Living the Mountain Life – An Interview with Magdalena Mittersteiner
- Meran, Italy
When and why did you start running?
Since I was young I’ve been practising lots of different sports like gymnastics, track and field, horse riding and diving. During my time as a Track and field athlete, I started to go running more often for conditional training. After I finished competing as an athlete I continued to run and really started enjoying regular runs. Initially, I would run just on flatter terrain but as I live in South Tyrol, the heart of the alps, surrounded by beautiful mountains it was natural to expand into this playground. Now I’m always running in the mountains, unless it’s raining in which case I will still go for a run around town.
Describe your ideal race (let us know if it’s real or fictional, and describe details including the location, climate, terrain and duration)
I’m not a competition runner, but if I were I’d really enjoy running and being surrounded by the beautiful mountains, something like the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (but I would never run 171km!). It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold just warm enough to run in shorts and a shirt. A good atmosphere with lots of cool competitors and just run!
We noticed you also do a lot of climbing, something that we are seeing tied in with trail running more and more. Why do you think these two activities complement each other so well?
Going up into the mountains means you will meet an environment that has no rules, the mountains are wild, and you won’t always find a marked track, and that’s probably not what you are looking for. Your movement needs to adapt to the ground you come across, and you need to be one with nature. The mountains decide if you are climbing, running or even walking. So, going into the mountains is a combination of all these kinds of movements and that is what I love. It makes you feel alive and free. I love the mountains, to run, climb and live. There is so much power and vastness, you don’t have to follow any rules you just run or climb or whatever is necessary.
Your movement needs to adapt to the ground you come across, and you need to be one with nature.
What has been your biggest running / adventure challenge to date?
That’s a hard question! Every time you go out you will find new challenges, some are small and you don’t really notice them, others are far larger. Every time you go out, you learn and grow beyond yourself. One such climb we started early in the morning, it was my first north face climb. The first 700 meters of altitude were terrible, I felt sick, I was tired, had a bad headache and my legs were extremely heavy. I thought I couldn’t even make it to the hut. As we arrived there, I decided I was going to continue with the climb even though it was hard. I knew if I stayed at the hut I had failed. We reached the glacier and I started to feel better. I mustered all my energy, focused on the climb and made it! My first North face! On the top I felt so happy and lucky to have overcome myself. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and go for it!
Tell us about your greatest running fail (we’ve all had – or will have – them at some point!)
After a long day of school, I came home and the only thing I wanted to do was to get out and run. You know that feeling when your body screams for movement? Exactly! So I put my running clothes on, grabbed my shoes and started to run. After the initial excitement when I started to relax and realised I was wearing the wrong running shoes! The shoes were my mothers and she wears shoes two sizes smaller than mine! In the struggle of deciding whether I should continue or turn around I ran several kilometers which was a bad idea. When I got home I discovered two very bad blisters which I had to deal with for the next two weeks! – [hehe, its a funny story Magdalena, but I’m sorry you got the blisters!!]
SEE ALSO: Having issues with blisters? Why not read some of our advice articles:
- Treat Running Blisters: A How-To Guide
- Stop Getting Blisters From Running: A How-To Guide
- Blisters on the ball of my foot: caused by gait, not shoes
What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan?
The mountains are my every day motivation. When I get up in the morning I have a look out the window and see beautifully shaped mountains and I know what I want to do. I want to go out and explore; explore the wilderness and explore myself.
I don’t necessarily follow any strict training plan, but usually I try to do a conditioning workout 3-4 times a week. Additionally, I try to hit the gym for some strength training twice a week, but this can vary from week to week. Often, I replace the gym with some climbing.
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The most important thing for me is to listen to my body and to take enough rest. After an exhausting day in the mountains I like to do an easier recovery workout, rather than push my limits again.
What advice would you give to a new trail runner?
Listen to your body and take enough time to rest! Don’t care too much about time and pace, try to get “the feeling“ for your body. Of course, some days are better than others, but don’t get frustrated by that. Eat well, sleep well, drink enough water and train constantly. Don’t be scared to push yourself to your physical limits! and most importantly: have fun and enjoy!
I love the mountains, to run, climb and live. There is so much power and vastness, you don’t have to follow any rules you just run or climb or whatever is necessary.
What is your favorite bit of running kit?
My favourite piece of running gear is my shoes! Not a surprising thing, but you know what bad shoes can cause! I really love to have different pairs of shoes, depending on the trail and conditions I’m going to run in.
SEE ALSO: Some of our recent Trail Shoe Reviews:
- On Cloudventure Peak Trail Running Shoes Review
- Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review
- Inov-8 Trailtalon 235 Review
- Salomon S-Lab Wings 8 Review
- Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 Review
Wet and soft terrain requires different shoes to dry and rocky terrain. Good shoes allow you to push yourself to your limits. Hasn’t a bad blister knocked out everyone at least once? Not with good shoes!
My second favourite piece of gear is my bandanna, as you can see in many of my pictures! On hot days it keeps the sweat away from your face and it protects your head from the sun. That’s really important because being out on a sunny day for several hours can easily cause a bad sunstroke, not what we runners are looking for! While on a cold and windy day a headband keeps you warm and protects you from hypothermia.
What adventures are you planning for the coming year?
Currently I’m in New Zealand to get as much adventure and outdoor activities in as possible. I’m in love with this country, the wonderful mountains, beautiful lakes, the sea and friendly people. I have another two months here, to explore the trails and climb some mountains, so it’s not going to get boring!
Check out some of our New Zealand Adventure posts here:
- Running the Routeburn Track: A Trail Running Adventure in New Zealand [VIDEO]
- Travel Photography – New Zealand 2017 [PHOTO GALLERY]
- Running the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, New Zealand [VIDEO]
Back home I really want to get a paragliding license to combine running/mountaineering with flying (Hike & Fly). Of course, I will enjoy some trips at home in the European alps too! My goal is to climb my first 4000m peak and I have some summits in mind that I really want to climb.
On my travel list for this year is South America (Patagonia) and Alaska. Keeping the focus on the mountains! As the climbing season for the “big mountains” here in New Zealand is over I plan to come back later this year to do some more expeditions. I just can’t get enough!
What’s your favourite running/adventure book?
My favourite running book is “Run or Die” by Kilian Jornet. It’s an inspirational book which will definitely motivate you for your next run! It’s not an instruction book, but more about the thoughts of an extreme athlete and how he has taught himself to push his body over the limits.
He describes the internal battles that he endures in his mind in each race. Through the book he shows us his childhood, races, record breaking attempts, romance and most importantly he tells us about the mountains, trails, rivers and forests he has experienced in life. This is a book for all runners, no matter what your pace is or whether you run on roads or trails, you will enjoy it.
SEE ALSO: Our list of the BEST Running & Adventure books.
Finally, what do you get up to in life when you’re not running or climbing in the mountains?
When I’m not running or climbing in the mountains I always enjoy doing gymnastics and stretching exercises (That’s where my inner gymnast comes out!). I think it’s really important to keep your mind and body in balance! I love to eat and to cook. I enjoy going out for a nice dinner, having a good barbecue or cooking a delicious meal at home. My grandpa is an organic farmer, so we always have tons of fresh veggies and fruit at home, Heaven!! I used to bake my own bread as well as we have a small grain mill at home. I love to experiment with different ingredients; my favourite bread is with rye and spelt whole meal, apple, cinnamon, seeds and grains, and honey –Yummy!
SEE ALSO: The Best Real Food for Trail Running
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Thank you, Magdalena, for taking the time to answer our questions. We have been really enjoying your Instagram feed, and all the mountain adventures you get up to! It’s very inspiring!
We also love Northern Italy, lets all meet up for a trail run, next time we are there!