In November of 2023, I will compete in my first Hyrox race in Chicago and take on the “World Series of Fitness Racing”.
Being successful in Fitness Racing events will require a drastic change in my training and skillset. Much of my focus over the past ~10 years has been on endurance Zone 2 training for both Mountaineering and Ultramarathons.
Fitness Racing events require a complimentary blend between speed, endurance, and functional fitness strength. Instead of primarily Zone 2 runs (for Ultramarathons), I now need to add in Threshold runs on top of a well rounded strength training program.
I decided to compete in a DEKA Mile competition on 08/12/23 and get some real world experience in Fitness Racing to see how my body would respond.
DEKA Mile was a fantastic experience (and super challenging) and I cannot wait to sign up for additional DEKA Events to improve my time at the DEKA Mile and also take on DEKA Strong & DEKA Fit.
In this article, I will provide the 5 key learnings I had at my first DEKA Mile event and how you can better prepare for your first DEKA event!
DEKA Mile Learnings
DEKA Mile is a Fitness Race that combines running with 10 functional fitness exercises.
I ran my first DEKA Mile race in August of 2023 and had an amazing time.
It was super challenging and I had 5 major takeaways that will help me perform better next race!Things I Learned:
You Can’t Replicate Gameday
The first thing I learned at my DEKA Mile race was that you cannot replicate gameday on your own and it is super important to get practice races in before your main event.
Regardless of the type of event or race length – You will be nervous and uncomfortable before the race.
Driving to find the location, making sure you packed all the right gear, ensuring proper fueling and hydration, going to the start line with other competitors.
You WILL be nervous and the only way to get around this is by putting yourself in the competition environment more often.
I’ve been doing Hyrox/DEKA Mile simulation training days each Wednesday on my own, but it is very different doing a official race in person.
If you’re interested in a longer race like a DEKA Fit or Hyrox, I recommend getting experience with shorter races such as DEKA Strong and DEKA Mile to help get gameday experience.
Have a Strategy at Each of the Zones
It is super important that you have a strategy for each of the exercise zones heading into your race.
I went into this DEKA Mile event pretty blind and did not have a well thought out strategy. I had done all of the functional fitness exercises at some point throughout my life, but never in a Fitness Race environment.
The exercise zones are way harder when our central nervous systems are taxed and we have a fatigued body.
Instead of winging it, come up with a strategy for each of the zones before starting your race.
This will look different for everyone, but here are my takeaways:
- Zone 1 – 30x Reverse Lunge: I did these unbroken and this would be my strategy since it is the first zone and I have fresh legs.
- Zone 2 – 500m Row: I held a 1:52 pace which is exactly where I wanted to be, so I would not change anything on the Row.
- Zone 3 – 20x Box Jump/Step Overs: I would practice my technique on the Box Jump/Step over and break it up into 2×15 with a few second break in between each set.
- Zone 4 – 25 Med Ball Sit Up: I did this unbroken and would keep this strategy.
- Zone 5 – 500m Ski Erg: I need work on the Ski Erg and this is someting I need to practice. My goal will be to hold a 2:00 pace.
- Zone 6 – 100m Farmers Carry: I would break this up into 3 sets, each with a few second break in between. The sets are 1) 50m 2) 30m 3) 20m.
- Zone 7 – 25c Air Bike: I was gassed on the Air Bike, so I didn’t have a good strategy. I would change this to 5 calories hard effort & 5 calories light effort until completed.
- Zone 8 – 20 Dead Ball Wall Over: The Dead Ball Wall Over was one of the toughest zones for me and this is a movement I am typically good at. I would break this up into 2×10 reps and just keep moving.
- Zone 9 – 100m Tank Push/Pull: Consistent movement on this one is key. I took too many break at my DEKA Mile event. In the future, I will go at a slower pace and not take any breaks.
- Zone 10 – 20x Spartan ram Burpee: At this point, I was in survival mode. The Spartan Ram Burpee requires endurance of the entire body and shoulder mobility, so I would try to break this up into 3 distinct sets (10 reps, 5 reps, 5 reps).
Bottom Line – You should have a strategy for the zones before heading into your DEKA Mile, Fit, or Strong.
Test out the movements beforehand and come up with a plan for the zones before race day.
Identify & Improve Station Weaknesses
The great thing about these events are that each race is the exact same format. The DEKA Mark allows you to compare yourself to previous races, so you can benchmark and improve performance.
After doing your first DEKA Mile or Fit event, you should identify your weaknesses and put a plan together to fix them for future races.
For me, I had 3 distinct weaknesses: Ski Erg, Dead Ball Over, and Tank Push/Pull.
Once you have identified the toughest zone or zones based on your performance, you should place a big focus on these movements in your training.
For me, it is as simple as adjusting my current workout schedule to get more experience on the Ski Erg, Sled Push, and medball/sandbag over the shoulder.
I plan to test my skill on these movements at the end of strength training sessions with circuit training of my now fatigued body.
Consistent Movement is Key (Start Slow)
This one is key: It is ALWAYS better to keep movement consistently (even if at a slower pace) than going out too hot and having to take a break later on.
It’s easy at the DEKA Mile to lose perspective of this and sprint the first 160m out of the gate or try do all of the stations unbroken.
Regardless of fitness levels, if you come out too hot you will likely burn out at the end of the race and have to take a break in some zones that you did not plan.
I learned that the key to success is to start the race at a relatively urgent pace, but not so fast that you will not be able to complete your zone strategy (Lesson 3) later on in the race.
This is an idea that you will have to continuously remind yourself of..It is super easy to get lost in the moment and start the race too fast, especially if your adrenaline is pumping.
Running Pace is Key
Just like you developed a strategy at each of the DEKA zones, you will need a gameday strategy for running pace.
DEKA Mile is only a 160m run, so it needs to be decently quick. However – You should know your planned pace ahead of time and monitor progress on your watch during the race.
This tip increases in importance for longer races such as DEKA Fit or Hyrox. These require longer runs and the running portion can make up 60% or more of the competition.
Plan out a race pace ahead of time and use your watch to track performance at the events.
My first Fitness Racing event was the DEKA Mile and I had an amazing time.
I was able to complete the race feeling strong, but now that I have my DEKA Mark I am focusing my energy towards improving my time.
In the future, I will ensure that I:
- Get experience in as many races as possible prior to Hyrox. I’d like to hit the DEKA Trifecta which is completing DEKA Strong, DEKA Mile, and DEKA Fit in the same calendar year.
- Walk into each race with a strategy for each of the zones
- Focus on my zone weaknesses (Ski Erg, Sled Push/Pull, and Medball over shoulder)
- Dial in my running pace
- Always keep moving & don’t start out too hot
If you’re interested in joining a DEKA event, check the link below and find one near you!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you Train for the DEKA Mile?
Training will require a focus on running, lower body strength, and upper body strength. Training for Fitness Racing requires basic lifting and running.
Fitness Racing requires extensive balance between strength and endurance, so it is not uncommon to run and weight train on the same day. Lower body muscle groups are the focus, but full body strength is important. This includes grip strength, carrying ability, and being able to lift weight overhead.
A combination of CrossFit and running would be an excellent way to prepare for any Fitness Racing event.
What is the Difference between DEKA: Fit, Mile, and Strong?
All DEKA races follow the same 10 exercise progression called out in this article.
The difference between the 3 tiers in the DEKA Arena is the running component. Below shows the distance accumulated in each race:
- Strong: No Running per DEKA Strong Event
- Fit: 1 Mile Total Running per DEKA Fit Event
- Mile: 5k Total Running per DEKA Mile Event