Running is an excellent workout — for some of your muscles, while others are just along for the ride. Most runners have five-star quads but three-star glutes. These weaker muscles create instability that can slow you down, lead to injury, and sideline your training.
Whether you're 23 or 73, you’ll deal with some joint aches and pains at some point. According to a national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of adults over 18 reported having joint pain within the past month. Ouch.
Joint pain has many causes, but it's often a symptom of arthritis, an umbrella term for more than 100 conditions that cause joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation. In young, active guys, arthritis typically shows up because of a old sports injuries, like a dislocated joint or a torn ligament.
Medications that ward off and slow the progression of joint damage and inflammation are commonly prescribed to decrease pain. However, researchers have found that foods with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties can be effective additions to pain management plans..
Your joints are built to withstand incredible forces. Within each is a capsule filled with synovial fluid that cushions and nourishes your cartilage. It's your cartilage that allows bones to pass over and across each other. A poor diet, age, and genetics can cause cartilage cells to break apart, clog up the synovial fluid, and bring on an inflammatory reaction resulting in pain. Fortunately, you can shore up your joint health with certain key foods.
Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy added extra-virgin olive oil (or EVOO) to the diets of rats that had a joint injury. After eight weeks on the EVOO diet, those rats had significantly higher levels of lubricin, a protein in the synovial fluid that protects cartilage and serves as a lubricant, compared with animals fed a standard diet. Add EVOO to salad dressings, pastas, and vegetable sautes.
This cultured milk supplies an array of healthy bacteria, including one strain called L. casei. In one study, participants were given a daily dose of L. casei for two months. At the end of the study, they had lower levels of inflammatory markers and less joint stiffness than a placebo group. Pour kefir over cereal or add to smoothies. Unsweetened brands contain more bacteria and less sugar than sweetened versions.
In one study, subjects with osteoarthritic knee pain who took a daily orange-peel extract for eight weeks reported a drop in knee pain and had lower levels of an inflammatory compound than a placebo group. The effect was due to a bioflavonoid in citrus called nobiletin. When peeling, leave the white "fuzzy stuff" (albedo layer) on. Use whole oranges (peel and all) in smoothies to get maximum bioflavonoid content.
This fish is a stellar source of omega-3 fats. Studies with omega-3 supplementation show that this fat triggers a series of key reactions that lead to less joint inflammation, especially in those who suffer from arthritis. Research shows that people taking daily fish-oil supplements can typically decrease their use of NSAID drugs, such as ibuprofen. Fresh is great, but canned varieties are just as rich in omegas.
Berries have a lot of nutrients and contain anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that fight inflammation and give the fruit its deep, rich hue, explains Natalie Azar, M.D., clinical assistant professor of rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Berries are also a good source of ellagic acid, another antioxidant that helps decrease inflammation that exacerbates joint pain.”.
How to Eat It: Add berries to hot or cold cereal, smoothies, Greek yogurt, or whip up a Low-Carb Berry Crisp for the week ahead. Simply reheat in the A.M. for a grab-and-go breakfast.
Nuts are loaded with healthy fats and antioxidants that help the body fight off and repair damage caused by inflammation, says Azar. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that over a 15-year period, those who consumed the most nuts had a 51% lower risk of dying from an inflammatory disease compared to participants who ate the fewest nuts. How to Eat It: Dress up your morning oatmeal with a handful of your favorite nuts, along with cinnamon and chopped apples. Not into hot cereal? Munch on some homemade Smoked Almonds instead.
Thanks to their vitamin A and beta-carotene, orange vegetables are strong inflammation fighters, explains Brian D. Golden, M.D., clinical associate professor of rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “These veggies are also rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, which may ward off inflammation-related disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.” How to Eat It: On a baking pan, combine baby carrots, a cubed butternut squash, and a few sliced sweet potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and spices and bake in a 400-degree oven until soft and slightly browned.
“Vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, spinach, and broccoli are packed with antioxidants that may help ward off arthritis, slow its progression, and help lessen the associated pain,” says Azar. What makes these vegetables so powerful? “They’re rich in sulforaphane, a compound that may block enzymes linked to joint destruction and inflammation.” How to Eat It: We love this Broccoli with Pepperoncini recipe by Stephen Kalt, head chef at Fornelletto at the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, NJ.
The transition from walking to running doesn’t have to be a difficult one. All you need to do is leave the ground and land after each step. That, however, is what makes it more stressful on your body, and when something is stressful, taking breaks is important.
The main difference between walking and running is leaving the ground and landing. That means whatever protection you may have between you and the ground is rather important, and finding the right pair of shoes is crucial.
What to wear? In most cases, we start a running program in spring, summer, or fall, and we run outside. In most cases, you will have all the clothes you need to start running in your dresser or closet. Loose but comfortably fitting clothes that allow your body to breathe are key.
Finding the time to carry out your new running plan can be difficult, but setting aside 30 to 45 minutes for yourself three times a week will pay dividends for years to come.
Respect the environment. That means knowing the weather and terrain and how it will affect you. If you live on a hill, walk to the bottom or top before you start your run. If that’s too far to walk or it doesn’t lead you to flatter lands, drive to an area where flatter running options are available.
Nutrition before and after your running is not a huge factor at this stage unless you’re eating too much. Try not to eat anything one to two hours before you run, and just drink some water afterward. If you run first thing in the morning, you can most likely head out the door without a small breakfast, but if you find the urge to eat something, a banana or slice of toast with water is plenty.
Walk slow; run slow. You’ll note the walk/run plan above lists only walking time and running time. There’s no mention of distance or pace.