Interview with Crossfit/Olympic Weightlifting Athlete: Saoirse Houlihan

Anyone who was at the Waterford Throwdown in June will know who Saoirse Houlihan is, or maybe you have heard her nickname “The up-circle” queen after she showed us all how gymnastics should be done in WOD 2.  (I actually stopped trying to attempt it and stood looking at her in awe!) Saoirse has been named the fittest female teenager in Ireland, and really I am not surprised. Coming from a background in gymnastics, the 17 year old athlete has now moved into CrossFit and weightlifting and is now making her name known in this field. She is definitely one to watch and I believe she is going to have great success as an athlete. I’ve spoken to Saoirse at a few competitions now and she is such a lovely down to earth girl. I’m delighted to interview Saoirse for Primal Piggy and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this young athlete.


Primalpiggy: Hi Saoirse, Great to have you on board! Tell me about your fitness background?

Saoirse Houlihan: Thank you! So, I’ve always been a very active child and I have tried out endless amounts of sports such as gymnastics, soccer, swimming, irish dancing, GAA and athletics but the one sports that I stuck to from the start was gymnastics. I started gymnastics in primary school when it was our PE class and from there I joined the Kilbarry Gymnastic Club and trained and competed with them up until I was 16. I’m very thankful to have done gymnastics because it has benefited me so much in Crossfit and weightlifting. It’s a lot easier to lift when you have zero mobility issues and I also had basic strength from the years of training which gave me a head start.

PP: What drew you away from gymnastics and into CF & Weightlifting?

SH: Both my Mum and Dad were in CrossFit and after I had finished gymnastics on a Saturday morning I would always walk over and watch them in the gym until they had finished. I loved going to CrossFit and just watching everyone do the wods and lift weights, I found it fascinating and I really wanted to join in. During that summer Tom Dunphy held free CrossFit classes in the park on a Sunday morning and that’s how Sibeal and I first got into Crossfit and Weighlifting. 

PP: Did you enjoy taking part in the CrossFit open? What was the biggest lesson you learned?

SH: I really enjoyed the Open, it was a great learning experience for me. It highlighted what I needed to work on but it also showed me my strengths. The biggest lesson I learned was probably just not to take it so seriously and just enjoy competing and comparing scores. I also learned that I really need to work on my muscle ups! I was disappointed when I couldn’t RX that workout but I knew myself I didn’t have the strength to do one yet. It was also my first time trying handstand pushups from no mat and I managed to get onto the 4th round of them. 

PP: Amazing!! How did it feel to be named Ireland’s fittest (female) teenager?

SH: It was a pretty great feeling as I finally earned a name that proved the hard work I put into my training. I was surprised with how I placed in Europe as I didn’t expect to do that well because I only joined Crossfit last Summer and I was still fairly new to some of the movements.


PP: It was incredible to see! What’s your proudest fitness moment to date?

SH: Probably just competing in weightlifting competitions as I never thought I’d be able to stand in front of a crowd. I’m proud that I have gained enough confidence to do that and so much more.

PP: Tell me about your training programme, and how you get yourself competition ready?

SH: I usually try to lift and do CrossFit 3-4 times a week. I stick to the wod that’s on the board and I follow a separate lifting programme. Before a competition I would try to focus mainly on Crossfit two weeks prior to the date to get my cardio up a little bit more. Then the week of the competition I would train normally but leave two days rest beforehand. During those rest days I would just work on stretching and mobility so I’m not stiff or sore on the day.

PP: What inspires you to go to the gym every day, and do you ever have an off-day?

SH: The thought of getting stronger and bettering myself is one thing that inspires me to go to the gym. I quite often have off-days, sometimes I’m too tired or just not in the mood and I end up having a bad lifting session.  It’s frustrating but after a rest day I normally come back into the gym determined to have a better training day than my last one.

PP: What advice would you give to other teenagers thinking about joining a CrossFit box or competing for the first time?

SH: For a teenager who is competing or just joining I would say not to worry about how much weight they are lifting or how fast they can do a wod compared to everyone else! When I first joined CrossFit and I’m sure everyone else was in the same situation when they first started, I was using a plastic PVC pipe to learn how to lift a bar. I was nervous seeing all the other women lifting really heavy and thought I’d never get to that stage. As I became more familiar with the movements and lifts I gradually made my way to a 15kg bar and then I increased the weight of the lifts until I met the RX’d prescribed weight.


PP: I love it, great advice!! Have you ever experienced an injury? How do you stay injury free?                                                    

 SH: I have only ever experienced small injuries such as a sprained ankle and a sprained wrist. I try to stay injury free by stretching before and after training and by maintaining good mobility. If I ever feel pain while training I stop immediately as it’s not a smart decision to continue and worsen the problem.  Most importantly I make sure to take enough rest days so my body has time to recover from a hard training session.

PP: How often do you hear the argument that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights? Do you think this is starting to change?

SH: I don’t hear it as often as I used to! I think people are becoming more accepting of women lifting over the past year, it’s not as unusual as it once was. It’s definitely starting to change, women are moving on from skinny to healthy and fit. There are still some people who think women shouldn’t lift heavy but I believe they’re just afraid of strong women, I know some men or boys might feel emasculated but we can’t let them stop us doing something we’re passionate about.

PP: YES!! Love that answer!!! I know your Mam is a paleo chef at The Paleo Crunch Co. (delicious btw!!) Do you eat paleo or follow a specific diet?

SH: I tried to follow the Paleo diet but it didn’t really suit me with my eating habits! Since I’m a very picky eater and I don’t like a lot of food so I decided not to follow it anymore. I try to maintain a healthy balanced diet which, really is the idea of paleo with enough protein and carbs so I have energy to workout and lift in the gym from natural non processed foods. I normally eat paleo treats such as mixed nut bars or sweet potato brownies as I think they are just as nice, if not better than non paleo treats!

PP: Can you share your favourite recipe/meals?

SH: My favourite recipe is the paleo banana pancake. It consists of just 2 eggs and 1 banana mixed together. This is so simple and easy to make I eat it almost every morning before school with mixed berries on the side. Another favourite snack I love to eat are paleo energy balls, these are made out of dates, mixed nuts, desiccated coconut, protein powder(optional) and seeds. Once they’re all blended together the mix can be rolled into small balls then rolled again in more desiccated coconut as a topping. 


PP: Ok, now I’m hungry! What’s your favourite and least favourite WOD and why?

SH: My favourite wod would have to be Karen (150 wall balls for time). Since I’m quite tall I find wall balls easier than most people do and with only a 6kg ball it flies up to the target. I think I have a quick enough time but there’s always room to improve! My goal is sub 6 minutes. 

My least favourite wod is Murph as I don’t like running.  The two 1 mile runs really aren’t nice, they’re manageable but I still don’t like them!

PP: Have to agree with you there, Murph is torture lol!! Who are your biggest athletic or general inspirations?

SH: Lauren Fisher has been my biggest inspiration since I started CrossFit.  I love what Lauren stands for and what she teaches girls about being strong and healthy and that we can achieve any goals that we put our minds to.

PP: Great choice, Love Lauren Fisher myself! Finally Saoirse, What’s next for you?

SH: Next I hope to focus on my Olympic Lifting and getting stronger. Since I will be doing my Leaving Cert in school I plan on cutting back on CrossFit  and just lift for the time being.  Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 13.04.49

Interview with Crossfit Athlete and Co-Founder of Guerilla Fitness: Hilary Riordan


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!


KTB swing

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:






Interview with Crossfit Athlete-Martina Galgey

Martina is a 44 year old mother of 4, who has taken the Crossfit world by storm. A passionate and dedicated coach and athlete at Crossfit Waterford, Martina has competed in many throwdowns, Oly competitions, and most recently, finishing in the top 5 athletes in the masters division (40-44) for the Crossfit open in Europe. Martina has always been a massive inspiration to me and it’s a pleasure to interview her for Primal Piggy.


Primal Piggy: Hi Martina, I know you’re extra busy at the moment following the open, congratulations on your ranking and thanks so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.

Martina Galgey: Hi, Thanks so much for interviewing me!

PP: When and how did Crossfit come into your life?

MG: Crossfit came into my life over 3 years ago through mutual friends. I heard about this guy doing some funky shit in his garage, so looking for a new challenge, I met up with Tom Dunphy for my first session. One I will never forget 21,15, 9 Thrusters and Burpees.
The rest is history!

PP: How has Crossfit changed your life?

MG: It has changed so many things in my life; how I eat, sleep , the person I am today both mentally and physical , I look at things nowadays from a totally different perspective…because that’s what Crossfit does for you, it teaches you how to become a better person.

PP: Love it! What was your Athletic background prior to Crossfit?

MG: My Athletic background originally was a runner (sprinter), then Karate came into my life, and just general fitness in the gym. You could call me your average gym bunny. But I loved being active my whole life.

PP: Did you know immediately that you wanted to compete?

MG: No, not immediately I was a bit apprehensive at first, but once you do your first comp. you’re hooked. You just want to get better and to learn more skills , lift more weight, and when you win it’s a nice reward for your hard work.


PP: Favourite & Least favourite WOD, Why?

MG: My favourite wod is Grace, Why? Because it’s so simple to pick a bar up, throw it overhead, and gasp for air after 2 minutes, I can’t think of anything in that short time domain that can do that much damage.
My least favourite is Karen OMG !!!!! #IHATEWALLBALLS or Thrusters, those 2 movements in any wod is enough to make me feel sick.

PP: I know that feeling. I couldn’t walk for a week after Karen!! How do you stay injury free?

MG: I think I have been lucky with the injuries, nothing too bad. I am spending more time on stretching and mobility now, and I will generally have a maintenance rub about once a month. I think the strength I had coming into Crossfit has helped me from developing any shoulder injuries. My shoulders were strong, so they can take a bit of pounding.

PP: Do you think strength/fitness is down to genetics or dedication?

MG: I think genetics have a huge factor in your strength. Some people have a natural strength inside, but being dedicated and consistent with training will help you achieve your goals.

PP: What inspires you to go to the gym everyday & do you ever have an off-day?

MG: People I have met through Crossfit always inspire me, and I suppose I inspire myself if I’m honest. I go to the gym each and every day to achieve my goals, to get better and to see where I can take this journey. I think when you reach my age, people expect you to be a certain type of stereotypical human being ie: a woman that looks after the home, family, kids and that’s me as well, but I just do fun things at the gym. If I can inspire one person to get up and be a healthier person then I achieved what I set out to do every day! Do I have an off day? Yes I do but it’s only normal, when it happens, I just put the bar away and come back and hit it harder the next day.

PP: Being a coach, how do you fit in the time to train yourself?

MG: I coach the afternoon classes which consist of 4/5 classes back to back, Mon – Fri so my training is done in the morning. I manage most days to get the work load done, if not I will stay back and finish it after class in the evening.


PP: How do you program your training?

MG: I don’t program for myself, I leave that up to my coach. I reckon I’d be too easy on myself if I did.

PP: How do you manage to improve on your weaknesses, whilst building on your strengths?

MG: Strength is king and also the hardest thing to keep, you have to keep on top of it, but that can sometimes leave you forgetting to focus on weakness and skills. So I’ll put my weakness into my warm up and work on them there and anything I need to address, my coach will have it programmed in for me also.

PP: Do you think Crossfit has changed the fitness industry for woman?

MG: Oh yes!! It has given woman a new focus, a very different style of training and more importantly; results.
It promotes that it’s ok to have a lean looking body, and not a skinny stick insect image that magazines promote.  Strong is the new skinny….

PP: It definitely is…What advice would you give anyone wanting to begin Crossfit?

MG: My advice would be to give it a go! You have nothing to lose, you will either love it, be addicted or you will hate it! I always ask my clients to give it at least 3 months to see the changes that occur. The majority of them love it after the first few sessions!


PP: Do you follow a specific diet and what supplements do you take?

MG: I’m about 85 % Paleo but I also let myself live a little, if I’m looking for a treat I’ll have one but generally, I’m very good.
As far as supplements go, I take Fish oil, Zinc/Magnesium, Vitamin D/ Vitamin C, Protein shake after training, and of course my GLC2000.

PP: Do you schedule a cheat day or are you 100% strict?

MG: Sunday is normally my cheat day, I will have some desert like tart and cream, or custard, or maybe a takeaway, like pizza.

PP: How much sleep do you get each night?

MG: I get between 7/8 hours per night and on the weekends I’ll generally sleep in until 10 am so not too bad. (us girls need our beauty sleep)

PP: What’s next for you?

MG: Well, next on the cards is the next stage of the masters top 200 in the World complete the next 4 workouts, which will be done on the 17 of April and after that I have Raising The Bar European Masters comp on the 26/27 April. I have been invited to the Grand Prix in Germany to lift for Ireland; a team of 5 masters are going out this year, so I have accepted my place on the 1st June. Generally to keep progressing from year to year.

WOW busy lady, Congratulations!! Thank you so much for a truly inspiring interview- I can see how you earned the nickname “Machina” you are brilliant!!