Doddie's mission to change lives of those with MND
'Come on big man,' says the tallest guy I've ever met. 'We'll do this interview on one of these machines. They are brilliant, you can watch telly on them.'
Doddie Weir is one of the few people in the world who could get me on one of these infernal machines – and the jovial manner with which he did it goes a long way to explaining just how likeable he is.
An inspiration on the pitch and as a commentator, he is one of the genuinely nice guys in Borders rugby.
But since his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease earlier this year, he has had to pull out all the stops to get to grips with the condition – and is inspiring many more people as he does so.
As MND is a condition that wastes muscle, Doddie has been visiting his local TriFitness gym in Galashiels since the summer.
And he’s now helping the team there put together a programme which will help others with the condition – funded through the Doddie Weir’5 MND Trust.
The former international lock forward told us it was really helping him come to terms with MND.
“My chiropractor, Donald Francis, told me that if I don’t use it, I’ll lose it, so I came along to see Mark Forsyth and his team at this great gym.
“After coming away from here, it is such a wonderfully positive feeling. So we want to reach out to other sufferers or anyone else in a similar situation, to come along here and try it out for themselves.”
It really is on a suck-it-and-see basis, as little is known about how exercise will work with the condition.
And it’s the lack of knowledge available that really frustrates the former Melrose and Scotland star.
He said: “It’s a terminal condition, but very little has been done behind the scenes as to whether exercise is good not.
“The only thing available to myself is a drug that came out 22 years ago. Apart from that, nothing else has come to my plate.
“I’ve had to go out and do absolutely everything else. And being involved in professional sports, I’ve taken the attitude that if it’s a muscle wasting disease, let’s try and make it as difficult for the disease as possible.
“As far as I’m concerned, exercise is good for you, and the team here has come up with a programme for me to crack on with.
“I come in maybe two or three times a week for 45 minutes at a time. It’s a very fresh atmosphere, and you get to watch telly as you work out.”
TriFitness’s Mark Forsyth said: “Doddie has been a breath of fresh air in the gym since he started coming here in the summer.
“His personality is infectious, the staff love him and the other members love him.”
Mark described the programme they have prepared for the big fella.
He said: “When he comes in, he starts off on the rowing machine before going on the bikes. That’s his cardio work.
“Then he will do some resistance training on a variety of the machines, and then he’ll do some stretching to finish off. It is a programme that has been devised especially for Doddie after chats between him and Scott Chapman who is our senior health and fitness advisor and it’s fitted around what he wants to do and what he needs to do.
“Doddie has said that when he leaves, he feels not just physically good but mentally good too, so if we can help any more people in that way, if we can improve lives, that’s why we are doing this.”
There was barely a dry eye in the country earlier this month, as Doddie, along with his sons Angus, Hamish and Ben, delivered the match ball ahead of the All Blacks game.
He said: “That was such an emotional, unbelievable and difficult to explain day, given the support of the rugby public, the Scottish Rugby Union and the national team manager Gregor Townsend, which has been remarkable.
“It has helped propel the awareness of this condition to a magnitude we could never have expected.
“I have to thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they have done.
“Walking out with the kids was quite a memory for them as well.
“And on the flip side, it was nice to meet up with Gregor in the tunnel ... it was him who had orchestrated it all.
“He came out with the advice not to pass the ball amongst the boys in case I dropped it, and that was probably good advice, to be fair, because we could have been scarred for life.”
Doddie rounded off the interview by checking the display on my running machine.
“See! You’ve been doing five minutes on the treadmill and I can see the massive difference it’s made,” he cackled.
“You’ve burned off maybe enough for a sausage roll.”