February 26, 2017
When it comes to developing a race rhythm for 300/400m hurdlers, that can be a very tricky thing, particularly when dealing with athletes who may not be in condition to do the more demanding workouts that such development would entail. Earlier today I was working with a high school junior who ran a personal best in the 49-mid range last year, before I started working with her. Last week I had her do a workout in which she cleared the first four hurdles of the 300h race from a block start. Her reps were decent but erratic. She was fatiguing by hurdle three, and hanging on for dear life by hurdle four.
It became evident that she wasn’t yet ready for such race-specific, stride-pattern-development type of work, so this week I took a different approach to ease her into the process of establishing an early-race stride pattern. Instead of going over four hurdles, we’d just go over three. And instead of a block start, we’d use a standing start.
In this workout, I had her clear the last three hurdles of the 300h race, starting at the 100m start line, and clearing what would be hurdles 6, 7, and 8 in a race, and then crossing the finish line. My athlete, Scout, took a 12-step approach from the 100m start, and then took 18 strides between hurdles the rest of the way. Because we had done a lot of drilling prior to this part of the training session, I only had her do four reps. The aim was for her to stay consistent with her stride pattern the whole way. On her first rep, she took 19 steps to the last hurdle. I instructed her to keep her hands high, to not let them drop. As someone with the ability to alternate, it’s easy for her to become complacent and just lead with whichever leg comes up. But taking 19 steps that early in a race (at what would be hurdle three) would lead to 20-stepping later in the race, which we absolutely do not want.
For the last three reps, she maintained the 18-step stride pattern through the last two hurdles each time. Which means that for our next training session we can move on to putting the blocks down and working on the first three hurdles on the backstretch.
My whole thing is, in the 300/400m hurdles, you need to have your stride pattern down to an exact science for the first half of the race – which is the first 4 for the 300h, and the first 5 for the 400h. That way, you minimize the possibility of late-race breakdowns because you’re not wasting energy guessing – stuttering or over-striding. In the 300h, because the first three hurdles are on the backstretch, it’s relatively easy to get that part of the race mastered. The fourth hurdle, which is on the curve, can be tricky, but once the athlete’s speed-endurance level is where it needs to be, maintaining stride pattern shouldn’t be difficult.
So, in the case of Scout, she was able to 18-step through the third hurdle today in a modified version of the workout, which means I’ll want her to maintain 18 through four hurdles when we put the blocks down. Then, from there,we’ll have to make decisions regarding for how many hurdles we’ll want to keep the 18, when to change down to 19, and maybe 20 by the end of the race. The long-term goal would be, by the end of the outdoor season, to get to a point where she can either 18-step the whole way, or perhaps take 17 strides on the backstretch, then change down to 18 the rest of the way.
Below is a video of one of the reps we got in today.