The steeplechase demands that you have the combined skills of a cross country runner, a distance runner and a hurdler. You have to not only run fast but also hurdle over 3-foot barriers that don’t tip over if you happen to catch a lagging limb on them. You also have to jump over a water pit without slipping or drowning. Prepare for the steeplechase by doing drills to build core strength, hone hurdling technique and leap over barriers.
Engage in Circuit Training
Circuit training will help you to build the strength in your upper body, abdominals and lower back necessary for the steeplechase. To build your abdominals, do crunches, bicycles, standard and side sit-ups, pikes and jack-knifes and leg lifts. For the upper body, you can perform pushups using both narrow and wide hand positions, dips, chin-ups and burpees. Perform chest throws with a medicine ball to strengthen your lower back, glutes and legs. In addition, you can do floor exercises to improve your hurdling form. Put on light ankle weights and get down on all fours. Perform leg raises to the side with a bent knee, simulating the trail leg position of a hurdle. Set up the stations on your circuit so each station enables you to focus on different muscle groups.
Hone Hurdling Technique
Work on the motor pattern of hurdling by performing drills so that the movements become second nature. A series of hurdling drills can be done at the gym. For example, perform a lead leg drill in which you combine a skip over a hurdle row with only your lead leg. Repeat the drill but leap over the hurdles with only your trail leg. To develop more power, perform hurdling drills wearing a weighted vest or holding a medicine ball. To improve your flexibility, perform forward rolls on a mat and land in the classic hurdle position. When you practice the drills, change the height of the hurdles and the distances between them to train your nervous system to adapt to a wide range of hurdling conditions.
Improve Coordination and Agility
To maneuver around an obstacle course, such as the steeplechase, perform footwork drills for agility. If you do trip over a barrier or fall down in the sand pit, you need to spring back up and regain your balance quickly to finish the race. For example, a popular exercise is the cross-over foot drill, or the carioca. Begin by stepping to the left with the left foot. Then cross your right foot over your left foot to move further left. Step to the left again with your left foot. Cross your right foot behind your left foot to move to even further left. Repeat this pattern for about 10 yards. Switch sides to move to your right. Practice the carioca until you can complete the exercise on an all-out run without tripping.
Practice Landing from the Water Jump
Use the sand pit for the long jump to practice your landing technique after clearing the water barrier. The drag that you’ll feel landing in water can be simulated by the sand. Place a steeplechase barrier next to the edge of the pit. Begin your run toward the barrier from at least 30-feet away. Push off with your power leg when you’re about four to five feet away from the barrier. Bring your other leg up and onto the upper edge of the barrier. When you’ve gotten your balance on the barrier, quickly squat and bring your trail leg over. Push off the barrier and jump out into the pit. Try and land on your power leg first to stabilize yourself. Perform at least five to six jumps during your workout session.
- Unleash Your Stride: Learn to Run Like a Natural; Jim Satterfield
- Learn'n More about Track and Field: Handbook/Guide for Kids, Parents and Coaches; Bob Swope
- Fundamentals of Track and Field, 2nd Edition; Gerry A. Carr, et al.
- Galloway’s Book on Running; Jeff Galloway
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.