Hedonic Treadmill & the new normal

2 min read

The satisfaction of achieving a goal, both in running and life in general,
soon wears off. Whether it is a new PB or a new car, the desired item becomes the new normal.

What is being described is sometimes referred to as the pursuit of happiness, or the Hedonic Treadmill.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

The pursuit of happiness

If you catch yourself thinking, “all you need is that one thing, maybe the latest pair of running shoes and that will give you the edge…”. This could also be a pay rise or a new shiny gadget – in the case of Matt D’Avella’s excellent video below, a new toaster:

Matt D’Avella’s – short video ‘The New Normal’ describes the Hedonic Treadmill

Chasing a PB

Using running as the example, after the satisfaction of achieving a desired PB time wears off, you adjust and become accustomed to it.

You become dissatisfied with the same time that was once your goal.

So you set yourself a new goal and the cycle begins again. A never-ending treadmill.

If this resonates and your running is currently a source of discontentment, there is a way to step off the treadmill and start enjoying your running again.


Rather than setting A, B & C running goals at the start of the year, I simply committed to raising my standards & lowering my expectations.

In April 2019, I completed my first Marathon in Manchester.

During the training for this event, my standards were raised by doing the work & completing 91% of the training plan, including a V02Max test at the start.

I lowered my expectations by concluding that whatever happened on race day, even just finishing the race, would be a success.

There was no pressure. I was free to enjoy my first marathon.

On race day, a 3:48:14 time was achieved, however it was never about striving for a desired time. My aim was to celebrate the whole marathon experience, from training to race day and most importantly inspire my daughter.

This approach meant there was no unfinished business. If I don’t run another marathon, I am content and satisfied with my marathon experience.


After completing a marathon, there is never a better time to consider a simple approach.

Following the months of hard work, dedication and focus on a training plan, now is the time to relax, recover and recharge.

Take some time off, do something completely different, treat yourself and say thank you to the special people in your life that supported you during the training.

How long you take is up to you. I took 2 weeks off after Manchester Marathon.

After returning from the break, I enjoyed relaxing easy runs. I left the phone, headphones and Garmin watch at home and simply enjoyed the freedom of running without pressure or a goal. I ran by feel.

The sunny weather certainly helped but it felt amazing to simply revel in the joy of movement.

Come back stronger

Perhaps you are feeling refreshed after some time away from running or have your running mojo back.

Maybe you can now run faster than before the marathon and want to test your progress.

To maintain your running contentment, the key is not to cling too tightly to the idea of achieving a particular goal. Hold it loosely. Those aspirations will arrive from the fitness and endurance gains from the training anyway, but be patient and don’t be too disappointed if it takes a little longer to get there. Trust the process.

Stepping off the treadmill

A simpler approach to your running could be the way to step off the hedonic treadmill and start enjoying your running again.

Simply #RunWithLess