The training secrets of Hyrox World Champion Lauren Weeks
Lauren Weeks is one of the most successful competitors in the history of hybrid fitness racing. She has won the Hyrox World Championships three times, including this year in Manchester, where she bested the strongest field ever assembled with a time of 59:51. She not only competed in the 2022 Hyrox World Championships while she was eight months pregnant; she finished in the top 10. In September, Lauren traveled to Dubai to compete in the first Hyrox race in the Middle East and won with a blazing personal best of 59:27.
The Hybrid Letter talked with Lauren about how she became a world champion as a new mom, the most common mistake she sees at hybrid races, how often she takes a day off, and much more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Hybrid Letter: You are still a relatively new mom. A lot of new parents — and a lot of people just in general during busy times in their lives — have difficulty staying physically active. As someone who was able to be a new mom and also win a world championship, what advice do you have for people who are struggling to fit training into their busy lives?
Lauren Weeks: For a long time, I would look at low-hanging fruit. I always thought movement would make me happy. And any sort of movement is better than none. So instead of getting stressed out, and thinking about a big workout that I'd have to do, I would have my workouts be as easy as possible, so there was no mental barrier to just get started. And then, depending on how I felt, I could adjust based on that. But I'd rather just set a workout that's not going to be challenging upfront because then I know I'm gonna get started. And then it just building off of that. I started getting more comfortable with moving again. And intensity can slowly start building. But I put zero expectations on myself in terms of trying to go hard. I just wanted to make sure I was moving. So, I think instead of instead of like worrying about getting a good workout in, I was just incline walking on a treadmill. And that built a base layer, and I built off of that. I think not expecting to come back and being able to hammer workouts is really a big piece.
Your mentality is a big piece of it. And if you're so stressed about how hard a workout is going to be, you might never end up doing it. Even now the majority of my workouts are very low intensity. But that allows me to get a lot of volume in because I'm never stressing about what I have to do next.
THL: There is a lot of talk about low-intensity or Zone 2 training. Some people say that, optimally, 80% of your training should be low-intensity. What is your percentage?
LW: I know people go with 80/20. I actually think I'm higher than that. I think like I'm well over 80% low-intensity. I would say maybe 15% of my workouts throughout the week will have some sort of intensity. But even then, it's just it's an intensity that's higher than Zone 2. I'd say it's maybe maybe 5% of my week is very intense work. Then there is another 10% that is somewhere in between Zone 2 and maximum effort.
THL: You go to a lot of Hyrox races. What is the most common tactical mistake that you see the average Hyrox athlete make?
LW: I go out very hard in the beginning, but I don't think that's the best approach for the majority of people. A lot of people can get an overall better time if they're a little bit more calculated. So that's a big one: I think people go out too hard. And I know that’s the pot calling the kettle black. I also think people overdo the machines, both the skier and the rower. The amount of time that you can gain on one of those machines versus what it does to you physically is not worth it. You're better off pulling back a couple of seconds per 500 [meters]. And the rest of your race will feel a lot better. I think you need to be very tactical with the sleds. You don't have to worry about going unbroken. If you're starting to feel some lactic buildup in your legs, take a quick break. It can go a long way.
THL: How many hours a week do you work out?
LW: It depends on where we are in the season. Right now, I'd say I'm around 20 hours.
THL: How many miles do you run?
LW: 50 plus. Running is the majority of my hours.
THL: How often do you take a day off?
LW: Very rarely. I've had a couple over the past week, but that's because of travel.
THL: What do you listen to why you work out?
LW: So if I'm out on a nice casual run, I’m listening to podcasts or an audiobook. When I’m working out in the garage, I do put music on. And right now, I find playlists that are labeled as “dance music.” And that is not for me. It is because my daughter likes dance music. And if she's happy, that means I get to keep working out.
Lauren and her husband, Anthony Peressini, offer a training program for hybrid athletes called The Hybrid Engine. The “Pro Track” allows you to follow along with Lauren’s own training. But there are also options that require less time. You can get more information about The Hyrbid Engine HERE.
One-minute book review: The Psychology of Running
This new book by sports psychologists Noel Brick and Stuart Holliday tackles the subject broadly, covering everything from what motivates humans to run to the psychological benefits of running. But it is also packed with useful information for hybrid athletes. Chapter 4, a standout, discusses what athletes should focus on while running. The authors cite studies showing the benefits of association (paying attention to the physical act of running and how your body feels) and dissociation (distracting yourself by focusing on other things). Dissociation, including listening to music or paying attention to the scenery, makes running more enjoyable but generally results in a slower pace. It is a useful strategy for training. Elite runners, in general, use an associative strategy, regularly checking in with their bodies. It is the best strategy for racing.
You'll also learn that the average family house cat could out-sprint Usain Bolt at his peak. You can purchase The Psychology of Running from an independent bookstore HERE.
Don't miss video: Jon Wynn on wall balls
Jon Wynn was the winner of Hyrox Madrid in September. He came into the final station, 100 wall balls, three seconds behind the leader. He ended up completing his wall balls in an impressive 3:49 and winning the race by more than 20 seconds. In an Instagram video posted just prior to the race, Wynn details his overall approach to the wall ball station, including the importance of optimal breathing. Wynn advises exhaling each time you throw the ball.
Look for an interview with Jon in a future edition of The Hybrid Letter.