Welcome to Meathead Test Kitchen, where we help make your fitness journey suck less. We all have things we hate when it comes to working out… the stuff you put off doing as much as humanly possible… today we are going to talk about doing those things, why it’s good for you to do them, and how you survive the pain cave when you’re doing a workout that really sucks.


  1. Running – Amy
    “I just can’t make myself like it, but I know I *should* do it… any ideas?”
    • Try other forms of cardio if you hate running… if you get good at some other form of cardio, you will be able to focus more on the mechanics of your running instead of that AND worrying about whether or not you’re going to hyperventilate on the sidewalk.
  2. Burpees – Tim
    “They just suck. Help.”
    • Work on your push-ups first… that will help make your burpees feel less terrible.
    • Work on planking as well. To do a good burpee, you need to make sure that your core is activated so you don’t sag at the bottom and hurt yourself.
  3. Box jumps – Matt
    “My knees always feel like crap, what am I doing wrong?”
    • If you can’t do box jumps right now, start with single leg step ups, but try to do it with some explosiveness. Push off really strong and propel yourself up. That will help build the muscles around your knees without the impact.
  4. Push-ups – Amanda
    “No matter how many I try to do, I always feel like I’m going to fall on my face.”
    • Push-ups are tough, they seem simple on the surface, but require a lot of boxes to check. You need to work on your core strength, your pecs, and your shoulders. Make friends with dumbbells and work plenty of shoulders, lats, and pecs into your workouts in addition to core work.
  5. Pull-ups
    • Pull-ups are also tough. It requires a lot of stiffness throughout the body, and proper activation of the right muscles to do correct form. Plus, the length of your arms and torso play into how easy or difficult these will be for you. 
    • Your core, lats, shoulders, quads… basically everything must be activated for a pull-up. But, they’re one of the best movements for upper body strength building. 
    • There are several ways to scale pull-ups, and movements you can do to builder those upper back muscles (bent rows, barbell rows, lots of ROWS)


  1. Makes you enjoy doing things you love more. Think about it, getting through doing a task you don’t like will make you savor the things you don’t hate that much more. There’s no up without down.
  2. Builds mental toughness. When you do stuff you don’t like, you’re forcing yourself to leave your comfort zone. Nobody likes that. When you do things you don’t want to do, you are going to grow in ways you didn’t know you could.
  3. Contributes to constant growth. The more you get used to being uncomfortable, the most you will see results. It’s really that simple. Sometimes you just gotta do shit you don’t wanna do.
    • Growth mindset – the mantra that your talents can be developed through hard work, good strategy, and input from peers. It differs from those who have a fixed mindset where those believe their talents are innate gifts.
    • Change your perspective – You are in charge of the show. Always remember that, especially when things get hard. When someone tells me I *have* to do something, my first immediate thought is, “the hell I do!” When you have to do something you don’t wanna do, you lose the feeling of accomplishment and/or fulfillment… you can use this to your advantage. Say “I choose to do this, and it benefits me because x”. You make the decisions, all of them. Even the ones that aren’t the most fun. Own it.
    • Get an accountability partner – We really believe in an accountability partner. There’s something really special about a relationship where you can be no-bullshit all the time to keep one another in check when it’s needed the most. The social aspect of making a promise to someone and having them hold you to it is very powerful and can help you a lot in life. 

The pain cave. We’ve all been there and it sucks. What is the pain cave? It’s that moment in a workout where you start to feel like you may not make it to the end of a workout. You can conquer this feeling, we’ll help.

  1. There are three phases: the entrance, the encounter, and the exit.
    • The entrance – When you go somewhere, you have to know your destination, otherwise you’ll ultimately drive to nowhere. If you know you’re going to have a bad time, you better have a really good reason for it… before you start that spicy workout, know that you have to decide to keep going. Even when it really sucks.
      **There is a caveat to this, and that is injury. If you are experiencing intense pain and you can’t continue, stop. But if you’re just uncomfortable, keep pushing on.**
    • The encounter – You’re in the middle of your first ever 5000m row and your lungs are burning and your arms are tired… welcome to the pain cave mi amigo. This is where things can get weird. Once you are reaching your limit, self talk starts to happen… keep it positive. You need to talk over those voices that are doubting you, you CAN do this. Come up with a pain cave phrase… make it your mantra when shit gets real hard.
    • The exit – Once you approach the end of a workout, you start to feel hope again, this is the exit of the pain cave. Once you’re here, you’ll actually start to feel yourself pick up the pace so you can finish sooner. Once you’re done, nothing feels better than knowing you just crushed something you’ve never done before. 
  2. Practice staying in control
    • The pain cave sucks because once we are in it, we can hand over control to the doubts in our heads. Managing the pain becomes easier and you’ll be more calm because of it. Once you master that, your body becomes a pretty amazing machine.
    • When you start to panic mid-workout, you tense up. That makes you move less efficiently and that will inevitably sink you. Your muscles will lock up, you lose control of your breathing, and the pain kicks your ass… we’ve all been there, it’s the worst. If you can manage to stay in control and talk yourself through it, it’ll save you every time a workout gets really spicy
  3. Positive self-talk – it really does make a difference, we promise. Positive self-talk is defined as “supportive and affirming.” If you’re not there, how do you change it?
    • Listen to your internal dialogue, pay attention for a couple of days. Are you supportive or critical? Would you feel comfortable saying the stuff you say to yourself, out loud to someone else? If the answer is no, then you also need to stop saying those things to yourself.
    • Am I over-reacting? Am I making a generalization? Am I mind-reading? How truthful is this thought? – All things to ask yourself when you’re having internal dialogue.
    • Now that you know how you’re talking to yourself, flip the script. Instead of calling yourself a dummy because you made a mistake, recognize that mistakes happen and resolve to not let it happen next time.
    • Once you master these things, you’re winning. Learning how to tell your inner critic to zip it really has no downside. It can be more difficult for some to master positive self-talk, but it’s a very worthwhile step in bettering yourself and your self-image.

The next time you’re face to face with something you despise… remember all of these things, and kick its ass. Find show notes, recipes, and our Amazon store at meathead test kitchen dot com… we’re all over social media at meathead test kitchen on IG, FB, and Tiktok… mtkstaff on twitter. 



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