A new fitness craze with high drama

The men on the starting line at Berlin’s Hyrox in April practically hummed with nervous enthusiasm. A few dozen runners, part of a morning heat, stood watching the steady tick-tock of a five-minute countdown, which was displayed on a huge television. Dramatic string music played on small format speakers. A booming voice gave a rallying cry, This is the moment you’ve been training for! The lights were shining. The spectators applauded.

For the founders of the Hyrox fitness race, Christian Toetzke, 55, and Moritz Furste, 39, this kind of kitsch spectacle was always part of the plan. The original brief, when they presented the race in Hamburg, Germany in 2017, was to create an event that was a 200,000-euro (about $214,000) production that looks like a 2,000,000-euro ($2,144,000) production, he said Furst.

Hyrox’s modern entertainment and lighting effects create a very special feeling, said Toetzke, who hopes it will create a new proposition for mass participation events.

A Hyrox run combines running with a variety of functional fitness moves, such as squats, weighted lunges, and burpee broad jumps. It takes about 90 minutes to complete, on average, although elite runners can finish in less than an hour. Racing has grown in popularity since the end of the pandemic, with more than 175,000 people expected to take part in the more than 60 races that Hyrox has organized by 2024. Races in its most popular markets, including the UK, are ‘they sold out a few minutes after going. for sale.

Hyrox isn’t the first fitness race to come out of nowhere and gain a cult following. What sets it apart from modes like Tough Mudder and Spartan, according to Hyrox fans, is its athletic simplicity.

Tough Mudder and Spartan are an experience that has a sports aspect to them, said Hunter McIntyre, 34, a full-time fitness runner who holds the world record at Hyrox. Hyrox is a sport that is an experience. When Mr. McIntyre was telling people he was doing a Tough Mudder, it was almost embarrassing, he said. Now, when he tells people he makes Hyrox, there’s a level of respect, he said.

Usually when you ask someone if they’ve done a Tough Mudder, it’s like they’re going with their office, and they’re taking pictures and wearing funny outfits, McIntyre said, whereas Hyrox, he added, is really a sport.

As a sport, Hyrox draws heavily on CrossFit, including the equipment it uses. Erg skis and rowing machines, kettlebells, ropes and weighted sleds are common fixtures at CrossFit gyms. Some Hyrox moves, such as the wall ball throw, were created by CrossFit, although CrossFit workouts only use these moves occasionally, following founder Greg Glassmans ethos of functional fitness constantly varied high intensity.

Mr. Toetzke said he and Mr. Furste held a Hyrox format workshop at CrossFit gyms prior to the race presentation. He added that while trying CrossFit himself, he thought it was a little too much, a little too hard, too many injuries.

CrossFit involves many gymnastic skills and complex Olympic lifts, which can be difficult to master and, for some, dangerous to learn. Hyrox has avoided these types of techniques and stuck to simple moves that Toetzke says are very difficult to get wrong in a way that can hurt your body. Despite or perhaps because of the similarities between the sports, Hyrox has deliberately positioned itself as the safer and more accessible alternative.

Look, I honestly think they’re smart to try to capitalize on that, CrossFits CEO Don Faul said in response to those claims. When you try to enter a new space, you define yourself against the incumbent, the company that has defined the category. We’ve seen a variety of people in the fitness space trying to take the same angle.

Mr. Faul, 47, a former squadron commander in the U.S. Marines, said the apparent difference in accessibility between CrossFit and Hyrox is really just a difference in perception.

The vast majority of people in our gyms are everyday people, not elite athletes, he said, adding that people walking into a CrossFit gym for the first time might be incredibly surprised by its welcome and accessibility.

While many local CrossFit gyms host their own events, the only face-to-face competition the company hosts is its annual CrossFit Games, which is for a handful of elite athletes and aims to crown the fittest of the world This is another reason why CrossFitters often join Hyrox. It offers the opportunity to test your fitness live.

While it’s hard to say exactly how much overlap there is between CrossFit and Hyrox, Chris Hinshaw, a 60-year-old trainer who coaches athletes in both sports, said most people who are joining Hyrox started out CrossFit. Many of the runners on the Hyrox podiums are also elite CrossFit stars, such as Mal OBrien and Mirjam von Rohr, two of the best CrossFitters in the world.

Hyrox claims to have over 2,500 affiliated gyms worldwide, where athletes can train for public races. Mr. Toetzke and Mr. Furste initially told The New York Times that about 10 percent of those affiliates were also CrossFit gyms. In Berlin, 16 of the 18 listed on Hyrox’s website also offered CrossFit classes. When asked for clarification, Hyrox revised its estimate to 22 percent. Mr. Faul said that while CrossFit doesn’t track the number, he would be surprised if it was that low.

Mr. Furste seemed annoyed at having to broach the subject of CrossFits influence on Hyrox. I absolutely do not like this conversation, he said. We don’t want to take anything away from them. We love the training methodology. But in the end, apart from functional training, it has nothing to do with us.

Each sport seems to benefit from the other. Mr. Hinshaw, the trainer, said Hyrox and CrossFit are truly a perfect match, noting that offering both sports is a great way for a gym owner to increase member retention. A lot of people think they’re competitive with each other, and that’s not true at all, he said. By the nature of who these athletes are, they are always chasing the new shiny object.

The question now is whether Hyrox can hold on or even continue to grow as the flush of novelty wears off. It could also, like CrossFit, deepen intensity while reducing appeal: it can inspire passion but the passion of the devoted few.

Mr. Toetzke doesn’t think so. I don’t see the risk of it becoming a sport only for committed people, he said. We are looking for the success, longevity and sustainability of the marathon.

To become as popular as the marathon, of course, is a pretty lofty ambition for an organization with events that are a fraction of the size of a marathon. (Hyrox New York, which takes place on June 1, will have less than 10 percent of the participants of the New York Marathons.) But that is, in the long run, the goal.

We really think that’s the potential, said Mr. Toetzke.

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Image Source : www.nytimes.com

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