Nelleke Van  Zandvoort

Nelleke is a Dutch girl raised in Australia. She's been running for 22 years, starting at the age of 6. She is a middle distance runner but used to be a sprinter. She recently has started to compete in 5K and 10K races. She's run competitively at the highest level in Australia and in the UK and now runs in Hong Kong. She's sponsored non exclusively by Coca Cola and Asics.


After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?

I love the feeling of pushing my body to the limits; getting out of it everything I possibly can. I love the feeling of being super fit and fast. I also still love competing. I can't imagine my life without it!

How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?

There are definitely days where I don't feel 100% & don't particularly feel like training. The most important thing is discipline. I analyse why I feel like that, whether I'm sick, jet-lagged, tired or just being lazy. If its something like jet-lag, a little sniffle or soreness I push myself to go out and train anyway because I know afterwards I will feel better for it and it will help my body recover. I also remind myself of what my goal is long term and whether I want to hold myself back. It's always useful to look at the bigger picture and how you plan on getting there. If I'm unwell, or have an injury, I'll listen to my body and assess whether I can do something light, check how my body feels & change the session accordingly. I know when I'm being lazy, and after years of training, I never make excuses. It's part of discipline to be successful at anything. If you want it, you have to put in the work, so get out there and JUST GET IT DONE! Override that little voice that says "not today".

On average, how many times and miles do you run a month?

I run around 6 days a week, and on average 125 to 150 miles a month.

What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?

I don't lift heavy weights; not at the moment anyway. I use dumbbells between 2 to 10 kg depending on the exercise and do mostly plyo-metrics & strength work using my own body weight as resistance. I need to remain lean and strong, I don't want to build up too much mass. 

You spent a lot of time on the water and boarding. Is this part of your cross training or just another passion?

I have always played many different sports and love all kinds of sports, Volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, etc. Surfing is mostly a passion, but any sport can be used as cross training. Surfing for example is great for stabilizers, leg/core strength. 

Do you feel like you have an advantage or disadvantage is any way because of your height? If so, in what ways?

Height is generally an advantage because I eat up the ground with my stride much more easily than others. I come from a sprinting background, so I used to find it hard collecting speed with such long levers. Generally tall people don't have short twitch fibers. However, I overcame that, and actually became surprisingly quick for my height with consistent and persistent sprint training, every day. Once we have the speed, our added stride length makes a pretty formidable combination. Take Usain Bolt for example.


What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?

I guess the superstition of pre-race rituals. Certain socks you MUST wear, what you do for warm up, what you eat, and how you get into the blocks for track races. All very weird, but you cant help it! So it's more of me doing the weird things.


What are your favorite types of fuel for running and why?

Pre-race, unripened banana's. My mom used to always feed them to me when I was little; it's an excellent fuel with carbohydrates, sugars and potassium, and I was convinced that that was what made me win my races. 


What's your favorite cheat food & drink?

I have three. Ice cream, chocolate peanut M&M's and corn chips. I have a very guilty look on my face right now!


Do you like ice baths? Why or why not?

Yes I do. They really help with recovery. I wish I had a permanent ice bath at home. Doing hot and cold, switching from ice baths to hut tub/hot shower helps stimulate oxygenated blood to all the tiniest capillaries that have been depleted during training. Flushing them with fresh blood and oxygen through all your muscles helps you recover faster for the next session. It also reduces inflammation, and makes your legs feel so much better afterwards!


What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?

To build up training slowly. I have many friends that look at me and decide they want to start training too. They forget I've been doing this since I was 6 years old and my body is accustomed to the impact and physical demands. They start training every day and before long get injured which is really demoralizing. Build it up with 3 runs per week for a month about 3 miles long, compliment it with cross training, swimming, cycling, boxing. The next month start 4 runs, then month 3 you can do 5. After that you can start building out the distance you run.


What is your favorite running accomplishment so far?

Probably running my first international meet when I was 12, at the Pacific School Games.


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