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Q3 – SpeedEndurance.com: Hurdle Drills are classic options for coaches, but some different opinions. What is your take on drills? Cues?
Dave Hegland: I limit the use of drills in general, and with the hurdles in particular. I believe that if you’re going to fix something, you need to fix it at speed over the hurdle. Also, as mentioned earlier, I think it’s crucial to simplify hurdling. Endless drills, in my experience, do quite the opposite. I do not want our athletes having a large number of thoughts and cues to choose from while hurdling.
That said, we do use a few drills to teach postural awareness, and for cueing and constantly re-iterating specific limb positions we deem important. We do not perform classical lead/trail leg isolation drills at higher than skipping velocities over very low hurdles (although many more successful coaches do isolation hurdling with great success). The drills that we do perform are organized around teaching and feeling the few key positions that we work on. Occasionally we’ll invent a new drill to help a particular athlete with a particular issue.
I would separate “drills”, however, from hurdling at various heights and spacings, which we do quite a lot of, primarily to help the athletes feel appropriate rhythms and touchdown times (or hurdle cycle splits) of 1.00 or better in classic 3-step hurdling. We’ll also use fast 5-step hurdling at 11.80 to 12.50m (men) to achieve an overspeed effect and challenge the athlete neurally, as well as to provide a contrast between the hurdling that occurs in practice and the hurdling that occurs in a meet during the competitive season. As a general rule, all of our fast hurdling in practice is at 39” or lower.
Q4 – SpeedEndurance.com: Could you share how Freelap Timing has changed how you conduct practice and develop sprinters and hurdlers? What things have you done this year differently than years past?
Dave Hegland: Freelap has done for us exactly what it purports to do – make collection of accurate data quick and easy. Whereas we previously used the Brower system two or three times a year (primarily for testing in the fall), we now use Freelap to get data on almost every sprint and hurdle session. This speaks to Freelap’s usability.
As far as what we measure, it’s tempting to collect data on every 10m interval or hurdle unit within a run. While that may be beneficial in some situations, I’ve found it more practical and useful to settle on a few specific zones that I’d like to measure on a regular basis, and limit our record-keeping to those segments. For example we use 2m – 30m, 30m – 50m, 20m fly, 2m –120m, etc for sprinters and similar zones (2m – H4, 2m – H8, etc) for hurdlers. These are very arbitrary distances that previously had no intuitive value to me, but after one season of gathering Freelap data I have a good idea what ranges our athletes need to hit at those distances in training, and can program accordingly.
Q5 – SpeedEndurance.com: I used to live and train in Montreal, Canada. With weather being a factor with Syracuse being in upstate New York, what challenges have you faced preparing some of your top athletes such as NCAA champion Jarret Eaton (who ran a 7.49 in 2012, the second fastest time in collegiate history)?
Dave Hegland: Coaches in all areas have challenges, and we have the same issues most teams in colder climates do. We’re generally inside from November through March or April. Training speed endurance, and rhythm endurance for hurdlers, are the biggest challenges. In our facility we have a 2-lane straightaway on which we can run 50m before crashing into HJ pits, and a 3-lane track on which we can run 150s but on a continuous curve. We therefore limit our use of the bigger track for fear of injury. For speed endurance we use a lot of “stacking” type runs that Brent McFarlane outlines in his book. E.g. 2-3 x (150+5×40+150), or shorter speed endurance work like 50m sprints with very short recoveries.
For hurdle specific work, we use some “back and forth” (Poquette) type work at various heights and distances. We’ll also hurdle at lower heights and reduced spacings to get as many hurdles as possible on the shorter straightaway. One example would be the “McKoy drill”, in which the athlete runs over low hurdles placed at half the competitive hurdle distance. These constructs allow a greater number of hurdles in a smaller space, and provide an opportunity to work rhythm endurance in an indoor setting.
I also feel that when coming from training situations that are primarily indoors, it’s important to downplay early competitive results during the outdoor season. We’ll typically travel south to find warm weather in April, and it’s important that the athletes understand these initial hurdle races are glorified training runs. Even with a great deal of creativity in training rhythm endurance indoors, it’s difficult to run fast over 10 hurdles when running over only 4 or 5 in training. The competitive results tend to improve quickly as hurdle races accrue, and by May and June, the athletes from northern climates have enough outdoor training and racing to be on even competitive ground with their southern peers.