"I think I perform a little bit better under a little bit of--not pressure--but under the main lights, I guess you could say. I enjoy the crowd."
Matt Reilly will go into the 2014 Australia Regional as a genuine podium contender, after finishing this year’s Open in third place in the region.
But while he’s proud of his achievement, which is his best-ever performance in an Open, Reilly’s not letting it affect his mental game as he prepares for the upcoming three-day competition in Wollongong, Australia.
Instead, he’s focused on eliminating the stress high expectations can bring.
"I'm just going in there to have a lot of fun; I find if I go in there with an attitude like that I perform a lot better," Reilly said. "If I go in with expectations and standards and all that other kind of stress, it plays on your head a lot. So I just try and eliminate all that. I'll just go down and have the best weekend I can."
In 2013, Reilly finished the Open in 18th place and went on to finish 24th at the Australia Regional.
While he was happy with his performances during the 2013 season, Reilly admitted an inconsistent year—which saw him do a lot of training at home—may have been his downfall.
Over the past 12 months, Reilly has made a number of changes to ensure his environment is a lot more conducive to training.
"Since opening my own affiliate, CrossFit Urge, and having a very good training partner and business partner in Paul Maloney, everything’s been really good,” he said. “A lot more enjoyable this year.”
Reilly has changed his programming in 2014 and is now following CrossFit New England affiliate owner Ben Bergeron's Competitors WOD program.
The changes have certainly paid off with Reilly establishing himself as a serious competitor in the region. His worst performances in the Open were 28th placings in 14.3 and 14.5, while his best was second place in 14.4.
"Anything with row, wall balls, stuff like that … they’re kind of in my wheelhouse,” Reilly said. “I think the longer, more grueling the workout, the better I go.”
Reilly is just as excited about the opportunity to challenge himself at the upcoming Australia Regional and welcomes the move toward higher demand and higher end skills over three days of events.
"I like that. I like that it is forever growing and developing ... and now they know what people can do and how they can move and the loads that they're doing or the awkward movements,” Reilly said. “I reckon it's mad because it's really just trying to figure out the most skilled and the fittest.”
"I reckon the more challenging (it is), the better it's going to be,” he added. “I look at a lot of the stuff in the Games and it's like, 'Oh damn, why can't they do that at regionals?' So yeah, it just excites me."
While he may watch a couple of events from the other regions, he will be sticking to his game plan and won't be dwelling on or over analyzing the performances of others.
"I would watch just to see how people go and different things like that but even when I'm down at Wollongong, it's just play my own game,” he said. “I think that's how it is and always has been because if you get caught up in trying to outdo everyone in different things, you're just going to end up beating yourself. I always just try and do the best I can and have the most amount of fun and whatever comes from that, comes from that."
"I'm looking forward to (the events) actually—it's going to be a pretty big challenge,” Reilly said. “A lot of the awkward ones I'm looking forward to ... like the legless rope climb and the run.”
Reilly admitted Event 4—strict handstand push-ups, front squats and burpees—will probably be the most difficult for him.
"I will find rather challenging the strict handstand push-up and front squat (event),” he said. “That's probably the one over the whole weekend that I'm least looking forward to, but at the same time, the one I’m most looking forward to because it's going to be the biggest challenge."
In addition to practicing the movements, Reilly has been working hard to take on the physical and mental demands of competing for three days straight at such a high level.
“I try and attack the workouts as I would in competition so that I've got that mental state and try and get on the bar or get on the rings as quick as possible," he explained.
“During training, I try and basically redline all the time and max out so I know my limits,” he said, “and I’m always testing those limits so I know when competition comes along … you know when the movements are up and you know when you're feeling that pain, you know how well you can move and you know when you can push. I try and keep everything to a competition standard."
Reilly's overall approach is to focus on him and stay relaxed during the Australia Regional, but he admitted the atmosphere of the competition has a big impact.
"Yeah, the adrenaline gets you going,” Reilly said. “There's nothing that can beat that for sure. I think I perform a little bit better under a little bit of—not pressure—but under the main lights, I guess you could say. I enjoy the crowd. I enjoy everyone getting behind everyone in different things. It doesn't deter me at all.”
Regardless of the outcome, Reilly sees the regional as an opportunity to do his supporters proud. In addition to the effusive thanks he has for Maloney as his training and business partner, his sponsor CleanGrub and his family and friends, Reilly credits a great deal of his success to the other members of his affiliate.
"The members that come to Urge ... just seeing them. I usually train after a lot of their classes so just seeing them making gains and enjoying what they're doing, it drives me and I get a really good energy off that," he said.
When pressed to hedge a bet on who will be standing on the podium at the end of the 2014 Australia Regional, Reilly has a few ideas but believes the nature of the events may produce some unexpected outcomes. In the women’s half, he expects to see Kara Webb finish on the podium and hopes to see Justine Beath alongside her, but admitted it’s hard to say.
And in the men's competition?
"Definitely a very good family friend of mine, Benny Garard. He's just super motivated … so he should go pretty well,” Reilly said.
“Big Chaddo (Chad Mackay). He's always one to keep an eye on, I guess. He's forever working on weaknesses and different things, but it's actually going to be pretty interesting ... there are a lot of new names and faces that I haven't heard of so, like I said, it's really anyone's game ... "