How To Make Working Out Suck Less…

Have you ever heard the old cliche, “No Pain No Gain!”?

Working out can hurt, whether you are brand new or have been working out for a decade. If you are pushing yourself…it will hurt. I’m not talking about an injury-hurt, rather the “Man, this sucks…” kind of hurt.

Well, you’ll be happy to know three PhDs conducted a study which proved that simply sleeping a little bit more, not only makes you more alert, but it also increases your ability to tolerate pain. Today, I’m going to give you some tips and tricks for sleep habits and, ultimately, make working out suck less, and change that old cliche to…

“Less Pain Same Gain!”

Working out can hurt (thus making it suck) for two interconnected reasons:

  • Working out can suck due to a combination of physiological factors including acids, ions, proteins, and hormones running around in your body.
  • Working out can suck due to your perception and pain tolerance…AKA your brain!

The bad news: I can tell you as someone who has been on a consistent workout schedule for nearly 15 years, working out will always suck IF you aren’t coasting and you are trying to bring yourself to the next level. I enjoy it, but pushing myself is quite uncomfortable.

The good news: A little extra sleep can mitigate the working out suckiness.

But, really?

Make Workouts Suck Less…? Really?

There is a LOOOONNNGGG list of the behavioral and physiologic consequences of chronically insufficient sleep. But, one consequence recently gaining clinical and research attention is the effect of sleep loss on pain.

And I think I need to clarify HOW this can actually make working out suck less.

The sleep-and-pain connection research doesn’t prove that getting more sleep increases your willpower or mental toughness; i.e. simply giving you the ability to endure a little longer (even though that may be true).

No, it proved that your PERCEPTION of pain after being well-rested is completely different.

Meaning, what would hurt today with little sleep, may not even register in your brain as pain when you are well-rested.

To put it one other way…Superman doesn’t know what a stubbed toe feels like.

So, do you want to be Superman?

Get more sleep!

Here’s how…

Make Workouts Suck Less: Sleep Routine

In the 1960s sleep duration was estimated to be approximately 8 hr per 24-hr period, whereas by 2005 it was reported that sleep duration was 7 hr or less. Closer to today, a national survey reported that 21% of the population obtains 6 hr or less of sleep per 24-hr period.

Eeeek!! That’s you, isn’t it?

No worries, if you are sleep deprived there are several studies which have shown that an extended bedtime to 10 hours a night (I know, that’s a lot), for 1-2 weeks can reverse your sleepiness.

So you may need to “catch up” before you can truly make working out suck less.

If you want to get more sleep and make working out suck less, you will need to make it a habit and create a routine.

Your pre-bed routine is what really counts!

Three things to do:

  1. The “Hard-Stop” + Bedtime: Set a cutoff time for email, TV shows, work, etc. Ex. Say it is 8:30 p.m. and you are in the middle of an email for work, if you get to your hard-stop time, save that email as a draft, close the computer and you’re done. It can wait. Now, you start you pre-bed routine and then bedtime. Meaning, at whatever-works-for-you o’ clock, you are in bed…NO MATTER WHAT. Also set a time you wake up, ideally 7-8 hours (10 for catching up) after your hard set bedtime. It will be hard to adjust at first, but then your body will get accustomed to this schedule and you will start sleeping better and better.
  2. No Screens: Screens should be eliminated at least 30 min to 2 hours before bed . All (or most) of our devices emit short-wavelength or “blue” light which is the MOST suppressive of melatonin.
  3. Pitch Black: Nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone which controls sleep and wake cycles. If melatonin is suppressed you don’t sleep well on top of scarier things like increase in the risk of cancer, impaired immune system function, and all things that are bad.

This isn’t my first rodeo (article) on sleep. I’ve written about it before and go into more detail on other aspects of sleep:

  • Three Essential Elements to Sloth-Like Sleep
  • The Definitive Guide to Sleep and Fitness

I write about it because it is important!

The more research that is done, the more is proven that sleep should not be some “if I have time” activity…

It is one of THE better-human activities.

AND….It can make working out suck less!

If you don’t believe me, try it.

The Formula for making Working Out Suck Less:

Alright, here’s what you do: 
  1. Complete some sort of sucky benchmark workout (1 mile run, Fran, etc)
  2. Record your time AND journal how it felt
  3. Now, increase your bedtime to 10 hours a night for one week.
  4. Complete the same benchmark workout and compare the results (time + feeling)

You aren’t going to shave minutes off a mile time in one week, so we can assume that if sleep is the controlled variable, it is working for you!


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