How to become an everyday badass
Lauren Rantala is the 2022 Hyrox Mixed Doubles World Champion and programs workouts for Hyrox affiliate gyms. She recently launched training plans geared toward everyday hybrid athletes with limited time.
The Hybrid Letter talked with Lauren about how she learned to make her training more efficient, what holds people back from taking the leap into hybrid competitions, and the right mental approach for a successful race.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Hybrid Letter: How did you discover hybrid fitness and start training for races?
Lauren Rantala: I started off as an endurance athlete in college. I was an NCAA Nordic skier and then after that got into triathlons, but at the same time I was also doing CrossFit. And I think CrossFit paved the way for fitness competition. Which was cool because I think for a lot of collegiate athletes, they graduate, and they're like, now what? CrossFit was my introduction to fitness as a sport.
Fast forward, I owned a CrossFit gym from 2020-2022. One of my gym members introduced me to Hyrox. With CrossFit, the thing that I loved about it was the competition aspect. It was motivating and kept me coming back because it was fun. With CrossFit, you also have those more complex gymnastic movements. You have the Olympic lifts, and you're going to snatch. That's something that I think anybody can learn, but do they want to spend all their time on technique? I think that is where CrossFit doesn't meet everyone's needs.
But with Hyrox or hybrid fitness, you take the technical aspects out, and you only have your work capacity, dumbbells, lunges, kettlebells, sleds — all things that essentially anybody can do. Really basic movements. You also incorporate the running aspect. Running is an important thing that people, especially CrossFitters, forget. They have already decided they're not a runner and never will be. This is a way for people to get into running if they want. People can get into a really well-rounded fitness experience and training. It’s really hitting all aspects. You're going to get strength training, you're going to get conditioning, and you're getting high volume. And that's why I love it.
THL: How has your training evolved over the last few years?
LR: I'm gonna go back in time a little bit. After college, I would just go to the gym and lift to stay in shape. I needed to do classes. I needed to work out because fitness was important. But once fitness has a goal tied to it for something measurable, that's when it starts to feel like training. It was a lot more valuable to me and kept me coming back. Now, the hybrid training and Hyrox training has brought me back into running, which is great. I would go for a run every once in awhile. Now there's just a lot more direction and purpose in what I'm doing.
Today, I write training programs for people preparing for Hyrox and for Hyrox’s affiliate program. So I think about the average person who has less than an hour a day. What do they need to do? What kind of adjustments do I need to make for an advanced athlete? Or to create an easier version? I’m testing a lot of workouts. My training is much more focused on developing different workouts that I can share with other people.
THL: You’ve competed at a high level at Hyrox and other hybrid competitions. What motivates you to compete?
LR: It holds you accountable. It really forces me out of my comfort zone. Just having something on the calendar will motivate me. And when I got sober, I signed up for a half Ironman, like right when I was trying to stop drinking [in 2020]. And that's how I got sober by signing up for this race. I had six months to train for it. It was helpful to have something there that I was training for.
THL: You recently released a hybrid training program focused on everyday athletes. People who have a lot of other responsibilities but want to push themselves to improve. What made you go in this direction?
LR: I'm so inspired by being out there at events and seeing people do something they never thought they could do. You could have someone who's never done high school sports, never done college sports, never really did anything fitness-related. But seeing people race — even if they're walking, even if they're not moving very fast — they had the guts to sign up and go do it. It’s a very intimidating thing for a lot of people. So I'm really inspired by the person that takes their health and fitness seriously enough and they believe in themselves enough that they can complete it.
It got me thinking: look at all these everyday badasses. The everyday badass who has a full-time job, they have a family, they only have an hour a day to train, and they're still here doing it. That is what is inspiring to me — seeing those people being able to achieve something that they may have never thought they never could.
I used to own a gym and obviously, when you own a gym, you can workout whenever you want. So that was never a problem for me in the past. I didn't worry about needing two or three hours to achieve what I wanted.
While working for Hyrox, I was in an office setting for a full day. I found myself getting up at 4 am every single day, and I had one hour to train. And it was definitely a lifestyle shift for me. I used to train at one or two in the afternoon for as long as I wanted. There was no time constraint. Then I was forced to figure out how to get the most bang for my buck in one hour. You can accomplish a lot if you have a plan.
I do have versions of my programing that involve the rower, and the ski erg and the bike. But some people can’t afford a gym membership or don’t have time to commute to the gym. Let's say someone only has a pair of dumbbells. Everything can be done with a pair of dumbbells and your body weight. You can run. You can do burpees. You can do a million things.
THL: Access to gyms is a struggle for many doing these types of races. It can be hard to find all the equipment you think need.
LR: That’s another thing I learned when I sold my gym. Now I’m trying to find the perfect gym, that has open gym hours, that has a sled, that has machines. I have just learned to make adjustments. Because, in many cases, that perfect gym doesn’t exist. You’re never going to have the perfect scenario. I’ve been living in Chicago for a year and a half, and I still haven’t found the perfect gym. It’s about learning how to substitute exercises and work with what you have.
THL: You work with a lot of people who are looking to participate in a hybrid race for the first time. What kind of mistakes do you think people make when they are first getting started?
LR: Well, the first mistake would be somebody who thinks they have to be in the best shape before they sign up. I see that with your average fit person. It’s their ego getting in the way. Those people are the ones missing out. They are afraid to face where there fitness is. They don’t want people to see their results. They don't want other people to see their name not on top of the results. So they don’t sign up. That’s the first mistake.
For people who do sign up, some are overtraining. They think they need to do so much volume. They are doing Hyrox sim[ulations] every other day. They're only doing high Intensity every single day. That's definitely not necessary. People should get some running in. If you can do a 5K without walking, I think that’s a good baseline. And then practice running on tired legs. A sled push into a run. An assault bike into a run. Or even goblet squats into a run.
THL: Hyrox and other hybrid events are also mentally challenging. How do you approach the mental side of a race?
LR: I think that the mindset needs to be trained in training. I train by myself all the time. It gives me a good opportunity to challenge myself mentally in workouts. I practice avoiding negative self-talk and making sure I never talk shit about myself. Never telling myself I'm not good enough. You have to practice that in training.
On race day, you need to be able to control the negative thoughts. If you start letting your brain go negative, it's a downward spiral of misery. People need to be really present with themselves and give themselves a lot of credit for being out there.
Remember if it's hurting, it’s sucking – that's how everyone else feels too. But you should really be grateful that your body can do this. A lot of people are afraid to sign up because they don't think they can do it. But you're out there doing it. You have to learn to be really grateful and present and celebrate your body's ability to move and breathe.
You can't worry about what other people think. It has to be about you. Honestly, no one cares about your result. You care about you. So focus on that and run your own race.
You can follow Lauren on Instagram to get a peek into her own training and life. Or check out her innovative training programs, including The Daily Badass, the Hybrid 12-Week Formula, and the Badass Student. For The Hybrid Letter readers, Lauren is offering one month free of The Daily Badass (THE_HYBRID_LETTER_DAILY at checkout) or 20% off The Hybrid 12 Week Formula or the Badass Student (THE_HYBRID_LETTER_20 at checkout).
Athlete of the Week: Liam White
Name: Liam White
Hometown: Washington, DC
What got you started competing in hybrid races? I've been a soccer player my whole life, and I like breaking up the monotony of endurance training with strength work. During the pandemic, I'd walk out with my roommate to a parking lot and put us through hybrid-style workouts. For a long time, my training lacked clear goals. I wanted a community and to feel part of a team again. After taking classes at Elevate Interval Fitness in DC, I was encouraged by [Hyrox Elite 15 athlete] David Magida to give Hyrox a go. Now I'm hooked, with more confidence, new friends to train with, and an excellent excuse to travel to new cities.
Favorite race to date?: Going back to Chicago (where I was born and went to college) for my first Hyrox race last February on Navy Pier was incredible. My favorite, though, has to be meeting up with my sister in London (where we grew up as kids) to do a doubles race on Thanksgiving weekend with the rest of our family cheering us on.
Do you have a race goal? At Hyrox NYC last June, I managed to cut eight minutes overall from my Chicago performance and improve my time on every station. I'll be thrilled if I manage to improve across the board again when I race on my home turf on March 2nd.
Favorite station? Wallballs. It’s the last thing standing between you and the finish line. Dipping into reserves of mental strength that only come out on special occasions. Hopefully, you've got a cheer squad helping you dig deep. And there's something poetic about triumphantly earning your rest once you hit triple-digit reps.
Least favorite station? Burpee broad jumps. I try to get up and down quickly without worrying about maximizing the distance on my jumps. But morale has been known to dip, however, when tall athletes with long strides come prancing past my 5'8 physique.
Things you wish you knew when you started racing? I'm learning – maybe later than I should have – that I derive a lot of joy and satisfaction from doing really hard things.
Quote of the week: Ben Begeron on “pain”
The competitions that we do – these workouts – are not painful. They are uncomfortable. Pain is stepping on a nail. Pain is breaking your leg. Pain is when you dog dies. That’s pain. We’re just uncomfortable. And human being can withstand incredibly high levels of being uncomfortable for very long periods of time. We know this.
You can hear more from Ben Bergeron, a legendary CrossFit coach, on the RoxLyfe podcast.