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March 23, 2017
Last month I posted some practice footage featuring two youth athletes I was coaching who were preparing for USATF Youth Indoor Nationals. The two athletes, Alex Nunley and Matt Garrett, were able to get in another session together the week prior to the meet, as Alex’s parents once again made the 3-hour drive from Raleigh to the Charlotte side of North Carolina. Although I don’t have any footage from that session (sorry, I was too focused on coaching), it went very well. Alex was able to address some minor technical issues, and the practice starts they did against each other helped them both to get sharp for the meet. We started with one hurdle and worked our way up to four, with a makeshift finish line off hurdle four.
At the meet, Alex won the 55m hurdles in a 13-14 age group national record of 7.62, while Matt finished second in 7.93. I’m really eager to see what these two will do outdoors, as Alex also won the 55m dash, while Matt finished 6th in that event.
March 20, 2017
If you’re a youth coach or a high school coach and you have prospective hurdlers who don’t have the speed to three-step right away, you find yourself dealing with the predicament that the only other option is to have them five-step, which is not really an option at all because five-steppers go so slow between the hurdles that they have no chance to be competitive. But there is another option, and that is to teach the athlete how to four-step. Of course, four-stepping means alternating lead legs, but that is a surprisingly easy skill to teach if you start teaching it when the hurdler is still new and eager to run faster. Four-stepping allows the athlete to be at least somewhat competitive right away. Also, if the long-term goal is for the athlete to three-step, then four-stepping can serve as the first stage of the process of attaining that goal. Eventually, as the athlete grows stronger and faster, the four-step will feel crowded, and the process of transitioning to three-stepping can begin.
February 27, 2017
One of my go-to workouts for 300/400m hurdlers is the back and forth workout on the straightaway. This is a workout I’ve used for years, and it’s one of the only ones I’ve used for so long without making any changes to it. Though it’s generally a workout I like to use in the fall as a base-building conditioning workout, I often find that I need to use it in the early part of the outdoor season for athletes who, for whatever reasons, didn’t get in enough conditioning work in the fall and winter.
- For males the start line is the 110 start line. For females, the start line is the 100m start line.
- Hurdles 1, 3, 5, 7,and 9 of the 100/110m hurdle race are set up at the height for the 300/400m hurdle race (30” for females, 36” for males).
- Five hurdles are set up facing the finish line, and another five are set up right next to them, facing the start line.
- The athlete runs over the five hurdles facing the finish line, crosses the finish line, then turns around and runs over the five hurdles facing the start line, then crosses the start line. That constitutes one complete rep.
- From a standing start, the athlete takes 8 or 9 steps to the first hurdle, then anywhere from 7-11 strides between the rest. Faster athletes will take less strides, obviously.
- Rest between rest should range anywhere from 3-6 minutes. The aim is for the athlete to get to a point where just 3 minutes is enough between every rep.
- Five reps would be considered a full workout. I usually include some hurdle drilling afterwards.
This is not a full-speed workout. I call it a hurdle-endurance workout, as it is designed to build the athlete’s hurdle endurance so that race strategies that are developed later in other workouts can be executed. The workout will preferably be done in training shoes because the constant pushing off and landing can be too much on the ankles, Achilles, shins, and calves if done in spikes.
The aim of the workout is for the athlete to maintain a consistent rhythm. When having my athlete, Scout, do this workout last weekend, we were looking for her to take 8 steps to the first hurdle, and 10 between all the rest, alternating lead legs. If fatigue were to become a factor late in a rep or late in the workout, then the aim would be to change down to 11 strides. We didn’t have to do that, which means her conditioning is definitely improving. For recovery, I gave her 3 minutes rest after the first rep, 4 minutes after the second rep, 5 minutes after the third rep, and 5 minutes again after the fourth rep. The aim next time will be to start with 3 minutes, move up to 4 after the second rep, and to stay at 4 minutes for the rest of the workout.
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