For the 110/100m hurdler, the transition from the indoor season to the outdoor season can be a bit confusing – for the body and for the mind. For the indoor season, since the race is so short, the focus is primarily on mastering the start and the first three hurdles. As a result, conditioning will suffer, and hurdle endurance will suffer, particularly for those hurdlers who are most successful. Hurdlers who aren’t competing for state championships or to qualify for nationals can focus more on preparing for the outdoor season during the indoor season, whereas the hurdlers who compete through late February and early March have to focus on staying race sharp and gearing their workouts toward the upcoming competitions. In a lot of cases, athletes who compete at Nationals are still racing indoors while their teammates have already had one or even two outdoor meets.
In the early part of the outdoor season, increasing hurdling conditioning is of the utmost importance, as the second half of the race becomes the key area of development. There are a lot of ways to do this, including some of the hurdle-endurance workouts in the Workouts section of this website.
For race-specific endurance, however, my favorite workout is to do 5-7 reps over 7 hurdles. Out the blocks, against a teammate preferably, with someone giving commands. That’s enough reps over enough hurdles to condition the body to deal with late-race fatigue. By the last two reps, the last two hurdles will feel the same as the last two hurdles in a race. So you will be mimicking late-race fatigue. The rest between reps should be plenty, so that each rep is of high quality. I’d say that five minutes between reps is not too much.
Depending on the level of conditioning, some hurdlers might not be able to do seven quality reps over seven hurdles, regardless of how much rest they have between. In such cases, you might want to have them do something like two reps over three, two reps over five, then two reps over seven, before building up to doing all reps over seven.
And always, move the hurdles in during practice. Even if it’s just half a foot. Never practice at race distance; you’ve got to move them in some to account for the adrenaline factor of a race, and for the fact that a race consists of one full-speed rep.
I’m not big on running the whole race in practice. Ever. It serves no purpose except to create doubt and fear and low self-confidence. Sometimes hurdlers will ask to run the whole race “just to be sure” they can do it. That’s where they have to calm down and trust the coach. If the coach says they can do it, they can do it. I’ll never put an athlete out there if I don’t think he or she is ready, and I don’t know of any coaches who would.
I’m not big on 12-hurdle workouts either. I’ve heard of them and understand the logic. I just worry that too many hurdles in one rep can lead to dangerous breakdowns in technique that can make the athlete susceptible to injury. For the same reason, I don’t do back-and-forths for the 110s anymore. I prefer the quick-step workout for hurdle-endurance and addressing technical flaws.
It’s important to keep doing drills during the outdoor season, and to even have a day that’s devoted to drills. The day after a weekday meet is a good day for doing drills exclusively. Drills re-enforce lessons from earlier in the year and also help to address technical issues that the races are exposing.
300/400 hurdle workouts are also good for 110/100 hurdle endurance. That’s why, even if the long race isn’t your specialty, those workouts are beneficial, and competing in that event is beneficial. As I tell my hurdlers who are reluctant to take on the longer race, you don’t have to love it; you just have to do it.
My final piece of advice would be, be patient. You’re not necessarily going to run the kinds of times you think you should run based on your indoor times. It takes a while to readjust to running a full flight of ten hurdles, maintaining your momentum, and learning to deal with late-race fatigue.
© 2013 Steve McGill