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There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the 75 Hard Challenge — it’s been around for a few years now, and it’s sort of like CrossFit, veganism, or the keto diet in that if someone you know is doing the challenge, they’ve probably told you about it. There’s a reason for that: this mental and physical challenge is pretty intense and, well, hard, and some might even say it’s all-consuming.
About five years later, people are still talking about it: JoJo kicked off 2023 with the challenge. TikTokers share their 75 Hard results or updates every day, and the tag #75hard has accumulated over 1.6 billion views on the app. Over on Instagram, there are 1.1 million posts with the same hashtag, and the r/75HARD subreddit has nearly 40K members. This is all to say, 75 Hard is very much alive. It’s even spawned gentler versions of the challenge, called 75 Soft and 75 Medium, as well as a book and an app that’s currently No. 2 in the Health & Fitness category of the Apple app store.
If you’re into trying fitness or wellness challenges and like pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you may be excited to try 75 Hard — especially if you’ve seen people singing its praises and sharing their 75 Hard results all over social media. Before you start, though, here’s more about what the #75Hard challenge entails and what experts think about it.
What Is 75 Hard?
The 75 Hard challenge is a mental and physical challenge that involves changing your eating, workout, and even reading habits. On his website, Frisella makes it clear (in all capital letters) that 75 Hard is “not a fitness program” but rather a “transformative mental toughness program” or an “Ironman for your brain.”
The main rules are that for 75 days straight, you follow a diet of your choosing, do two daily workouts, take a daily progress photo, drink a gallon of water, and read 10 pages of a book — every single day (but more on those guidelines below). One notable thing about the 75 Hard challenge is that Frisella says there are zero compromises or substitutions, and “you have until you go to sleep to complete the day.” If you “fail” to do any one of these six things on the list, you must start over on Day 1.
On his website, Frisella notes that “you should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting 75 HARD or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs.”
75 Hard Challenge Rules
There are six main rules for 75 Hard, and you need to do all six of these things every single day. Read about the details of each one, including insight from Joe Taggart, director of personal training and group fitness at Iron Culture in New Jersey, who’s completed the challenge three times in the past three years.
- Follow a diet: The diet can be anything you choose, whether it’s Whole30, vegetarian, plant-based, pescatarian, gluten-free, Paleo, no added sugar — you choose, but there has to be a “physical improvement” in mind. This doesn’t necessarily mean weight loss, but the diet change has to make you feel better in some way. Maybe you want to eat less sugar because you know it upsets your stomach, eat more vegetables because you know they give you more energy, or go plant-based to lower your cholesterol. “This rule teaches you how to commit to something and see it through to the end,” Taggart says. “More importantly this teaches you how to say no.”
- Two 45-minute workouts; one has to be outside: The rule doesn’t specify what type of workouts or how intense they need to be — it’s up to you. You could do a strength-training workout at the gym, then take a 45-minute hot-girl walk outside. You can run outside for 45 minutes, then take a yoga class. You can even work out longer than 45 minutes. You choose, but the outdoor workout has to happen, no matter the weather. “This rule teaches you that conditions in life aren’t always going to be ideal, but you must power through it no matter what in order to reach your goal,” Taggart says. “This part of the challenge wasn’t that hard for me until that first day I had to do my outside workout in terrible weather . . . I got myself out there and by the end of it I was thrilled I did it and really ’embraced the suck.'” Exercising outside also has tons of benefits, including improved mood and reduced depression, according to the American Council on Exercise.
- No alcohol, and no “cheat meals”: No “cheat meals” means you can’t stray from the diet you chose. That means if you’re going vegan, you can’t have one tiny bite of cheese, or else you need to start back on Day 1. It’s worth noting that some diets are inherently more flexible than others, and thus won’t have a straightforward “cheat” meal.
- Take a progress picture every day: Looking back at the photos will help you monitor your physical progress, if you’re interested in that, or at least help chronicle your journey.
- Drink one gallon of water: Yes, the goal of this step is to help you stay hydrated, but this 75 Hard rule will also teach you that “sometimes in life the simplest tasks are the hardest,” per Frisella.
- Read 10 pages of a book: The book needs to be nonfiction and audiobooks “don’t count.” “I really enjoyed this rule because I struggled to read consistently prior to this challenge,” Taggart says. “This really helped me improve myself in a lot of areas in my life, from managing and coaching employees and clients to becoming a better overall person (brother, boss, boyfriend, etc.).”
What Sort of 75 Hard Results Can You Expect?
In a podcast episode, Frisella explained that the point of the 75 Hard challenge is to help you achieve confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, grit, perseverance, and resilience. By pushing yourself to stay committed to these goals, to develop discipline even when it gets hard or uncomfortable, once the 75 days are completed, he believes you will be a different person, “guaranteed.”
The point of the program isn’t weight loss or a physical change, though plenty of people post their 75 Hard results on social media showing off those things. The real goal is to “push yourself exponentially further than you’ve ever thought you were capable of,” Frisella writes on his website. “The goal of this program is not to teach you how to deal with each situation . . . but to help you develop the skill to take control of any situation you find yourself in.”
In Taggart’s experience, it really can do that. “Every time I’ve completed 75 hard, I’ve elevated myself to new levels I didn’t think were possible, and I am someone who will always continue to grow, learn, and challenge myself,” he says.
Frisella’s messaging is pretty convincing, as are the raves about the program from Taggart and others on social media. It’s easy to get excited about embarking on a challenge that promises so much. But what do other experts think about 75 Hard, and who might this be a good or idea for?
What Do Dietitians Think About 75 Hard?
Registered dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, author of “The Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen Cookbook,” is a little wary. “I think this is an extreme way to develop some better health habits. I think they should be tailored individually and that rules shouldn’t be so clear cut,” she tells POPSUGAR. Registered dietitian Emily Tills, MS, CDN, agrees. “Although the idea is interesting and can seem like it’s flexible because you choose what diet you’re going to do, in the end, it’s still going to be restrictive.”
Completely banning things like alcohol and “cheat meals” can lead to a deprivation or diet mentality, Langevin says. Though 75 Hard is likely designed with good intentions, a restrictive, all-or-nothing mindset can often backfire when it comes to any habits — and especially those around food. Putting any rules around eating can be a slippery slope, potentially leading to disordered eating or an eating disorder in someone predisposed, former registered dietitian Laura Cohen, certified intuitive eating practitioner and eating disorder recovery coach, previously told POPSUGAR.
Another way to think of it is this: when evaluating whether a program like 75 Hard is “healthy” for you individually, it’s just as important to examine your emotional response as it is to consider the physical health implications, Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition expert with a focus on mental wellness, previously told POPSUGAR. “If an eating behavior feels stressful or punitive, then it’s negatively impacting your mental and physical health — and, obviously, that isn’t good,” Cassetty said.
Finally, if your goal is to lose weight, Tills worries that this type of plan wouldn’t be successful in the long run, as it would be difficult to sustain this lifestyle after the 75 days are up, and many people will likely go back to their old eating habits.
What Do Trainers Think About 75 Hard?
Many people fall far below the recommended amount of exercise, so a challenge that encourages people to move in whatever way they can is certainly beneficial. That said, Taggart admits that if you’re going to try 75 Hard, you need to keep rest in mind; after all, there are no built-in rest days, as you’re supposed to do two 45-minute workouts every single day. “The tough part of this is recovery, so you really need to listen to your body and understand what days to push and what days to slow it down,” he says. “‘Slow it down’ does not mean ‘do nothing,’ it means to lower the intensity of the workouts.” Walks, Pilates, yoga, and other gentle activities will come in handy here.
ACE-certified trainer Rachel MacPherson agrees with Langevin that this is a pretty extreme challenge. She says two 45-minute workouts a day is a lot for anyone just starting out. Also, not everyone can get outside every day for 45 minutes. Some people live in climates where that just isn’t always doable, and the time commitment may be too demanding, especially if you have a full-time job and kids.
“This plan is an example of letting perfection be the enemy of the good. If you fail one small aspect of the plan, you need to start back at ground zero,” MacPherson says, which could make you feel demoralized and defeated. “It’s much better to accept that some days won’t be perfect, but as long as you’re making strides toward your goals, you’re on the right track,” she explained. For example, if you hope to work out four days a week but are swamped and only work out three, you have still made progress. Focusing on what you failed at or what you couldn’t accomplish is not the healthiest mindset for most people. MacPherson added that most research shows that taking small, attainable steps toward clearly defined goals is the best way to go.
Not to mention, as many people seek to shake off the prevalent diet culture of the last few decades, they’re also emphasizing finding joy in wellness — what feels good? what do you like? what does your body need right now? — and in that case, sticking to a challenge with rigid rules (and a “punishment” for deviating) may not be a positive experience.
All that said, some people really enjoy having specific rules and tangible goals when they’re trying to build better habits. “The benefits of this challenge may only be for a choice few,” says Rick Richey, NASM master instructor and certified trainer. “Some trainers, exercise fanatics, and David Goggins acolytes may find this enjoyable and somewhat reasonable. However, aside from reading 10 pages of a book, this challenge isn’t for most.”
So, Is the 75 Hard Challenge Worth Doing?
At its core, 75 Hard recommends keeping active and practicing commitment, which some people find encouraging. As Richey said, some people thrive under this type of rigorous goal and very specific guidelines. However, for others, it can trigger negative self-talk, disordered eating, and an all-or-nothing mentality, or fuel an unhealthy relationship with food or exercise. “There’s a lot to be said for consistency, it just doesn’t have to be so rigid, in my opinion,” MacPherson says.
Instead, Langevin recommended setting a few attainable, sustainable, health-minded goals you can work on over a few weeks like these:
- Aim to eat more veggies.
- Drink more water and less soda, sugary coffee beverages, or energy drinks.
- Exercise three or four times a week.
- Get outside for a few minutes every day.
- Read a little every day.
Or, you can try one of the less-aggressive versions of the challenge, such as 75 Soft.
— Additional reporting by Lauren Mazzo
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