October 23, 2009, Newsletter Issue #105: Hurdles

Tip of the Week

Running hurdles is a technically difficult event, requiring superior coordination and clean form.

If you're serious about running hurdles, consider reading "The Science of Hurdling and Speed" by former Canadian Olympic coach Brent McFarlane. Many coaches recommend this book.

Many runners find that they gain the most in speed by working on their form. Younger runners especially can be so focused on simply clearing the hurdle, that form is forgotten.

One drill that may help is to set a hurdle - at regulation height - against a wall and practice "lead and trail legs." This exercise helps build good hurdling form by removing the "distraction" of running.

Go at the wall with your lead leg as if you were approaching the hurdle at a run. Your toes should be cocked up and your lead knee slightly bent when you make contact with the wall. At the same time, rise up on the toes of the trailing foot. Your back should be only slightly bent, and your shoulders square.

As you're doing this drill, bring your lead arm (the one opposite your lead leg) up to shoulder height, and bend the elbow at about 90 degrees - it should appear almost as if you could be about to look at a watch on your wrist. Your trailing arm should be cocked at about 90 degrees, with the hand at about your hip.

Remember not to look down at your knee. When you're racing, you should be looking ahead to the next hurdle as your clearing each one. Hurdlers who look down at their knees as they clear each hurdle have to reorient themselves with each hurdle they clear.

This may be a bit difficult to follow in writing. If you can, have an experienced hurdler demonstrate this exercise for you - it's a common one.

This drill can also help you with your four-step, since it allows you to practice leading with either leg.

Beyond that, practice, practice, practice. Set up a couple of low hurdles at regulation distance from one another and work at four-stepping between them.

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