging the three to achieve this feat is the Cochin Bikers Club.

Nixon owns a furniture manufacturing factory and an interior design firm with six employees, in Nettoor, near Kochi.

India has been described as the diabetes capital of the world, so it's inspiring to hear about a man who fought the dreaded disease by doing what he loved to do.

Diagnosed with high blood sugar at 35

In September 2013, when I was just 35, I was diagnosed with very high blood sugar (420) and the doctor prescribed either high dose medicine or insulin injections.

I was shocked beyond belief, but I literally tore up the prescription and started reading about the disease.

I found that the most important thing is to burn or digest what you eat, and for that, exercise is a must.

I also read that we should choose an exercise that we love. If not, we will never do it regularly.

If you do not enjoy the exercise you are doing, there is a chance of you stopping halfway through.

Taking out an old cycle and cycling for hours

Joseph Nixon

I thought of cycling because I had always been passionate about cycling but never took it up.

I took out an old cycle, dusted it and started cycling for hours regularly. In two weeks' time, the sugar level became normal!

Before I started cycling, I had a backache because of the sedentary life I lived. But once I started cycling, even that disappeared. Of course, the position of the seat, the angle at which you sit etc. matter a lot.

The experts say one must sweat it out for half an hour in the mornings and evenings, but I cycle for at least two hours daily.

I cycle 50 km every day. Now I don't cycle just to control my sugar, but because it excites me, thrills me, and made me a new man!

From exercising to participating in competitions

Joseph Nixon

On one of my regular visits to a bike store here, I heard about a 200 km cycling competition. I felt like enrolling for it.

I bought a hybrid cycle for Rs 18,000 and prepared to participate in the first competition of my life.

I had no proper guidance; just a few tips from the bike store. I practised by cycling at least 20 km every day.

We were supposed to complete the race in 13-and-a-half hours, but I finished in 12 hours!

After that, cycling long distance became my passion. I have been to Munnar, Sabarimala, Palakkad, etc quite a few times.

Hartals and cycling

Joseph Nixon

Kerala has at least one hartal (strike) every fortnight and life comes to a standstill in the state.

I and some of cycle enthusiast friends utilise such days to cycle long distances.

In 2014, I went to the trials to get selected for the Kerala team in speed race. For that, I bought a cycle for Rs 86,000.

I was selected but I had to train with the team for three months in the state team camp, which I couldn't do as I had my business to take care of.

Cochin Bikers Club and the Super Randonneurs title

I was introduced to the Cochin Bikers Club (CBC) and they encouraged me to participate in all the competitions they conducted.

I did 200 and 300 km races quite a few times with the members of the CBC.

This year I won the 200 km race to Munnar. Then, it was 300 km to Palakkad, which I finished but could not win. The 400 km race was to Trivandrum and back. The 600 km race was Kochi-Kanyakumari and back.

After completing all this last month, I got the Super Randonneurs title along with Lejo and Jayaprakash. We three completed the 200, 300, 400 and 600 km races.

We are now qualified to do the Paris-Brest-Paris Ride of 1230 km, or the London-Edinburgh-London of 1400 km, or the Boston-Montreal-Boston of 1200 km.

If someone sponsors our trip, we would like to participate in them, as it is quite expensive.

In the last two years, I must have cycled for more than 15,000 km, including practise trips.

Sometimes I wish cycling was not just my hobby but my profession.

Supportive wife who also cycles

My wife, Sumi, has been extremely supportive of my cycling expeditions.

She is a teacher and used to go to school on her scooter till I became a cycle fan.

I bought a cycle for her and persuaded her to go to school on the cycle. Initially she was worried about what people would say if she cycled to school. Now, she cycles to school with our three children. Of course, many commented that we were being stingy and saving on petrol!

Today, many parents who live within one kilometre of the school, also cycle to school to drop their children. That is a great transformation from the days when many looked at us mockingly.

Sometimes, both of us cycle to the fish market, which is 15 km away.

In 2014, Malayala Manorama's health magazine wrote about me and my family, portraying us as the Cycling Family.

After that, our neighbours have started looking at us with admiration. Still, many of them are ashamed to cycle because they feel it is demeaning to do so.

When others graduate from cycle to scooter to car, I moved in the opposite direction.

Only cycle; no car or bike

From the time I started cycling, I cycled to meet my clients. I make it a point to make these visits either before eight in the morning or after six in the evening.

Even if I have to travel 25 km, I only cycle. Most of my clients are happy and curious to meet me riding all the way on my cycle.

Cycling to help the environment

If you look at the people around you, you see that they are totally cut off from nature. They wilt in sunlight and get sick if they get wet in the rains.

Indians today are confining themselves to air-conditioned homes and offices. They can't stand sunlight and rain.

Recently, I cycled to Trivandrum to submit a memorandum about an unfinished bridge, and it started raining at four in the morning and continued till two in the afternoon.

We cycled all that distance in the torrential rain, but I did not get a cold or fever. That is because after I started cycling, my body has become a part of nature.

I don't agree with all those who exercise in the gym in an AC environment. What is more important for every human being is to get accustomed to nature.

Advice to those who live in cities

You hear people getting all sorts of diseases and it has got to do with our sedentary lifestyle and stress at work. It is essential to exercise regularly.

I also tell people to climb the stairs and not use the lift. I have run up 15 floors, when people find it tough to even climb two floors.

Cycling and climbing stairs fast helps strengthen your knees.

I don't advise everyone to take up only cycling for exercise. I chose cycling because I love cycling.

Some other person may like to play badminton or football or tennis, but you must have a passion outside work and you should follow it up without fail.

It is also very important to have a very good diet, containing fruits, milk and eggs.

Have you ever thought of the carbon footprint you are leaving behind by burning fuel? Is this the world we are leaving behind for the next generation?

Also, look at the time saved by cycling. I take 15-20 minutes to reach Ernakulam city if I cycle, and more than an hour if I take my car.

I have a dream

Joseph Nixon

My dream is to cycle till the last breath of my life.

But I have another bigger dream: to make a world tour on my cycle.

I started dreaming of such a trip after I met a cyclist from France. He was on a world tour on his cycle. When he reached here, somebody told him about me and he came to meet me.

He stayed at my place for one night. After meeting him, I have also started dreaming about such a tour around the world on my cycle.

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Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com