I have been struggling with how to convey my most important fitness message to my audience for some time. My main motivation and inspiration for getting fit was conservation. Doing my part to stay healthy and help the planet. But it has also been to create a healthy, positive attitude about our fitness, and conservation. This is where it gets tricky, and I have wrangled with my message. The situations our favorite animals are facing are dire. They need immediate, and often drastic action. To make the most positive impact, we need to change a lot of our eating habits, consumer habits, and even our workout habits. But as I’ve been told, learning about the dire situations our planet faces doesn’t actually inspire people, it brings them. How do I, as a trainer utilizing positive reinforcement put a positive spin on a dire situation and inspire people to get fit not just for themselves, but for the planet?
I am a busy bee on this island trying to introduce the community to ZooFit, or at least introduce them to the concept of Conservation Fitness (I still feel somewhat conflicted with the name “ZooFit” as it feels a little immature and kid-oriented, not so much “kick ass on your goals and save the planet”). I finished a series of seminars with Parks and Recs on “Zookeeper’s Guide to Fitness”, and I submitted proposals for several classes and workshops throughout the summer. I speak regularly at Toastmasters and read at a couple Writing Groups- my subject is always related to my program. So I am definitely getting the message out there. Is it the message I want to convey?
I still teach a few classes at South Island CrossFit. We just finished a great round of a 6-week challenge and saw a lot of success stories emerge from just 6 weeks of training. I get to insert my philosophies and practices here and there with clients through classes, special presentations, and just overall interactions. It feels good to see people I train succeed and have them thank me for my encouragement and motivation. I don’t get too much into the Conservation Fitness aspect except in little bits when asked about something like water bottles, or best protein powder. However, we have decided to start incorporating Conservation Fitness into extracurricular presentations for our next cycle of Best Self Challenge. In a couple of weeks, we will have SIC’s very first Meal Prep Workshop, where we will look into the skills of preparing meals for the week, and helping us eat out a little less. When we prepare meals ourselves, we reduce the calories, the saturated fat, and the processed sugars significantly. I once read, I believe from Michael Pollan, that if you make something from scratch, even if it’s a dessert, it will be significantly healthier than a store bought item. So, teaching meal prep and homemade snacks is a great skill to learn for those looking to eat healthier or lose weight.
Ironically, I talk about meal prepping, or at least focus on eating out less often, as an effective way to reduce deforestation. In my public talks, I use the tiger as the “Poster Child”, or as I like to call them “Power Animals” against deforestation and how our dining habits can influence how much impact we have on logging in tiger habitat. Of course, deforestation doesn’t just affect tigers. In fact, I started on my own quest to eliminate fast food mainly because of salamanders, and their struggle to thrive in a world that is quickly logging their habitat in the Eastern United States. I recognize that not everyone on earth, or even on Whidbey Island, really loves salamanders (I don’t know why not, they are adorable). Deforestation affects nearly every animal that looks at trees in their life. I chose a fairly charismatic animal to represent how eating out less can help save the forests, and the planet. It is also very healthy for you.
I’ve been going about this the wrong way, though. Silly me. Bringing people down by showing them the horrible effects of their habits of eating out doesn’t convert people and inspire them to eat out less. It just makes them guilty when they do eat out. It’s punishing them. That’s the LAST thing I wanted to do! But thanks to Lara, the owner of South Island CrossFit, I figured out a way to use Conservation Fitness as a reinforcement. Teach them how to meal prep. Teach them the health and delicious benefits to preparing your meals at home versus getting take-out. Have them make foods on their own. Share recipes. Get them excited about this habit for what it does for them, personally. And once they are already hooked, reel them in for the long-haul by telling them that not only are they eating healthy and doing their body good, but they are helping save tigers (Or salamanders, or whatever. Really, just pick an animal!). Then I can go into the positive impacts of their new habit on endangered species. Win-win! It will stick with them longer, too.
I was thinking we could use them as the source of willpower, but it’s not really willpower, it’s the reward for using your willpower. I hope this is making sense- I’ll make a list :
- Teach students about healthy habit. Give as much accurate information they can use for their health.
- Show how it positively affects their health.
- Tell them their new habit is not just helping them meet their fitness goals, but they are now having a more positive impact on the environment! Show them exactly how this is happening.
- Student feels empowered. They continue with their new healthy habit, and next time they are even remotely tempted, they are not just resisting for themselves, and not even just because it’s habit, but because the idea that they are saving a species is reinforcing their new habit.
It’s the freaking reward for doing good behavior! The good feeling you have, saving the planet, conserving a species- THAT’S THE REWARD!!!
Mind. Blown. Why has it taken me so long to figure this out?!?! Better late than never. I at least know how to incorporate Conservation Fitness into my book. Putting a positive spin on a dire situation by making the positive impact be the reward for healthy habits. Friggin’ BRILLIANT!