Basingstoke Team Parish

Lorna: Ski Instructing with PoTS


What!!!! Sounds crazy....I know it is, but its great fun and I refuse to let POTS get in the way of my fun.  It’s a struggle, but worth it. 

I escaped the UK having had a bad couple of weeks due to POTS symptoms.  Due to stress at work, my adrenaline levels were high therefore taking near to nothing for my heart rate to rapidly accelerate over 100.  I was struggling with resting tachycardia, which is not normal for me, with rapid acceleration on standing, despite medication (Diltiazem, Sertraline, Slow Sodium).  So off I went to the Alps, to ski instruct for a week. 
Mornings are a little early for my liking, but start the day with loading up on as much fluid as possible and finding space for some food leaving me with a wacky heart rate– not a pleasant way to start the day. 
I took a group who had never skied before in the morning for a two hour lesson.  “I can’t” one of them repeatedly said on the first day.  The following day I challenged her to replace her chant with I CAN.  This change of mind set marked a dramatic transformation in her skiing.  How much this resonates with me on a daily basis! Symptoms tend to be worse in the mornings, with varying degrees of tachycardia, dizziness, nauseous and a headache. I kept myself moving to help increase blood pressure; avoiding over exerting myself while my heart rate was wacky; and just sat on the snow if too much waiting around was required.  Despite symptoms, I pushed them aside and got on with the job at hand saying to myself “I CAN”.
After a good hour for lunch, I take an intermediate group for the afternoon.  My heart rate tends to be better controlled by then, so ready for a little more action. Though on day one remained rather wacky due to high adrenaline levels, but knew a bit of exercise would help to blow it away. The days to follow I saw an element of improvement.  Thankfully, I can tailor lessons to suit me, and can choose to have a harder/easier day, with my class thinking its all part of the teaching plan.
After 5 days of instructing, I get a free ski day.  Ski the bumps or eat pancake, what a dilemma, as I sat looking at a huge plate of them at lunch time.  I knew if I ate too much, blood would be diverted to the gut, instead of working on regulating heart rate and blood pressure.  Actually, if I ate too much, I would not be able to ski home, let alone tackle the bumps.  The outcome – I neither ate much, nor did the bumps – muscle fatigue was too profound, and all I could do was get my-self home.  A handful of runs completed.
Before POTS I was a keen and enthusiastic skier, with a hope to progress in the ski instructor world. I would be first out the door, and last in....can’t be doing with a coffee stop as it cuts into ski time.  I sort every opportunity to find the hardest runs in the resort,  have an off piste adventure, and play in fresh soft snow.  I have had to adjust....a lot. I struggle when I see my friends, who I used to ski with, doing run after run, of high intensity skiing,  all day long...get up the next and do it all again.  I remain thankful for what I can still achieve.  Three years ago I had packed away my ski instructing books as I could not see it possible for me to cope with the level of exertion required, since I was desperately exhausted and struggling with daily living.
Muscle fatigue is what inhibits me most.  Medication has most certainly helped slow my heart rate, at least puts a cap on it stopping it from going too high; but does not control the rate of acceleration.  I don’t need to do much before it’s over 100!  As a result, I know my muscles do not get adequate oxygen.
“How do you do it I hear you say”?  It’s all about pacing – pushing myself, but knowing when to stop.  I have to be disciplined, giving up my own ski time after lessons.  Home to bed is the best option, to get as much rest as possible for the following day.  Overall I am aided a wonderful supportive team; a cooler environment; tight boots providing an element of lower leg compression; a regular sit down on a chair lift, and for hot chocolate; and a wonderful Austrian diet where salt seems to be the primary ingredient!
I am blown away that it’s possible to have a sufficient level of improvement, which allows me to do something I am so passionate about.  I can keep positive by investing my efforts into other people, who I hope with time, will be able to do what I wish I could. 

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