Interview with Hunter McIntyre – CrossFit Games® Wildcard, Spartan Race World Champion and HYROX Legend

Hunter recently won the HYROX Event in Dallas, where CrossFit Games® athletes Jacob Heppner and Chandler Smith also competed.

  • 1st Place: Hunter McIntyre – 58:39
  • 2nd Place: Ryan Kent – 1:00:47
  • 3rd Place: Chris Woolley – 1:03:01

We spoke to Hunter about his life, sports history, HYROX, training and competing with top Games® Athletes alongside his experience at the 2019 CrossFit Games®.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9PDicoHttT/

HEY HUNTER, TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO SPARTAN RACING?

My Grandfather was a masters Olympian and I had more energy than anyone in my family so my parents were like, “You’ve got to put him into sports”. I started with Javelin, then I got into running and my grandfather was a very big part of that growth.

I was never the kind of person that focused on one thing really strongly. I wrestled, I ran, I played lacrosse. I ended up being really good at wrestling and really good at running but I feel lucky that I really started to find my focus later on in life, around the age of 22. Basically, I’d dropped out of college, taken a bunch of years off and I was into bodybuilding. But that didn’t feel like it was going anywhere so I ran my first half marathon and did pretty well. Then I did my first Spartan Race and I did really well in that. 

I thought to myself, if I put a bit of focus in and really go after the number 1 guy – his name was Hobie Call – I could paint my path to becoming a world champion one day. I wanted to be number 1, I didn’t want to be anything else. That was 2011, it’s 2020 now.

I started to see CrossFit® stuff back in 2010, but at the time it was so small that it was much easier to find your way into a half marathon than a local CrossFit® Contest.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL TRAINING WEEK LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

I just had my VO2 Max tested this morning and I have to go to a chiropractor appointment after breakfast, training then acupuncture in the afternoon, metabolic testing the next day. It’s a full-time job. I’m a racehorse and a full-blown machine that has to be greased and tuned up.

Source: HYROX

Getting towards being the number 1 Spartan Racer in the world – I never won the World Title for the long distance but I won a lot of the shorter distance ones – I had to get to the point where I was training 25 hours of cardio alone every single week.

This involved 5-hour days. 3 hours on a bike, two hours of running with a couple of hours in the gym a couple times a week.

I could run a 5:30 mile for an hour and a half and talk the whole time. That’s what it takes to be The Spartan World Race Champion. Now my body has completely transformed. I’m not nearly as aerobically fit. If you look at the graphs it’s all over the place.

Right now I’m training about 18 – 20 hours a week, about 10 – 12 hours are slow and smart cardio, being able to move this more muscular body through time and space and not get tired whilst doing it.

The other 8 hours are 4 2-hour sessions in the gym. Back in the day when I was training for Spartan Race I would do deadlifts, pull ups, kettlebell work etc, but keep everything pretty light. Now I’m doing 500lb deadlifts for reps and split squats for reps with 100lb dumbbells on my shoulders.

It’s about how much horsepower can you build within a body and then drag it through an hour long race like HYROX. When I was doing CrossFit® and prepping for the Games® it was 15 – 20 hours of strength training a week.

You can only do a finite amount of work every single week otherwise you start to go downhill and overtrain. I think the CrossFit® industry is probably the worst people in the world at that, after spending some time with them.

I know how many hours I can work a week, I know how intensely I can work those hours and now I know how I have to split it up to achieve my goal.

WHO ARE YOUR COACHES?

Typically, I have 2 to 3 coaches at all times. I used to work with Charles Polliquin until he passed away. He was the guy that would develop my overall blocks of training including strength, competition and recovery. I learnt a lot from him.

Rich Diaz is my running coach. He told me today that he wants me to take those 10 hours of running each week and perform them with less intensity, do that I can build up my aerobic system for HYROX.

TELL US ABOUT HYROX?

HYROX is a really interesting combination because it’s 30 minutes of strength and 30 minutes of running for the top athletes. It’s almost split down the middle for the best people in the world. You have to be strong and you have to be fit.

Source: HYROX

I focused on The CrossFit Games® and as soon as that was finished, I got into HYROX. I loved training for the CrossFit Games® but I missed running so much. I live in the mountains of Malibu and there’s no point training and sitting inside when you live up in a castle on the hill.

I had two months after the Games®, after I had recovered, to get ready for the HYROX events. I went and I won the race, I saw how it was run and organised. I have over 9 years of experience in the market and we worked out how to make HYROX as competitive, fun and challenging as possible, for both the professional and non-professional athletes. I work on the consultancy side and as one of their athletes, as a professional runner.

Learn more about HYROX

HOW DID YOU TRAIN FOR HYROX EVENTS?

HYROX is half cardio and half strength so I was basically splitting my training time right down the middle.

With CrossFit® you have to do everything. HYROX is 8 stations. If you know what movement patterns will be associated with those stations then you can target them in your training.

So, the first time I did HYROX the sled crushed me. I’m strong but something was missing. So, I took split squats out of my routine and replaced them with reverse Zercher lunges. This gave me the same angle that I would be pushing the sled, helping me to improve the movement when I found it again on the HYROX course.

I also realised that during the row my biceps were getting exceptionally tired and usually that’s not the case. To fix this in training I started doing barbell rows then I would grab a resistance band and work a similar movement for 60 seconds to 2 minutes immediately afterwards. This allowed me to build up my muscular endurance in a way that is specific to this exact movement pattern.

Source: HYROX

I analysed every single movement in HYROX, looked at the muscle groups that were taxed, and then work them hard in a variety of ways. Work the big muscles first then the tiny ones.

These tips helped me take 3 minutes off my time since the last race so it worked.

Find your nearest HYROX event

WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU OFFER EVERYDAY ATHLETES THAT WANT TO TRAIN FOR A HYROX EVENT?

Have good runs with your friends a couple of times a week, try a 5K, 10K or a half marathon, go challenge yourself and see what you’re made of when it comes to running.

Go to a local CrossFit® Box and practice. It’s important to be able to work 2 or 3 movements back to back for 15-20 minutes. Prep your body to get used to working whilst fatigued, picking something back up and pushing right away.

Another important thing about HYROX is that there are 16 transitions in total between the runs and the fitness stations. If you’re sloppy between those transitions then you will lose a lot of time.

At the end of the day go out and have fun. HYROX is awesome and it will really test, challenge and improve your fitness, whatever your current ability level. When it comes to 100 wall balls, it doesn’t matter how fit you are that sucks.

Look at my Instagram videos and all the training that HYROX provides and you’ll learn a lot.

WHICH TOP LEVEL CROSSFIT GAMES® ATHLETES HAVE YOU TRAINED WITH AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

The hardest athlete I’ve ever worked with was Jacob Heppner. He’s not like this mad scientist that has all these clever tactics, it’s just that he works harder than everybody else.

Sara Sigmundsdottir is the cleverest athlete that I’ve ever worked with. Her program made a lot of sense and it was always incrementally adding volume and technique, rather than just beating yourself down.

Brooke Wells was really good too, her programming from CompTrain seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

Tia Clair Toomey and Mat Fraser was both interesting. They work very hard but they were really intelligent about their training. Most of the other athletes I trained with were always having to push themselves until they were blowing snot rockets and falling down covered in sweat but Tia and Mat never seemed like that. They always knew where they were at and what they were doing.

With any of these sports, HYROX, Spartan Race or CrossFit®, at the professional level it comes down to three things. How genetically prepared is your body, how hard can you work it, how hard can you recover from it.

EXPERIENCE AT THE 2019 CROSSFIT GAMES®

The CrossFit Games is the kind of thing that you see on TV and think I could do that. And I did, I trained for it, got my Wild Card and went for it. But I think what I didn’t recognise is the way that they do things at the Games®.

You warm up for a while, then they talk to you for a while, then you get put in a holding chamber then you go out. I’d never competed like that before, it’s a completely different way of getting ready. Once you’re out there, another thing that I didn’t recognise were the different conditions. Both events that I did were on turf, I had never trained on turf before. Snatching on turf was hard for me, doing a handstand walk on turf was really, really hard for me and it was stuff that I hadn’t prepared for.

If you sit in a gym all day and think, they can snatch this and I can snatch this therefore I’m definitely going to do well. That’s not the case. The environment of the Games® doesn’t necessarily match the training that you’re putting on. There’s a huge difference.

I did Broken Skull for a long time. People were training to beat me all the time but they didn’t recognise that when they got there to the event it was 110 degrees in the desert. I would wear leggings and long sleeves and people were taking their shirts off trying to look all buff and I was thinking, you’re making a huge mistake dude, as soon as your body hits the hot sand your skin is going to melt.

My first year at the CrossFit Games was similar. Now, if I could go back in time, I feel I would be so much more prepared without even having to work more.

At the beginning of the wild card process, so many people were rude to me and they didn’t want me to come, but by the time I got there the majority of the athletes were really inviting. Some of the people in the CrossFit® staff were rude to me, which doesn’t really make any sense but at the same time, it’s not my house so I’m not going to make the rules.

I was glad that I had my good friends there like Heppner and Sigmundsdottir and they were really supportive. I made good friends with Chandler Smith and the CrossFit Cowboy Sean Sweeney. Guys came over and were kind to me and supportive “Good luck dude you’re going to crush it” and we all had a good time.

The lead up was very different to anything I had experienced before because of the animosity against me competing as a wild card.

WHICH EVENTS DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE DONE WELL IN OVER THE ENTIRE WEEKEND?

With the ruck run I would like to say that I would have won, but I can’t because I didn’t compete.

I always watched the CrossFit Games as a whole weekend. Now with the cut system it’s no longer a whole weekend, it’s a last man standing kind of thing. It has changed things a lot. It’s not my sport so I can’t sit there and moan about it. I was coming in with the excitement that if there were 12 workouts and 3 of them has a strong endurance bias then I was going to have a really good chance of winning or taking top 3 in those events.

I’m not going to be the guy who walks well on my hands and snatches 255lbs for reps between sets, that’s just not who I am, but my level of capacity is the best in the world in what I specify at. The same capacity that it takes for a ruck run is very similar to what it takes capacity wise for HYROX.

Source: HYROX

I will always go out and challenge anybody at what they do and hopefully be able to contend against them and that was the whole point of going to the CrossFit Games®. I wanted to show that I was made of something and at least I can walk away with my head held high. At least I tried and I’m pumped that I got the experience to.

WHAT WORKOUT WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE AT THE CROSSFIT GAMES®?

Run 2 miles, flip the pig a bunch of times then do the sled drag. That to me is like a rugby match. It would be an all-out, long and hardcore full body workout.

5 FOR 5 QUESTIONS

  • Favourite exercise? – Weighted pull ups, they’ll make you jacked
  • Favourite workout song? – Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
  • Favourite food? – Rip eye steak
  • Favourite book? – Endurance by Ernest Shackleton, it gives you some perspective when you’re complaining about how hard a workout is
  • One place you would love to visit? – South Africa

If you want to learn more about HYROX, how to train for it and how to find an event, check out the link below:

Find your nearest HYROX event

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