While runners have plenty of races to train for, there aren’t as many target events for the average gym-goer. Functional fitness competition HYROX looks set to change that. It’s building on its popularity on continental Europe by expanding in the US and UK, and the number of people taking part in its events is on track to more than double this year from 35,000 racers to as many as 90,000.
A HYROX event has a straightforward format: racers take on eight 1km runs alternating with eight exercises, such as a 50m sled push or 100 wall balls. Unlike the elite-level CrossFit Games, which require a mastery of technical barbell lifts, HYROX has been designed to be accessible for all fitness levels.
The buzz around the brand is hard to miss on social media. With sell-out events all over the world, you only have to do a quick scroll through TikTok (where the hashtag #hyrox has racked up an impressive three million views) to see just how popular it is.
Like any other endurance event, training is crucial and there are now 550 HYROX-affiliated gyms worldwide, promising to get people into peak shape ahead of competing. So what exactly happens at an HYROX gym and should you join one? We spoke to Darren Forder, founder of Forder’s Gym in Birmingham, to find out.
What does a HYROX gym offer?
With an emphasis on HIIT, HYROX-affiliated gyms focus on the right balance of cardiovascular fitness and strength endurance to help people head into the race as well-rounded athletes.
“We have a year-round programme with different training phases that run in line with the HYROX events,” says Forder, whose gym started offering HYROX classes last year. “We tailor the training so you’re constantly building and improving low-skill, big movements that require lots of practice, to improve your finishing time. Ahead of an event, we ramp up from base training to a race preparation phase to help you see results.”
In the Birmingham gym, racers take one or two HYROX-specific classes each week alongside two of the gym’s existing strength classes. “In the sessions, we’ll simulate the event format so people can practise the movements and have a rough ‘personal best’ time to aim for at the race,” says Forder. “We mix up the races with sessions that focus on building aerobic capacity so training doesn’t ever get repetitive.”
What are the sessions like?
Some HYROX-affiliated gyms like Forder’s design their own workouts, while others use the brand’s official four-week training programme. A typical HYROX workout involves a 15-minute run, row and SkiErg warm-up. The session is then split into two parts: a full-body workout and a core-focused finisher.
An example workout involves completing four rounds of a 30-second kettlebell farmer's walk followed by a 30-second rest. This is followed by a 15-minute AMRAP round consisting of a 200m run, 15 wall balls, another 200m run, a 25m sled push, a 200m run and 15 more wall balls.
Finally, the session wraps up with a killer abs blast. This could be either 50 sit-ups without rest or 30 bird-dog crunches per leg.
- Can you complete this HYROX workout in under 30 minutes?
What are the benefits of joining a HYROX gym?
While you can train for HYROX in any commercial gym, the big appeal of joining an affiliated gym is that you meet other competitors. “It can get lonely when you’re running on the track alone,” says Forder. “We have around 80 people on our programme and there’s a real sense of community here. We travel together to HYROX events and cheer each other on from the sidelines. Having that support definitely helps on the day.”
One member of the Forder’s HYROX programme, Peter Ke, who is 62, says that being on the programme has “really improved” his muscle strength, which has helped him on the stations at the event.
“Since HYROX training, my times have improved. In Birmingham last year I completed the men’s singles event in one hour and 36 minutes. In the summer, I did it in one hour 19. I put that down to strategically training hard on the programme.”
Forder says that joining a programme can give you a goal to work towards. If you tend to wax and wane with motivation, having a purpose (and some healthy competition) can inspire a higher level of consistency.
It can make training for the events less of a headache too. “Most of the time, people come to us because they just want to get to know the HYROX equipment,” says Forder. “Our sessions take a lot of the planning out of training solo. Here, you turn up and everything’s ready and laid out for you.”
The programme pushes you out of your comfort zone too. “I’m fairly strict. If you’re joining us and doing the training, I expect to see you on the podium,” Forder says.
“People often need that encouragement to sign up for their first event. HYROX is the biggest thing most of our members have achieved in a fitness or sporting environment - it takes a bit of bravery to throw yourself into it.”
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Liz Connor is an experienced journalist based in London, UK. She writes features on various aspects of health, nutrition, fitness and wellbeing. Her career has spanned working as the health and wellbeing editor at news and features agency PA Media, and has written for titles including The Independent, National Geographic Traveller, British GQ, ELLE, Yahoo, MSN and Stylist magazine.