One Piece At a Time

Coach Chris here…  Your body and my gym have a lot in common.  When I opened my gym in October of 2011, I had no idea what it was going to look like a year down the road.  I mean, yeah, I had ideas, visions, dreams- but I didn’t really KNOW.  On day one it looked like this:


Day one.  Only, not really.  You see, this is where we started the building process from.  But before we could build we had to remove all of the crap.  Here’s a picture that’s more along the lines of where we started:

There was A LOT of crap to remove- desks, cleaning supplies, shelving units, office equipment, drywall, insulation, etc…  We knocked down a wall, busted multiple new “openings” to create space and flow to the room, and swept every last crevice prior to the two pictures taken above.

After the first two pictures were taken, we did the next step and the gym looked like this:

Pretty clear, but in case you missed it, we laid the flooring, prepping the gym for the next step:

We had to first clear the crap, then clean, then lay the flooring, and finally install the racks and other equipment.  Any other order and this process would have been a mess.  These were the big rocks.  From here we made subtle changes over days, weeks, months, a year, and so on…

From that same shot, here is the gym today:

I will show you some of the in-between steps here as we go, but I think we can all agree- that’s a pretty drastic change.

Sow how is this like your body you ask?  Well, you probably have a goal.  In order to achieve your goal you first need to remove the crap.  Crap can be anything negative, hindering you from the body and lifestyle you’re dreaming of.  Do you watch too much TV?  Hang out with the wrong crowd?  Eat like a 10-year-old?  Do you skip workouts often?

Whatever it is, CUT THE CRAP.

Once you’ve done this, you need to figure out what the (your) big rocks are.  Put the big rocks in first.  Remember you can’t move in furniture/equipment if you haven’t laid the flooring.  Maybe you’re taking the latest and greatest supplements but you rarely eat whole foods on a consistent basis.  Maybe you’re reading every muscle zine and site but can’t find the time to complete a real program in it’s entirety.

Eat well and lift often.  BIG ROCKS FIRST.

Once the big rocks are all “moved in,” it’s time to take a look at the fillers.  We’ve got pebbles, then sand, and finally water.  The pebbles are the next most important step in your journey.  In any process there are a ton of different approaches.  Goals are no different.  Maybe what’s important to you means nothing to me- so your pebbles and sand might be slightly different, but you’ve got to figure out what they are.

The pebbles for the gym were excess equipment that we didn’t NEED, but we sure as heck can get a lot out of.  Sandbags, kettlebells, ropes, med balls, sleds, bands, chains etc…  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have them if we didn’t have bars and plates, dumbbells, racks, and benches first.  The reality is, we could have gotten strong, lean, and dominated without all of the pebbles, but they make things easier, more fun, and typically can expedite goals.

You can’t add the pebbles before the big rocks though.

The sand is really the little tiny stuff that we definitely don’t NEED, but it also won’t hinder our goals in any way.  In the case of the gym, think decorations and equipment that doesn’t directly appy to training people.  All of the banners, shirts from athletes, posters, the refrigerator, etc…  In our case, they add personality, convenience, and show off a little bit.  None of those things hinder our goal of getting people in the best shape of their life, but they probably don’t directly impact it either.

Water is the excess.  The container might seem full with all of the big rocks, pebbles, and sand- but, there is definitely little tiny cracks and crevices where water can fit in.  The water represents your “cheats,” or anything that could ruin the goal if done in excess.  These things are okay, and are actually encouraged as long as the big rocks, pebbles, and sand go in first, and they don’t overflow the container.

Sand and water keep us sane.  You don’t NEED to have them, but life just isn’t as enjoyable without them.

The final part to this post is about complacency.  The gym was “complete” soon after starting it, but we’ve made improvements to the facility itself, the systems, the training, etc… every single day.  There is literally not a week that goes by that we don’t improve something, no matter how arbitrary it may seem.  Small changes made often mean big changes over time.  The day that you tell yourself, “I’m where I want to be,” is the day you not only stop improving, but you will backslide.


So what’s your goal? Do you know your big rocks?  What could make up the pebbles, sand, and water?  If you don’t know the answer to these questions, at least you now have a path to even make it to the starting line.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of the gym in steps:

These changes didn’t happen overnight, and they definitely aren’t the “end.”

Progression through perseverance.


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Chris Merritt
Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA
Chris Merritt
About the author

Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA

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