Conservation as Reinforcement

I spent the better part of two months going into detail how to incorporate positive reinforcement training into your fitness routine. The writing went so well for me, I decided to compile the posts to create a short book.

But that’s not the point of this post. I actually want to continue on the vein of positive reinforcement and operant conditioning. Only, I’m bringing back a basic fundamental of ZooFit: Conservation.

There are three pillars to ZooFit. Operant conditioning, or the animal training principle. Here I show how fitness is positive and motivating. Enrichment is next, where we learn fitness is fun and engaging. And the one which is most important to me- Conservation.

Conservation Heroes

Conservation is important because it’s the very reason why zoos are so important in our communities and society. And this pillar of ZooFit makes getting in shape not just about us. Sure, we meet our fitness goals, and we have a blast doing it. But the connection to conservation makes fitness impactful. We get to be ACTUAL superheroes! To our families, and to the planet.

How freaking cool is THAT?

Which brings me to the point of this post. I talked about positive reinforcement and all that jazz for two months, but what’s really neat about ZooFit is how all my pillars are interconnected. They all meld together to form a cohesive and tight-knit ball of ooey-gooey goodness. It’s like a chocolate chip cookie dough mix, but this one is good for you.

If you are reading this blog, I am assuming you are in a general category of either A) really like fitness and the fun aspect I bring to the field, or B), your a conservationist at heart and want to protect the earth. Or technically, C) both, and we are kindred spirits.

Creating a Positive Feedback Loop

When I started my fitness journey in 2014, I had a fairly strong extrinsic reason. I wanted to be a better zookeeper, for my “girls”, the three elephants at Woodland Park Zoo. But the more I delved into fitness and met goal after goal, having fun, and getting stronger, the more I saw the connection to conservation.

If you want to get fit, you need to move more- biking, walking, hiking, swimming, whatever. But you know what these activities also do? Reduce your carbon footprint by driving less. So, not only do I get an INCREDIBLE workout, release endorphins, lose weight, yada, yada, yada. I am doing something significant to combat climate change. I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

And this created a positive feedback loop for me, reinforcing my behavior or riding my bike, or walking when I could. When I was feeling unmotivated, I remember that riding my bike isn’t just about me, it’s also about polar bears (polar bears are a significant animal to me). So, I get off my lazy bum and ride my bike. Or, in the situation I’m currently in, I walk. Which gets me moving, and I start feeling good, and I burn calories. Which reinforces my behavior of riding my bike or walking. Positive feedback loop.

Conservation Connection

Ask a nutritionist their number one recommendation for losing weight, and they’ll likely tell you to cut out the processed food. Well, wouldn’t you know, most processed food has palm oil in it. Palm oil, having a negative impact on Asian animals, is something I try to avoid in my food. Because it creates this very bright line I won’t cross, no matter how tempted I am to eat treats. I do not eat food with palm oil in it. Instead, I make my own food snacks, or eat whole foods. I feel much better about this decision, AND I feel good about making a consumer choice which doesn’t negatively affect elephants and orangutans. Which reinforces my behavior of avoiding food with palm oil.

These examples grew the more I learned about the conservation connection to healthy habits. I quit eating out at fast food restaurants because I wanted to reduce the impact of single-use plastics and paper products. To provide some fun enrichment for my exercise routine, I created my own workout equipment using household items. Instead of adding to the landfill, I made a more dynamic element to my workouts with medicine balls, agility ladders, ab mat, and sand bags.

Nowadays, I think almost every facet of my life is connected to conservation. My eating habits, my exercise habits, and even my wellness habits. I make ZooFit a part of my life because I believe in it, and because it makes a difference- in my health and the health of my family, but also in the health of the planet.

You don’t get more reinforcing and motivating than that!

Eat clean, live green, train positive!

2 Responses

  1. I tend to forget to check for some ingredients, maybe I need to strengthen my connection with the animals and environments directly effected with my food purchases. The good thing is that I have the plastic thing under control, refusing to buy a snack that is wrapped in plastic has really improved my health also!

  2. Well, you are also checking for other ingredients besides palm oil or corn syrup. it takes practice (and positive reinforcement), so just remember it’s a process. But you also do great work reducing your plastic waste. Keep up the great work.

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