Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Athletics: Willis to bypass Europe

Less is more for Nick Willis. Photo / Getty Images
Less is more for Nick Willis. Photo / Getty Images

Pending parenthood and a desire to simplify his training routine has seen middle-distance runner Nick Willis opt out of his usual European race schedule this year.

He will spend most of this northern summer running in the United States as he prepares for a tilt at August's world championships in Moscow.

Willis' wife Sierra is due to give birth to their first child in June. Willis, who turned 30 on Anzac Day, will race Diamond League meetings in Shanghai (May 18), New York (May 25) and Eugene, Oregon (June 1). The latter doubles as the annual Prefontaine Classic. He will return home to Ann Arbor for further base training in June to prepare for the worlds where he says he hopes to avoid a "meltdown in the [1500m] final like the last two seasons".

Willis finished ninth at the London Olympics and last at the 2011 world championships final in Daegu, South Korea. He's skipping IAAF meets like Paris and Monaco where he has previously broken the national 1500m record. He set the current mark (3m 30.35s) at Monaco last July.

On his willisrunning.com website, Willis says he has focused on simplifying his training.

"My greatest fear is that more and more young athletes think that in order to succeed, it is required for them to put their life on hold, put family and friends as secondary priorities and sport must take the No 1 spot," Willis wrote. "Having been around the block a few times, I have come to the conclusion that regardless of results, the most enjoyable seasons are those where sport has a healthy place in a balanced life.

"For the past 12 years, I have experimented with training schedules but have now decided to end the experimentation and simplify my running life. This entails focusing on what has worked for me in the past and eliminating all the 'fluff' that I never noticed any real benefit from. Enjoying family, balancing other interests, being a full-time masters student and an overall quality of life is the main driver ... ultimately, I believe it will produce better and more sustainable performances."

Willis is now running once a day, with one day off a week. He has removed the two to three 30-minute secondary runs he did to top up his weekly mileage. The result has been extra recovery time to give him more energy for sprint training. He has also removed gym work but does hill sprints once a week to counter it.

Willis does five minutes of plyometric drills - which exert the maximum force on muscles - three to five times a week to boost his explosive power.

He says that is a far less invasive time commitment than a 60-90 minute trip to the gym. Applying this new philosophy helped Willis set a world championship 1500m qualifying time (3m 34.68s) last month in Sydney after running 3m 36.51s days earlier at a meet on Auckland's North Shore. His Sydney time remains the world's best this year, with the European outdoor season yet to start.

- Herald on Sunday

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