Thijs Nijhuis is a famous Danish runner best known for his performance in the Copenhagen Half Marathon. We had him in the hot seat with 11 Qs about life as a runner!
1. You are a successful athlete and you are most famous for your high performance on the track - could you please introduce yourself to us?
I am 26 years old and live in Aarhus, where I study Medicine. My hobby is to run a lot and I have been running for 13 years now. So far, I have received 12 senior gold medals in everything from cross country races, road races, track and field, 1500m distance to now also a gold medal on the marathon distance (Sunday 30th October).
2. How and when did your passion for running start?
Like most Danish boys, I have been playing football since I was quite young. But I quickly found out that my talent was not to run after the ball but to run on the warm-up track. Therefore, I decided to focus on running. I was also living on a farm where my mum used to send me to the neighbor and back again, and usually, I was wearing rubber boots. Here I found out that I was quite fast running back and forth, so my mum sometimes just sent me back again! When I was 13 years old, I joined Skive Atletikklub, where I stayed for six years and eventually moved to Viborg Atletikklub, where I am right now.
3. How do you balance athletics and your studies?
My studies are quite flexible, which means that I can join the most important lectures or study at home. Running is also an easy sport to combine with studying since I can just bring my running shoes and clothes to University. But of course, it requires a lot of discipline and planning, and I am happy to be a member of AU Elitesport. This helps me with moving exams or courses around. In my master’s degree, which I am studying now, I change between being at the clinic or studying at home. When I am at the clinic, I start at 8 AM, which means that I am waking up at 5.30 AM to go for a run. I also train when I get off work at the clinic at 4 PM. On these days, it’s really nice to have training partners who wait for me or my trainer who often bikes beside me when I am running.
I am very dedicated to both, my studies and my training– and I don’t make compromises on either.
4. How does a typical day look for you?
It depends on whether I am at the clinic or studying at home. If I am at the clinic, I wake up at 5.30 AM and run for about 30-40 min. Then I work at the clinic for 7-8 hours and I will train again directly when I get home. Afterward, I will make dinner and typically study for about an hour and relax afterward. In those periods where I study from home, I will wake up around 7.30 AM and then go for a run. Here, I will train and study more as I want and when it fits in. So, I am freer on those days where I study from home.
5. Do you currently have or have you ever had any challenges with running?
I have been free from injuries for many years and have been able to run continuously. But in 2016/2017 I had groin problems that annoyed my nervous system and that nobody really knew what they were. So, in recent years, I have not progressed by running as much as I wanted. Luckily, it seems that I am free from these problems now, so I can have continuous training throughout the winter season. I have been good with avoiding injuries because I deliberately choose to run most of my runs on soft surfaces and sometimes I even run on a football cord to reduce the pressure and the risk of injuries.
You have to realize that you cannot be at the top all year round and you will also have to accept that you will have bad results sometimes. I learn a lot on these days, and I run because I like these experiences as well.
6. What do you do on the days where you train hard?
I have a scheduled massage every week that will loosen up my body. Especially on those days where I have a hard workout or run intervals, I eat a banana or a muesli bar immediately after the training or after my cool down. Furthermore, I drink a lot of water after and during my hard workouts, and when I get home I like to drink chocolate milk, which I often crave. In general, I eat healthy and nutritious food every day. I take iron supplements when I am on high-altitude training camps, but otherwise, I don’t eat any other supplements because I believe what I eat is enough. I am definitely not fanatic about my food, so I sometimes eat candy and chips, and drink Coca Cola. For me, enough sleep is also necessary on the days where I train a lot – and any other day – and I often go to bed around 10 PM in the evening. During winter periods, I am likely to put on 1 kg to be stronger in the colder months and to avoid illness or infections.
7. How important is endurance for you? Do you have an endurance mindset?
When I am running 160 km per week, it definitely takes a lot of willpower and endurance. Not only day-to-day but also long-term. It is the tough and long haul that makes me persevere and makes me improve in the long term. Therefore, I run very continuously, and I am good with planning my training, so I peak when I have to.
With running as an endurance sport, you usually peak in your late twenties or beginning of your thirties. Therefore, I have a long-term mindset and also an endurance mindset. It is my goals that keep me running. And I have a lot of partial goals along the way that I would also like to achieve.
8. What are your hobbies besides running?
I actually think that Medicine is my hobby sometimes because I like to be a bit nerdy about it and I often study and read more “for fun”. But my spare time is quite limited, so when I have time, I like to be social. I love to spend time with my family, friends and my girlfriend.
9. What are your next goals and what are you preparing for at the moment?
My next goal is to qualify for the European Cross Country Championships in December 2018 and to be the first Dane to have participated in these for 10 years straight! Next, my goal is to qualify for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in my hometown (Aarhus) in 2019. So, it is a lot of cross country that is on my schedule for the next 4-5 months.
10. Which product from DANISH ENDURANCE do you like the most?
Right now, my favorites are the Compression Socks! They really fit perfectly and give me the right compression on my calf/leg. The extra padding under the foot and up around my Achilles is really nice as well. I also love the Quarter Socks that were huge support during my half marathon in Copenhagen in September (2018), my feet stayed blister-free and without any other problems.
11. What is your best advice for people training in the winter months?
I have two good bits of advice. The first is that you should run on soft surfaces. This means that you are able to train your joints and you will reduce the risk of getting injured. The second advice is that when you run, you should 8 out of 10 times be able to talk with a person beside you. So, you should run so slow that you can have a conversation. This will enable you to build upon your training and build endurance, instead of running too fast all the time. By reducing your speed, you will also avoid many injuries.
Check out Thijs' adventures on Instagram