It’s an hour-long grind. A brutal suck fest. The hardest challenge Ryan Kent can imagine.
Oh, how he loves it.
“I just love seeing what the human body is capable of,” says Kent, who competed in the Hyrox World Championships in Vegas on May 14. Kent came in second to the reigning champ, Hunter McIntyre. Along the way, Kent did make a new world record, though. He’s now the 2022 Hyrox Sled Pull World Champion, at 3:31. The loss was tough. Especially after Kent won the Hyrox North American Championship in January, beating out McIntyre for that title.
The second-place pedestal is fuel for Kent. Not that he needs extra motivation – he's been competing in athletic events since age 4. But he says he thrives under the pressure of being the underdog. (If you can even call being one of the top athletes in the world an “underdog.”) “That motivates me more than anything. Earning the respect of my competition has always been a huge motivator for me,” Kent says. “For me to perform my best, I need to not put myself up on some sort of pedestal.” It keeps him humble and grounded, he says. And going against the best of the best gives him a tangible goal to aim for.
What is Hyrox?
Hyrox is a hybrid fitness race that blends running and strength movements. It’s big in Europe and just beginning to take off in the United States.
Unlike Spartan Races (Kent was also a Spartan Pro Team Athlete and has finished on the Spartan podium more than 50 times), every Hyrox race is identical. You know exactly what to train (and therefore how to objectively measure your progress), and it must be executed in a specific way. Each competitor has their own judge at every station.
A Hyrox Race is comprised of five miles of running, but every half mile, the athletes stop to perform an exercise – in the same order every time: a 1,000-meter ski erg; 50-meter 400-pound sled push; a 50-meter 300-pound sled pull; 80-meter burpee broad jump; a 1,000-meter row; a 200-meter farmer carry with 70 pounds in each hand; a 100-meter walking lunge with a 70-pound sandbag; and finally, 100 wall balls with a 20-pound wall ball.
“It’s fun, but it’s seriously one of the hardest events I’ve ever done,” Kent says.
His personal record is 57:45, which at the time was the second fastest Hyrox time ever. The average athlete takes 90 minutes to two hours to complete the course.
Kent’s forte is the sled push and pull; those are two of his strongest stations that tend to give him an advantage. But his favorite station is the walking lunges. Ultimately, what makes or breaks a Hyrox race is your endurance, Kent says. “People underestimate how much volume they need to put into training to prepare,” he says. “Going to the gym for 30 to 45 minutes or going on a 45-minute run is not going to cut it in these comps. That’s where people make a mistake: They either don’t train enough intensity or long enough.”
This isn’t an ordinary strength competition. There are no breaks between events. And you need to be just as strong in your strength as your cardio. Luckily, that’s Kent’s preference. He says he loves trail runs as much as he loves lifting weights. “I was really drawn to something like this, because it tests the ultimate athlete. Not just the fastest or strongest, but a blend of both,” he says.
A Lifelong Athlete
Kent wasn’t ready for his first Hyrox competition three years ago. A friend told him about the race, and Kent hopped into a meet with minimal training. “I got my butt whooped, but I knew if I put in the right training, I could do really well,” Kent says.
That’s incidentally how Kent got into Spartan Races, too. He was out at a bar when I friend showed him a video of a Spartan Race. Kent signed up to compete a few weeks later – and got schooled.
There’s a theme here,” he says with a laugh. “But I’m a stubborn person. I know I can be good at something if I devote the time and have a good training plan.”
And he was right. In 2015, he was named Spartan Race Rookie of the Year. By 2017, he got second place at the 2017 Spartan Race US Championships, fourth at nationals, and sixth at worlds. He earned third place at the Spartan Games in both 2020 and 2021. In addition, he also holds a DEKA FIT world record (the decathlon of functional fitness).
Sports have always been in Kent's blood. He grew up in an athletic household, with a dad who ran marathons. Kent ran his first 5K when he was 4 and his first half-marathon at 7. He competed in track and field and cross-country in the Junior Olympics, and he took his running all the way to college with a scholarship.
Today, Kent is the role model -- for his own 1-year-old son. Of all of Kent’s achievements, that’s what he’s most proud of: winning the North American championships in January while working full-time as a delivery driver and being a new father. He woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to train before work. “I had to work harder than I’ve ever had to work in my entire life, and it paid off,” he says. “Winning that event was super rewarding, knowing the amount of focus and dedication I had to have. It was another level I didn’t even know I could do.”
Curious About Hyrox?
Want to try a Hyrox Race? Maybe don’t jump in unprepared. Kent suggests signing up with a friend or family member as a team. In a team, both competitors must complete the full run, but they can break up the stations in any way they want.
“The team race is a pretty cool component to the event and a great way to get your feet wet, because it’s a super hard race. It’s easy to just get out there and be halfway through and feel like you’re over it,” Kent says. “But if you’re out with a friend and the fatigue sets in, you have help.”