Skip navigation

Track Hurdle Drills for Surviving Slippery Snow Conditions

Mon, Jul  10, 2006 - By Mike Muha

Ever struggled to stay upright on an icy trail? Had a hard time maintaining balance on the rock-hard conditions at the beginning of the 2006 White Pine Stampede? Tired of spending more energy just trying to keep from falling on greasy snow than on moving forward?

Slick conditions require agility and balance. Training your nervous system to respond automatically to instability will allow you to focus more of you energy on going forward.

Don't wait for awful ski conditions to work on agility and balance - start now in your own backyard under sunny and warm conditions!

Coaches Sten Fjeldheim and Jenny Ryan brought along a couple sets of track hurdles to the Training Camp in June specifically to simulate unstable ski conditions. The drills in the pictures and videos below are designed to increase flexibility (making you more agile), balance (because they are designed to put you off balance), and strength.

Sten and Jen use Gill Athletics Smart Hurdles, a brand of lightweight but strong adjustable hurdles. You don't need to buy hurdles - you can make your own. In fact, at an XC Oregon Spring Camp a few years back, Becky Scott had us do similar drills using home-made hurdles constructed from 2x2's or PVC pipe.

Step under high hurdles.

Two-legged forward hop over low hurdles

High Hurdle Drills

We started with the high hurdles. Two rows of four were set up, one row with the hurdles set a little taller (for skiers with longer legs), one row set a little shorter (for skiers with shorter legs). Hurdles were set close enough together that we could essentially "walk" over the hurdles (only one step between hurdles).

The drills are a bit hard to describe in words - watching the High Hurdle Video (WMV or MPG) makes everything clear. We did the following drills:

  1. Step over each hurdle using the same leg. Repeat using the other leg.
  2. Step over each hurdle with alternating legs.
  3. Step over a hurdle with each leg, then step back over the same hurdle
  4. High stepping to the side of the hurdles (think Rockettes!)
  5. Step under each hurdle
  6. Down, Under, Up, Back: Step under a hurdle, stretch up, then step back under the same hurdle
  7. Stepping over the first hurdle, then under the second, then over the third... The step-over hurdles are set at a lower height than the step-over hurdles.

Down, under, up, back

Low Hurdle Drills

Next, we jumped over a set of low hurdles. An example of the first set is shown in the Low Hurdle Video (WMV or MPG)

  1. Two-legged jumps over the hurdles, facing forward (video)
  2. Two-legged jumps over the hurdles, sideways
  3. One-legged jumps over the hurdles, facing forward
  4. One-legged jumps over the hurdles, sideways

Seems easy. It's not, you'd be amazed by the number of hurdles we knocked down! These drills require (and build) strength, balance, and agility.

Two-legged sideways hop over low hurdles

Single-leg forward hops over low hurdles

The Low Hurdle Balance Course

Next, the low hurdles were rearranged into the following pattern:

Layout of low hurdle balance course

We started by facing the first hurdle at the upper left and hopped through these drills:

  1. Quick stepping though the hurdles, turning to face the next hurdle (video)
  2. Two-legged hops, turning to face the next hurdle
  3. Two-legged hops, always facing in the same direction.
  4. One-legged hops, turning to face the next hurdle
  5. One-legged hops, always facing in the same direction (video)

Examples of the first and last set of drills are shown in the Low Hurdle Video (WMV or MPG).


These drills progress from easier to harder. Balance was fairly easy to maintain on the high hurdles. Balance was more problematic on the low hurdles, especially on one leg. And the low hurdle balance course? Just plan hard, especially having to change direction.

And all that hopping and jumping? Great leg strength!

Do there drills during the off season and you'll tackle icy conditions with a new sense of confidence this winter.

Video Details Windows Media Player MPEG 4 Format
Seven sample exercises using the tall hurdles WMV (5.0 MB) MPG (5.7 MB)
Three sample exercises using the low hurdles WMV (4.4 MB) MPG (2.0 MB)

Note: *.MPG videos are Apple iPod Video compatible  

Thanks Sponsors!




KENSINGTON PARK APARTMENTS 248-437-6794 Next to Kensington Metropark, Island Lake State Park, and the Huron Valley hike-bike trail. Easy access to I-96. The perfect location for the endurance athlete!