Improving your running performance is an evergreen, hot topic. Theories are many and it is easy to get confused. We, therefore, decided to have a chat with a real expert and get some insights on how you can improve your running speed. Thijs Nijhuis is a Danish long-distance runner, Med. student, and DANISH ENDURANCE Ambassador. With the establishment of a new personal best at Barcelona Half Marathon last February, the 26-year-old athlete keeps adding stunning results to his running career. But what does it take to improve your running performance? And how can you prepare to face different running challenges at your best? These are some of the questions we asked Thijs, who kindly shared his 4 golden tips ?, in light of his upcoming challenge - the World Cross Championships in Århus. DANISH ENDURANCE: ''In running, we hear a lot of talking about performance. But what does it exactly mean to “improve your performance”?'' ''For most people, I think that performance is equal to the time they run. Running is black and white in the way that you either break your own personal best or you don’t. However, improving performance could also mean to perform better than one’s previous race in case the person had to stop running for a while. Finally, in some cases like championship races, performance is not connected to time at all. Here the only thing that matters is the position you qualify for.'' ''You recently managed to establish a new personal best at the half marathon in Barcelona and you said that it took you around 2 years to do so. How did you achieve this result?'' ''Patience is really the key. I shifted my focus towards the marathon in the fall. I started doing long runs over 30km every 3-4 weeks and that especially improved my running economy. TheI i was semi-injured for two years, so just being able to train to my full ability helped me a lot. In addition, I also went on a 3-week long training camp at altitude in Iten, Kenya and raced 10 days after coming back to sea level to get full advantage of the altitude effect.'' ''What kind of advice would you give to athletes trying to improve their running performance? Is there any specific exercise/training that athletes who wish to improve their performance should do?''
  1. ''Long-term goals and continuity – it is not important to run 1 or 2 weeks really hard if that means you will be injured or tired for the next 4 weeks. Make a reasonable long-time plan and progress slowly. Not every single week has to be better than the previous one.
  2. Easy days – these are generally overlooked but they are equally important as harder days. Loads of people go too fast on their easy days. As a rule of thumbs, the pace for easy days will be your 5-10k time in min/k plus 45-60 seconds. For example: If you run 50 min for a 10k, this is 5.00 min/k, so easy pace would be around 5.45-6 min/k. This also varies with the terrain, so a flat concrete road would allow 5.45 min/k pace, but in the forest with hills, the same effort would be 6 min/k.
  3. Long run – this might be the most important training for most. It will improve the number of capillaries that the body can recruit and stimulate mitochondrial activity and hereby improve the running economy (especially important over longer races). It will also improve the mental approach to what “far” means. Suddenly the easy runs will feel a lot less long.
  4. Hills – Hills are a runner’s strength training. This won’t be the first thing you start with, but later on, once the basics have been built, then hills can add to power. The downfall of running hills is that it can be very intensive and therefore the risk of injury is bigger.''
''Your next challenge is the World Champs is Århus. Can you tell us a bit about the event and how you are preparing for this event?'' ''World XC takes place on the 30th of March in Århus. It is one of the biggest running events in the world and probably the toughest! The course at Worlds XC is very tough, lots of mud combined with a lot of ascending and descending that is seldom seen before. There will be big fan zones and beer tents as I have understood. There will be different running categories (The Sprint, The Relay, The Toughest, The Search), which vary in distance and difficulty. These categories are open to the public. Since I am preselected with the Danish National Team, I will be in the senior category – that it’s going to be 10K. In order to prepare for this event, I will run a lot of volumes to build my base the biggest possible level. As the championship gets closer, I will put more emphasis on workouts to boost my Vo2 max. Most workouts will be done on the surface of the race to stimulate the specific course. In this case, I will train a lot on the grass in spikes, because this is how both Danish XC and Worlds XC will be.'' What pieces of advice would you give to someone participating in this kind of event? ''Wear shoes that are light, comfortable and most importantly have a good grip! I myself will wear spikes. Even for people that don’t run at the world level, I would still suggest investing in good “trail-shoes”. Also, do not underestimate the socks! DANISH ENDURANCE Socks are great to avoid blisters! Finally, make sure that not all energy is used in the first k’s. Everybody can run the first 1/3 of all races. Especially in cross-country, where the course can change over time as it is lapped. Therefore it will be a lot tougher at the end.''   Are you curious about Thijs’ upcoming challenge and workout? Follow him on Instagram!  
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