Already in three continents and 11 countries, the world’s largest mass participation fitness race is likely coming to a city near you. Here we reveal how to train for HYROX so you don’t get left behind.
HYROX is the new kid on the sports calendar block. Shorter than a half marathon, more accessible than the CrossFit Open, less, er, muddy than a Tough Mudder, HYROX has found a sweet spot among the global fitness community, providing a test of power, speed, strength and stamina for novices and experts alike.
2022 saw over 40 races take place across three continents, including 30 cities in 11 countries, and involved more than 90,000 participants – so it’s probably high time you started training for your first HYROX. Here we’ll show you how.
HYROX is a mass participation fitness race that combines functional exercise with endurance running.
The brainchild of Christian Toetzke, an enigmatic veteran of international cycling, marathon and triathlon events, together with three-time Olympic medallist and world champion hockey player Moritz Fuerste and marketing guru Michael Trautmann, the race has gone viral since first launching in Germany in 2017.
65 races are scheduled for 2023, spanning from the golden shores of California to the bright lights of Hong Kong.
The secret to HYROX’s mass appeal is in its repeatability. Participants compete in the exact same format around the world, alternating 1km runs with functional movement stations, repeated eight times.
The first station is a 1km sprint on the ski-erg, a full-body cardio machine you’ve likely grappled with in your local gym. Next is a 50m weighted sled push, then a 50m sled pull, 80m burpee broad jump, 1km row, 200m farmer’s carry, 100m lunge and finally 75 or 100 reps of wall balls.
If just reading that summary makes you break out in a cold sweat, don’t be disheartened. Like any physical challenge, you need to train for it. And – given it constitutes 50% of the overall event – running should make up the bulk of your workouts, says Michael Sandbach, the UK’s fastest HYROX pro.
“Practice running at a medium intensity (think zone two out of the six heart rate training zones), at a short but hard interval pace, and running compromised,” such as after rattling through 100 jumping lunges, “to replicate the pre-fatigued effect of a real HYROX race,” he tells Huel.
Sandbach recommends giving yourself at least 12 weeks to train for your first HYROX. He tends to split his training into 30% medium intensity (zone two) cardio, 30% high-intensity interval training (such as 6 x 500m on the ski erg or rower), and 40% strength training, with squats, deadlifts and bench presses his go-to resistance exercises.
“Identify your weaknesses,” adds HYROX Master Trainer Jade Skillen. “If you’re already strength training regularly but not running much, make this your initial focus. Alternatively, if you have a strong running background, start to build in some strength elements.”
Whatever you do, Skillen insists, you should only increase your running volume by 10% each week to avoid common overuse injuries that could scupper your HYROX before it’s even begun.
Here Sandbach and Skillen break down each HYROX discipline to help you breeze through the movements whether flying solo or doubling up.
HYROX starts with 1,000m of running before the first workout. Once that station is done, you’re back on the track for another 1,000m, then the next workout station, and so on for 8km in total. Doubles must stay together or they’ll incur a time penalty.
Sandbach says: “Don’t waste energy counting laps of the circuit. Instead use the big screen that is linked to your timing chip to track when you’ve nearly covered each kilometre. Don’t go out too hard either. The race will take you an hour minimum and doesn’t really get going until after the sleds so pace yourself.”
Take a big breath in and as you exhale pull the handles down with force, using your bodyweight to help generate power. Cycle the handles back to the top as you inhale and repeat.
Sandbach says: “Bang for buck this station doesn’t offer much in terms of reward. You can’t win the race here, but you can certainly lose it. If you go too hard or try to match the splits on someone next to you then your race could be miserable from the start.”
Keep your arms tucked into your body and hold the poles with your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your body low, back flat, core braced and drive forward step by step.
Sandbach says: “The race starts here in earnest. Every time you stop it takes more effort to move the sled from a standstill, so keep the thing moving as long as you can. I try to go unbroken.”
This is more like a tug-of-war than a classic sled pull and it requires all your body weight. The goal is to reel the sled towards you, while you stay within a square area (around 2m x 2m). Be sure not to step outside the border or you’ll incur a costly time penalty.
Skillen says: “You can try to use your upper body strength to pull the rope in hand-over-hand, but the most efficient technique is to stand at the front of the square and use your weight to heave the sled towards you while stepping back. If in a pair, the stronger runner should always finish this station so the weaker runner has more time to recover.”
Hinge forwards at the hips to place your hands either side of your feet. Jump your feet back into a press-up and bring your chest to the floor. Press back up, jump or step your feet forward to your hands, and continue into a big jump forward. Perform the next burpee broad jump from the exact point that you land.
Skillen says: “Step each foot forward one by one when coming out of the burpee. It’s much more efficient to conserve energy. For the jump, resist the urge to use ‘maximal’ power as this will burn up a lot of energy and build lactate fast.”
Adjust the damper setting before you start to a number you’re comfortable with and strap your feet in firmly so they don’t rattle about.
Sit tall in the seat and drive powerfully until your legs are straight, lean back slightly, then harnessing the momentum, pull the handle into your sternum. Reverse the movement to complete one stroke.
Skillen says: “Always play to your strengths. As a smaller athlete, my 6ft 4 doubles partner took much of the erg distances when it came to the ski and row, so I could stay fresh for other stations that suited me. With the row, not much time can be gained here so stay comfortable and use it as active recovery before the final push.”
Smooth is fast here. Bend your knees to keep your back flat when picking up the weights and drive up to stand. Pin your shoulders back, look straight forward and move with conviction.
Skillen says: “The final third can make or break your HYROX. Use this station to regather your thoughts and focus. If in a pair, communicate. Cover as much ground as you can before swapping to minimise time wasted in switching over.”
Lift the sandbag onto your upper back and keep your elbows high to open your lungs. Keeping your body upright, take a big step forward into a lunge. Bring your other foot forward to stand and continue into the next lunge.
Sandbach says: “This station will hurt. Dig deep and hold onto a thought in your head that will drive you through the pain. When swapping the sandbag with your partner, pass it over back-to-back so they don’t waste time heaving it back over their head.”
Last but not least are the dreaded wall balls. Hold the ball against your upper chest, lower into a squat with knees wide apart, then drive up forcefully and launch the ball to the target. Catch the ball with arms outstretched and cushion it against your chest as you lower into the next rep.
Sandbach says: “Before you start, take 5-10 seconds to calm yourself, then try and get through a big set, like 30+ in one go. If you drop the ball after this use the five second rule. The ball doesn’t stay on the floor longer than five seconds."
Words: Sam Rider
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