Ask Timmy Olson: Paleo, Pacing and Kid-Assisted Strength Training

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This is the first installment in our new online column, Ask Timmy Olson, in which the two-time Western States champ answers reader questions about all things trail running. Comment or direct message us with your questions, or ask via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag ‪#asktimmyolson!


Q: Do you still follow a paleo lifestyle? #asktimmyolson

– jobaxas via Instagram

A: Thanks for asking @jobaxas. Yes, I still follow a “Paleo” or “primal” lifestyle, focusing on a whole-foods diet rich in healthy fats, protein and plenty of veggies.

I used to have terrible gut issues while running—and in daily life—and eliminating grains was a great first step. Since then, I’ve learned to take care of my gut flora with bone broth, probiotics, fermented foods, kombucha and coconut oil, which has immensely improved my body’s stomach health and response to inflammation from hard training days. Now my body allows me to use grains on occasion without my stomach acting a fool on me.

I do believe carbs are an important part of an athlete’s diet, and the carbs I do ingest are consumed strategically to get the best out of my training, racing and recovery. Just because I don’t eat lots of grains does not mean I don’t get plenty of carbs. All the carbohydrates I require for training and racing can be found in vegetables, sweet potatoes, gels, nut butters, green smoothies (with berries) and an occasional gluten-free beer, corn-tortilla pizza or other treat after a hard day’s work.

I don’t stress too much on food anymore; I’ve dialed in what works for me. My main objectives are to fuel with high-quality food. Of course, taste is also supreme.

The Paleo lifestyle is much more than stressing about what you put in your body. It’s about how you enjoy life. I spend much of my time running outside, playing with my family and engaging in daily meditation practice. Through proper stress management, healthy eating, exercise and lots of natural play and sunlight, you remember that life is fun, playful and a blessing.

Q: What type of strength training do you do to make you a stronger trail runner? #asktimmyolson

– jwdaniels23 via Instagram

A: For strength training, I use an assortment of things. I don’t have a specific regimen, but I try to keep the whole body strong and concentrate on lateral movement to become a more balanced athlete, as running is mostly linear in nature.

I do lots of core and glute strengthening: planks, one-legged squats, plyometrics and band-strengthening exercises. I also do a fair amount of push-ups, pull-ups and burpees. Throughout my off-season (which there really isn’t for running) I concentrate on other ways to play outside, by climbing, skiing, chopping wood and other hobbies I’ve neglected during my season of racing.

My secret training weapon was having kids. My son is a free weight that doesn’t care how far I’ve run or how hard my workout was. He’s a constant training buddy who keeps me moving 24/7 and adds weight to my crunches, planks, push-ups and runs; I’ll push him in a stroller while I run up hills.

Q: @trailrunnermag @timmyolson_run what’s your pace during a 100m and how much time do you take at stops? #asktimmyolson

– Seth Dorsey via Twitter

A: Thanks Seth. It really depends on what 100-mile race I’m running. At the Western States Endurance Run, a relatively runnable course, I keep a much faster pace and try to not stop basically the whole day. But in more mountainous terrain, like at the Hardrock 100 or Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, I’ll take a few extra minutes to make sure I have the proper gear in case the weather changes, and extra calories and water as I know I’ll be out there for a bit longer.

I used to push through aid stations without even stopping, but lately I’ve learned that taking an extra minute so I don’t forget any necessities can really pay off. My main goal is to not get distracted by the inviting chairs, ground or trash pile; I stay focused, think about what I need before I enter the aid station and keep a positive attitude even when things are not going as planned.

Timothy Olson is the 2012 and 2013 Western States champion and the course-record holder. He’s a global athlete for The North Face, Ultimate Direction and EPIC bar. He lives with his wife and two sons in Boulder, Colorado, where they put on Run Mindful Retreats and enjoy spending time playing and connecting to nature in the mountains.

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