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Powell Performance's Big Rocks

This term seems to be infiltrating pop culture, online forums and everything in between… big rocks. What does it mean? What does it mean to PP and how do we apply it to our clients / athletes?


You’re at the beach and are told to fill a glass jar. Your goal is to get as much weight and items in the jar as possible, because the more you get in the jar the more you get as a reward for filling it up, we’ll explain that reward more later.


So, what would you fill it up with? You look around, you could probably get a ton of sand in there, but it’s all small and very light. Yes, it will fill the whole jar easily, but it won’t weigh much so your reward long term won’t be much. If you’re thinking about wet sand… way ahead of you, yes it’s heavier but still not the best option. You search around, there are some beautiful seashells around, but again, not a ton of weight because they usually aren’t very dense or heavy. The seaweed or plankton… gross, don’t bother.


You continue to search, and you finally notice the larger rocks that still fit in the jar. They are heavy enough to provide some great weight. You throw them in because they are MOST IMPORTANT to reaching your goal… this is what we mean when we say big rocks. It means we are looking for the biggest bang for our buck, the actions, beliefs, or ideology that leads to the most results.


For us at PP it’s balance and maximizing these 4 big rocks and different parts that go into diet.

1) Psychology

2) Biochemistry

3) Environment

4) Physical


These 4 big rocks take up the majority of our jars we create for our athletes. After the athlete accepts and puts these into their jar there is minimal room for other things we can put in the jar. Yes, the athlete will see results by adding 1-2 of these rocks, and bigger results with 2-3, but until all 4 are accounted for they will always be missing something. Our job here at PP as the dietitian or coach is to help people figure out each of these and then help them create small habits and actions they can take to move forward with each one.

Once we have an athlete who has set-up these big 4 rocks in their jar, we continue working with them to start filling the rest of the jar. Often next we work on closely related habits and actions that will assist well with the big rocks and start filling in the other cracks. This is a great time to start putting some of the smaller heavy rocks in, these are important too and still add weight and value to our day. These can include things like forming habits to change our big rock that is psychology, eating foods that produce the hormonal changes we want to make, making the best decisions for our environment and improving parts of our lifestyle to improve overall health.


1. Big Rock - Psychology

A. Small Rocks - habits / mental health / capacity and ability

2. Big Rock - Biochemistry

A. Small Rocks – eating food with desired hormonal responses, stress relief

3. Environment

A. Small Rocks - improve interpersonal relations, knowledge of life stage

4. Physical

A. Small Rocks – improving overall lifestyle & better training to improve performance


As you can see, these small rocks are just further steps into helping the big rocks be even more effective. Now that we have all of these in here, what do we add next? We get even more specific and we add sand to start filling all the space between the big and small rocks. These are even more specific things that need to be addressed and change from person to person. Some of the more common examples are below:


1. Big Rock - Psychology

A. Small Rocks - habits / mental health / capacity and ability

B. Sand – creating small daily habits and doing 5 minutes of mindfulness and breathing


2. Big Rock - Biochemistry

A. Small Rocks – eating food with desired hormonal responses, stress relief

B. Sand – making vegetables and high-protein sources priorities, and minimizing processed food