Like a Mouse on A Wheel

There is something about treadmills that some people hate. I hate treadmills. I hate them because they are extraordinarily good liars.

My treadmill (the one in the far back corner of the gym) proudly displays many fun statistics. Standard output includes time, heart rate, incline, and distance, along with a few other functions I never touch. I probably never touch any of those other buttons because distance is the only one I ever seem to care about. How far have I gone? Distance, on it’s own, is the single most objective quantification of the work I have done. Time ticks away regardless if I am sitting in my lazyboy or running on a treadmill. Distance represents what I “accomplish,” and that’s what matters.

Unfortunately, it’s that little red “distance” display that lies so well.  The manufacturers label it very deceivingly. “Distance” is the amount of space between two things. So when my treadmill in the far back corner tells me my distance travelled is equal to 3.48 miles, I know it is a blatant lie and a bold lie. I have gone nowhere and gotten closer to nothing. My run has been pure simulation: an inorganic illusion for my body.

I think this illusion is what many people find to be inherently boring about a treadmill. You can put it in front of a window or a TV or a blank wall (which is by far the most depressing), but that does not change the repetitious falsity that a treadmill creates. At the end of the day you have still gone nowhere.

I think people at the gyms realize this; that’s the whole reason they put you facing out of a window or at a TV. Windows bolster the illusion. TVs try to make us forget it.

The TVs in front of treadmills are particularly interesting because they try to make me forget about my boredom. So why isn’t The Middle just as entertaining while pounding that rubber belt as it is while seated on comfy suede?  The answer is simple: both activities are fundamentally corrupted. We watch TV to relax. Then, we run on the treadmill to feel better about relaxing. And then we combine the two expecting TV to work like some magic anti-boredom serum.

In the end, it comes back to the initial lie. Just as Eve committed first sin, the treadmill commits first deceit. It is dishonest about our own accomplishment as it pushes us to fill the void.

Boredom loves to find the false places in our lives, including that 3.48 mile “distance” I supposedly ran. It creeps into our inorganic experience. It points its finger loudly at badly cultivated attempts at true activity and productivity. Boredom is what shows us that the treadmill is fundamentally dishonest and the promise of reprieve is fundamentally corrupt.

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