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Hurdle Work is Not Only for Hurdlers

Twenty years ago, if a distance runner had an fifteen extra minutes after completing his or her distance run, their first thought was getting in two or so extra miles.  Back then, the prevailing wisdom was if you want to be a better runner, then all you have to do is run more.  Over the last ten years, one of the more exciting trends in training distance runners has been in improving the athleticism of long distance runners.  Runners of all levels have found core strength, stability, dynamic flexibility and the like to pay real dividends once the gun has fired. 

At Oberlin College we have made great progress with our runners through increasing their athleticism.  We have found their biomechanics and running form is better, particularly late in races when they are most fatigued.  We have found that they recover quicker and are less susceptible to injury.  Ultimately, they feel better about their running, and their running, subsequently, goes better.

One method we regularly use to build athleticism in our runners in regular hurdle work.  Once a week after a recovery run, the runners employ various movements over a continuous run of eight hurdles lined up one after the next.  The height of the hurdles varies between 30, 33 and 36 inches.  The athlete perform various frontward, sideways and backwards walks and skips over and under the hurdles.

The exercises repeatedly stress the hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus and abdominal muscles.   There is an important timing and rhythm aspect to the exercises that require the athlete to employ dynamic stability and flexibility that is build over time. 

During the exercises we stress good mechanics.  Athletes are usually started at the lowest 30-inch height, and as their ability progresses, the hurdle height increases.  Once mastery has been achieved, we have the athlete go through the same routine holding a medicine ball high above their heads, greatly increasing the stress on the core muscles.

Hurdle work is a great way to increase a runner’s strength, flexibility, balance and conditioning.  It has become an essential part of making the distance group at Oberlin College not only better runners, but better athletes.

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