Untreated child traumas in life, depression, and alike usually either form from deep-rooted causes or spark from very early experiences that start during childhood. For that reason, these issues aren't the type one can take a break from or run away from. Yes, you can't run away from it. But you can still try running! How? In this episode of The Fit Mess, Dr. J.M. Thompson talks about why exercise is a powerful medicine for the mind, how one can train tolerance and endurance through running, and what he tells about in his book Running Is a Kind of Dreaming: A Memoir.
Find out how you can adopt new practices in life in this episode of The Fit Mess with Dr. J.M. Thompson!
How Running Works Against Mental Issues
When the mind struggles with mental disorders, it becomes challenging to stay in the here and now of life. For individuals who experience these and other mental conditions, the mind tends to preoccupy with feelings and emotions of the past. It weighs it down. And as the mind gets busy with before issues, this is when you tend to lose a sense of where you are in the world. For the individuals that become victims of this, the predictability of things gets lost.
For Dr. J.M. Thompson, author of Running is a Kind of Dreaming, endurance activities is a proven counter to these types of issue. From experience, Dr. Thompson speaks of running as a form of grounding. It becomes one's coming into the right now of the moment. Like any other physical activity, it helps create predictability and presence of mind. It also creates a strong connection between your brain and body and denies you the option of isolation.
Listen more to how Dr. J.M. Thompson explains the benefits of endurance activities to mental health in this episode of The Fit Mess!
About Dr. J.M. Thompson:
J.M. Thompson was born in England. He holds a BA in English literature from Oxford University and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He completed his psychology training at the University of California, San Francisco, where he conducted research on the brain mechanisms of meditation and the physiology of trauma.
He is also an ordained Zen practitioner and certified yoga teacher. He has finished over 40 ultramarathons, and multiple solo adventure runs in the Sierra Nevada, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. Thompson currently serves as a staff psychologist at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.
Outline of the Episode:
[01:22] Zach – on running for an early out from work
[02:27] Moving your body can move so many things in your life
[05:18] Athletic Greens for more energy, better gut health, and an optimized immune system!
[07:06] Dr. J.M. Thompson – on running before it's too late
[10:53] What is it about endurance activities that work so well on our mentality?
[12:12] An unhealthy mental state can result in a loss of predictability
[16:02] The difference between accessing your flow state in a gym and outdoors
[19:25] Your experience is your experience, and it's worthy of care
[22:13] How does one simply pick up a new practice?
[24:05] Dr. J.M. Thompson – on recovery, healing, and the experience of his book Running is a Kind of Dreaming: A Memoir
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[00:00:00] Jeremy : Following years of depression, ineffective medication and therapy that went nowhere. Jim Thompson feared. He was falling into inescapable darkness. He decided that death was his only exit route from the torture of his mind
[00:00:12] After surviving a suicide attempt. Thompson got a sudden urge to run during an exercise break at the hospital where he was.
[00:00:19] Zach: In this episode, he shares how that run, led him on a path that literally saved his life and is now helping others find their way out of the dark.
[00:00:27] This is the fit mess conversations with world-class experts in the fields of mental, physical, and emotional health. And this episode
[00:00:35] JM Thompson: what running and other endurance activities can provide is a very real embodied kind of template for knowing that it's possible rather than run away from difficult experience to turn towards difficulty and learn to tolerate.
[00:00:55] Now, here are your hosts, Zach and Jeremy.
[00:00:58] Zach: Welcome to the fitness sponsored by athletic greens. Thanks for listening while you're doing whatever it is you're doing right now. I'm Zach, he's Jeremy. We've been through all kinds of struggles and ended up stronger because of them. And we want to help you do the same if you're sick of your own shit and you're ready to make a change, you're in the right place.
[00:01:16] Jeremy: Today, we're sharing the incredible story of a man who listened to his intuition and it literally saved his life. Our guest is Dr. J M Thompson author of running is a kind of dreaming his path to better health started the way it does for many of us running yours started that way.
[00:01:32] Right? Zack?
[00:01:33] Zach: it did start that way. My motivation was slightly different. , where I was working, they decided to sponsor everyone running this 5k race one afternoon. And all I saw on the email that came out was you get to leave work early. That's all I saw. And I was like, I am in, I get to take a day off. I don't have to work that day. I didn't even realize what I needed to do.
[00:01:55] And at this point I was. , still smoking and, , just in really bad shape, like close to 300 pounds and I signed up for it and then quickly realized, oh shit.
[00:02:06] Jeremy : No, you got to run.
[00:02:07] Zach: I gotta, I gotta do this thing. And I remember that night, I went to the Y and they had an indoor track and it was, I think it was nine laps for a mile because it was such a short track.
[00:02:20] And I got like halfway around the first lap and was like, what the fuck did I just do? But then I, I did the lap, I did another lap and I did another lap and I did another lap and it was just in my head. I was like, I gotta run this thing. I gotta run this 5k. And in the process I quit smoking. And then all of a sudden I was, you know, I wasn't running like eight minute miles at the time, but I could do a mile and then two and then three and I ended up doing the race and then.
[00:02:50] Like we sat on a couple of episodes ago. It was only six months later that I got for Christmas. I got the water, um, belt, The water belt.
[00:02:58] for runners. And it was like, wait a minute, I'm a runner. Now this is weird. And I actually felt really good, like mentally. So many things had shifted and allowed me to grow in like so many other parts of my life because I was moving my body.
[00:03:13] Jeremy : Your started with running and has now turned into all of the other things you're doing CrossFit and all of the other thousand biohacking things we've talked about on this show. I'm in a similar place where, you know, I moved a few months ago and in doing so started doing a lot of walking. And then my body was saying, walking's not enough.
[00:03:33] Why don't you try running? And so I started running and I noticed how, how good I felt afterward. And then what was interesting is, you know, I battled depression. We talk about that on the show a lot, and I would feel it starting to sort of flare up and become this, this thing that was just needed to move.
[00:03:52] And I decided one day to just try and run through it, just put on some shoes, go outside and just try and run. Just try and move that. And it totally worked. I just went for like a 20 minute run, just burned all of that energy out and felt better. And I repeated that again and again, and after a few weeks, I was noticing that when I could feel it coming on that just by finding another use for that energy, I was able to sort of keep it at bay.
[00:04:21] Now it doesn't work every time. There, there are plenty of times when I go and run and I'm like, well, now I'm exhausted. And I feel like. But,
[00:04:31] yeah, but now I know I've got in my back pocket. Another tool that when I feel it coming on, it's at least one way I can sort of battle back the, the mental demons that are screaming so loudly.
[00:04:43] Zach: Yeah. it really, you know, I guess it shouldn't surprise me anymore, but it still does surprise me how you know, on, on the rare occasion, when I do stop moving for like a week, whether, whether it's an injury or just something comes up where I just, I don't get the, I don't get to the gym. Right. move my body and the bare minimum that it needs, how quickly that darkness can come back and just, and suffocate me.
[00:05:10] And it again, I don't know why, but
[00:05:12] it always surprises me when I stop moving my body. Like how quickly the demons come in for sure. What also surprises me is when I eat like crap and I don't feed my body, the nutrients that are. How quickly those same demons can come up. So I love taking athletic greens every single day, just to make sure that those demons don't attack me. I started taking athletic greens because I really needed to have a sufficient. That tasted great, gave me all the things that I needed. , and I didn't want to have to take 10 pills a day or, spend all of my time cooking all the meals.
[00:05:46] I try and get my nutrients from food, but let's face it. We don't get everything we need every day from food. So athletic greens was a great solution for me. It tastes great. Gives me everything I need for more energy, better gut health optimized immune system.
[00:06:01] It has less than a gram of sugar and there's no nasty chemicals or artificial anything. And it actually does taste good. And for what you get, it's less than $3.
[00:06:09] and right now is the time to incorporate better health and athletic greens is a perfect start to make it easy.
[00:06:15] Athletic greens is going to give you a free one-year supply of immune supporting vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase. All you have to do is visit athletic greens.com/fit mass. Again, that's athletic greens.com/fit. Mess to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance.
[00:06:34] that link will be on the show notes and it's plastered all over our email@example.com.
[00:06:38] Jeremy : So we've shared how we've used running or just moving our bodies in ways to help battle not only physical fitness challenges, but mental challenges as well.
[00:06:47] That's why I was excited to read the book running is a kind of dreaming. It is written by Dr. J M Thompson in it. He shares just a remarkable story about his own battle with depression and as suicide attempt.
[00:06:58] And I recently got to talk to him about his stuff.
[00:07:00] And the moment he heard something from inside him telling him to run before it's too late.
[00:07:07] JM Thompson: this is back in February of 2005. So off to the awake of untreated child trauma and many years of cyclical, depression, which really kind of unraveled in my late twenties, early thirties. I, uh, became suicidal. I attempted suicide. I was hospitalized in San Francisco in a locked psychiatric unit.
[00:07:32] One day the staff took myself and , my fellow patients up to the roof. Basketball court for some exercise. I knew that a few short minutes, I was going to be back down below, essentially incarcerated for my own safety. When this impulse sees me to move my move, my body to run. I did, but that's what I did.
[00:07:56] I started to sprint back before. On the basketball court. And after many, many months of being really horrifically immobilized by very severe depression, I felt some sort of Spock of a lightness in that moment. Of course it was a long path towards recovery from there, but it did, you know, some sort of, there was some sort of glimmer of light in the midst of what seems sort of inescapable darkness at that point.
[00:08:22] Jeremy: So where let's talk a little bit about the origin of that darkness. Tell Ms. Tell me where the, sort of the root of that depression came from.
[00:08:30] JM Thompson: Well, sure. So I grew up in a family affected by severe mental illness. So I'm my mother cope with bipolar disorder and periods of psychosis. My father with severe depression that happened really at the same time in my teens, which as you might imagine, was, confusing to say the least for.
[00:08:50] A 14 year old in England at that time, no one talking of notes about mental health or depression. , I was three on my own with incomprehensible experiences also in comprehensible, very difficult feelings on the inside that I cope with for years by essentially trying to ignore those feelings or self-medicating them through drugs and alcohol.
[00:09:13] yeah, it turns out that if you try and run away from difficult feelings or traumatic memories you know, that works as they say until it doesn't work. And a certain point I sort of had nowhere left to run and I was stuck with really intolerable feelings hence the kind of process that wellbeing wound me up in the hospital and the recovery process that, slowly began from there.
[00:09:36] Jeremy: So I'm curious about that recovery process up until running, I understand medication, a bunch of things were tried to combat it. Then those didn't work so well.
[00:09:44] JM Thompson: That was my experience. And I want to be clear that it's like a therapy. Of course it can be helpful. It's like you have, your medication can be helpful in a clinical psychologist. Now I'm a psychotherapist and there's a certain kinds of therapy that have been developed especially recently full traumatic experience that really can be.
[00:10:02] My experience at the time, those Yolanda's years ago was that w whatever I was getting was not really getting to the kind of emotional call of the experiences I had enjoyed as a child and young person. Running I stumbled upon and what that provided looking back, but goes into the story.
[00:10:23] It's, it's kind of narrative it's very much a narrative driven book. What running provided me was a way of kind of bypassing the thinking mind and getting into the bottom into my body and accessing Psychological states and emotional states that helped me kind of, really reorganize myself emotionally and ultimately come to terms with the traumatic experiences that I had grown up with when I was younger.
[00:10:53] Jeremy: I had something similar, my sort of wellness journey. If you will start it on a bike, I was trying to treat some knee issues. I had, I got on a bike and was peddling just to try and deal with my knees. And I found that sort of just need to be in the moment to survive. Really drove me, to meditation and drove me to a much deeper association with physical fitness and or physical exercise and emotional health.
[00:11:19] What is it about running or biking? What is it about these sort of endurance performance athletics that does unlock that in our brains and help us treat those illnesses.
[00:11:30] JM Thompson: Well, I think it it's working on a number of levels. So I think the experience of depression, trauma anxiety is it's there's many levels to this, but one, one core aspect is. It's quite challenging to stay in the here and now, the mind tends to either be preoccupied with feelings or memories from something that happened before, or thoughts or anticipations about the something dreadful on the horizon when you're running or biking or swimming or climbing, dancing, whatever the medium is.
[00:12:05] Yoga. Meditation it's a sensory way of coming into right now. So that's one piece, another piece of this, which is important. I would want listeners viewers to know is the experience of, trauma depression. Of, but kind of loss of predictability and experience, right? it's a feeling of kind of losing control of your moods and your kind of sense of where you are in the world.
[00:12:32] What especially experiences like running provide is a way. I've kind of creating a sort of predictability and experience, right? It's very simple on one level, right. Left, right left, right left. On the other hand, at the same time, you are creating new connections internally within parts of the brain that support mood and memory and a positive way.
[00:12:57] You're also this is important for people coping with depression, where the tendency can be to isolate and kind of feel paralyzed. You're the, you're doing the opposite of that. You're getting outside, you're moving forward and that literal forward movement can end up being a sort of impetus for forward movement in a broader sense forward movement in your actual life, not just on the trail or track.
[00:13:22] Jeremy: Part of my runs lately, I've noticed midway through before the sort of runners high kicks in or whatever there is this message, I guess, sense of this is hard and I'm getting. And just sort of the practice of doing that, I'm able to then attach to depression. That's also hard.
[00:13:39] And if I can get through this, I can get through that. Is there sort of an element of that or am I making that up?
[00:13:45] JM Thompson: Well, I think that what running and other endurance activities can provide is a very real embodied kind of template for knowing that it's possible rather than run away from difficult experience to turn towards difficulty and learn to tolerate. suddenly that would also be the through line with meditation.
[00:14:09] The point of meditation is to allow what emerges in consciousness without either attaching to it too much, or , wishing it to go away. Right. , being with experienced the sunny sunny, there's a third line that. The what, exercise running other forms of exercise can provide.
[00:14:27] And I talk about my experience in the book is a way of turning towards difficulty knowing that it's survivable.
[00:14:36] Jeremy: In your case, it seems like there was almost a an outside voice or a something encouraging you to. For other people, maybe it's CrossFit lifting, heavy things, whatever does the method of exercise matter? Does it matter if you're just lifting heavy things in the gym versus going for longer runs or whatever it is or, or does it, is it really just the exertion and moving that energy?
[00:14:58] JM Thompson: certainly, all forms of exercise can be beneficial in any many ways. My sense is there is something specific about kinds of exercise that induce something like a flow state. So it's not only the aerobic activation and the endorphins, it's a state of mind. Hence the title running is a kind of dreaming where you went to essentially a kind of waking dream.
[00:15:24] So there's something about the rhythmic, predictable motion of left right. Left, right. And the sense of sort of hypnotic merger with the activity, but also the experience of moving. ultimately what can feel like an almost effortless state in the natural world? There is something about that that is unique.
[00:15:46] So runners will identify with that. Swimmers, climbers skiers, snowboarders, there there's something there that across those activities of a kind of waking dream state that can be kind of profoundly healing. I think.
[00:16:01] Jeremy: I was going to ask you about that. Does it matter if I'm on a treadmill or if I'm on a trail or a road, does it make a difference?
[00:16:08] JM Thompson: I think it does make a difference. I mean, I've certainly done workouts on treadmills and of course from a pure fitness point of view, that can be great. And you can put it up to six minute mile and, do a good workout. And if that's, if that, if your goal isn't that very sort of narrow circumscribed, uh, sense of getting fit, so to speak, then the treadmill is, can be awesome.
[00:16:31] If what you're looking at. Is more emotional, spiritual extensional. I do sense that there is something about being out in nature in a forest, the trail, of course. Different levels of access to green spaces to based on where we live and how safe that feels to you based on your kind of social location, so forth, but to the extent it's possible, if you could be out in nature and have that experience of moving through a natural physical environment, this act doesn't add a dimension to about beyond the, just the physicality of, running
[00:17:09] Jeremy: Aside from the sort of healing part of this journey for you, the pain of being in a suicidal depressive state, you reveal that in the book, how hard was that to put into words? Because I know that, I've been with my wife for 20 years and I don't know that I have yet articulated what it means to be in, in that state.
[00:17:28] How challenging was it to find the words to put on paper
[00:17:31] JM Thompson: Well, it does take a while this book was around 20 years, ultimately in, in Genesis and it's precisely because of the issue you raised that the experience of the descent into suicidal depression and emergence from it. Push the mind to places that are sort of outside of concepts.
[00:17:54] So language that we have, and you know, took me a really long time hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of drafts to find language for an experience that is sort of really at the limits of language. I ultimately did want to do that though, because. My sense says that. Of course there's openness more openness now around mental health.
[00:18:15] There's still a, my sense is a great deal of silence around suicidality suicide itself in particular. Partly because of stigma, but I think also because of the issue raised that it's really hard to know how to even put that experience into words. My hope is that by doing this for readers, there'll be.
[00:18:34] In kind of going with this journey in me of going into the abyss of depression and out the other side of the sense, hopefully of some kind of solace or connection and knowing that. If you're going through something now, you know, someone who's going through something now, you know, others have been in this place, but there is in fact, a way of navigating this sort of hell, like mental terrain.
[00:18:58] That is from which there is a pathway towards a recovery and wellbeing.
[00:19:04] Jeremy: The trauma that you talk about. And I always and correct me if I'm wrong. I understand that you're currently working with veterans. trauma is a tricky thing for me because, I grew up with sort of typical garden variety alcoholism in the family trauma as a kid. And. I have pretty serious issues with depression, my, of my own, just from that.
[00:19:25] And so I always feel guilty when I'm trying to give someone advice about their trauma when it's much more severe when it's PTSD, some sort of abuse, how are their levels? Does it matter that the trauma, in terms of the result of depression,
[00:19:41] JM Thompson: Yeah. So, no, I mean, what I would always say to people who I'm working with in therapy when precisely this point has made some sort of comparison is, you know, there's a saying in the AA and 12 step well compare and despair, right. If you, and the analogy I often will invoke in, describing what I mean here is, if you break your leg and that's pretty painful and you end up in hospital next to someone.
[00:20:06] Who has two broken legs. If you look across and say, I have no rights to be in pain. Cause look at that guy that will be a sort of that comparison. Wouldn't say. However, if you look across to the person with two broken legs and it's the sort of seed of compassion, and they're like, you know, what suffering is, a sort of universal human frailty and it's the seed of sort of compassion and connection.
[00:20:29] Then you can, look across the others, but I would always discourage people from saying that, your pain is less significant because you didn't, serve on the frontline in this. Or whatever, pick your kind of, whatever your idea of the prototypical trauma is your experiences, your experience, and it's worthy of being cared for and attended to just as much as anyone else's.
[00:20:54] Jeremy: There's a lot of great messages that I think anyone can pull from your book, but whether I'm someone battling depression or mental illness of some sort, or I know someone who is what do you hope that people, when they are done with the book that they've taken from that experience?
[00:21:07] JM Thompson: My aim is to install hope ultimately compelled me to write this as you can, as you kind of alluded to, it's not straightforward to talk about these issues. It was a long time in the making. My sense is by giving voice to experiences that were unspeakable and, deeply horrific as I went through the.
[00:21:31] I'm recovered from them though for the Rita embarking on this journey of the following the story as I evoke it from the inside, that will be a feeling of hope and solace in knowing that even the worst experiences. That are possible. There is some kind of a pathway from those experiences towards wellbeing.
[00:21:56] And that ultimately I have, I already, I do have faith in the fundamental human capacity to recover even from out from our deepest wounds. And that's really what I want. What my, my heart's desirous for folks reading this book to take away from it.
[00:22:14] Jeremy: If someone is hearing this or they've read your book and they want to start running and they want to take on some sort of an endurance thing to battle their mental illness. How did, how do you start this without hurting yourself without biting off more than you can chew? What's a simple way to, to pick up this practice.
[00:22:28] JM Thompson: Well, I'd say that you, even a little bit goes a long way and I would encourage newcomers to running to think less about direct duration and more about consistency about building a habit. So if you just starting and you've have no background in this at all, if you, if you could.
[00:22:50] I get out for, 20 minutes, three times a week, and really listen to your body and trust your own judgment and know that the capacity to get stronger in a builds it's this is not overnight. This is months and years of gradually developing. The physical and mental capacity to go longer and further.
[00:23:12] And, um, listen to your body, learn to take care of yourself, know that you are ultimately an expert on yourself and, um, listen to your body's signals and, try to become a, skilled and attentive reader to what.
[00:23:29] Jeremy: And how much are you running now? Cause I, I that's, I'm at about the 20 minutes, three times a week or so you're running a lot more than that now.
[00:23:37] JM Thompson: Well, you know, I have done these very long events, including the main experience describing the boat, which is running in 205 miles nonstop around lake Tahoe, over 96 hours. I haven't done that kind of run for a little bit. Not been many events over the course of the pandemic. A couple of weeks ago, I was back in Tahoe doing a 30 mile run in the mountains.
[00:23:58] And, it was awesome.
[00:24:00] Jeremy: that's incredible. I hoped one day to reach that point and I guess sort of just let last point as much as you've done this and from a darker place you started how healed are you? Have you beaten it or is it still a daily?
[00:24:14] JM Thompson: No. I mean, in order to have gotten to the point where I felt like I could write this book, I had to have focused for quite a long time on recovery and healings. The experience is described in the book of primarily, uh, things I went through as a teenager. And then the suicidal crisis I went through was really 2005 to 2006.
[00:24:38] So the subsequent 15 years, focused on sobriety recovery therapy, a lot of running I trained started training as a psychologist, that complete training, and it was only off the, all of that, that I sort of allow myself to look back again. And then think that there will be value added for others in hearing my story and knowing that recovery is possible.
[00:25:01] So of course, you know, there are ups and downs in life, but I, I'm very fortunate and grateful to see now that I've been in long-term remission from serious depression for about 13 years now.
[00:25:15] Jeremy: That's incredible. Thank you so much for your time, for your story and for your advice and wisdom. Where can we learn more about you in the book?
[00:25:22] JM Thompson: So, the book website is www dot. Running is a kind of dreaming.com that website, this stuck more about the book of a little bit about me. There are links to buy the book at the various retail options. And there's also a list of resources for anyone in crisis right now, either themselves or for if you're trying to think about resources for a friend or a loved one, there's a list of national helplines with the 1-800-NUMBERS and websites.
[00:25:56] If you need support, those organizations are there to help you if you need them. And they're available 24 7 right now.
[00:26:04] Zach: That was Dr. J M Thompson author of running is a kind of dreaming. You can find all those links in the show notes for this firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:26:14] Jeremy : A lot of great takeaways for you in that interview, starting with just listening to your own intuition, listening to that voice that calls you to action, that calls you to do something and to then actually do it. That is the key part of all of this, whatever podcast you're listening to book your reading.
[00:26:29] The key is to actually take action on whatever the thing is. I love the portrayal that he gave there of, uh, how relative pain is. You can have a broken leg and if the person next to you has two broken legs, you can still be in pain.
[00:26:42] That's okay. It's all right. To acknowledge it and to care for.
[00:26:45] Zach: Yep. But the statistical probability of being in that position is kind of unlikely.
[00:26:51] Jeremy : Kind of unlikely, but just as a helpful way
[00:26:53] Zach: No, I know it, was a really good
[00:26:55] Jeremy : when you're feeling guilty about, oh, my pain is not as bad as Hank over there. Well, it's okay. You can still acknowledge your pain. That's fine.
[00:27:02] Zach: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I do acknowledge my pain every single day, at the gym. I cut my leg like four times on one of the exercise bikes cause we had to get on and off on and
[00:27:10] Jeremy : Hmm.
[00:27:12] Zach: And afterwards I noticed that I'd cut. I have four cuts on my legs and I sent a text to the coach and said, I cut my leg four times on that fucking bike today. But I woke up this morning. So it's a great.
[00:27:26] Jeremy : Very nice. And good for you for taking action, actually doing something. And I hope that this story has inspired you to do something, whether it's going to a therapist starting, running, whatever it is, but the inspiration isn't enough. The story isn't enough. You have to act, you have to actually do something in order to grow and overcome the things that are holding you back.
[00:27:48] Zach: And don't let the conversation about managing your mental health and there join us in our Facebook group, where you and fellow fitness listeners can find support. Take part in monthly challenges and create accountability to reach your goals.
[00:27:59] Jeremy : That link is also at our website, the fitness.com where we will be back next week with a brand new episode. Thanks for listening.
[00:28:06] Zach: See everyone,
Author of RUNNING IS A KIND OF DREAMING
J.M. Thompson was born in England. He holds a BA in English literature from Oxford University and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He completed his psychology training at the University of California, San Francisco, where he conducted research on the brain mechanisms of meditation and the physiology of trauma. He is also an ordained Zen practitioner and certified yoga teacher. He has finished over 40 ultramarathons, and multiple solo adventure runs in the Sierra Nevada, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. Thompson currently serves as a staff psychologist at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children