The number of running event finishers increased dramatically between 1990 and 2012. According to runningusa.org, over 15 million men and women completed running events in 2012. To put that number into perspective, 15 million is more than the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined!
If you follow us on twitter or Facebook, you might notice that we post a lot about exercising in cold weather. Along with pros such as burning more calories, lessening the impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and an increase in endurance – there are cons -particularly in sub-freezing temperatures- such as dehydration, hypothermia, and frostbite. Being prepared for cold weather exercise is paramount and something in which our interviewee, marathon runner and soon-to-be triathlete, Trish Steen – known in the running community as Patty Cakes, is well versed.
Trish and I met on a train bound for New York City back in 2006. When her phone rang with the Mission Impossible theme song, our friendship was a fete accompli. I’m so pleased to share with you running advice from Trish Steen – who doesn’t just walk the walk, but runs it – even during a polar vortex!
Trish, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
As an athlete, I would describe myself as a late bloomer. While I ran track in Junior High School and High School, my pursuits were always more focused on the arts (I got my BFA from Pratt Institute in Fine Arts Sculpture and have a serious love of design and product in women’s accessories!) and I never considered myself an athlete.
Always at the gym, first came step classes (remember those?), then boxing, then spin…but all the while, I was running. It was my go to. I can do this on my own without a scheduled workout routine. It wasn’t until a few years ago though that I became serious about distance and speed.
Now with 6 marathons and untold numbers of half marathons, 5Ks and10Ks under my belt, I’m moving into the world of Triathlons! Wish me luck!
A lot of coldfront friends and fans are runners. We have questions about running in cold weather vs hot weather for you –
Q. How long have you been running?
A. I started running in JHS and seems I’ve never stopped! I have become more serious over the last 4-5 years about speed and distance and thus, a marathon runner was born.
Q. You’ve completed quite a few races including major city marathons. Can you tell us something about your experiences?
A. Among my marathon experiences are New York and Detroit. Nothing compares to running NYC. It’s so much more than a race. It’s a human wave of energy. That wave starts with the runners, approximately 45,000 runners. By mile 2 the wave has spread to the wall of spectators who give you their all. You become a rock star and you glide, albeit sometimes painfully, through 26.2 miles to the finish in Central Park. It’s more than a race. It’s a lifetime experience. I am grateful for having the honor not once but twice.
“You become a rock star and you glide…”
Q. When running in cold weather, what are the most common side effects?
A. Very similar to warm weather, your two biggest concerns are exposure and dehydration. Here I would list exposure first, followed by dehydration. In the cold, exposure can really hurt. Sure, you see folks running out doors with no hat, no gloves and shorts, but they’re taking a huge risk. It’s just not smart. You need a warm hat to preserve your heat, you need gloves to keep your hands from freezing and potentially getting frostbite, and just because your legs don’t feel cold, doesn’t mean they’re not. If your legs are turning red, they’re cold!
“Think of all the energy you’ll save for a run if your body simply isn’t fighting the cold.”
Cold temps are very misleading. One does not feel as thirsty as you do when running in the heat, but you must stay hydrated. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. A teammate taught me this expression, “You can’t un-cook the turkey.” Once your bird is cooked, it’s cooked! Don’t get cooked!
Q. How do you deal with cold temperature running?
A. Wear Layers. Lots of layers, you can always make like a banana and PEEL. Stash a water bottle behind a tree. Remember water fountains are turned off in the winter. You need to carry your own hydration.
Q. What do you do to warm up post run?
A. Here, dry clothing becomes critical! You must get out of wet clothes ASAP and put on warm, dry clothes. Cotton feels like heaven at this point! Drink something warm. I often go for coffee, but herbal tea would be a healthier choice. You don’t need the caffeine to further dehydrate your body. Anything with ginger and lemon will help your belly settle.
Q. What is on your list of gear essentials for running in temps below freezing?
A. Hat, Gloves, lots of layer. Chap-stick helps. As does a hankie – your nose runs like a sieve in these temps.
Running below 30 is tricky. You’re going to feel cold when you start out and that’s tough to overcome, but trust me, you will warm up. I start with a base layer that fits snug. Craft is the best for your top and Sugoi fleece lined tights on your legs. Then I layer on at least one additional long sleeve sport top…anything with wicking properties before choosing a jacket. A jacket could be anything from a very lightweight Brooks windbreaker, to something a bit more substantial. A zipper is your thermostat. Too warm, zip down a few inches to let out heat. Wind kicks back up, zip up to keep out that draft.
As for gloves and hat, I start with a pair of cheap stretchy knit gloves, you can pick them up for a buck a pair. Be warned, runners often use their gloves to wipe their noses, so don’t shake hands! If the temp is below 30 I’ll layer on another pair of gloves or mittens. At the start it’s important to ball your fingers up inside the gloves or else they will NEVER warm up. I like a fleece hat. Keep all your hair up in that hat or risk icicles. Add a buff or a gator for temps below 20.
“Be warned, runners often use their gloves to wipe their noses, so don’t shake hands!”
Socks? I only double up on socks below 20. Wool ski socks are great – WigWam are awesome, just don’t get too bulky or you’ll affect the fit of your running shoes. I also opt for silk sock liners from Land’s End under my regular running socks.
It’s cold here in many areas of North America right now, but it’s really hot in Australia, where we have friends and fans of coldfront. We now turn our attention to running in hot weather -
Q. When running in hot weather, what are the most common side effects?
A. Dehydration – always your #1 concern. Exposure is #2. Stay hydrated. Wear sunblock at all times. Just keep in mind that it’s important to keep sunblock out of your eyes! I like Banana Boat sport and Coppertone Sport for my body; the new spray sun blocks are great. But you need something a bit more sophisticated for your face. Neutrogena (SP) is good. But make sure its face specific.
One must carry water in warm temperatures. It’s simply unavoidable. I often try to route my runs around water fountains to avoid the extra weight, but sometimes you just need to wear a fuel belt and carry your own liquids. A hat and sunglasses are NOT accessories – they are necessities. Keeping the sun off your head is key. And again, sunblock is a no brainer.
Q. What do you do to cool down post run?
A. Drink plenty of fluids- and get out of those sweaty clothes. Drying off provides relief. This is something I can’t tell novice runners enough: “Pack Dry Clothes!”
Having a portable ice pack system is also critical on any long distance run for both cooling purposes as well as medical purposes. It’s important to get that core temp down. Coldfront provides the portable and reliable icing relief you need. Coldfront is also an invaluable tool for sore knees after a long 10 – 20 miler.
“It’s important to get that core temp down.”
Q. What is on your list of gear essentials for running in high temperatures?
A. Liquids – before, during and after. I’ll drink some Gatorade prior to a run, but stick to water on the route. After, I’ll go back to electrolytes like Gatorade or Nunn tablets. No excuses. Sunblock, I use a quick spray variety on my shoulders, arms and legs, Banana Boat or Coppertone, and a face specific variety like Clinique or Neutrogena on my face – no excuses. Dry clothes for post run. You’ll be happy you remembered, it’s not healthy to spend one extra minute in soggy, sweaty clothes.
Don’t forget your body will be running HOT after a long run. Pack Coldfront to help bring down your core temp. You’ll recover faster.
Q. What are the most common misconceptions about running?
A. That it’s boring. Like anything else in life, if it’s boring, you’re not working hard enough.
“Like anything else in life, if it’s boring, you’re not working hard enough.”
Q. How do you stay motivated?
A. By this point in my running life, I am deeply entrenched in my running community. It is truly a village. I have a support system of true friends and mentors that runs deep. My accountability to them and their successes are my motivation – then there’s just me wanting to be a rock star!
Q. What resources do you recommend?
A. Contact your local running clubs. They all have free group runs and they welcome runners. You will learn so much! Jump in and listen- no headphones please!
Q. What words of wisdom do you have for the running novice?
A. Take your time and have fun! You’ll get there. I promise.
We do wish you luck, Trish! Thank you so much for participating in this interview and sharing your sage advice and experiences with our community.
We’ll keep you up to date on Trish’s progress on the coldfront Facebook page!
More running statistics can be found at http://www.runningusa.org/home