This is actually rather tricky. I am doing the ‘747’ position, doing my best to mimic an airplane with arms outstretched and right leg lifted up ‘Straight… a bit straighter… unbend your knee… more… we’re aiming for straight…’ behind me, while the Lovely Paul (LP), a source of endless encouragement, times 30 seconds. I am halfway through my hour-long session with LP, who is in charge of the Snow Fit Program at The Jersey Sports & Spinal Clinic. This is a program designed for those who jet off to the slopes with the aim of preventing injuries, in particular, damage to the anterior cruciate ligament which is inside the knee. The ACL is especially important because if you do give it a bit of a twist with an awkward manoeuvre then the consequences can be disastrous and you may well need surgery (and a hefty 6-8 months of rehab) to sort the joint out properly. Best to listen to the Lovely Paul then.
‘This program is designed for everyone, all levels and ages,’ says LP when I am having a rest after hopping around the room (to test the comparative strength of my knees). ‘That said, it is really useful for women because the ACL incidence is four to six times higher in women than men – this is for natural, physiological reasons. We’ve put together a series of exercises which increase flexibility and core strength and focus on the muscles most used for winter sports. I carry out a thorough assessment to determine where the potential weaknesses might be and then I tailor specific exercises and stretches which will help reduce the risk of injury.’ As Paul has been skiing since his days as a toddler in New Zealand and was physio to the USA Alpine ski team for two seasons alongside lots of teaching and racing, he knows what he’s talking about.
Ideally, you should think about starting the program six weeks before your trip, as this is how long it takes for changes to take place which will go some way to help prevent injury. However, every little helps, and even in the short time since my session I’ve been practising the 747 I have noticed that my left knee is getting much less wobbly and the scary sit ups are not as scary as they used to be. I’ve also managed to work some of the recommended exercises into office life – I hop to the kitchen to make the tea (note: hopping back with hot liquid is not a good idea) and instead of attempting to throw any rubbish in the bin in the opposite corner, I physically make my way there, crossing the room with a series of graceful lunges. They haven’t said anything, but I know my colleagues are rather impressed.