There is a fairly popular and famous animal behavior expert by the name of Steve Martin.
Please do not confuse him with the comedian. I’m sure he gets it ALL THE TIME! He has so much great insight on practices for training, I consider him a true mentor in the field. One of his many “gems” discusses the relationship between animals and trainers as a “trust bank”. I have found this philosophy to coincide well with my fitness and wellness practices, but instead of calling it a “trust bank”, I refer to the actions I take as “putting motivation in the bank.” But let me explain a little more what this “bank” reference means.
Every time a trainer does something the animal likes, trust is “deposited” into the bank. Feeding, positive interactions, removal of something the animal doesn’t like (aversive stimuli) are all examples of ways a trainer can earn more trust.
There is a good reason to build up a lot of trust with their animal. Because there is going to come a time in every animal trainer’s relationship when they are going to need to withdraw some of that trust. Withdrawing trust is asking the animal to do something it doesn’t like. Visiting the vet is a prime example of a time when trust is withdrawn from the bank. If there isn’t enough trust in the bank, then the trainer can go bankrupt, and the relationship is at a breaking point. If they go bankrupt, then it’s going to be difficult for the animal to do anything that is asked of it by the trainer. They will have to work harder to earn that trust back.
Think of training your dog or cat to go into a crate or kennel to take it to the vet. It can often cause avoidance and fear whenever the animal sees the crate, if the only time they see it is when they need to go to the vet. So, how do you save up trust so you can afford a withdrawal?
Make the crate a fun, interesting, and rewarding place to be. I have my cat’s carrier out on the floor not far from his food dish, and once a day, I play with him in the carrier. He’s so comfortable now, that I can ask him to get in the carrier, zip it up, and even take him to the car without him getting nervous. He still doesn’t like the vet, but he does not associate the carrier with the vet. He still thinks the carrier is fun! Putting trust in the bank in incredibly important for maintaining a healthy and positive relationship with your animals.
When it comes to fitness, though, we aren’t putting “trust” in the bank, we’re putting motivation. Some folks call people with tons of motivation to workout “fitness fanatics”. I’m one. But I’m not so much a fanatic, but rather someone who has a lot of motivation built up in her bank, so even when I don’t feel as motivated to do a workout, I can withdraw from my motivation bank and get out the door much easier than most.
A perfect example is my challenge to do my interpretation of jogging a mile every day. My jogging really shouldn’t be classified as running, but hey, I’m doing it! I do my 1-mile jog regardless if I’ve worked out that day. Regardless if that workout was a doozy and I’m physically exhausted and still have to get dinner ready. Why am I adamant that I get my 1-mile interpretation of a jog in every day? Well, besides the fact I’d be disappointed that I couldn’t even go a week into my challenge, going for my 1-mile slow-as-an-actual-sloth outing is me putting that motivation in the bank. If I can do this phase of only one mile even after a killer workout, and when I still have other things to accomplish, then when I REALLY don’t have the motivation, I can make a motivation withdrawal. I can say to myself, “Self, remember that time you did 90 ring push-ups, rows, and dips, 50 burpees, and 250 jump rope, plus 5 rounds of ladder agility? Remember that time? And you STILL went for your daily interpretation of a jog? Well, this situation that you are saying you can’t do is actually easier! Get up and get going!” And then THAT episode will help in another future scenario where I don’t want to do something. Plus, if I get a long string of successions of doing a daily mile, it’ll be that much more motivating to continue my stretch. Wouldn’t want to miss a day! This is how motivation can work for us, but we have to continue to put motivation in the bank, just like trainers put trust in the bank.
One way to earn more motivation is to find an activity you can’t get enough of. This could be yoga, or walking around a park or zoo, or even pole-dancing. Pair this activity with more challenging activities. If you love yoga, but you are wanting to run or at least jog more often, try parking a couple blocks from the yoga studio and run the rest of the way in. You could certainly view yoga as your positive reinforcement for running in this capacity as well.
There is an addictive quality to fitness as well.
Once you find your niche, you will find yourself wanting to go back to that activity over and over. This is just like putting money in the bank. The activity that calls to a person is going to vary, so telling you what activities you should try would be self-defeating. For instance, I do NOT like yoga. But Athletic Conditioning and Bootcamp style classes? Yes please! I encourage you to explore and try out several opportunities for fitness. Each trial is an opportunity to put more motivation in your bank. You can even check out a workout video from the library, or get a groupon for a new gym. And keep earning motivation interest. The more you work on it, the more motivation will be there when you really need it.