Today I wasted an hour on a webinar that was only trying to sell me a service. I took it because I thought the seminar would talk more about gaining confidence, but instead it was about how lack of confidence holds you down and why you should spend $150 to join the speaker’s “Confidence Club”. I was a bit irritated at the waste of time, but I did gain something incredibly insightful from it, so I can’t be too upset.
I know I’ve heard this concept before, but never applied it to fitness training. One great added benefit of animal training, for the animal, is a gain of confidence. This is vital for the animal. In a zoo, farm, or any kind of ” captive” setting, animals are dependent on humans. We tell them when to eat, when to go outside, when to sleep. Their lives are dictated by humans. In training, while we are asking the animals to do specific things, it is very freeing for an animal. Through the training process, they gain more choice and control. I know it seems absurd, but it’s true. And the more they learn, the more confidence they have in their choices. So, in essence, training can help increase the animal’s sense of freedom.
So confidence can set us free in our fitness as well. The more you practice, the better you feel about working out, and the more confidence you have in your abilities. This confidence will help you keep going. It provides more motivation, more knowledge, and helps you realize your potential. Desire, motivation, and inspiration can’t truly be learned, they are often earned. What CAN be learned is confidence, which will produce the realization of your dreams.
And this further relates to Keeping Fit with Zookeepers in regards to focusing on positive reinforcement in your fitness program. I read a blog the other day about how to keep yourself motivated when working out alone. There were 7 suggestions, and 4 of them focused on punishment as a consequence for not achieving your goals.
Let’s look at that idea for a minute. One suggestion was to make a bet with a friend. If you didn’t meet your goal, you owed your friend that amount of money. So, if you make your goal, you made your goal and get to keep your money. Hallelujah. And meeting your goal will likely reinforce your motivation to keep going. But what happens if you don’t meet your goal. You lose your money, yes, but that’s not even the worst of it. If you don’t meet your goal and receive a punishment as a result, are you going to push harder to meet your goal, or are you more likely to give up? Why would you subject yourself to possibly losing more money if you don’t meet your goal again? Punishment is a motivation KILLER. And it’s a confidence killer too. But if you have a goal, and you are only using positive reinforcement, you have nothing to fear for not meeting your goal. It’s okay. By working towards a goal using positive reinforcement, you will stay focused and motivated even if you don’t reach your goal in your time frame. And when you do reach your goal, your confidence will increase. And that boosts your motivation and encouragement to keep pushing yourself.
Another suggestion stated that you pick a goal to complete with your workout, and if you don’t meet that goal, you punish yourself with a penalty exercise. Now, I’ve also been to gyms that incorporate the same penalty for those that show up late to classes. And this doesn’t make any sense. If you are trying to inspire people to come to your class, and you want them to get fit, why would you punish those who make an effort to show up to your class? Because, if you have to do 20 burpees for showing up late, what do you think you are going to do the next time you are running late, or get stuck in traffic? Show up and do the burpees? Or turn around and head home instead of going through the penalty? For that matter, if you don’t meet your goal, when you are working out alone, and you penalize yourself, how motivated are you to try harder next time to meet a challenging goal? What if, instead of punishment, you decided to reward yourself for meeting a difficult goal? Even if you didn’t make it, would you be more motivated to try again?
If, as animal trainers, we used punishment, or even negative reinforcement, to get the animals to do the things we want, we would destroy their confidence in themselves, as we always focused on what they did wrong. By building confidence in our animals and focusing on the positive, we have better relationships with our animals, better motivation to do the behaviors, and better animal welfare. When we build confidence in ourselves by focusing on the positive, we can reach our goals and beyond, much more effectively than with a negative mindset.
Fitness is about creating a sustainable lifestyle for ourselves. It’s about creating confidence and inspiration around us. I don’t believe fitness is sustainable in a negative or punishing atmosphere. I believe to make our habits stick for good, you need positive attitudes and confidence building power. Getting fit the zookeeper way is the most sustainable way I’ve experienced.