How to Win HYROX!

HYROX is coined “The World Series of Fitness,” but fitness is such a broad term. At the end of the day, this exhibition of human performance is a strength and endurance race overflowing with adrenaline and unmatched production value. Seriously, the race director and production team know how to put on a show, but the competitive grit shown by the sport’s top contenders is 100% real! 

photo from THE HYROX STORY

So, what does it take to win HYROX? We asked HYROX World Champion, Kris Rugloski, to give us a broad overview and station-by-station breakdown of the event.


The HYROX format consists of 8 fitness stations separated by a 1km lap between each station. Any semi-serious athlete can eek their way through most of the stations; but if you want to get through it all, you have to show up prepared to out endure your competition.

Kris:  "That's how I got it done at Worlds. My endurance engine carried me." 

Transitions are also important. In other words, don't go full throttle at one station only to walk to the next one. Stay moving!

photos by WILL RAYMOND

Kris: "I view the kilometer run between stations as an opportunity to recover. That doesn't mean I'm not running. I'm pacing myself, but I'm still pushing. The goal is to show up with your running so dialed in that you can move uncomfortably fast while still breathing and lowering your heartrate."  



photos by WILL RAYMOND

Some stations rely entirely on strength and endurance. Station 1: SkiErg also demands technique. No matter how tough you are, top finishers will have logged at least some time on similar ski machines before trying to tackle 1,000 meters on race day. 

Kris: "I'm not a power athlete, but I found it just made a huge difference the more time I spent on the skis."

Kris adds that you might not feel like running after this first station, but you must. Let this run set the tone for all of your future transitions. Remember, running requires an entire different muscle group than what you just exhausted on the skis. You don't have to redline, but trust your training, and push yourself to run uncomfortably fast.


photos by WILL RAYMOND

These sleds are not kids' toys. They are programmed to resist every inch that you try to budge them. Station 2: Sled Push favors the power lifters and anyone sporting some mass. However, that just means you mean but lean athletes have to be smart and use everything you've got.

Kris: "One of the biggest things that I find helps is to hook the sled handles in my elbows (instead of extended arms) so that I can get my body closer to the weight and have more leverage for pushing it."

Kris went on to tell us how important good shoe traction is during this event.

Kris: "It's super important. I used to use a minimalist shoes with decent size lugs, and I thought they did well. Now, I wear Altra Rivera race shoes that have fairly flat, rubbery soles. Those work great! The more rubber actually making contact with the ground, the better." 


photos by WILL RAYMOND

Station 3: Sled Pull is different from the Sled Push in that competitors will not travel with the sled. Instead, you have a limited amount of space at the end of the lane in which you will stand as you use the thick rope to pull the attached sled towards yourself. 

Kris: "I am absolutely using my entire bodyweight, and I'm just using my arms to hold the rope. So, I walk to the front of the 6' safe zone, grab the rope, and walk it back. I just keep doing that over and over, because I'm not making much headway if I try just pulling the rope hand-over-hand."  
It's important to remember here that Kris has found the routine that works best for her build. You may find that you can just plant yourself and do all of the pulling with your arms. That's an example of working hard, but is it working smart? By allowing your entire body to share the pull, you'll leave more in the tank for the next station.
Oh, and the run after sleds is going to suck. Push through it. You may be halfway through your lap before your legs stop feeling like Jell-O. 


Like Kris, many HYROX athletes come to the sport with experience in obstacle course racing and, specifically, Spartan Race, where burpees are commonplace. However, Station 4: Burpee Broad Jump manages to make an already difficult movement harder. 
Kris: "Stay low to the ground. If you stand up tall, you'll have to cover all of that distance coming back down. Also, be mindful that you're jumping forward and not just jumping up." 
Jumping forward may sound like common sense, but it's easy to lose focus in the moment and resort to doing burpees like we typically do at other races or during training. 
Kris gave one more really great tip concerning the Burpee Broad Jump. 
Kris: "Stepping the burpee in rather than jumping in (after the push up) is less jarring and gives your legs a rest. This also reserves the power in your legs for jumping forward." 
This is really a great tip that few people utilize. Perhaps people think taking two separate steps takes a lot more time than the one jump. However, if you're saving your legs while also getting more distance per jump, you should finish the station faster with less leg exhaustion.


Perfecting Station 5: Rowing requires technique. Think rhythm and reps. Much like the SkiErg, practicing good form in advance can only work in your favor. If you haven't worked on the rower before, enlist an experienced trainer to help get you started for full body movement not overloading your legs or back but letting them share the load in a fluid movement. 
Kris adds that rowing can be somewhat of a mental exercise.  
Kris: "Because the row is less weight, impact, or whatever and more about the long game, it can seem to drag on. Before you get into, "Will this ever end" mode, get out of your head. Appreciate the movement as recovery reps - all while fighting to keep your rhythm." 


We've seen Kris dominate the Station 6 | Farmers Carry at GORUCK Games and other competitive events. It plays to her OCR and Ninja background relying on incredible grip strength. However, Kris says it's not just how long you can hold the weight or how quickly you move with it; it's very much about posture and how you carry it. 
Kris: "A lot of people, whether they mean to or not, hunch their backs during the Farmers Carry. I find a tall, straight back helps you carry the weight in your shoulders, which is better for longevity.  That said, I move fast while keeping my kettle bells as calm as possible. Any unnecessary time or swinging will bite you as you feel more and more of the weight. Keep it calm, but move fast." 
Kris went on to tell us that the key to moving fast while keeping heavy kettlebells stationary and not working against you or banging your shins is keep your legs slightly bent and move with a quick shuffle rather than trying to run outright.    


photos by WILL RAYMOND

Okay. There are only two zones left, but they are brutal! Your legs have already been pushed to the max, but you are just now entering the heart of the pain cave... Station 7 | Sandbag Lunges.

Kris: "Weighted, walking lunges will eat your legs up. I guess it's the lactic acid. After that one, I feel like my quads are on fire! Even though each step is a lunge, I think it helps to do a mini-reset between steps. For instance, when you're in the lunge position and ready to bring your back foot forward, pause and stand for the slightest second when your feet get side-by-side before extending that foot into the forward lunge." 

Don't hear what Kris isn't saying. You absolutely cannot take any steps between lunges - not even if they're tiny. Kris is simply saying don't stride all the way through your lunges. Think "stride-together-stride." It's just a mini-pause or balance check providing enough relief to keep going. You're still going to hurt when it's over, but you will get through this.

Kris: "I count them as I go just to keep my mind occupied, and it's about 100 lunges." 

Correction that's 100 WEIGHTED lunges (44 lbs. for women; 66 lbs. for men). Told you this was going to hurt!


You might be tempted to do a light jog to this final stage. DON'T DO IT! Remember, we're talking about what it takes to WIN HYROX, not just finish. 
Kris: "It's not a question of 'do I run or do I recover.' Every run is a recovery run. Running itself is a recovery compared to what happens in each station."
And what happens in this final zone demands every last ounce of strength, focus, and determination. Station 8 | Wall Balls.
Kris: "Some people try to do 100 unbroken. Some knock out sets of 10, 20, or 30 at a time. I've tried it both ways, and for me, I think 25 to 30 at a time is perfect. The key is you have to decide ahead of time that your break is not really a break. It's like drop the ball, take a step back, breathe, and then, you just have to step back in and go."
She will take 2 maybe 3 breaks; but as Kris knows she's on the final stretch, she pushes through the last 30 to 35 unbroken. 
Then, there's the questions of stance and motion. A wide stance will help you get your butt low - think deep squat (less than 90°). The judges may even pull out a bucket to make sure you're low enough. Good hip and ankle mobility will help with your depth as well. 
"Kris: It's also important to keep your hands in front of your face and catch the ball within the face-to-chest rage. A lot of people let it fall all the way to their gut or lower. I keep it right at my face so that I'm squatting in a fluid motion with the fall of the ball. That way, you can just spring up from your squat so that your momentum is doing most of the tossing. I feel like I'm just barely tapping the ball back up to the required height."
Kris' approach allows the ball to travel the minimum distance required. Don't go unnecessarily high or low, and don't hold the ball longer than needed.  


We asked Kris for her most universal suggestion for everyone with dreams of winning HYROX - regardless of where they're starting. 

Kris: "I think the best thing anyone can do is try to replicate the actual stations. It's not enough to know you're fast or that you're strong. How many wall balls can you do? How fast can you do them?"

Kris makes an excellent point. HYROX isn't like the CrossFit Games where the organizers pride themselves on keeping athletes in the dark until showtime. Participants know exactly what exercises and how many reps. So, now it's all about getting better and faster.

 photos by WILL RAYMOND

Kris: "Don't neglect your running, but don't obsess about it either. Instead, get a feel for each station. Most people probably don't have the ability to replicate the entire race, but you can practice what it feels like to run before and after weighted lunges or farmers carry. Again, the standard is well published. So, show up already knowing what each station should feel like." 

Want to know more about the new sport of fitness racing? Be sure to check out The HYROX Story (documentary).

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