Hilary Riordan is a 25 year-old Crossfit athlete based in Clonakilty, Co. Cork. She is co-owner of Guerilla Fitness with her partner Brendan Walsh and together they have both smashed their way through the Irish Crossfit scene – this pair are undoubtedly contenders for the title of Irelands fittest couple. Hilary has sprinted to the top of the Crossfit scene in such a short space of time, from opening her own Box in Cork to finishing in the top 20 female individuals in Europe, and finding herself a comfortable spot in the regionals. She is one of the most hard working athletes in the country and I’m delighted to interview her on her inspirational journey!
Primal Piggy: Hi Hilary, first of all congratulations on your incredible ranking in the Crossfit Open! I know you’re extremely busy getting ready for regionals, so thank you for taking some time out to talk to me.
Hilary Riordan: Thank you for having me on Primal Piggy.
PP: Lets get started- What is your sporting background?
HR: My sporting background is in gymnastics, which I did from the age of four until thirteen. After that I was big into show jumping so I didn’t really play any team sports again until I went to college and started playing soccer and football which was just for fun really.
PP: How did you get into Crossfit and eventually competing?
HR: I got into Crossfit through my boyfriend Brendan. He had been doing it for a long time on his own in Ireland and I heard him speaking about it all the time! Then we both moved to New Zealand and I started training alone with him in a commercial gym where he taught me the Olympic lifts and all the fundamentals that I needed. About 5 months later I joined Crossfit New Zealand and did my first open there. With regards to competing, as soon as I started training I knew I wanted to do competitions, it’s just in my nature. I don’t think I could push myself as hard in training if I didn’t have that competitive element!
PP: Was it a natural decision to open a Box?
HR: Yes, for myself and Brendan it was something we always wanted to do. It got to a point where we had to decide if we wanted to open a Crossfit box in New Zealand and commit our futures there, or move back home and start up here. In the end we decided that Ireland was a better option for us as all our families are here.
PP: Is owning and running a gym different than you imagined? How so?
HR: Owning and running a gym is definitely very difficult, particularly if you also want to be a competitive athlete. From the outside people imagine that you have the opportunity to train all day every day, but that’s not the case. It is often at times a real challenge to fit your own training in when you are teaching so many classes on top of the admin and maintenance/cleaning of a the gym. Despite that, I love the challenge of training and coaching and wouldn’t have it any other way.
PP: What was the journey like from beginner to coach?
HR: To be honest the journey to becoming a great coach is forever ongoing. Every day I learn something new. All of our members have such different personalities, abilities and goals that you have to be able identify what works best in terms of coaching for each individual. Some members are visual learners and like to be shown things while others need to be reminded with particular cues. The challenge is being able to recognise what works best and adapt your coaching style accordingly to ensure that you are getting the most out of your client.
PP: Tell me about your training programme and how you manage being a coach, as well as getting yourself competition ready?
HR: I train 6 days a week with three to four double days. Sunday is a complete rest day for me. We usually fit our training in between morning classes from 8.30am until 10.00am and again we train at 3.30pm before we get stuck into teaching the evening classes.
PP: Both you and your partner Brendan smashed the open- do you coach each other and how to plan out your program?
HR: Myself and Brendan train together every day. We always somehow manage to make everything a competition so it never get boring! With regards to the programming Brendan is the brains behind the operation. He is brilliant when it comes to planning for the year ahead, and he always has me peaking and feeling good in the lead up to competitions. Having Brendan program for me gives me a lot of confidence in the knowledge that the work he gives me is consistently making me a better athlete.
PP: Brilliant, what a legend!! During competitions, what goes through your mind when you hear “3,2,1..GO”?
HR: Just before the buzzer goes I always have a little bit of nerves but I think they are necessary for getting the best out of yourself. After that I just get lost in my own head, I generally can’t hear the music or much else that goes on around me.
PP: Have you ever experienced an injury? How do you stay injury free?
HR: Thankfully I have been blessed so far, I haven’t had any serious injuries other then a few niggles now and then, and they haven’t kept me out of training for any great length of time. I think the reason I haven’t had and major issues is because both myself and Brendan spend at least 30 minutes every day mobilising.It’s something we both feel is 100% necessary for us to perform and train to our best ability. Smart programming is also important here too.
PP: How do you think the Irish Crossfit scene has changed in the last 2 years?
HR: I think Crossfit has just exploded in the last two years. The number of boxes opening has increased hugely, and the standard of athletes in Ireland has really improved also, although we have a long way to go before we are on a par with the UK or Scandinavian countries.
PP: Some people still don’t really “get” Crossfit, can you explain its philosophy in 10 words or less?
HR: I struggle to explain what Crossfit is to people when I don’t have a word count!! I’m afraid ten words or less is just beyond me!!
PP: Ha- ha! I knew that would be a hard one! Favourite and least favorite WOD and why?
HR: My favourite WOD at the moment is Amanda, which is 9-7-5 reps of muscle ups and snatches. It is one of my favourites because it’s extremely challenging and I love workouts with any bodyweight gymnastic movements. My least favourite WOD would have to be Karen (short girl problems!). No one likes wall balls or Grace, again I’d rather be swinging from a bar as opposed to holding one!
PP: Muscle ups and snaches- you’re a machine…WOW!! What advice would you give to those thinking about competing for the first time?
HR: You just have to jump in two feet first. Everyone should experience the buzz of competing at least once. You won’t regret it and it just adds an extra focus to your training.
PP: How often do you hear the argument that women shouldn’t lift heavy? Do you think this is starting to change?
HR: I think it’s starting to change a little bit, but I also think those myths will always be there from people who are uneducated, or who just don’t know any better. Hopefully people (women in particular) will start to realise that if they want to get fit, strong and lean that they are going to have to do large compound movements to get the results they are searching for.
PP: So true!! Do you think that Crossfit has led more women into Olympic and power lifting?
HR: That is a definite yes. I think Crossfit has done wonders for the two sports, particularly on the womens side of things. If you look at the Olympic weightlifting competition being held in Clonmel next weekend, the competition is the largest one yet. It sold out so fast they had to add a second day. I know in our gym alone we have four women participating, and they would have never got involved in Olympic lifting if it was not for Crossfit, I know that is the case for many women around the country.
PP: That is incredible and shows women that these sports are not just for men! Do you follow a specific diet or take supplements?
HR: Yes, I am a paleo advocate but again follow the 80:20 principle. If we go out for lunch or dinner at the weekend we will have something that is not paleo, but for the rest of the week we will stay strict. With regards to supplements I take Omega 3 fish oils, Creatine and a multi-vitamin tablet.
PP: Share your favourite recipe.
HR: My favourite non-paleo meal has to be my mums homemade lasagne. My favourite paleo meal is homemade burgers with sweet potato chips and stir- fried vegetables.
PP: Who are your biggest athletic or general inspirations?
HR: My biggest inspirations are people I can relate to, like Annie Sakamoto or Kristin Holte, the kind of athletes that are a little bit smaller. Seeing them do incredible things make me realise that you can’t play the small person card, you just have to suck it up and work with what you got and do your damnedest to get stronger!
PP: What’s next for you?
HR: Regionals is up next for me. They are on in Copenhagen from the 16th to the 18th of May so not too far away. After that I will take a little break from training and then my main focus for the summer is to get stronger- a lot stronger!! Then the next big competition will be the Battle of London in January, which is a super competition.
Very exciting stuff and well deserved Hilary, you are so hardworking and a true example of how hard work will give you great results!! I will be cheering you on for the regionals, and I wish you the best of luck!!
For more information on Guerilla Fitness check out: http://guerillafitnessclonakilty.com/