If the algorithm has bopped you right into the belly of FitTok (that’s fitness + TikTok), you’ve probably seen posts about the 75 HARD challenge.
Discoverable through hashtags like #75Hard and #75HardChallenge, this health challenge has led itself to shocking side-by-side transformations and six pack reveals — all content that has undeniable virality.
But is the 75 HARD challenge really all it’s cracked up to be? Below, fitness experts, nutritionists, and mental health professionals weigh in on the internet craze that’s only going to pick up steam as we roll into 2022.
75 HARD is a 75-day-long challenge that prescribes a number of different health, fitness, and mental strength protocols.
5 rules of 75 HARD
- Follow a healthy diet of your choosing… strictly. No slip-ups or alcohol allowed.
- Workout twice a day every day, for at least 45 minutes per day. One workout must be outdoors.
- Drink 1 gallon of water per day.
- Take progress pictures every single day.
- Read 10 pages of a self-help book each day.
The big catch is this: If you do not adhere to these rules perfectly, you need to start back at day 1. Yep, even if you’re just a minute short of your daily workout goal. Or, just a single ounce of water short.
Worth mentioning. There are more-intense variations for people who have already completed the original 75 HARD challenge. These are known as phase 1, phase 2, and phase 3 consisting of things such as:
- taking a 5-minute cold shower every day
- spending 10 minutes visualizing the life and successes you desire
- talking with a stranger
- doing a random act of kindness
Where did 75 HARD come from?
75 HARD was designed by Andy Frisella, an entrepreneur now widely known for his podcast Real AF and his book 75 HARD: A Tactical Guide to Winning the War with Yourself. Dubbed a mental toughness program — not a fitness challenge — Frisella originally created 75 HARD in order to reach his own personal goal of getting his life back on track.
But now, the program is available for public consumption. “I’ve spent more than 20 years figuring out how to master mental toughness and I’m putting everything I’ve learned into a program I call 75 HARD” he says in a podcast episode about the program.
Of note, as the CEO of many health and fitness companies, Andy Frisella certainly holds many accolades in the wellness space. But he is NOT a physical therapist, certified trainer, registered dietitian, or licensed therapist.
In short: Its goal is to help people develop mental toughness.
At face-value, 75 HARD looks like any ‘ole intense, restrictive fitness plan, Frisella holds steady that this is not a fitness challenge.
“THIS IS NOT A FITNESS PROGRAM. 75 HARD IS A TRANSFORMATIVE MENTAL TOUGHNESS PROGRAM,” he writes on his website. “If you’re looking for a new fitness program or challenge, this is not it.”
While he owns up to the fact that many people will experience physical changes (namely, weight loss), he says, “The physical changes you see on the outside are a FRACTION of the results you can earn by completing 75 HARD.”
The program’s thesis statement is essentially this: Confidence, self-belief, discipline, and grittiness are all traits that exist inside every single one of us. But (!) they need to be cultivated through a program of habits and discipline, like 75 HARD.
There is nothing inherently unsafe about 75 HARD.
After all, many of the pillars of the program — 90 minutes of daily movement, eating with your health in mind, prioritizing hydration — are all in adherence to common recommendations by governing bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization.
However, there’s one element of the program that can either work for or against an individual’s safety: Its customizability.
Sure, that means people can morph the program to fit their current fitness level, training age, and recovery practices. But it also means someone can fail to adequately adapt the program to their abilities and wind up burning out, overreaching, risking injury, or under-eating.
For instance, the program requires that an individual do two 45-minute workouts each day. But if someone who hasn’t stepped foot in a gym since “Friday Night Lights” was still on cable, tries to do 2 higher intensity workouts, it’s going to be bad news bears. Remember that taking a couple of 45-minute walks works just fine.
“In order for this program to be safe, people need to understand what their current fitness level is,” says strength coach Albert Matheny, RD, CSCS, chief operational officer ofARENA Innovation Corp and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab in New York City. “You need to manage the intensity of what you’re doing to suit your current abilities”
Of course, no fitness, health, eating, or wellness program is going to be suitable for everybody. So, you’d be wise to do as Frisella recommends on his website and consult a physician or other healthcare professional to determine if 75 HARD is a good fit for you. “Do not start 75 HARD if your physician or healthcare professional advises against it,” he writes.
Hormone health expert and holistic nutritionist Cristina Curp CHN, author of Made Whole adds: “If you’ve got autoimmune disease, adrenal insufficiency, or any injuries, this might not be for you, as it can exasperate your conditions.” It also might not be the right fit for anyone with a history of eating disorders, disordered eating, or body image concerns.
No doubt, following along with a movement program for 75 days can be beneficial! “Consistency is key,” says Matheny.
Assuming that the nutrition plan you choose to follow is filled with protein-rich sources and whole foods, Curp says you can experience increased energy, reduced stress, and better moods.
If you keep it up, you may even experience boosted immunity, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and improved eye, teeth, and skin health, per the CDC.
And constantly drinking one gallon (or more!) of water a day can help you ward off symptoms of dehydration, such as irritability, fatigue, and dizziness.
Another potential benefit of this challenge? Its rigidity. “Some people do incredibly well with more rigid programs,” says Matheny. “They feel it gives them extreme accountability.”
Just like most things in life, starting something new takes prep and pace. Here’s how to set your own.
1. Think about your goals
First, start by thinking about what you’re actually hoping to accomplish this coming year. Is improving your mental game your main objective? If so, then 75 HARD actually may be worth your time — especially if you do well with rigid rules and structure.
However, if you have another goal — or do better in programs that are a little less restrictive — there are plenty of other routes you can take.
2. Consult a healthcare professional
Better yet: Consult your healthcare professional, a nutritionist, and a certified personal trainer. After all, determining whether you want to do the 75 HARD challenge isn’t enough. You need to figure out how to do it in a way that’s sustainable, accessible, and aligned with your abilities and health goals.
For example, a CrossFit athlete is going to have different nutritional needs compared to a yogi. Likewise, someone deciding to adhere to the ketogenic diet is likely going to want to take a different approach to movement than someone who doesn’t have to adjust to being in a state of ketosis.
(FWIW: Frisella recommends this).
3. Get the gear you need
Setting yourself up for success may also mean investing in gear that will allow you to comfortably and safely do workouts outside. Depending on the season, that could mean anything from getting crampons for your hiking boots and a true winter jacket, or getting a quick-dry tank top and raincoat.
4. Build that book stack
Oh, and while you’re handing over your CC information… don’t forget to line up the nonfiction book stack.
“The book has to be a self-development book of some sort for personal or professional growth,” Frisella says. “It does not have to be a business book. It can be a psychology book. It does not have to be a book on banking. It can be a book on something else.”
5. Call on your fan base
Let’s cut to the chase: 75 days is a long time — it’s an especially long period of time to be making some tough sacrifices.
It will be easiest for you to overcome moments of hesitation or temptation if you have the support of your accountability partners — whether they’re fit friends or family. So, be brave and tell people you trust that you’re committing to this journey.
Maybe even gather a group of people to join with you. Just make sure that the person(s) you choose to embark on the program are as committed to it as you are.
6. Adjust as needed
Look, it’s called 75 “HARD” for a reason: This is an I-N-T-E-N-S-E regimen. But don’t let that keep you from making alterations to the program that you may need to make for your health.
For example, if you have a lower back injury, take a rest day. If taking progress photos is ultimately destructive for your body image, skip that instruction altogether.
After all, doing something for 75 days is kinda neat! But at the end of the day, the goal should be to find a health, wellness, and fitness regimen that is sustainable long-term — not one that’s counterproductive.
As Matheny puts it, “You don’t need to do any kind of extreme challenge to see results, you just need to be consistent.”
Bottom line: 75 Hard is an intense way to kick off your year. But like any other health or wellness venture, your goal should be to make it work in your favor instead of pursuing something that’s not practical or helpful for you.
If this sounds like a good fit, consult your health professional and give it a shot.