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Relentless Podcast

Marissa Pellegrino: Stand Next to Yourself, Feel Strong Inside and Out, and Respect the Grind

It’s time for episode fifteen of the Relentless: Real People, Real Results, Real World podcast!

In this episode I welcome in Marissa Pellegrino – aka “Relentless Riss” – Relentless Fitness co-owner, Kid Relentless creator, competitive gymnast and 1998 National Vault Champion, gymnastics coach, and personal trainer.



  • Drawing inspiration from a kid client – Devin – who recently completed his goal of running over the Ben Franklin Bridge. “I feel super lucky.”
  • Being impressed by current gymnast Simone Biles, who is ahead of the game.
  • Starting gymnastics at the age of 3 and moving away from home at 14 years old to pursue greatness. Experiencing a rigorous day of a shortened school schedule, followed by 6.5 hours of training.
  • Moving back home at 18 and transitioning into the working world as a gymnastics coach: “The only thing I really knew was gymnastics.”
  • “I decided that I wanted to open a gym. I wanted to use fitness in a way to bridge everything I was doing at the time – social work and gymnastics. I wanted to find a way to make it all one.”
  • Reflecting on the world of competitive gymnastics: “The world is very harsh there. You are always striving to be better and you are never where you are supposed to be. It’s always nitpicking…When you are in it you’re really grinding and as a teenager you don’t know any better.”
  • Being grateful for the experience: “Looking back I can see how that shaped me now. I feel very fortunate for the experience. A lot of times it was very hard and very difficult. I think it messed me up in some small ways, but for the most part it taught me a lot about dedication. It taught me a lot about loyalty to myself and setting myself up to win in different situations – climbing the hill and grinding. If you’re an entrepreneur that’s a skill that’s really hard to learn. You can’t learn it I don’t think. I think it has to be in you, and I think gymnastics helped that come out.”
  • Evaluating both sides of the coin – the drive to finish what you started versus having perspective and not blindly following a path.
  • Advice to those that struggle with the grind: “I glance at the big picture, but mostly I just look right in front of me…When we run over the Ben Franklin Bridge, the sidewalks have lines…every 5 feet you cross another line. You keep your head down and you watch for the line. Every day come up with ‘What needs to happen today to set me up better for tomorrow?’
  • Struggling with chronic back pain stemming from her gymnastics career. “I still imagine that I can do certain things, and I go to do them and the pain is outrageous. The pain isn’t what makes me cry afterwards. It’s my pride, it’s my identity…I’m mourning my old self.”
  • The need for reinvention and shifting from pure physical output to inspiring and teaching youth.
  • Coaching influences: tough love gymnastics versus high emotion social work.
  • Her coaching style: “I individualize everybody. Everyone is their own person. Everyone needs something. It’s motivating them by giving them what they need – the attention, the structure.”
  • Kids thriving on structure and seeing themselves progress.
  • Her mission: “Gymnastics is one thing, and it’s a great thing, but my mission is to help kids feel strong inside and out. Feel good about themselves. I want them leaving tall and proud. I want people leaving and making good decisions because they feel good about themselves. Not because they can just do a cartwheel and handstand but because they are thriving and becoming really good people within the program. It’s more holistic than just coaching.
  • Advice for working with kids: Structure, routine, positive re-enforcement, asking the children questions and involving them, teaching them to take ownership.
  • On perfection: “Everybody makes mistakes. Teach kids that it’s ok to step out of line and it’s ok to not be perfect. Nobody is going to be perfect.”
  • On effort: “It’s about effort more than anything else. What are you putting out consistently? That’s more important to me than a straight-leg cartwheel and a perfect handstand. Some kids might never get that, but if they’re learning other skills that will help them in their lives – who cares?”
  • Expectations versus reality: “I think I’m the only entrepreneur in the whole entire world that thought starting a business would be easy. I was sorely mistaken.”
  • Why “If I build it they will come” is untrue in 99% of situations.
  • On the pressure of growth at the beginning: “It will do things to you that you can’t imagine.”
  • Organically building a business and experiencing a slow climb. “It allowed me to grow in a different way and challenged me to start re-branding myself…More is not always better…I don’t want that many kids if I’m not able to give them the experience they need.”
  • Advice to those at the beginning of their journeys: “Breathe. Just chill out. Your business is an extension of who you are so in some ways you may feel rejected, not good, not worthy of, it must be you. Remove yourself from the equation. Flip it and go onto the customer or the client side. What would I want? Does that line up with who you are? Are you waking up and doing that? Do you feel good?
  • The importance of positive self talk during tough times.
  • Whether you have 2 or 200 people, viewing each and every interaction as a chance to provide a great experience and positive word of mouth.
  • Why she would become an engineer or a toll booth collector as an alternate career.
  • Black and white versus gray area and providing flexible plans.
  • Having a family, not a staff – shouting out the Relentless Fitness team. “We really couldn’t do it without them.”
  • Hiring a personal chef: “I love the convenience of it. It’s pretty great to open your fridge and have choices.”
  • Tangible versus intangible costs and evaluating the price of not stressing about food and by extension making better decisions.

Stand next to you. Really stand next to yourself. Own who you are. Own your weaknesses and your strengths. Hone in on what they are. Be humble, but be proud. Kill it. Go do you, but stand next to you because in the end you’re all you got.”



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