It’s the fastest growing fitness activity in the world so Kerry Potter limbers up with the Hyrox huns at her gym to find out why
Everyone I know seems to be talking about Hyrox. The fitness endurance race, which blends short runs and the kind of fitness movements you find in many gym workouts, launched in Germany in 2017 with one event and 650 participants. Now it’s in 17 countries across the world, with more than 120,000 due to take part in 65 events over the next year. The appeal is that it consists of exercises that anyone can do - you don't need to be a distance runner or a weight lifter to join and it's as competitive as you want it to be. But, warning: it can be seriously addictive.
My friend Corienne Burns has just returned from competing in her first Hyrox competition at London Olympia, alongside 12,000 other fitness fans and spectators. “It was amazing. The atmosphere is incredible, and you feel like you’re superhuman,” she smiles, proudly showing me the above photo of her and competition partner Amy elatedly crossing the finish line. “I’ve been going to the gym for four years but, having trained for Hyrox, I’ve never been fitter. At 45, it’s showed me that I’m not over the hill yet, it’s been great for my confidence. I feel totally evangelical about it – and usually I’m a pretty cynical person.”
At my own strength-training gym, Powerhouse Performance Club in Oxfordshire, it's all anyone's been talking about. They sent a contingent of 35 – of all genders, ages, sizes and fitness levels – to the Olympia competition, having run bootcamp training sessions in the preceding months. “The great thing about it is that it’s so inclusive,” says Powerhouse co-founder and PT Liam Louth. “Anyone can do the training, and anyone can do the competition, unlike more extreme events like Spartan races or marathons.”
What is Hyrox?
“We wanted to create a competition that is accessible and replicates exactly what people were already doing in the gym,” says Hyrox co-founder Christian Toetzke, a 50-year-old German who’s previously worked in cycling, marathon and triathlon events. He created Hyrox with German hockey player Moritz Furste six years ago.
The Hyrox format is exactly the same, wherever in the world you take part, and involves eight 1k runs interspersed with eight different functional fitness movements. These are designed to be straightforward, natural and not requiring any specific skills “so anyone who walked in off the street can do them,” says Toetzke. “We specifically avoided anything that didn’t fit into that category, so you won’t see handstand walks or Olympic lifting.”
What are the 8 Hyrox movements?
Each is preceded by a 1km run around the competition arena:
- 1000m on a ski erg machine
- 50m sled push
- 50m sled pull
- 80m burpee broad jumps (a long jump followed by a burpee – as evil as they sound)
- 1000m on a rowing machine
- 200m farmer’s carry (you walk carrying a kettlebell – say 20kg – in each hand)
- 100m sandbag lunges (lunge walking with a sandbag slung across your shoulders)
- 75 or 100 wall balls (you throw a weighted ball – say 6kg - to a set height mark on a wall)
How hard is Hyrox?
Well, that depends how hard you want to push yourself and if you’re chasing a specific time (the fastest ever time by a woman is 58 minutes 58 seconds). You can compete solo, or as a pair or even do it as a relay, to spread the load.
“Part of the appeal for me is that everyone is good at some bits but less good at other bits,” says Rob Hobson, sports nutritionist and Get The Gloss contributor, who, like Corienne, popped his Hyrox cherry at Olympia recently. “I watched one big, beefy guy flatlining trying to do the burpees but then he pulled the sled so easily.” There really is something for everyone.
How do you train for Hyrox?
An increasing number of gyms (including mine) are now Hyrox-affiliated. If yours isn’t, try badgering them into signing up. Affiliated gyms will run specific training sessions. I haven’t competed but still really enjoy my gym’s Hyrox boot camps in the months running up to the competitions.
Rob Hobson isn’t a member of a Hyrox gym but booked a private session with a PT who’s familiar with the competition. “He showed me how to pull and push a sled properly. I’d recommend doing a session like this at the beginning of your training, so you understand the best techniques,” says Rob.
Corienne advises not being blasé about the 1km runs – they don’t sound much but when they’re sandwiched between exhausting burpee broad jumps, they can be a challenge. “Your usual casual 5k run isn’t enough to get you through,” she warns. “It’s best to do some interval training.”
Hyrox vs Crossfit?
Hyrox is more accessible than CrossFit, the famous fitness workout which also holds competitions, because the latter involves more complex skills (e.g Olympic weightlifting). Also, Crossfit workouts are never the same, with an emphasis placed on variety, whereas with Hyrox you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. It feels different culturally too. Friends who’ve done both report that Hyrox attracts a more diverse, lower-key crowd than Crossfit competitions – fewer musclebound poseurs with their tops off, basically.
What’s next for Hyrox?
Christian Toetzke has big plans – he points out that 50 percent of people who exercise cite fitness/ going to their gym as their main sport, but until recently there have been no competitions catering to this huge cohort, unlike, say, running or tennis. So, there’s a huge untapped market there.
Hyrox is currently expanding into Australia and Dubai, with South East Asia and Latin America next on the hit list, plus a collaboration with a global shoe brand to create an official Hyrox trainer. “What shoes should I wear is the most common question we’re asked,” says Toetzke.
And could even a slot in the Olympics be a possibility? Toetzke points out that triathlon was introduced to the Games in 2000, and is now a huge, mass-participation sport. I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.
Meanwhile the next UK Hyrox competition is 23 October at Birmingham NEC, although if you want to try before you buy, you can get spectator tickets for the pro world championships in Manchester on 26 May. Safe to say, Corienne, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator, will definitely be back.