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5 Things I Learned From Completing a HYROX Simulation

Let’s start with some context.

I finished playing football 4 years ago and I can genuinely count on two hands the amount of kilometres I have run since then. My training over the past four years has looked like 4 X Olympic lifting sessions per week with some pull ups. On a rare occasion I’ll throw in some rows and core to keep my torso strong and on even rarer occasions (like 4-5 times a year I’ll do a 30-40 min piece of work on the rower.

My point is that cardiovascular fitness is not my thing.

HYROX is largely a test of your fitness, rather than your strength, so I’m off to a bad start. With the exception of a heavy sled push & pull there isn’t a huge strength element to the race. A couple of weeks ago I spotted that an affiliated gym in Bray was doing a Simulation, so I booked my spot and took my buddy and member Shane with me.

I wanted to see where I was at and if I needed to do much work in the lead up to Madrid at the end of October. Also, a few members asked if we would consider running a simulation of our own, so it was a good opportunity to see how it was all put together.

Now for more context, round about a year ago, Shane was running a sub 17 min 5km

He’s since transitioned to sprinting, with 60m, 200m & 400m being his preferred distances.Shane wouldn’t have the strength in the legs that I possess, but he would have a base of fitness that would take me 6-12 months to build, so it was going to be interesting to see how it played out..With all of that in mind, here are the key learnings from my experience.

1. Running is the key to a good time

There is nuance to this statement, but if you want to clock a good time, you simply have to be able to keep a decent pace on your runs. There are 8 X 1,000m runs. If you can take 20s of each one, that’s almost 3 min off your time. I fail to see how any 1, 2 or even 3 functional events offer up that much of a time saving.

I didn’t time any element of the race, but I estimate that I was running very close to 6:00/1000m pace. I did this for two reasons. The first was because I wasn’t fit enough to hold much of a higher pace and the second was that I had no idea how the functional events were going to impact my ability to keep a steady pace. I didn’t want to start fast and blow up halfway through after a few of the functional events. Plus, one of the guys hosting the event stressed not to go out fast. After the lunges I really felt like walking some of the subsequent run and I suspect that one was slower, but overall I feel like I did a decent job of pacing.

2. Sleds can ruin your race.

I’m lucky enough to have a decent strength base and I got through this OK. The pull was harder for me and the legs were heavy on the subsequent run but I did see some other people really struggle on these elements. Shane said he struggled here too.

The sled push & pull are the biggest tests of your strength and they are back to back (2 & 3) early on. If you struggle with these, I think you could be in for a world of pain for the rest of the race. As mentioned on the first point, running is key to a good time and I would advise strongly against letting your ego take over here. If you haven’t trained well for sleds or if strength is a weakness for you, I’d recommend taking them as an event that you want to get through instead of dominate.

3. It’s not one big race, it’s split into two main sections.

For me, with the sleds out of the way I will be pushing my pace a little more in Madrid. This, for me is the turning point and it’s a part of the race where I feel those with a better base of fitness can start reeling in the strong guys.

The order is: Run - Ski - Run - Sled Push - Run - Sled Pull.

My legs were feeling the sled work, but after they were done the strength element is largely done. Yes, there are leg sapping burpees, lunges and wall balls to come, but I feel like these are more of a mental challenge than a physical one. It’s basically how much pain you can endure and keep repping.

There is one big caveat here however; if you’ve not got at least a small bit of strength in your legs then these will be a greater strength test for you than me.

4. Row & Ski Smart

When fresh, I can probably row 1,000m in round about 3:30. That's a 1:45/500m pace, but I wouldn’t fancy running 1,000m after. I clocked 4:08 for my 1,000m row (2:04/500m) at the Sim and I don’t see myself going much, if any faster in Madrid.

This is a spot again where the  ego could take over, but I feel it would compromise your subsequent run and maybe the whole race. Going all out on the Ski and Row might buy you 30-60 sec, but I feel the risk to reward just isn’t there.

Ski & Row at a pace that is 80-90% of your ability and thank me when you don’t blow up

5. It’s a mental battle

This probably goes without saying, but you are going to be in a lot of pain at some (most?) stage of the race. But you know what? That’s OK. In fact, I welcomed it yesterday.

I used to pride myself on being pretty tough, but I feel I've lost that real teak toughness as I get older and have moved away from running and playing football.

The Simulation reminded me that I still have a good streak of toughness in me (and plenty of stubbornness too) and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. There’s nothing like digging in when the going gets tough.

Of course you’ll have that little voice inside your head telling you all sorts of things, but he’s very welcomed to fuck off!

If you accept that you’re going to struggle, going to be in a dark place and embrace it instead of fearing it, you’ll have a blast.

Closing comments

Myself and Shane clocked very similar times, but I feel like they were for very different reasons.

He started 15 mins before me, so I didn’t see much of him, but from his feedback he struggled with the bits that I found relatively easy and vice versa. Shane probably ran his kilometres 30 odd secs faster than me, but I made up for it on some of the other elements like the Sled Push & Pull and the Farmers Walk.

As I write this blogpost, the next day at 10:30am, I can say that I’ve not experienced DOMS like this in years and the body is very tired indeed. I’d like to say that I’ll put in some solid training between now and Oct, but my calendar is chocked full of weightlifting competitions and the two don’t compliment each other very well. If you're signed up we'll be putting on some sessions later in the year that will help you prepare, but for now, if you're not doing any running I'd recommend you add in a few session. Right now they don't need to be very structured as we're ages away from the event, but building that base early on will definitely pay dividends.

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