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Forests in winter

Ice, powder and electric shocks!

By Jane Sowerby

Looking out of the window of my little apartment I can see snow falling heavily – a heavenly sight! I’ve been in Colorado since mid-November, where I’m training with the National Sports Centre for the Disabled in Winter Park. Unfortunately the season has been slow to start here, with much less snowfall than usual for this time of year. For the first couple of weeks there were only two runs open on the mountain, with quite a bit of grass showing through. The resort staff were frantically making as much snow as possible with snow blowers, to try open up the rest of the mountain. However, it’s now January and it’s only just started snowing! Normally by now they’ve had a good few feet and several famous Colorado powder days. So I’m sure there were many people other than myself who had a big smile on their face when they saw the welcome snow falling this morning.

However, my smile might be the biggest! This summer has been great, but my priorities changed slightly as I focused on working to earn some cash. I didn’t really have a lot of time to think about skiing too much, but for the last month I was literally counting down the hours until I could get back to the mountains. Now I’m here, it was definitely worth the wait.

I’m really excited about this season. I love working with the coaches out here, they know how to get the best out of my performance. There are also a lot of familiar athletes from Slovakia, Sweden, Iceland, Slovenia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as America. It’s great to be inspired by other sit-skiers and share techniques.

We also have a well-structured off-snow programme to complement the on-snow training. This season there’s a new team physiotherapist. So far she’s got me doing some intense pilates – famous for developing strength, flexibility and posture, and enhancing mental awareness. Also, she’s looking at ways to minimise the involuntary muscle spasms I’ve always had issues with, which restrict me slightly when skiing.

This summer I’ve even had someone sticking needles in me to try and calm things down! My friend Laura is doing some research to see if acupuncture can affect muscle spasm in spinal cord injury. Also, I’ve started a Functional Electrical Stimulation programme with Cyclone Technologies. This is an incredible bit of kit that basically enables paralysed muscles to work again. It gives you electric shocks in a particular sequence so that the legs can power an exercise bike. I’ve already noticed increased muscle tone and better circulation, and as it’s giving my leg muscles a good workout, they’re calmer and more manageable afterwards. The gym out here in Winter Park are so supportive of disabled athletes that they’ve managed to borrow an FES bike for us to use, which has enabled me to continue my programme. 

Despite the snow conditions not being great, we’ve had some really good training to prepare us for races. Today ,however, training was cancelled so we could go and ski the 12 inches of fresh powder, so much fun! It was a welcome change to the ice we’ve been skiing on for the last couple of months. Tomorrow the hard work continues, though, with normal training, so hopefully by the end of the season I’ll be pulling in some good results.

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