Australian steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze has shaved over 18 seconds from her lifetime best this season, most recently with an Oceania record 9:14.28 at the Paris Diamond League. She gives SPIKES her guide to becoming a top steepler.

1. Walk before you run

“First, start with walk-over drills. I line 10 hurdles up and I would do them, say, three times a week after a double run. Walk-overs where it’s maybe seven or eight times.

“Do these sorts of drills purely to strengthen your glutes and hips. If they’re not strong, you’re not going to make 3km.

“That’s a very basic thing that most people do even if they aren’t hurdlers. It’s very important to have strong core and pelvis.

“Because the hurdles are so low, it is about technique, but it’s not like the high hurdles. As long as you’re really strong in the hips and flexible enough in the pelvis, you find it much easier.”

Genevieve LaCaze competes in the steeplechase at the Rio Olympics ()

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2. Speed it up

“The second thing would be striding over the hurdles. It’s not going to help you with the end of your race, but it’s going to help you with technique, doing back and forth strides over the hurdles and really practicing sighting them.

“You can teach a brain to see how far a hurdle is away. Your feet kinda work out when they need to adjust, whether to lengthen their strides, or whether to shorten them, so you can get the right leg up. It’s definitely something you have to teach the brain to do, which is just practice, practice, practice.

“When I was really struggling with the water jumps, I would do things like set the barrier up on grass or in front the sand pit and just practice the approach, the pushing off, the landing – all the basics, just so that I knew that I could at least come in at the right speed, hit the barrier at the right place, push off at the right distance and land with some sort of strength on one leg.”

3. Crush the last kilometre

“I’ve talked to a few really good steeplers about this, I was saying ‘I’m really struggling at the end of the race, why is this? I do hurdle practice, I got a great technique, I’m strong in the hips, I’m strong in the core’, but it was that last kilometre. You can’t replicate the feeling unless you’re extremely fatigued and you’re trying to jump.

Genevieve LaCaze and Colleen Quigley at the Rio Olympics ()

"Anyone can run 2k, it’s that last kilometre that really kills you"

“Add hurdles at the end of a session when you’ve done a lactic workout, when you’ve done all this work and you’ve absolutely killed yourself. Your coach is like ‘alright, 2k over the hurdles!’. You’ve got to be able to mimic that horrible, horrible feeling when your legs are heavy, you can barely jump, but you have to keep going.

“I think that would be the most important thing, teaching yourself how to get over them when you’re about to hit a wall. Anyone can run 2k, it’s that last kilometre that really kills you.”

4. Race, race, race

“I definitely don’t go into a race thinking about the barriers, but I am focused on making sure I get that one per cent right. I think from practicing in training it becomes, I guess, just like running. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other. You see a barrier, you jump.

“It is like quicksand, those last few water jumps. You’re hitting the water, telling yourself to keep going and move your legs one foot in front of the other. But at the same time you feel like you’re sinking yourself into the water and things aren’t moving like you’re used to them moving.

“It’s hard to get yourself that fatigued in practice [and recreate] what that last kilometre is going to feel like. It is something that you have got to do over and over again.

“That’s why I think racing is the best way, because you can’t mimic that feeling. You can’t simulate how you’re going to close that race unless you do it.”