I did my ACL, I bet you’re jealous. This phrase came to me last week when I was thinking over all the good things that have come from my injury. As I was in the gym (my home away from home) I thought back to all the things I have learnt about my body and my mind; and it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve learnt so many new exercises to enhance my balance, strength, power, coordination. My awareness of my body has improved. I’m sure that when I put my skis back on I will be very conscious of my new knee but eventually I will probably forget that it is any different to my other knee. However, the awareness of what my legs are doing all the time will stay with me, even though it may be subconscious. Given that I ski (most of the time) on two legs, it could make a big difference. Through spending so much time with physios they have of course discovered plenty of other parts of my body that can be improved. Primarily the alignment of my hips that I can now work on with stretching and strengthening exercises. It may not make a difference but in a sport where every hundredth counts, why not try?
As I move onto the final stages of my rehab I have learnt the importance of eccentric strength in skiing. For example, when you come into a skiing turn you “sink” into the turn by bending your legs and this is a controlled descent that is vital to ensure you can then power back up out of the turn. When I crashed and tore my ACL I was pushed down into the turn and then catapulted out after the gate. Maybe if my eccentric strength was improved I could have had more control coming out of the turn.
Mentally what have I learnt about myself? Firstly, that perseverance does pay off. I take great pride in knowing that my knee wouldn’t be looking as good as it does today if it wasn’t for all the hard work I put in. Secondly, you really do have to hit rock bottom to see how far you can push yourself, it’s hard to beat someone that never gives up.
So, despite adding a little bit more determination to my personality I’ve also had to improve my patience skills (which were basically non existant to begin with…!). The three things that annoy me most are: being told I can’t do something, being told to slow down and not knowing what my next step is; give me an injury and you get all of those! I’ve had to adjust and learn new coping methods that I think have helped me grow into a better person.
But I think that biggest thing that I’ve learnt is appreciation. It’s small things like jumping, kneeling or being able to shower without a plastic bag on, to the bigger things like being in the mountains and of course skiing. Do sports get any more awesome than skiing?! “What do you do? I get to spend every day in the most incredible places skiing, enjoying myself and occasionally winning some medals”. Ok so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea when you add that you also spend over 10 hours a week in a gym, injury is a risk and it’s always cold... it still sounds pretty perfect to me. You really do have to lose something to realise how much you miss it. Every day I get to spend on my skis counts.
All I’m saying is that if I was you I’d be pretty jealous I hadn’t done my ACL.
I put my skis back on 3 weeks ago and it’s been non-stop ever since. Finally, I’ve found some time to sit down a write a blog for the first time in a few weeks!
My first day back on skis was on the 19th November, 6 months and 2 days after my knee op. I went skiing in Val Thorens with my parents. It was the opening weekend so it was crazy busy but I didn’t care, I was so excited to put my skis back on. Everything felt a little weird, being on skis was such a foreign concept but as the same time very familiar. After two tentative turns everything came back to me and I was off. It’s hard to explain how happy I was at the bottom of my first run. All my hard work and the hard work that everyone who helped me get back on my skis had paid off and I could do what I love once again, with no pain.
I started skiing on my slalom skis, taking it fairly easy, doing drills and getting my balance back. I skied for a few hours every morning and made sure I was back in the gym in the afternoon to keep working on my fitness and especially my hamstring strength that was still slightly down in my left leg. After my first day of skiing everything in my body, except my knee, was aching! I did a lot of hours of training in the gym and on the bike this summer but I don’t think anything truly prepares you for the leg burn of skiing… and squeezing your feet back into race boots! In the gym I have started working more on my leg endurance doing intense exercises like jumps on a trampoline for at least a minute and slowly but surely my muscle endurance is returning.
After switching from my slalom skis to my giant slalom skis for a few weeks (btw the new Atomic GS skis are awesome!) my coaches suggested that I give a few runs in gates a try. I went up this morning feeling excited at the prospect of hitting some plastic! I had a really good warm up and then suddenly I was in the start gate. I looked down at the first gate and thought “oh my god, I’m really going to do this!”. Reaching the bottom of my first run was the best feeling in the world. It finally sunk in that I was back on my skis for good and my mind and body were ready to train harder and go faster.
I ended up doing 5 runs today, which may seem like a lot for a first day back in gates but I had no pain at all in my knee. The coaches were pleased with my skiing and they didn’t make any mention of me looking like I was skiing on one leg or protecting my knee!
I feel stronger than in April now and I’m looking forward to my next day in gates (even though it may be in slalom!). I few months ago I wrote a final blog about my knee, I never posted it but you can have a read of it here. It’s called “I did my ACL, I bet you’re jealous”.
My return to snow has also been supported by a new family of girls, who do extreme sports ranging from freestyle skiing to skateboarding and wakeboarding. This awesome team have been brought together She Shreds Co: A clothing company whos aim is to support girls in extreme sports around the world. They make awesome on snow and off snow clothing that you can check out here. You can also get a 10% discount code by using CaraBrown at the checkout! My favourite pieces are the Powder Day tops and the long shirts.
A final thank you to the people and companies that have stood by me throughout this injury and helped me back onto snow: Alpine Management Services, Delancey, Ladies Ski Club, Kandahar Ski Club, Boing, Snowsport Scotland, Insure and Go, Orsatus, Atomic Uk, Ortema, Body Barrier and Reusch Uk.
It's me, Cara!