Something punishing is extremely physically difficult to do. On a very hot, humid day, even a 5K is a punishing race to run.

Anything that exhausts you because it's so demanding can be described with the adjective punishing. A punishing hike leaves you gasping and applying bandages to your blisters. A punishing argument with your family is more mentally arduous. Sometimes, punishing things weaken or debilitate: "The lack of snow had a punishing result for the ski industry." Rarely, punishing also means "leading to punishment."

Definitions of punishing
  1. adjective
    characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion; especially physical effort
    “set a punishing pace”
    synonyms: arduous, backbreaking, grueling, gruelling, hard, heavy, laborious, operose, toilsome
    requiring great physical effort
  2. adjective
    resulting in punishment
    “the king imposed a punishing tax”
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