Since the high school track season in some states can be as short as 11-12 weeks, the purpose of this article is to assist those coaches who struggle with organizing their high school hurdler annual plan. The first part of this article will ask questions:
- How long is your high school hurdler’s season?
The number of weeks in your season will determine how many hard days, easy days, rest days, and competitive days (the same as hard days) you have available. By establishing what days will fatigue your high school hurdler and what days won’t you will be more able to accurately determine the level of accumulative stress so your hurdler will be able to perform O.T.D. (“On The Day”).
- How do you give your high school hurdlers enough speed?
Your high school hurdler is a sprinter first, so making sure they are getting enough training to expand their ability to run fast is job #1 (especially when you only have 11-12 weeks to get it in). Remember, speed can only be developed by running fast or doing things that compliment speed like getting stronger, more powerful, or using track resistance training (plyos, hills, sand running, sleds, etc.). To develop speed you must stay within the confines of the 6-7 second window where speed is most able to be affected. This means all of your accelerations, fly runs; explosive work in the weight room, or plyos and resistance at the track must maintain the integrity of the speed development time frame. All of the aforementioned development workouts can be followed by hurdling to blend the development into the hurdle skill. Speed is 25x more difficult to develop than endurance, and this should tell you what has to be established first.
- How do you give your hurdler enough speed work?
Notice the difference between the terms “Development” and “Work.” Speed work involves efforts well beyond the 6-7 second window mentioned in question number two (runs from 80 to 350 meters). Speed work involves running longer reps at a percentage of the maximal speed created by the development work. Thus speed work can only be taken advantage of if you have already established a maximal velocity standard. The mistake we make as hurdle coaches is believing the hurdler has to run long and slow first to make them strong enough to do the speed training. But if we attempt to set the strength of speed before the absolute speed, you will only be able train at a percentage of speed too low to develop hurdling speeds. You can only endure (speed work) at a percentage of your maximal speed, and you force your hurdler to endure slower than they are capable of running if you don’t start with speed first.
- How do you give your hurdler enough hurdle work?
You must set your training loads (sets, reps, volume, & intensity) based on hurdling skill. Jumping over stuff is easy, but hurdling is a skill. With this in mind everything that is involved in the training inventory from questions two and three must incorporate hurdling before, during or after the effort. Every acceleration, fly run, clean or squat in the weight room, hill run, or ploys should be tied to some form of hurdling technique (sitting, standing, walking, skipping, running or sprinting).
– EX: execute 3 power cleans from the ground at the track and after a short break of not more than two minutes to set your blocks, run a start over the first two hurdles set 10% lower and closer. You have blended the starting strength and power gained from the clean movement and bled it right into the desired movement.
- How much aerobic work does your hurdler need?
First things first! Speed is a skillful activity and running slower than your performance level will not improve your performance levels. Running aerobically does not increase your ability to run stronger. Any activity that takes you away from where you live when the guns goes off cannot be good in heavy doses. This is why ending your day with low and close hurdling keeps your hurdler “tuned” to their event. Now, in defense of aerobic training, you must know what it’s going to do for your hurdler. Aerobic training does not make you faster, however it elicits recovery so you can run as fast as you are trained over and over again (when you have to run the 4×1, HH, and 200 meters over three hours). Your hurdler’s aerobic development could come from biking, swimming, running 10-15 second fartlek reps as long as technical competency is not lost. But running three miles only slows you down for a long time and has no value when trying to run sub 15 or 14 seconds. If you count the warm up and warm down, dynamic warm up drills, and the volume of the workout itself, I believe you will find a significantly high level of aerobic adaptation. If you ran 12x100m in 13 seconds with a 300m shake jog, you’ll have run three miles with bits of 52 second 400 in it (a three mile run will never come close to that velocity). This workout plus what comes before and after will easily come to over five miles.
- How do you improve strength and power?
You do this by understanding that strength is the amount of force you can exert against resistance. While power is the speed of that forceful movement against resistance. The speed of the movement against resistance is what should be your goal when trying to get your hurdler stronger. I have already used examples of weight room (Olympic lifts), plyos, hills, med balls, or any types of body weight movements where speed of execution is desired.
- How many races can he/she run?
Over an 11-12 week season, participating in two meets a week and 3-4 races per meet can overextend even the most gifted young hurdler. It is the job of the hurdle coach to examine the full scope of what the season requires and avoid merely coaching week to week without taking into account the cost of accumulative stress. Do you really plan for your hurdler to run 34-40 races (not counting indoors, or rounds during the league, district and state meet cycles)? Part two will cover in more detail how this scenario plays out.
- How much rest do you give your hurdler?
This is an easy one: as much rest as they need to get it done O.T.D. Rest has traditionally been given when your hurdler is ill or injured. But rest is a “training component” and is inserted to help prevent training related illness or injury. Getting “hurt” is an occupational hazard in athletics, but many “injuries” can be traced back to overzealous coaches and athletes who want to keep hammering when they get hot.
I hope this has wet your appetite to building a better hurdler. In part two of Annual Planning for High School Hurdlers, I will cover race modeling, and ultimately what an annual plan could look like. Good Hunting!
Tony Veney is the head track and field coach at Ventura Community College in Ventura, CA.