What It Takes to Win Your Age Group at HYROX

52-year-old Ken Rideout talks four weeks of training, dreaded wall balls and victory in NYC

June 28, 2024 2:09 pm
A split image showing Ken Rideout racing and winning at HYROX.
With only a month to train, Rideout somehow charted a course to the podium.
Courtesy of Ken Rideout

Fitness-wise, Ken Rideout has been in his share of scraps. When we were putting together The Globetrotting Guidebook earlier this year — a user-friendly guide in which dozens of runners nominated their all-time favorite running routes — Rideout’s entry stood out for its intensity. He submitted a 48-miler through the Central Mongolian desert, one part of the notorious Gobi March footrace.

With that in mind, I wouldn’t have expected a fitness trend like HYROX to throw Rideout for much of a loop. And maybe, in a way, it didn’t. He started training just four weeks ahead of the event’s recent New York City installment, and at the crisp age of 52, managed to finish first in his age group.

But to hear him tell it, HYROX did bring him to that physical-mental brink. It’s evidence that the ascendant series — which sees athletes race through eight grueling functional fitness exercises, each one interspersed with a 1,000-meter run — is difficult for even some of the world’s most battle-tested endurance athletes.

Rideout calls HYROX’s potential “astronomical.” We caught up with him to debrief about his first event, and scored some awesome B-roll from the race.

InsideHook: What prompted the sign-up just four weeks before the event? Had you heard about HYROX before that point? 

Ken Rideout: I had heard of HYROX in passing, but was not familiar, at all, with the exercises involved. I love the idea of challenging myself, physically and mentally. Once I learned more about the competition, it just resonated with me and made me feel a little intimidated…which is what really got my attention to sign up.

It seems like your fitness base carried over really well. But did you train differently in the month before the race, in order to be extra prepared?

While my overall fitness was decent, the intensity and strength components of HYROX were all new to me. I immediately ordered all of the equipment used in the HYROX events and started doing race simulations. To say I was sore would be a huge understatement. I was destroyed. Every morning for the month prior to the race I struggled just to get out of bed. However, I definitely started getting stronger, quickly. It was the most intense month of training I’d put in…in ages. After three weeks of my training my eight-year-old son said to me, “Dad, you’re getting muscles!” I knew then that I was on the right track.

What was your strongest event at HYROX? And what did you struggle with (if anything)? 

The running was definitely my biggest strength, and the wall balls were, by far, my biggest weakness. I sucked at the wall balls, but I plan on getting much better.

Did you come into the race with a specific strategy?

I came into the event knowing that pacing would be critical, so I tried to avoid putting in massive short-term efforts early in the race. As for equipment, I wore Reebok’s latest high-performance running shoe, the FloatZig 1. They’re lightweight and supportive, a perfect mix to wear for a HYROX competition.

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Did anything surprise you about the race? 

I was shocked at the number of people in attendance at the event, and I was very surprised with how crowded the actual run course was. I spent a lot of time and effort trying to weave through slower athletes. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was the same challenge for everyone…so no excuse there.

You’ve tackled some serious fitness challenges all over the world. In terms of a mental challenge, how did HYROX stack up?

HYROX was legit. It was exactly like any other significant fitness challenge I’ve attempted. I always go into these physical challenges with a ton of anxiety and high expectations. It’s what motivates me to train and prepare. I have to bring that “win or die trying” mentality to every race to get the most out of myself.

The founders of HYROX have publicly discussed their desire to elevate these races to the popularity of marathons. Do you think this sort of setup has the potential to scale like that? Is there anything you would change about the race, having gone through it? 

The potential for HYROX is astronomical! It was so hard, but so rewarding. Unlike the monotony of marathon training, HYROX provides a diverse whole-body workout, and incorporates all the components of a healthy lifestyle: endurance and strength training. Only thing I’d like to see change is perhaps spread out the heats over two days, so there are less athletes on the run course at the same time. But I understand and appreciate the logistical challenges that would present.

As a competitive athlete over the age of 50, what steps do you take to stay motivated and take care of your body? 

At some point in the past few years I came to the realization that I’m on the back nine of life. This ride is going to be over at some point. I want to maintain a healthy lifestyle for as long as possible, and if competing in physical challenges provides the motivation to keep training with intention, then I plan on being in the arena throwing down and taking on all challengers for as long as physically possible. In terms of taking care of my body, I try to use common sense. I obviously work out, a lot, I eat a fairly healthy diet and I take sleep very seriously. 

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