Olympic runner Thijs Nijhuis is dominating the road running scene in Denmark. Read and learn from his personal training tips and routines.
At the CPH Half ’18, Thijs Nijhuis crossed the finish line to win the Danish national half marathon championships.
Just before that, he had won the nationals over 1500 metres, and within the following year he also went on to claim the championship over the marathon and finally the 10 km distance at the Royal Run in Copenhagen.
Denmark’s currently most stabile and versatile road runner is an experienced runner over middle and long distances alike. He is not only an excellent long-distance runner, he is fast, too!
From now until September, Thijs Nijhuis will be sharing his training tips and personal training roautines and talk about his motivations, sources of inspiration, and how he chooses to prioritize his time and efforts to balance an every day life of running, partnership and medicine studies.
This first part is about how to get started on a targeted half marathon training programme.
Part #1: How to target your half marathon training
1. What pre-conditions are necessary to get ready for a half marathon in two months?
You need to be in a basic shape, if you want to get ready for a half marathon within two months or less. However, it depends on your ambitions, of course.
“I would put it like this: If you are able to run 10 km about 10 weeks prior to race day, you have a pretty good starting point.”
Most beginners should train no more than 3-4 times a week.
One of your weekly runs must be in a really slow pace, and one of them must have a few kilometres in target half marathon pace integrated. Finally, you need to do a weekly long run, where you increase the distance bit by bit.
2. How do you design a half marathon training programme?
Again, this is very much dependent on your ambitions and goals.
If you start 12 weeks out, you want to use the first month to gradually put on mileage, primarily by increasing your long run by 1-2 km every week – from 10 to 12 km, 13 to 14 km and so on. The longest run for a first-time runner should be about 17 km and the timing would be 2-3 weeks out of race day.
To get ready for a half marathon, you need to do both volume and speed training. My advice is not to adjust on both factors at the same time:
“You need to be careful adjusting both volume and intensity at the same time. I would spend the first 6 weeks of a 12 week programme putting on miles and only then start to gradually add some kilometres in your target pace.”
I don’t think you should do too many intervals when training for a half marathon. The risk of getting injured is fairly high, and you only really benefit from it once you have a stable, high level.
This is how much time Thijs Nijhuis spends on his training
Thijs Nijhuis trains 12 times a week. Friday is “rest day” with a maximum of 15 km, and on Sundays he merges the two daily runs into a good long run of 28-35 km to boost his marathon training. Endurance training also gives you mental strength.
For Thijs, it adds up to a total of 11-14 hours of efficient running and lots of sleep whenever there is time for it. Nijhuis also studies medicine, and during weeks with heavy work load, his training starts at 5:30 am.
3. When do you begin your half marathon-specific training?
I train all year around. Even during post-marathon recovery periods, I still run 2-3 times a week, and after 3 weeks, I’m back on 120 km or more.
When training for a half marathon, I focus on lots of easy pace kilometres from week 10 to week 4. During the last 4 weeks, I gradually add some half marathon pace intervals to the programme, for example the last 5 km or 4 x 2 km with easy jog in between.
What is your history on the half marathon distance?
Before I had my primary focus on the track, but now I’m all in on road running. This is not to say that I will quit track entirely.
When I was focusing on the track, I used to do a spring and a fall half marathon. The spring race was to test my basic shape, while the fall race was sort of a bonus after a track season with lots of speed training.
I love running in Copenhagen, where I have previously run my personal bests.
A few good advice from Thijs to everyone training for CPH Half
Consider the surface.
I do 75 percent of all my training on soft surfaces, such as woods, trails, or by running laps around a soccer field. This reduces the impact on joints and ligaments, and it also keeps the speed in check.
Lower your pace.
Pushing the pace too much during training is the most common mistake. If your goal is to run a marathon in pace 5:00 min/km, you should do your easy pace runs in 5:25 – 5:40 min/km. Many people train too close to their race pace, which turns those days, that were supposed to be easy, into physically and mentally tough days. It is far better to run a little slower and feel ready and recovered for the next training.
I eat pretty much anything I want to. However, I do try to eat regularly during the day and drink enough water.
Adjust the training to your running buddy
A running buddy is always a good idea. However, if your running buddy is better than you, chances are you push yourself too hard and run too fast. Try to choose your running buddy to match your training programme.
What is the best about the half marathon distance?
In my opinion, the best thing about the half marathon distance, is that it’s far enough to demand your focus and concentration, but short enough to keep recovery time to a minimum.
Below a happy Thijs Nijhuis after having won the Danish championships at the CPH Half ’19. A race, which he ran together with his Norwegian girlfriend Julie, who is also a talented runner and track athlete.