AnnieLori Thompson: Strong to the Finish

Who is AnnieLori Thompson?

AnnieLori Thompson is one of only two athletes I know of who combine strength sports with ultra long distance running. Annie Lori (yes, she’s so strong that her mom gave her two names!) is an ultra-marathoner, powerlifter and strongwoman competitor! That is an awesome combination that made me want to know more about this Garage Built powerhouse!

How long have you been training?

For running, a little over 9 years. For strongman/powerlifting, about a year and a half.

Would you say that you’ve experienced more success in endurance events or strength events?

That’s a tough question. I would say that as far as endurance events go, I was very successful in terms that I completed most of my events when I toed the start line. I achieved each distance that I took on, and in my book that’s success! I am fairly new to the world of lifting, however, I feel like I am getting to a point where I set personal goals and PR more frequently.

How Awesome is AnnieLori Thompson?

AnnieLori you’re competitive in so many cool ways. Let’s break down your stats and talk PRs:

Squat 195 LBS
Bench 115 LBS  (see the video here)
Deadlift 275 LBS

I saw a video where you loaded a 195lb stone. Is that your best strongwoman event?

YES! I love loading stones!

And last but not least running, what’s your best 50k time?

5:43 on a trail.

Do you do obstacle course races?

I have done some in the past, and they are fun! I’m not against doing them, I just prefer the peaceful trails nowadays.

You’ve got a pretty impressive rack of medals and trophies. What are some of your favorite memories from your competitions?

My first 100 mile race is my favorite to date! My husband was at the finish line waiting for me, and my pacer was along to push me the last 15 miles were highly emotional. I remember thinking, “Holy crap, I am really doing this! I am running 102 miles!” My last 2 miles were sub 8:00 miles. I left it all out on that course.

My first Strongwoman competition was so special, because my brother was so proud of me. For me, that was what was important. I took second place in LW Novice.

At some point in a meathead’s lifting career, they become obsessed with picking up random stuff they encounter in the world. I’m pretty sure that’s how the Manhood Stones around the world first became a thing. Do you ever see a large rock while you’re out on your runs and sort of mark the location so you can come back later and try to lift it?

HA! I actually have moved downed trees on the trail, it comes in handy. We do look at random objects along the way and make comments about me lifting them. However, I am very respectful to nature, I tend to not upset the balance. Plus, you never know what critters are living under stuff!

Good point. Nothing like a snake to kill the mood so to speak.

Training, Nutrition and Consolidation of Stressors

You said that your running style is better suited to trail running than road racing or running on a track. Talk about why that is and how the readers could figure out which way is better for them.

My body type is much more muscular. Trail running is full of rocks, roots, varied terrain, big climbs, and obstacles. Because of that my muscular build really suits those environments. In road running my main focus was always SPEED, being thinner, losing weight to get faster. During the time I first started running, I fell back into my eating disorder. Once I found trail running, and I needed my muscle to pull me up climbs and climb rocks, I really shifted to taking on food as fuel. Road running also beat the heck out of my body. The softness of the dirt trails absorbs a lot of the shock, saving my hips, knees, and lower back.

AnnieLori Thompson and her husband before a trail runI asked you this during your Facebook Live session with Anna Woods of sheStrength, but for the sake of those not fortunate enough to catch it, describe to me the difference between how you gear up mentally for a long training run versus a lifting session.

Long training runs, I can pace myself and continually move without stopping. Mentally that’s what drives me, the push to continue in a forward motion. In lifting, I have to be prepared for a max pull, stop, regroup, start over. Each definitely require a different mindset. My lifting days require more patience, because some days you can’t find the right groove. Running is finding a groove, sticking to it, and just rolling with it.

Most of what I know about ultra-marathons and long-distance running comes from watching Finding Traction on Netflix. (which you should definitely watch if you haven’t.) I noticed that on long runs spanning days, a lot of notions of “clean eating” are out the window and runners go by cravings almost. You said though that you prefer whole foods, oatmeal etc. How long has it taken you to develop your refeed strategy for races?

It took me about a year to find the correct balance of foods for my GI tract during long events/training runs. As a road runner, I took in GU packets, Clif shots, and only water on the course. Since I took up trail running in 2013, I never looked back. It took me getting into 31 miles, 50 miles, 62 miles, etc. to get into the groove of electrolyte and nutrition balance.

As an ultra-marathoner, I’m sure you’re familiar with Chris McDougall’s Born to Run. What’s your viewpoint about minimalist running shoes versus the traditional thick soled trail shoes?

My husband loves minimalist shoes, and they suit him well. It takes time to actually transition to minimalist running, and I know many people who have been quite successful with it. I am not able to run minimalist, because I had reconstructive foot surgery two and half years ago and require protection for the screw in my foot. I think minimalist running can help a lot of people run with better form, if they transition correctly.

Do you buy your shoes a couple of pairs at a time or just replace them at regular intervals throughout the year?

WE HAVE SO MANY SHOES! We order 2-3 pairs at a time. I have indoor (treadmill) shoes, several pairs of trail shoes, and then road shoes. I hardly ever run on the road, but when it rains, we stay off of the trails as to not damage them.

Finding Balance

A lot of runners have a hate-hate relationship with weight training; they don’t want to add any extra weight that will slow them down or add pressure to joints that alreadyThree sport athlete AnnieLori Thompson during a trail run

take a regular pounding. Talk about how you figured out a way to make your two separate training lives complement each other.

This is so true. The sad part is, every runner should lift weights and they ignore that. It’s really crazy actually, since I began lifting heavy, my recovery time after endurance events is like 2 days. My legs do not tire as they once did. Climbing hills is way faster now, because deadlifts and squats. I figured out that the balance of both works for me, and that I can have the best of both worlds.

But we’re talking serious mileage here! 100 mile events are not your local 5K race. In fact, you and The Hybrid Athlete author Alex Viada are the only strength athletes I know of who also do long distance running. How do you structure your training and competition calendar each year so you can give each discipline the attention it demands?

Since experiencing a TIA during a 100 mile event in December 2015, I train shorter runs with higher intensity 3 days a week, and a longer run on the weekend. I lift 3 days a week, so I try to run those 3-4 days a week when I have a race on my calendar. Right now I am training for my first powerlifting competition, so running takes a back seat for true recovery days. I think the balance has become easier, since my body is adjusting.

So how far apart do you have to schedule running and lifting?

I think for me I have just been really honest with myself. My body lets me know when I am doing too much, and it’s not quiet about it either! Some days I pull two-a-days, running in the morning and lifting in the evening. It works for me now, but at first, it was rough. For the most part I alternate the two. I may run Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Lift Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and rest on Sunday.

That’s pretty intuitive; training along with your natural rhythms is a lost art I think. I see that you’re also doing a good job of what Chad Wesley Smith calls Consolidation of Stressors. So is being successful in the three different sports dependent on nutrition or getting adequate rest? I ask partly because you teach nutrition but you also confessed to not getting enough sleep.

In a perfect world, I would get more sleep. I have never been much of a sleeper. So in all honesty for me personally, I rest an adequate amount for me. I always say nutrition is key to fueling and repairing muscle. You can’t eat like crap and expect to feel amazing, that’s just not realistic.

Everything you do is a hobby sport meaning you also have to hold a full time job. Plus you’re a wife and mother. It seems a no-brainer that a home gym would be part of your strategy for maintaining balance; but you primarily strength train with your brother, Strongman competitor Jobe Jesse in his garage gym. That’s a lot to juggle! Do you schedule an off season like bodybuilders do so you can focus on your family without the demands of preparing for competition?

I am extremely lucky that my brother provides my programming, coaching, and gym for me to train. (We also have a home gym that is in the works.) I do not take an off season. Movement is essential for me to be balanced. My husband is also an ultra runner, it’s a love we share.

The Jobe’s Steel Jungle Advantage

AnnieLori Thompson has more trophies than you can shake a stick at A huge advantage of a garage gym is the convenience of just going downstairs to train. Because you train in someone else’s garage gym, you’ve still got to factor in the commute. What are the advantages to you of training in Jobe’s Steel Jungle versus just setting up your own facility at home? Is it to avoid “taking work home with you” so to speak?

We are building our gym as we speak! It’s so exciting! My brother lives 5 miles from me, so it’s relatively close still. I have ran there before a workout before as well. I really enjoy the time with my brother and the other athletes that train with us, so the time at The Steel Jungle is also social for us. The guys are all very supportive and offer a lot of advice and tips to better my lifting. I feel pretty blessed to train with all of them, they’re all like family.

Your family is pretty active; your husband and kids run with you. Do they ever venture over to Jobe’s to lift with the crew?

Our children also spend time at the gym with us, so really we have made it a part of family time. My husband is now lifting as often as 3 days a week, if possible with his demanding work schedule. And the kids are really getting into it! My 11 year-old daughter wants to compete.

Refuel, Recover, Repeat

How do you refuel to stay healthy?

I eat 6 times a day on training days and calculate macros to make sure I get enough protein, carbs, and fats. I also see a chiropractor weekly, and get massages bi-weekly as part of my wellness routine.

What are your go to recovery methods the day after a race or a lifting competition? How long before you’re back to training?

I do Epsom salt baths, use a TENS unit, and get sports massages. I love massages! I typically rest 3-7 days before I return to workouts.

Along with that, how often do you deload your strength and endurance training?

I usually have 8-week cycles of strength training. I typically deload at the end of each cycle. My endurance training, I actually keep my mileage fairly low until I register for an event. I build up

At home athlete AnnieLori Thompson and her daughter completing a five mile trail run

My daughter and I after her finish of her first 5 mile trail run

distance weekly, then taper down 2 weeks prior to the race. Post event, I take a full week off from workouts overall.

Building Her Home Gym and Goals

So you said that you have a home gym in the works. How is that coming along?

We just bought a Rogue squat stand, it’s on its way!

My brother and I trade back and forth across training cycles and it doubles the available equipment. For example, he’s using my axle bar to prep for a competition and I’m using his Fat Gripz on my dumbbells and pull up bar. We just traded out Atlas Stones because I wanted a smaller stone I can use for longer conditioning walks but he wanted another heavy stone. Do you plan to do the same thing with Jobe?

Sometimes I do borrow some pieces of equipment from my brother. He has quite the collection! I wish I had the space to have as many bigger pieces as he does, he really has the ideal setup. Since he does all of my programming, it’s just nice to have him coach me at his gym!

Meantime according to Instagram, you already have a Concept 2 rower. What role does it play in your overall training plan? Is it a recovery tool or another way to sneak in some conditioning?

It’s totally for conditioning! It’s a crazy good total body workout!

What are your goals for the rest of this year?

My goals are to compete in my first powerlifting meet, compete in 2 more strongwoman meets, run a few 50Ks, and a 50 mile in December. My brother Jesse and I are running a 5K this month together for fun! (He hasn’t run since high school.)

I’m definitely going to need video of that! So do you have any sponsors or people you’d like to thank?

I would like to thank my brother, Jesse, for all he does for me. Having his support really gives me confidence. Plus, all of the guys at the gym…they’re alright. Also, thank you John, for taking time to support every one of us garage gym athletes!

It’s my pleasure; as a young company we struggled with whether or not to sponsor athletes through Garage Gym Life or reach out to influencers with a following as most brands do to build awareness. We just felt that the Lord was leading us to hone in on our goal of being an information resource to empower others who live this lifestyle. It’s too easy to believe that you’re in it by yourself when you train at home.  It also inspires me personally to see you guys train so I love checking out videos on social media of people killing it!
But enough of my rambling; how can people follow your training or contact you if they need nutrition or training advice?

My Instagram @annielorithompson, people may always message me on Facebook or send me a request as well, or my email anniewalton25@gmail.com. I am currently building a website as well, and that is very exciting!

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.

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