How Becca Mason became the best Hyrox athlete in the UK
Becca Mason is the top female Hyrox athlete in the UK. From her first race in Birmingham in 2021, she has consistently improved her performance. In 2022, she was the Hyrox world champion in the 35-39 age group. Last year, she qualified for the Elite 15, racing against the sport's best athletes. In December, she finished the Hyrox race in Stockholm in 1:03, securing her place in the 2024 Hyrox World Championship.
The Hybrid Letter spoke with Becca about the tactics she has used to get faster, her mindset when things get really hard, and how she has managed to become an elite athlete while balancing a busy life as a mom and fitness trainer.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Hybrid Letter: How did you get started with hybrid fitness and Hyrox?
Becca Mason: I’ve always been involved in sports my whole life. I was an elite gymnast from the age of five up until I was eighteen. I competed at World Championships. I’ve always been in sports, in training, and that dedication that goes alongside all of that.
I left gymnastics when I was 18 due to injury, and I became a sports coach. I did my personal training qualifications. I worked with kids in primary schools.
After I had my two children, I started to look at mommy fitness and getting myself fit again. I started doing some running, and then I found OCR. We had a couple of obstacle course events just for fun, and I absolutely loved them. I joined an obstacle course club. And then we got locked down. COVID happened.
The club was running online workout sessions. Just things to try to keep us motivated each week. And they started to introduce some Hyrox training. I had never heard of Hyrox before. And Hyrox actually started running online Zoom classes every Thursday night and built a Facebook community. And then Hyrox did the virtual World Championships. And I was involved with that as well.
When Hyrox was able to run their events again, I entered their Birmingham event which was two years ago now. I had no clue what I’d really kind of let myself in for. I hadn’t really trained on a sled or done a full event before. I just blocked up to that first Birmingham event and had a go. The rest is history, really. I loved it. It was nothing like I’d ever done before. And I got a coach and kind of jumped in with two feet.
THL: Over the last two years, you've been able to continually improve your times. Your last race, the major in Stockholm, was also your best time (1:03) and qualified you for this year's World Championship. What are some of the key drivers that have allowed you to keep getting better?
BM: So when I first started, I only entered into a women's open, and I didn’t even make podium. The main thing that I’ve really had to work on is my running. I don’t have a running background. A lot of the other athletes are high-level track athletes. And they are all really, really good runners. It’s literally taken me two years to really improve and get my running together. The things that I’ve been strong on are the components. I am strong. I’ve got that athletic background as a gymnast. I'’ve got a muscular physique and exposure to competition. I’ve had that since a young age.
We’re really lucky in Hyrox that as soon as we finish, we’ve got all the data. I do like looking at data. I will go through and look at my data and Lauren [Week]’s or Meg [Jacoby]’s or my previous race and figure out what I need to work on. I am very specific in my training and how I want to improve.
THL: Running is half the race and something a lot of people really need to work on. What has moved the needle for you in terms of your running fitness?
BM: To start with more compromised running and speed work. Just getting used to being able to run, particularly after the sleds, in a highly aerobic state. That was really kind of where we focused during the first year or so. Over the last year, it’s been very much about increasing my running volume. I have probably doubled that now compared to what I was doing this time last year. It’s been a very gradual thing. Now, I'm doing various longer threshold runs. Being able to work at threshold for five, six, seven, or eight minutes with minimum rest and then go at it again.
I’m probably around 60 kilometers (37 miles) a week. I was nowhere near that when I first started. I don’t think technically my body would have been able to take it. It's definitely something I’ve had to build up over the last couple of years.
THL: Is there a particular station that you’ve been able to improve on significantly?
BM: I would say the sled pull and rowing. They were two of the areas where I didn’t feel completely comfortable. And I’ve done a lot of strength work around the sled pull. Now I feel like I can go in and attack it. A lot of people go in and just sit back on it and go quite slow. My tactic is to go in and just really grind away and keep moving and keep working that sled.
I’ve also had some row coaching. I am 5’2 on a good day, so the ergs can be quite tricky. I have to really work hard. I haven’t got some of the power that the taller girls have. So I went in and had some row coaching because I found that it was a really pivotal point in a Hyrox race. It’s midway. I feel that when you are coming into the row, sometimes you can lose momentum because you sat down. It's a bit boring, really. It seems to take forever. I certainly don’t use it as a rest, like some people would say. Having some row coaching, working out what stroke rate is best for me, the damper setting, that kind of thing. And I think mentally going in knowing that I’ve had that support, that training, those drill techniques has really helped.
THL: So you’ve qualified for the Hyrox World Championships. Where do you think is the best opportunity for you to improve now?
BM: I ran my best race in Stockholm. I knew that when I stood on that start line, I needed to go all out to get one of those spots. And I found that by the end of the race, I was absolutely gassed. I had given it my all before the wall balls. I nearly lost my spot because I just had very little left. I’m working a lot now on my aerobic capacity. I've upped my volume over strength work. I’m just doing strength maintenance now. Whereas my time running and time on the ergs, I’m doing almost double sessions now. Just to increase my aerobic capacity so I can continue to push towards the end of the race.
THL: You just described how exhausted you felt before the wall balls in Stockholm. But you managed to get it done. Where do you go mentally at that point? What are your tactics to push through?
BM: You’ve got to go there in training. For me is to make sure that I am really kind of pushing myself — not every training session — but go into that dark place. But at least once a week having a really hard session that I know I can then draw into. And I remember running around and coming in and going, "I've trained for this, I’ve done more than 100 wall balls at the end of a really hard session." I also count. I will say in my head, "I’m going to get to 50 and see how I feel at 50. I’m not breaking till 50." It is kind of that one more rep mentality. Come on! You can do this. You've got one more in you.
THL: You’ve done a couple of majors this year and raced with the other Elite women. Have you picked up on anything? Have you adjusted the way you race?
BM: 100% I have. My first elite race was in Maastricht, which was a year ago, it was the European Championships. I didn’t feel confident enough to stand on the start line with them. I was right at the back. I was almost like let them go, and I'm just going to see where I'm at. I felt a little more competent at Worlds in Manchester. I felt the support from the crowd because it was in Manchester. I did have very little to lose. I was the underdog. I was just excited to be there. Whereas now I feel like I can stand up with them and I can go with them. My whole mentality around racing has completely changed. I also know that I have been better in the past the second half of the race. So if I stay with them the first half and then again, build on the second half. That is going to keep me up in the rankings.
THL: There are a lot of non-elite competitors who, like you, have to balance their training with a lot of other responsibilities. How do you stay consistent in your training while still being sensitive to your obligations to your work and family?
BM: I think it is really important to have a really good support network. And to be really clear with everybody and say: "These are my goals. I’m going all in, and I need your support." I’m very lucky that my partner completely understands that I need to be up at 5 AM and be out training. And the children as well, they see the amount of time that I spend on training,. They know it makes me happy and I enjoy doing it. I’ve got these goals that I want to achieve. I think if I didn't have their support it would be a lot more difficult.
THL: You mentioned you have some of your clients training for Hyrox. What are some of the common mistakes that you see people make during a Hyrox race?
BM: Not setting themselves up for success beforehand. I know that when the course map comes out on Wednesday, I will study it. I will look exactly where everything is, where the in and the out is, how many laps there are. And I will go through and visualize the race in my head so that when I’m stepping into the Hyrox arena, it’s almost like I’ve been there before, it’s all happened. I think that is really important. Because when you are racing you are focused on what you’re doing. It’s so easy to lose concentration. Race brain is so real and you can get confused.
I think that is the one thing that I find with my athletes and with other people is they go all in for a race, and they are so committed to the training. But there are other things that matter as well. Are they committed to their nutrition? Are they committed to their recovery? Are they taking rest days? Or are they just trying to smash out these workouts? I think to be a successful athlete long term — yes, you need to be consistent. But it’s not just about the training. It’s keeping that balance all around. Yes, I am a Hyrox athlete, but I’m also a mom, I work, I’ve got lots of areas in my life. I need to make sure that I am eating well for the energy that I need; I’m going to bed early; I’m seeing a sports therapist to help me with the kind of aches and pains. It’s a commitment. Some people go all in, and they do one event and want instant success. And unfortunately, it’s not instant success. Where do you want to be in 12 months? It’s just chipping away. Little bits, little bits, and just improving over time.
THL: There are a lot of competitors and prospective competitors looking to do what you have done: consistently improve. What do you think is the right mindset to be successful in this sport?
BM: I think for your first race it would just be to go race and enjoy it. Put a benchmark down, don’t overthink it. It is going to be a lot harder than you think it is going to be. And then you need to decide what area is your weakness and work on that. So are you going to improve your running? Or are you going to improve your strength? You can’t get better at everything all at once. Be specific in what you want to improve on and work on that for your next race. And then hopefully because you’ve been specific in what you are wanting to improve on, you’ll come away from that race and can go back to the drawing board again and improve on one or two things. Don’t try to get better at all 8 stations and running in one hit. You’ve got to be specific with your training.
You can follow Becca on Instagram where she shares more about her training and race strategy.
Hybrid Athlete of the Week: Julius Jeter
Name: Julius Jeter
Hometown: Washington DC
Why did you start hybrid training? I really started hybrid training in 2018. I’ve always enjoyed the spicy workouts. For OCR, which is where my journey in this world began, Stadions and Sprints were my specialty. The moment I learned of DEKA and Hyrox, I knew those would both be in my sweet spot. For some reason, I enjoy suffering in Zone 5 for long periods of time.
Favorite race to date?: DEKA FIT Austin 2023. For DEKA FIT Austin 2022, I was under the weather a bit, and it really hindered my overall performance, which was devasting after an amazing training block. I questioned if I was actually good enough, or in over my head. My race anxiety was through the roof. I made a late decision to hop into the 2023 race and was able to snag 3rd place in my age group. It was a great way to begin my year, and a feeling of redemption.
Favorite station?: I’d have to say the wall balls for Hyrox, and assault bike for DEKA. Both can truly make or break your race, and you can really see where a person’s fitness is at both stations. I try to lean into doing hard and uncomfortable things, as opposed to shying away from them.
What do you wish you knew when you started racing? I was blown away by the concept of “running slower to get faster.” This was absolutely foreign to me, even in my 30s. I had never heard of the 80/20 rule before, and everything for me was always of the time trial mindset, pushing as hard as I could. After listening to several podcasts and reading more about running and base building, I finally put together a solid training block, which included a lot of Zone 2 running and cycling. Afterward, I did a 5K time trial and PR’ed. I’ve been sold ever since.
Workout of the week: Amy Bevilacqua's stairway to hell
Amy Bevilacqua is a 50-year-old mother of five who qualified for the Hyrox Elite 15. On Instagram, she shared this brutal workout from her training regimen: