Timmy Olson makes no secret about the fact that he went to dark places mentally before he found his path in life as a runner. After recovering from a well-documented spiral into drug addiction several years ago, the rejuvenated 31-year-old has become one of the world’s top ultrarunners.
Now living in Boulder, Colo., with his wife Krista and son Tristan (and another baby on the way), Olson, a two-time winner and course record-holder of the Western States 100, wants to share some of the key aspects he’s learned on his mindfulness journey. By share, he means literally—spending time together: running, meditating, doing yoga and eating delicious meals. Community is an important principle for Olson, and, to a large part, is what made the first four-day session of his Run Mindful Retreats, held June 4-8 in Boulder, a well-received success.
“Our retreats are more about enjoying the connection with yourself and the earth instead of focusing on form,” says Olson, who leads runs and meditation sessions during the camp. “We want to help others find a blissful state while being out in nature and enjoying the mountains.”
From trail running enthusiasts to diehards training for a 100-miler, to those seeking a trail running getaway and fans of the sport, runners of all levels came to relax, learn and have fun in the mountains, just as Olson hoped. But, as the name indicates, Timmy and Krista (she deftly handles permitting and logistics) want Run Mindful Retreats to be about more than running. Instead of spending extra hours focused on drills or running form, attendees enjoy a fireside chat with Olson, meditation presented in an approachable manner and post-run creek side yoga.
Olson credits his practice of meditation and mindfulness with making a positive difference in his life. Even though the idea of mediation can seem vague, he hopes to “get people psyched” to give it a try.
He likened it to the idea of stormy skies.
“No matter how cloudy or stormy it is, there are always blue skies above it,” Olson says. “Our minds are the same way. We can choose not to get stuck in the clouds and instead look for the peace and calm. That’s what I want to help people find.”
Fittingly, runners experienced everything from passing showers to bluebird days during their time at the retreat.
When it comes to mindful running, Olson considers the following five aspects:
Set an intention for your run. Where a goal may be to run 10 miles in a certain time, an intention is to accept what you are able to give in the moment or interacting positively with other runners you encounter.
“When all else fails, breathe.” Connecting with your breath allows you to find your natural rhythm.
Even though form is not a focus for the retreats, Olson acknowledges that being mindful of your form, and making adjustments as needed, will help you move in a more relaxed and fluid way.
Rhythm and Flow
Every so often, whether while running, working or when immersed in something you love, you may experience a “flow” state where time and effort become irrelevant. Olson believes that establishing a sustainable rhythm makes it easier to find that flow state in every aspect of your life.
Nutritious food, rest, yoga, self-care: these are the elements that allow you to rebuild and become stronger after hard workouts.