cartoon of marissa in a gingerbread house

December 2019: Reflecting on 2019 & Future Directions

First, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. I hope that everyone has a great, joyful and safe Holiday season with their loved ones this year.

2019 has been quite the year, and I’m sure it has for you as well. In this newsletter, I’ll share a few of the most important takeaways I’ve learned from these past twelve months, share my advice regarding reflecting on your year and planning your 2020, and give you some insight into what I’m getting into in 2020.

What I’ve Learned in 2019:

Preventative care is not overrated – Core strength and flexibility is EVERYTHING.

Y’all KNOW I struggled hard with injuries this year. Getting back into playing volleyball after competing in August 2018 was a saving grace from ‘post-show blues’ and not having a competition goal within the next few years. I went all-in on playing almost every weekend, multiple tournaments per month, and lifting heavy 5x per week simultaneously. Little did I know, I was putting my body through way too much.

After months of chronic low back pain, I ended up with a minor herniation in my L4/L5 and had to stop playing from early August through mid November. Going to tournaments and watching all my friends play tormented me inside, but lit my fire to stay consistent with my PT appointments and exercises.

Most of what I did was core work and stretching. It’s incredible how SIMPLE the fix for such a scary injury was, which just demonstrates that if you don’t skip stretching or doing a few planks or deadbugs per week, you might be saving yourself from a myriad of issues.

Now I’m stretching daily and working on core (mainly planks/side planks and stability movements) 3x per week. It’s a big change from my normal bodybuilding style of training, but worth it to be able to play again.

To stay motivated, you need to continually update your goals to match what matters to you. Even then, you won’t be motivated 24-7.

I’ve been in and out of some of the worst training funks of my life this year. You know those days where you would rather do anything than go to the gym? I worked through weeks and even months at a time feeling this way.

When I knew I was in a funk, I did a few things:

1. I KEPT SHOWING UP. Regardless of how I felt, I was very consistent throughout the year and made it to the gym on average 4x per week pretty much every week (minus one, recently I took a full week off).

2. I continued updating and defining my goals.

  • The year started with a strength phase to increase my 1RM for squat, bench and deadlift.
  • This was followed by a mini-cut which turned into a not-so-mini cut. I kept focused on fat loss and retaining strength throughout.
  • Then I shifted my focus to maintaining weight and increasing my cardiovascular conditioning for sand volleyball (when I really should have been working on core strength, but alas, we live and we learn).
  • Throughout the summer I started modifying my compound movements to compensate for low back pain and launched the 6 Week Discipline Over Motivation Challenge. Those 6 weeks were the most dedicated I have been since contest prep and made sure to complete every workout to film and post to my challenge FB group.
  • After the challenge, my injury escalated and my focus shifted to core strength and starting up PT while resting from volleyball. My training focus was mainly modifying everything around the injury and making sure to include my required exercises.

Now I will likely be focusing on continuing to improve core control for volleyball and slowly reintroducing the big 3 to regain lost strength.

3. I allowed myself some time off when employing the rest of these strategies eventually did not help. I took a full week off and allowed myself a mental break from stepping foot in the gym.

Asking yourself the hard questions and being honest with yourself is the best way to figure out your future directions.


I graduate with my Bachelor’s in Neuroscience in May. Earlier this year, I asked myself, “What the heck do I want to do after graduating?”

I realized that my usual answer: “I’m going to make my business my full-time gig” was a cop-out answer for what I really meant: I HAD NO IDEA.

Since then, I have realized my passion for evidence-based fitness, the scientific process, and reading research. I’ve decided that grad school is my next step, in the exercise science field. I have submitted my applications and am currently waiting on a response. SURPRISE! This is my main pursuit in 2020!

I feel far more confident in my direction and path in life with academia, and am excited about what this self-discovery will bring in the future.

There’s a big difference between allowing yourself a true break and exhibiting laziness.

Referring to that week-long break from the gym – I tried EVERYTHING before just calling it quits for a week. I kept showing up for MONTHS without really ‘feeling it’ and eventually realized a break was what was needed. If you’re not consistent or you are just quick to give up, remember the difference between actually needing a break and being lazy. It’s a fine line and sometimes a gray area, but be honest with yourself and you’ll know what to do (or learn the hard way).

Life is so much better outside of this fabricated ‘Fitness Industry’ bubble.

I used to live consumed with instagram, and I hardly go on the app anymore unless it is to post content. I used to go down the instagram tunnel, comparing myself to ‘fitspos’ with millions of followers because they have great genetics and a pretty face. The comparison is NOT WORTH IT. Sacrificing everything to look your best all the time is NOT WORTH IT.

I’m saying this as someone who is LIVING with those “extra 5 pounds” that are the craft beers on the weekends, untracked decadent meals once per week, baking cookies on a cold winter day with my boyfriend, and eating out often even though it’s not ‘as accurate to track’. I have never stepped outside my fitness ‘bubble’ until late 2018. 2019 has been the first full year that I feel like I lived more like a normal human who wants to ENJOY LIFE.

Bodybuilding is great. I am sure I will compete again one day, and I’m not talking down to anyone who competes or is extremely diligent about their lifestyle. But it’s crazy how much you realize that you don’t know what you’re missing until you just loosen those reigns a little.

Find a bodyweight that is pretty maintainable (and ACTUALLY realistic, which is probably 5-10lbs more than what you think is realistic) and just LIVE there. You’ll have hard body image days, but shoot – shredded people probably have MORE! Stop looking in the mirror for your source of validation and look to your loved ones and the value you produce in the world.

Make your 2020 a great freaking year.

Go after whatever it is you’ve been holding out on.

It’s a new decade, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you should use whatever inspirational New Years quotes that get you fired up to GO DO whatever you’ve been waiting on!

If you have enjoyed or benefitted from my monthly content throughout 2019, please share my social media pages or website to your friends and family! I would greatly appreciate your support in the growth of my business.

If they would like to subscribe to this newsletter, they can do so by entering their email on the bottom bar of my website, www.marissaroyfitness.com.