Have you heard this story before about the big rocks? It bears repeating even if you’ve heard it before.

The story goes….

 ‘A man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”

Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?”

He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied.

And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again, he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” (1)

Note- This passage is from Dr Stephen Covey.

How does this relate to exercise?

When it comes to exercise, fat loss, weight loss, muscle-building or any other goal fitness related, you (and me) sweat the small stuff, especially when your progress stalls.

You fill your exercise jar with gravel, sand and water and end up having no room for the big rocks.

With all the information available on exercise, nutrition and what’s good for you, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Combined with the fact this changes on a daily basis, you may fall into the trap of focusing on the gravel and not the rock. 

You stop eating fat because you’ve been told it makes you fat.

You stop doing squats because you’ve been told it’s bad for your back.

Carbs are cut out of your diet because you’ve been told all carbs are evil.

The treadmill is your happy place because you heard that lifting weights makes you bulky.

I could go on and on but hopefully you get the point.

Getting sucked in is easy.

However, it takes you away from what’s really important about exercise in the first place. Or worse, you’re paralyzed in a state of indecision and you end up doing nothing.

This stops now.

Get in a plane and take in the exercise view from 10,000 feet and admire the big rocks. And once you do, getting sucked in will be a thing of the past.

1. Start with fundamental human movements

What do I mean by this?

Think about the movements you do daily without realizing it.

Sitting down to go number 2. – Squatting

Bending over to pick up something from the floor. – Hinging

Opening and closing a door. – Pushing and pulling

Carrying groceries in from the car. – Carrying

Walking, running or climbing stairs- Single leg

Ideally you would train these movements in a gym. However, if the gym isn’t your thing, it’s important to find something that is and do it every chance you get. Because all movement is good movement.

Even Zumba.

2. Eat like an adult and less like a child

Think about all the stuff you used to eat as a child.

Chicken nuggets, pop tarts, sugary cereal, donuts, candy, chicken strips, fish fingers and frozen pizza. This list could go on, but you get the point. Basically, sugar and fat laden food out of a box.

You get away with this when you’re a child because you had the metabolism of a Ferrari. You probably burnt off those calories even before it hits the stomach.  

But as an adult, your Ferrari metabolism morphs into tortoise. And that’s okay because you can’t devote your life to play like you once did.

So, stop being in denial. It’s time to eat like an adult.

You need to eat more single ingredient/whole foods like meats (sorry vegetarians but you get the point), fruits and vegetables and less of the foods that come out of a box or bag.

Anything that draws its nutrients from the earth and is not entirely put together by someone in a lab coat and glasses is much better for you.

And when you push the arrow more in the adult direction, your waistline will be pleased and the diet companies disappointed.

3. Fun

Remember fun?

The stuff you do that makes you happy.  And when you’re finished, you can’t wait to do it again.

Yeah that stuff. Unfortunately, for a lot of people this doesn’t involve exercise. Exercise is regarded as more as a punishment for what you ate last night, and not a reward.

Want proof? Go to your local gym to see people running on the dreadmill or watch the unhappy joggers from your car. They’re having no fun what-so-ever. The pained look on their faces are hilarious. At least to me. 😊

And rather than continuing down this path of punishment, put the fun back into your exercise. According to Michelle Segar, author of No Sweatenjoyment is the best motivator for exercise.

“Logic doesn’t motivate us; emotions do,” says Segar. In other words, people who exercise for fun stick with it more than those who do so for medical reasons. 

And when you enjoy something, you’re more likely to do it again and exercise can be one of those things.

Here’s a few ideas to start you off.

  • Join a recreation league to play a sport you enjoyed during your childhood
  • Play hide and seek with your kids or other adults
  • Catch, jump rope or hopscotch
  • Go play fetch with your dog

But I don’t know what you find fun. Experiment and find out. Your waistline will thank you for it.

4. Consistency

When life gets busy, chaotic and overcomplicated, the last thing you want to do is exercise. You haven’t the time to drive to the gym, get changed, do your workout, shower and drive home. And not to mention your energy or lack of it. Because what you have in the tank changes from day to day.

You know you need to move often, eat fruit, vegetables, protein, stay hydrated and get 6- 8 hours of sleep a night. The problem is the execution, especially when time and energy is of the essence.

When life is your workout, please focus on the one thing that will keep you on the health train while you’re snowed under. It could be

  • Going for a daily walk
  • Going to bed earlier
  • Eating a salad instead of a hamburger
  • Getting some stretching in
  • Prepping your food/menu for the week

Because that one thing will feel like you’re doing something positive for your health.

Wrapping up

These 4 rocks will keep you on the fitness straight and narrow and less likely to be sucked in by the latest and greatest fad. And your money can stay in your wallet for more important things.

Like the Ferrari you’ve had your eye on.

If you need help with the 4 big rocks, this will help.


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