I’ve heard human beings described as Pleasure Monkeys; primitive, reward-seeking primates that will gladly climb a tree IF there is promise of bananas a few branches up. We, like all animals, seek pleasure and avoid pain. The way we speak, with whom we associate, what we do, where we work, what we wear; all of it can be viewed through the evolutionary lens of putting in effort to achieve a reward. The banana in the tree.
I really like weight lifting. It improves my strength, and the aesthetics my efforts produce seem to be appreciated by my wife. Putting myself through the grinder of a hard work out is well worth it. However, there are other components to lifting weights that are important to me.
Suppose a sadist of the worst kind devises a highly effective, resistance training contraption that allows the user to perceive what pulling hundreds of pounds off the floor might feel like, as well as all the accompanying performance gains. The downside to this contraption is all of the benefit would occur without the glorious payoff of moving the actual weight that was previously unattainable.
There is something beautiful about achieving a personal record. Loading the bar with weight, and then hitting a clean repetition with that weight for the first time is a payoff! Hearing the metallic clang of the plates as they settle against one another during each repetition is a reward. Feeling the knurling on the bar dig in to my chalked hands, and watching the bar bow gently under the tension I generate are bananas in the tree for which this pleasure monkey will climb.
Why, then, do treadmills exist? Where the hell is the banana? If I hop on the treadmill for thirty minutes and jog at a ten minute pace, I have gone exactly nowhere. Did I run three miles? I guess so. I didn’t feel any breeze, though. I didn’t catch the scent of blooming flowers on the side of the road, either. Just the cloud of Axe Body Spray the guy next to me doused himself with. I don’t get to see the ever changing, beautiful, Utah landscape. Just the gaggle of women standing in a crowd four feet from me yammering on about when to switch from breast milk to formula.
Obviously I’m missing something, as treadmills are clearly popular, but who are you people? …and, why? So, in short, evolutionary theory holds that maladaptive behaviors will be selected out of the gene pool, and yet, treadmills abound. Darwin was wrong, guys. There is a God, and he wants us to do cardio.