If there’s one thing I love, it’s a challenge. But some are a little more extreme, especially when it comes to starting a health and wellness journey. You’ve probably seen the 12-3-30 treadmill workout and Dukan Diet trends on social media, for example. But today’s viral obsession is: the 75 Hard challenge.
If you’re unfamiliar, this 75-day plan promises to permanently change your life, starting from the inside out, with a special focus on mental toughness and commitment, says Gina Newton, CPT, certified personal trainer and holistic body coach. Unlike other nutrition plans or fitness regimens, 75 Hard is less about details and focuses more broadly on self-improvement with six arbitrary rules, she explains.
With 1.3 million hashtags for #75hard and over a billion views on TikTok, it’s natural to wonder if 75 Hard is safe, effective, and worth your time. Some people thrive on rules and that kind of strict challenge, but if reading the rules sends you into an emotional frenzy, it may not be the best challenge for you, says Cara DOrazio, CPT, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and founder of CGM Fitness, Inc.
Meet the experts: Cara DOrazio, CPT, is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and founder of CGM Fitness, Inc. Gina Newton, CPT, is a certified personal trainer and holistic body coach.
Intrigued? Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about 75 Hard, including rules, benefits, and potential risks.
What is the 75 Hard challenge?
The 75 Hard challenge was created in 2019 by Andy Frisella, speaker, entrepreneur and podcast host. At its core, the system is defined as a transformational endurance program that combines elements of nutrition, fitness, and self-improvement, explains DOrazio. It’s not a specific diet or exercise plan, but rather an Ironman for your brain, according to the website 75 Hard, which focuses on five main pillars:
- Mental discipline
To summarize a little more, Frisella explains that she developed the challenge of mental toughness and discipline.
The goal is to immerse ourselves in healthy eating and fitness so that they become part of our daily lives, says DOrazio. According to the methodology, if a participant can make it through 75 days of the challenge, they can then apply the mindset to other life situations, ultimately making them less likely to give up, she explains.
So why is the challenge so popular, you ask? The 75 Hard has attracted interest because it might seem like a quick fix, Newton says. For 75 days you follow the outline requirements and there are many examples of those who have done so showing substantial and/or significant weight loss and physical transformation, she explains. According to the challenge website, more than a million people around the world have successfully completed 75 Hard.
75 strict rules
The 75 Hard challenge consists of the following six non-negotiable rules, which must be completed for 75 consecutive days.
- There are no days off. The main format of the challenge is that if you skip a day, or any of the rules, you *must* start over. Even if you miss one of the next five tasks on a given day, you should start over on the first day, says DOrazio. The goal was not to tweak or compromise the rules, as that could open the door to opting out, she says.
- Follow a diet. Follow a no-alcohol, no-cheat-meal diet. The diet itself is up to you and can vary depending on your goals, but whether it’s intermittent fasting, keto, plant-based, or paleo, the challenge requires you to follow a set, strict eating plan for 75 days straight, says DOrazio.
- Do two 45-minute workouts a day, one of which is outdoors. Rain or shine, 75 Hard requires a 45-minute workout in the morning and a 45-minute workout in the afternoon. It’s up to you which workout will be outdoors, but the rules state that the workout must be outdoors, explains DOrazio. The goal is to get people to commit and not throw in the towel, even if conditions aren’t perfect, she says.
- Drink a gallon of water. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but 75 Hard emphasizes hydration and requires a gallon of water per day.
- Read 10 pages of nonfiction. In the name of inspiration, education, and self-improvement, you are tasked with reading 10 pages of nonfiction a day, says DOrazio. And no, it *cannot* be an e-book or audiobook. It must be a physical copy.
- Take daily progress photos. Grab your camera because the challenge requires a daily progress photo, says DOrazio. The full-body photo is intended to track progress and maintain accountability.
Benefits of 75 Hard
- Responsibility. Because 75 Hard is strict in its rules and structure, it can hold you accountable for its entirety, says DOrazio. When things get tough, it can help those who probably would have given up stick to a routine, she says.
- Structure. Given the simplicity of the rules, the structure is easy to follow and understand, says Newton. Consistent structure can also provide a sense of direction and encourage healthy habit-forming behaviors like hydration and daily movement, she adds.
- Holistic approach. The program involves physical and mental commitment, so it can provide a more holistic or complete approach to well-being, says DOrazio. As Frisella mentioned earlier, 75 Hard doesn’t sell itself on a single magical idea or solution for health and wellness. Instead, the concept is to reset your lifestyle and encourage optimal nutrition, daily fitness, and self-improvement.
- Customizable. Unlike other challenges or diet plans, 75 Hard offers an element of choice depending on your goals, says Newton. You choose the diet that suits you best, the non-fiction book you like to read and the exercises you enjoy most. As long as you follow the six general rules, the details are up to you.
- Physical resistance. Whether you’re looking to gain strength, increase cardio, or lose weight, working out twice a day for 75 days in a row will improve your overall fitness, says Newton. Not to mention, it meets the U.S. Department of Health’s recommendation of 75 to 300 minutes of exercise per week, adds DOrazio.
Is 75 difficult and safe?
Like anything, the safety of the 75 Hard challenge depends on the individual, says DOrazio. If the individual is new to fitness, two consecutive 45-minute workouts may be too much in one day, and I truly feel that one to two days of rest per week is crucial to avoiding injuries, she explains. People with heart problems, chronic illnesses or existing injuries should also always consult a healthcare professional before embarking on the challenge, she adds.
Plus, 75 Hard can be quite a shock to the system if you’ve never actively or routinely focused on nutrition, hydration and/or fitness, says Newton. Listen to your body and change direction when you need to, you won’t have any problems”, she explains. If the plan becomes too difficult to follow and you want or need to stop, that’s okay. This doesn’t mean you’re weak, your body just isn’t ready for it, she adds.
Remember that safety is the most important thing. If you are extremely tired and/or have persistent pain or injuries, stop the challenge and talk to a doctor, says DOrazio. And if weather conditions are treacherous, stay indoors during both workouts, she adds. No challenge is worth an injury.
It’s also important to note that those with a history of eating disorders should be cautious with the 75 Hard challenge, says DOrazio. The program’s strict eating regimen, exercise habits, and progress photos can be triggering, especially if you miss a day or rule, she explains. Instead, focus on sustainable lifestyle modifications and find a workout you enjoy.
Possible risks of 75 Hard
- Your mental health can take its toll. This challenge is an all-or-nothing mentality and the average person may not have the time or resources to commit to the six rules for 75 days straight, says DOrazio. Psychologically, it can be harmful to go beyond the 50th day and something inevitable happens in life, and you need to start all over again, she explains. The challenge also perpetuates perfectionism and can lead to negative self-talk or feelings of inadequacy if you don’t survive the 75 days, Newton adds.
- Extreme lifestyle changes are not necessarily sustainable. It can be difficult to overhaul your life and maintain several new habits at once, says Newton. I don’t think it’s worth it or sustainable, she explains. You may see results during or after the challenge, but the six rules aren’t necessarily viable in the long term and can harm your idea of self-esteem and progress, she explains. I am an advocate of long-term health solutions, not quick fixes.
- There is an increased risk of injury. Working out twice a day without rest days can increase your risk of injury, whether you’re new to exercise or not, says DOrazio. In fact, research shows that rest days give your body time to repair, rebuild, and strengthen between workouts.
- Lack of flexibility can cause burnout. The 75 Hard challenge preaches strict adherence to the six rules and any slip-up requires you to start over. As a result, negative reinforcement or pass/fail criteria can add unnecessary stress, guilt, and burnout, says Newton. People need to be kinder to themselves, not harder on themselves.
- Progress photos are not the only way to measure success. Studies show that placing too much importance on body image can lead to anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia. Photos only show the outside and not what’s happening inside, which is where the transformation really begins, says Newton. If the photos make you feel discouraged, throw them away.
- Promotes a negative food culture. While you can select the diet you want to follow, the concept of cheat days can be problematic, says Newton. I would like the word diet to be removed from our nutritional vocabulary and the term cheat meals to disappear, she explains. Instead of insinuating that you don’t like certain types of food, it’s better to view food as fuel and focus on balance, she adds. If you are concerned about nutrition, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian.
Conclusion: The stiffness of the 75 Hard may be unsustainable for most and both DOrazio and Newton suggest proceeding with caution. If you want to start a health and fitness journey, consult a doctor, registered dietitian, or certified personal trainer to find the best plan for you.
Andi Breitowich is a writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill living in Chicago. She is a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she loves all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.
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