Skiing after a new hip

Lily & mummy skiing in Val d'isere 2014

I managed to ski for the first time since my hip replacement at 22 months post operation (April 2014). I know some people who have undergone a hip replacement have managed to ski just a few months after their operation and I even know a physiotherapist who was skiing 3 months after a knee replacement!  I just did not feel ready, confident or even strong enough on the new hip to ski in the first 12 months post surgery.

I had managed to lose so much leg muscle mass in the 2 years before the hip operation it took me a considerable amount of time to feel I had regained the power in the leg again. Skiing has been a pretty big hurdle for me as the thought of falling over and hurting myself on the slope was not appealing in the slightest. My surgeon Marcus Bankes, had ensured me that skiing was absolutely fine post hip however we never actually discussed the falling over aspect. For me it felt rather risky and a bit stupid really doing it but as I love the sport, the thought of not ever skiing again would be a real shame.

At the time, Nic, Lily and I drove from London to Val d’Isere France to meet our friends for 1 week in the Easter snow April 2014. I was definitely keen to be out in the Alps again especially after having so much fun there between 2000-2010, climbing , skiing, mountaineering. I loved the mountains and it was great being back. I was equally excited to introduce our daughter Lily who is 3’5 years old to skiing, hoping secretly she would love it.

Lily tried a mini ski school but she didn’t like it. I think the thought of queuing with other toddlers just didn’t appeal and the fact she was only tiny. After encouraging her she became more frustrated, started to cry and was somewhat rude to the ski teachers we decided enough was enough. That was the end of the ski for now.

I decided she should then stick with mum and ski with me in between my skis. Now for me this was going to be a challenge. I didn’t feel at all confident on my skis so how was I going to do this?? It takes a lot of snowing ploughing and power through the downhill leg and much harder on the turns even on a gentle green slope. However the biggest challenge for me was getting on and off the chair lift. I ask my friends what other parents were doing with their children and watched and learned. Best way on was to get the chair lift to slow right down at both ends and then when getting off grab Lily around her waist under one arm as you stand off the chair and carry her to safety. The next part was setting myself up for the downhill part, bending down to tighten my boots which was a bit of a strain on the hip, then getting Lily in between my skis, making sure her gloves were securely on and then off we went down the slope snow ploughing with her singing ‘if your happy and you know it clap your hands’!!! She did really well and wasn’t scared in the slightest.  As we got lower down on the slope she shouted ‘let me go, let me go’! so when ready I did and off she went trying to lean forwards and after 30 metres would stop by falling backwards and laughing.

It took me 3 days of skiing to start feeling excited about it again. The first two days I just didn’t enjoy it. However, from a rehab perspective, I found skiing was really good for forcing the weight through the operated leg and strengthening the quadriceps and hip abductors. I was much more effective than doing clams or mini dips. So I will preserve and continue this much loved activity!




Traveling through Africa with my new hip –

We started our overland journey from London to Johannesburg in January 2013 – seven months after my total hip replacement. It was at this point I felt my hip and leg were mobile and strong enough to make the trip as I had a good few months of rehabilitation under my belt. However I was a little concerned about the lack of movement and sitting for long periods which could tighten up my hip flexors and weaken my gluteals.

Interestingly, I was half contemplating taking a mountain bike and my turbo trainer! I remember my brother saying I should take your bike and just do some awesome cycles through Europe and at the same time keep fit. I thought it would be bonkers for me to take a bike on such a long journey and become some rehab junky! If we were traveling alone and not with Nic’s dad in his car then possibly I may have brought the bike and Nic also and we would have then taken it in turns to cycle whilst the other drove with Lily. Instead I took my exercise mat, my trainers and a 5kg kettle bell.

Looking back I think the trip and the rest (not going mad in a UK gym) did my hip some good. Although we sat for long periods, climbed into a raised suspension Land cruiser, put up tents, made fires, collected wood, climbed up the ladder into the roof tent, pulled luggage and water containers out of the vehicle and ran after our 2 year old, my hip generally felt good. One other interesting point to mention was having to start squatting down for a wee. The toilets in Greece turned into a ‘hole in the floor’ which initially was quite challenging to do especially as the position requires a lot of hip flexion and there is always a possible risk of dislocation in the back of your mind. In Africa the toilets were mostly dirty ‘holes in the ground’ or behind a bush! However the squatting practice certainly seemed to make my hip more flexible and strengthen my leg considerably without seemingly doing any harm to my new joint. The more I practiced the better I became!

I managed to exercise well in Europe and Israel (3 x a week) by walking, swimming, doing my hip stretches and gluteal strength work. However, my plan for Africa would be to do at least one cardiovascular exercise a week which would be a mile swim (if I found a pool!), 30 minutes on a bike (if I found a gym!!??) or a 30 minute walk. Egypt was a bit more challenging. I managed to find a swimming pool in Nuweiba and we snorkelled in the Blue Hole in Dahab, Sinai Desert. Walking the filthy streets in Cairo with Lily in her push chair dodging the burnt out cars and puddles from the water cannons in Tahrir Square the night before, was all we could manage. Aswan, Egypt was a good base as we were there for a week waiting for the Lake Nasser crossing and we found the pool at the Old Cataract to be perfect! Once we were in Sudan exercising became much harder as at 45 degrees it was just too hot to do anything. Surprisingly I did do my exercise regime at least once a week through the rest of Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique which was just enough to maintain and keep ticking over.

Overall I would say driving from the UK to South Africa with a total hip replacement was definitely manageable and worth doing!

TrampolineSplitDead Sea Israel CampingPyramids Egypt Busy ferry across the Nile