The Treadmill Theory

The Treadmill Theory

I hate running, probably because I’m terrible at it. I force myself to endure it once a week, and struggle to complete two miles in 18 minutes.

On vacation last week, it was cold and windy outside, so I opted for the treadmill. I was surprised at how easy it was to get my typical workout.

I began at 6.5 mph for a 5-minute jog, then sprinted at 9.0 for 1 minute, followed by a 1-minute rest. I then increased the pace on my sprints by 0.2 mph until I got to 10.0 mph.

Perhaps I just had a bolt of energy that day, so I went back tomorrow to try again. I breezed through it. I ran every day on vacation with the same effortlessness.

Upon returning home, I was eager to get back to my normal run, which mimicked that on the treadmill: a 5-minute warm up jog around my block, followed by sprints up and down the alley. After four sprints, I was gassed.

What happened? Last week I was bolting, and today I couldn’t keep up.

Then, it hit me. The treadmill did the heavy lifting for me. By not having to worry about pacing nor exercise any willpower, I could focus on getting in the zone and my form.

I’ve always intuitively known about the treadmill theory, but it seems significant now because I’m going through a phase where I’m exerting a lot of willpower to force myself to complete tasks, instead of allowing them to be performed automatically.

So, I decided to decode the treadmill theory and apply it to other aspects of my life.

The Treadmill Theory states that it’s easier to perform a given action when that action is done by default.

I wondered, ‘What things could I set into motion by default, thereby removing the friction?’

What if I put my running shoes and gym clothes right next to my bed so it was the first thing I put on in the morning?

Could I reposition the items in my fridge and panty to encourage me to eat better?

Perhaps I’d leave a gallon jug of water on my desk with an empty glass next to it to encourage me to drink more.

The possibilities of applying the principle are endless. By using The Treadmill Theory, one could essentially hack improvements they want to make to everyday life.


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