Is DEKA FIT the Best Event to Test Your Fitness?

Before we get into DEKA, I’m always interested in how people started their fitness journeys. What did you do as a youth?

As a kid, I participated in gymnastics, eventually on the high school team through age 15. I was “okay” but honestly got too tall, too scared, and lost interest to other activities.

I was always a good runner (for example would always come in first on those Presidential fitness test things) and ran some with my mom during the 70s “jogging” craze. My mom said “I ran circles around her,” and encouraged me to do track or cross country. I would just look at her and roll my eyes, and say no way. I do have a little regret about not taking her up on it!

Also, this is random accomplishment, but in 6th grade, I won a judged “Static Wall Sit” competition – hold time of 1 hour, 37 minutes (and I don’t remember the seconds!). I still have the trophy and, today, always wonder ‘how did I even do that’!

What did you do later on, in your 20’s and 30’s?

In college, I decided to take up running a few laps of the 1-mile loop around my apartment. I didn’t have a goal in mind – only to stay somewhat fit.

Later, in my early 20s, I started running a little further and longer, and would enter a 5k or 5 miler, here and there. I would always do great, often placing in the towards the top overall.

One day at the park, a guy asked me if I was going to run the upcoming Houston Marathon (the was around 1994). I said “YES” – having no idea when the race even was (thankfully I did know it was 26.2 miles – haha). I found an entry form (they were paper mail-ins back then) and realized I had 2 ½ months to get ready – so I did it! I ran a 3:22 fairly easily and within a few more marathons over the next few years cut 30+ minutes off my time.

The last marathon I ran in my 20s was Portland and it was my last chance to qualify for the Olympic Trials (you only had to break 2:50 back then for women). I missed the mark by a little less than a minute, and went home disappointed, but also motivated, since I was basically so new to the sport. I also went home feeling “weird” – which later had me realizing I was about 9 weeks pregnant during the race! My husband and I went on to start our family, and today we have 3 boys in total!

I spent my entire 30s pushing the baby jogger and enjoying running, but not competing or really pushing myself. I told family, I would get back to competing when I turned 40, which I did. Within 5 years, I was getting really bored and frustrated with the marathon. That’s when I a running friend who owned a Crossfit box suggested I try to get stronger to help my running – it can only help you, she said. It did help me, but it also opened up my eyes to new sports that would interest me.

I guess this brings us to DEKA, Hyrox and Spartan racing, then.

With the newfound strength I gained from Crossfit in my 40s, I realized obstacle course racing would be super exciting and enjoyable for me. I would still get to do all the running, which is in my wheelhouse, but also mixi it up with other stuff too!

I always tell people, that in a Marathon, I knew EXACTLY (almost) how it would play out for me, just such strict running execution/strategy, the same repetitive movements, and lots of suffering in the last few miles. The obstacle races still had the element of suffering (haha) but there was more variety of movement and also the anticipation of the “unknown,” like what obstacles were coming up, the terrain, etc. Just felt more fun. 

I still enjoy competing in Spartan races today. My least favorite thing about OCR is the weather – getting wet and cold! I have suffered through hyperthermia a couple times out there.

In 2020, when I saw this “Hyrox” race thing pop up, right before COVID hit, I was like OOOOH, strength stuff with lots of running AND it’s indoors, lol, it sounded right up my alley. I was hooked! Same with DEKA when it came on, plus I know Yancy Culp, both being in the Austin fitness community, so that also was a perk!

So how does DEKA rate as a pure test of over-all fitness? Is it a good measuring stick?

I think DEKA FIT is an amazing test of overall fitness – you have strength, power, agility, and endurance all going on!

All the movements are basic and straightforward, so you don’t need years of training in a specific discipline to be able to execute the zones and finish the race – meaning most anyone can do it. But, it is also very challenging for those competing at an elite level. It’s also great for all ages, I know teens doing it … I know those 70+ doing it! Also, since the distance, the zones, the indoor climate are the same for each race, it really is a good benchmark to see where your fitness is going.

How does DEKA compare with Hyrox or obstacle course racing? Or any other event/race you have participated in?

It’s very similar to a Hyrox, obviously, but shorter distance. The zones are “quicker” and the race is 5k vs 8k, however this doesn’t mean it’s easier. Honestly, in many ways, pushing the pace in a DEKA FIT gets my heart rate up quicker with fast 500m runs. In a Hyrox, the runs are 1k (double the distance), but for me, that’s more time on my feet to play with the pace if I need to recover or more time to get in a faster groove I’m feeling decent (hopefully!).

The running in either event is going to be my best performance of all the tests and I know that … that’s what’s interesting about these races is that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, you just need to focus on optimizing your strengths, managing your weaknesses, and prioritize your efforts.

If someone is new to these types of events, which would you recommend as a good test for overall-fitness?

Both are great! Perhaps first choice would be DEKA for the newbie – only because the 5k of running would seem more doable. I would say effort/exhaustion wise, doing a DEKA feels like going all-out 5 mile to 10k run, while a Hyrox feels like an all-out effort for 10 miler. I have also noticed, this is a pretty good indicator of your general finish time.

For someone participating DEKA or Hyrox for the first time, what advice would you give them?

Instead of seeing a any event as the ENTIRE RACE (scary or intimidating), just mentally get yourself through each zone and check them off in your mind. Soon you will be in the final lap and zone and it’s a great feeling to know you’re about to finish.

Remember to always keep moving (if you can). It doesn’t have to be fast, it can even be walking, but keep moving forward! Also, try to minimize time in the RoxZone or transitioning in/out of DEKA zones.

And, the most important thing – have fun!

Any closing remarks for someone looking for an event/race to test their fitness?

The hybrid racing community is extremely encouraging and supportive and makes people of all ages and abilities feel welcome. Look for local affiliate gyms hosting training events and/or there are many social media resources that share great workouts. Sign up, don’t be intimidated, just do it – you won’t regret it!

Jennifer Fisher is an award-winning recipe creator, cookbook author, food & fitness influencer/blogger, competitive runner and fitness enthusiast. Whether in person or through her blog,, Jennifer offers ways to quickly and confidently prepare healthy, well-balanced meals with delicious taste. She also shares factual, science-based nutrition and wellness tips in an approachable, easy-to-digest, manner.