“My PT always would say, ‘You know Kristin, you could go off of (the anti-inflammatory medications) if you just would learn to stretch. Stretching would help to open up your hip joints, which would help alleviate a lot of the pain you are having.’ I didn't buy it, plus it meant I had to put more time and energy into something I didn't enjoy doing – stretching.”

A New Approach

But once Vioxx was taken off the market, she made a decision to change her approach to dealing with OA. Cycling was one exercise the doctors endorsed, so joined a local cycling group and accepted an invitation to race with a regional team. She discovered she loved it, and very quickly her fitness level and disciplined approach propelled her upward through the ranks. A new dream was born.

She also gave stretching a chance.  “I began doing recommended exercises and stretches, which helped the pain and inflammation tremendously. I also began going to yoga on a regular basis.”  

She added supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and made eating a balanced diet high in antioxidants a priority. She hired Coach Jim Miller in 2003, and together they monitored her body’s response to intensive amounts of training, racing and being on the road. The results tell her phenomenal story; Armstrong began racking up major race wins – three in 2004, nine in 2005, eleven in 2006, and ten in 2007.

A Dream Realized

In 2008 Armstrong won 17 races, traveling to countries as far flung as Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland to compete. When she arrived at the Olympics Games in China, it was the culmination of everything she’d worked for since osteoarthritis had redirected her life. That 14.6-mile race was Armstrong’s defining moment, and she brought home the gold, finishing in 34 minutes, 51.72 seconds. She became only the second American woman to win Olympic cycling gold, and the first since 1984.

Another win: OA didn't cause Armstrong any difficulties during the Olympics in Beijing. She credits her commitment to her routine. “Even skipping a couple of days here and there will cause the deep dull pain to come back around,” says Armstrong. “That pain is always a friendly reminder to get back on track.”

Armstrong acknowledges she may need a hip replacement someday, but for now she’s busy juggling media requests, scheduling a visit to the Oprah show, accepting the Key to the City of Boise, and training for world championships in Italy.

For Kristin Armstrong, the road ahead looks good.