Hydration and Stretching: Two Things You Must NEVER forget to do before you hit the slopes.

If you’ve taken to heart the advice in a previous seniorssking.com article of Paul Petersen, president of Bear Valley Cross-Country in California, on the best way for seniors to get in shape for skiing, you’ve developed and faithfully followed a fitness regimen focusing on balance, strength, flexibility, and cardio. But the 56-year-old certified alpine and cross-

Bear Valley Cross Country's Paul Petersen swigs water, something we should all remember to do. Credit: Paul Petersen
Bear Valley Cross Country’s Paul Petersen swigs water, something we should all remember to do.
Credit: Paul Petersen

country ski instructor will quickly tell you that this is not enough. What you do in the days before and right up to the minute that you put ski or board to snow is just as important as all the pre-season conditioning you’ve done.

One of the most overlooked factors in preparing for a day on the slopes is hydration. When your body is well-hydrated, your body temperature and heart rate are more stable, your joints and muscles function better, and you have more stamina. Conversely, if you’re dehydrated, which can happen more quickly at elevations above 5,000 feet—especially to flatlanders, you won’t be able to perform well for any length of time, you’ll tire more easily, and you may experience dizziness, headaches, or shortness of breath. Says Petersen, “When it comes to hydration, you have to think ahead. You can’t properly hydrate for athletic activities the day before; you need to begin several days beforehand. Remember, you’re not trying to hydrate your stomach, but rather your joints and muscles and that takes a while.”

If you’re a typical skier, before you head out for the slopes, you probably have a cup of piping hot coffee or tea in the lodge (this may be in addition to the glass or two of wine you had at dinner the night before). This is a total recipe for dehydration! “Any liquids with caffeine or sugar, including sodas,” says Petersen, “are NOT a net positive in the hydration department!” For every cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage you drink in the morning or while on the mountain, Petersen insists that you drink an equivalent amount of water.

Noting that senior wintersports participants schedule longer trips and thus ski more consecutive days than the average skier, Petersen emphasizes the importance of recovery for seniors after a day on the slats and boards. “Right after you’re done on the slopes and before you hit the bar, hit the protein bar,” he strongly advises. “For me, the magic bullet is protein powder in water. Either helps you recover from that day and helps your body get ready for the next day.”

An equally important factor in ensuring a safe, fun day on the slopes is adequately stretching your muscles right before you start out. We’ve all done those cursory arms over our heads while stretching our waists and quick calf stretches, right? Not good enough per Petersen! “You can’t just touch your toes, grab your ankles, stretch your thighs, and then walk out the door,” he warns. “The night before, put aside a few minutes to stretch your hips, calves, and thighs, and again the next morning before you put your boots on, either in the parking lot or at your locker.”

In sum, make “water, stretch, go” your wintersports mantra if a perfect day “doin’ it” is what you’re after!

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