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Jane Sowerby scuba diving

Working hard but still having fun

By Jane Sowerby

This summer has been a bit of a whirlwind, but an enjoyable whirlwind! Unfortunately, the British Disabled Ski Team had some pretty major funding cuts, so I needed to find a job to earn some pennies before on-snow training starts again. 

Luckily, a job came up at a charity that’s very close to my heart, covering for someone while they’re away on sabbatical leave. I updated my CV, went for the interview and thankfully got the job. 

Back Up are a charity providing support for those affected by spinal cord injury – I was first introduced to them about a year after I had my accident. At that point I was really struggling to come to terms with what had happened and had lost all my confidence. Then I went on their ski course, which absolutely transformed my life. I had the most amazing 10 days, partly due to discovering an unbelievable passion for skiing, but just as much because of spending time with other wheelchair users and realising that they had had similar experiences and were finding their own ways of coping. It gave me the confidence to try out loads of new things. 

I’ve volunteered with Back Up a lot over the years since then, as a Wheelchair Skills Trainer and Group Leader, most recently in May where I group led a course for people with spinal cord injury to try out scuba diving in Egypt. It was amazing to see how much they got out of the course – realising what is still possible and that life is far from over! 

So now I’m working as an Outreach & Support Coordinator – organising wheelchair skills sessions and providing regular contact for newly injured people. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone else in a wheelchair to realise that you’re not alone. I’ve been using my trusty S-MAX to drive around the country to the different spinal units, sometimes showing patients how to get their wheelchair into the car, and answering questions about the Motability scheme. I’m really enjoying my job – it’s great to try to help people feel more positive about the future. 

However, I have found it tricky fitting in all my training around working hours. I’ve still been sticking to my strength and conditioning programme in the gym and have been going out on my handbike, but not as much as I’d wanted. I’ve made sure the weekends have been jam-packed with activities. We’ve been kayaking a couple of times, which is an incredible workout to improve your balance. I also did a weekend at a tennis camp where I developed a new-found respect for all professional wheelchair tennis players! It’s such an incredibly quick game – you really have to be constantly moving fast, great fun though. 

Plus, I’ve been fitting in my second favourite sport, waterskiing, whenever possible (and preferably when the sun shines!). This is a great cross-over sport that will help me keep in shape for the coming ski season. 

So although I’m not getting any on-snow summer training due to lack of funding, I’m making up for it by cramming my days off full of fitness pursuits to get my adrenaline pumping.