Why Is That Workout So Hard?

by Michael Plank

A few weeks ago, I got back from an archery elk hunt. My father-in-law and I booked it almost two years ago. For nearly all of 2022, I trained for the trip. Over the summer, I trained 10 hours per week, just for the trip. I lifted weights, carried heavy packs, hiked for miles, shot my bow literally every day, picked the brains of experts, and even did dress rehearsals (true story). A day or two before I left, a friend of mine said “Don’t you think you’re overpreparing for this hunting trip?” My answer was; “I hope so!”

We talk a lot about how you don’t have to punish yourself in the gym. Every workout doesn’t need to be a PR, every effort doesn’t need to take you into the red zone, you don’t always need to work so hard that you can’t remember your name at the end of class, and that’s all true. But training sometimes still involves hard things. It sometimes involves things that are uncomfortable and even things that you hate. And on those days you might find yourself saying, “why the hell do I have to move that fast?? I’m never going to have to do this in real life!”

You’re probably right. And, honestly, you don’t have to move that fast. You can get great long-term results training at low intensity.

But, beyond the energy system benefits and the physiological benefits, one of the main benefits of training at high intensity, of training hard, is precisely that it is harder than what you’ll actually have to do in real life. If you regularly do things in the gym that are harder than what life asks of you, then you reach a point where your body is capable of more than you are ever likely to ask of it in your everyday life.

You can get to where you’re not too tired to play with your kids, you’re not too sore to hike, you’re not worried about being too winded to run back up the stairs for your keys. And do you know what that’s called?


Training does not absolutely have to be harder than real life in order for it to be helpful and good. But when it is harder than real life, when you overprepare for real life, you find freedom that’s pretty great.