I used to run. It was kind of my thing: my therapy, my challenge, my relaxation, and a major part of my social life. I did cross-country for 6 years and track (distance running) events for 5. I even finished the Cleveland Marathon (a week before my prom!). It was my constant through the normal ups and downs of junior high and high school.
Once I started college, though, my knees started to hurt more and more (culminating in my last big race, a half marathon, my freshman year). After that race, I hurt. A lot. I tried on and off, to come back to running, but my knees hurt more and more.
So, finally, two weeks after my 27th birthday, I did what I had put off for too many years...I went to see a orthopedic surgeon. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees (not at all what I was expecting and definitely not the birthday gift that I was hoping for).
From our conversation, I learned a few things: Based on my symptoms, I probably have had arthritis since I was about 20 (I honestly didn't even know that was possible beforehand). Since I was a healthy weight and because of my very young age, it was purely from genetics. Running may have sped up the process slightly, but even if I hadn't run, my knees would be just as bad by now. There's no cure for it and when they hurt, I should stop doing whatever I'm doing (which is very much against the "Pain is temporary, pride is forever" cross-country motto, I'd learned to embrace).
My running career officially ended that day (pending any miracle-cure that I continue to pray for). Filled with cortisone, anti-inflammatories, and Osteo Bi-Flex, I was told I could swim, use the elliptical machine, do upper body weightlifting, and walk (but no steps). I was even advised against yoga, but I've continued to do it, with a few minor adaptations, for my own sanity.
With that diagnosis, I had to make some adjustments, some major and some minor. The doctor told me that the main thing I can do to keep from hurting is keep my weight down, which means exercising, which sometimes hurts. So, I needed to find some new exercises to do.
I went to the library to do some research. Searching through the arthritis section of the library got more and more depressing as the books all showed pictures of elderly men and women doing chair exercises and water aerobics. That's not me. I need something enjoyable to do as an active 20-something. Chair balloon volleyball isn't it.
After much deliberation, I've decided to walk as my main form of exercise. My dad and I signed up to walk the Columbus Half-Marathon in October. I know (and love) races, so that's what I need to do. I know that it'll be tough watching my husband do the marathon that day that I would do anything to be running with him. But, everyone has struggles, so I simply decided that I need to do the best I can with what I've been given. At some point, if my body will allow, I'd love to get into race walking (speed walking), but we'll see how this goes first. I'm happy to say that (besides those rainy days, when I still hurt) for the most part, exercise is finally going well.
I've been adjusting my work, avoiding sitting too long or standing too long. I've started taking the elevator (which is weird for someone who, years ago, swore to only take the steps). I had my schedule changed so that I won't have to race across campus to get between classes.
I've also done a good bit of research on diet. Luckily for me, my diet is pretty close to what it should be for someone with arthritis: avoid meat (check), avoid salt (check), avoid dairy (pretty much check), avoid white flour and sugar (I'm getting there), avoid white rice (yep...hence this recipe). I should be eating tons of fruits and veggies (definitely check), drink lots of water (check), eat fish and avocados for the Omega-3s (check, check), and use more olive oil (yep!). So, with a few adjustments, I've finally started to feel better.
This recipe is a simple, but tasty, reflection of the dietary changes I've made: brown rice, olive oil, and no added salt. It's just about as good as Chipotle, but you know what's in it. Sometimes that's pretty important.
It's taken me several months to write about this (somehow writing it makes it more real), because it's something I definitely still struggle with from time to time. Thanks for reading (this crazy-long post) and thanks for your support.
Chipotle-Style Brown Rice
- 1 c brown rice (dried)
- 2 c water
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp lime juice (more to taste)
- a heaping 1/4 c cilantro leaves, measured then chopped (more to taste)