In the world of fitness, the craze of the summer is the #75HardChallenge, or #75Hard, which is particularly popular among TikTok users. If you’ve never heard of it, it may sound like gibberish—and if you have, we’re going to guess you’re nodding along knowingly.
So what is the #75HardChallenge, exactly, why does it appear to be taking over the internet? What’s more, is it a legitimate fitness endeavor that’s worth undertaking, or is it just another fad with potentially dangerous implications?
Before you set out to conquer this challenge, it’s important to make sure you’re armed with knowledge first. Not every workout or fitness plan is right for everyone—and according to experts, this particular challenge may actually be detrimental to the health of its participants.
What is the 75 Hard Challenge?
The 75 Hard Challenge is a “mental toughness program” and a 75-day plan created by author, speaker, supplement company owner, and podcaster Andy Frisella. Frisella introduced the 75 Hard Challenge in March 2019 by way of a lengthy blog post on his website that claims his “challenge” is not simply a fitness program, but a way to “change your life … starting from the inside.”
The lengthy doctrine lining out the 75 Hard Challenge asks readers to think of the plan as an “Ironman for your brain,” as it’s riddled with self-improvement mantras and imperatives to believe in oneself, persevere, and develop traits such as confidence, self-with, fortitude, and grittiness in one’s everyday life. It urges you to challenge yourself and the way you think and feel.
The basic principles are innocuous enough:
Follow a diet.
Frisella does not indicate that you must eat specific foods, but does prohibit alcohol and “cheat meals.” There is no definition of what constitutes a cheat meal nor any other limits on what you may consume on the diet of your choice. Later on in the document, Frisella indicates that the 75 Hard Challenge was developed “to run in-line with your current diet program … no matter what it is.”
Work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes.
Frisella notes that at least one of these workouts must be outside, though he gives no reasoning for the requirement aside from suggesting it can take place in your backyard or even the park.
Drink 4 liters of water per day.
Read 10 pages of nonfiction a day.
Take a five-minute cold shower.
Take progress photos every day.
Perform other unrelated tasks like a random act of kindness or talk to someone in person daily.
It’s important to note that Frisella is not a licensed dietitian, certified trainer, or fitness expert. His qualifications include “20 years of intensive study and real-life experience.” He offers before-and-after shots of individuals who have supposedly taken part in the challenge as well as testimonials from the people who have tried the plan and found it beneficial.
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Is the 75 Hard Challenge healthy and sustainable?
Determining whether following the 75 Hard Challenge is appropriate for you depends on multiple factors, such as the diet you choose to follow, whether you’re in good enough physical condition to work out twice a day for the required 45 minutes (with one outside), as well as your overall health.
Additionally, Frisella’s plan does not account for the minute details that a fitness plan developed for you by a clinical therapist, dietitian, or doctor and as such you’re left to make your own decisions—and those may not be the right ones, even if you mean well.
Keep in mind that the titular “75” refers to following a diet and adhering to these principles for that exact length of time. This time period alone makes the challenge a potentially harmful path to follow, as there are too many unknown variables here to properly track, and so many elements of it are vague.
Hannah Daugherty, CPT-NASM, ACE, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living, believes the plan is anything but healthy. “This ‘challenge’ can lead to disordered eating, unsafe exercise routines, and is not sustainable for a long period of time. It is very unstructured, with many details left open-ended. For instance, what exactly is a ‘diet’? This word can—and will—mean something different to everyone.”
Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Jillian Warwick at Back 2 Normal has similar concerns. “The inherently vague principle to ‘follow a diet’ leaves the nutritional basis as lacking in both specifics and substance, and begs the question, what’s the point of including any dietary component at all?” Warwick expresses similar concerns with the plan’s other important tenets, such as the need for exercising outside and taking regular cold showers.
“Some of the other main principles in the challenge are seemingly random and have potential adverse effects in regards to improving overall health, such as the potentially excessive amount of water which could result in mineral depletion, the unnecessary and likely unhealthy amount of physical activity (especially if performed outside in the heat), or the possible risks associated with cold showers for those with weakened immune systems or serious heart conditions.”
There are also potential issues with the sustainability of the plan, especially the ideology that you need to start all the way over if you happen to “fail.”
“This plan is an example of letting perfection be the enemy of the good,” adds Rachel MacPherson, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Exercise Nutrition Coach. “If you fail one small aspect of the plan you need to start back at ground zero. This is overkill. It’s much better to accept that some days won’t be perfect but as long as you are making strides towards your goals, you are on the right track.”
Benefits of the 75 Hard Challenge
Though certified trainers and fitness experts do agree that the 75 Hard Challenge can be harmful, it can also be beneficial—at least, portions of it used in moderation and in the context of your own personal fitness regime.
“If you commit to the program for the full 75 days, you will almost certainly see results,” says Glen Wilde, CEO of personal training and nutrition coaching company Diet to Success. “The two daily workouts will result in more calorie expenditure, as will refraining from even a single cheat day. After the 75 days, though, any weight you lose will likely return if there is no maintenance plan in place.”
It’s all about sticking to your plan, which the 75 Hard Challenge admittedly can make difficult.
“This plan basically recommends keeping active, sticking to something for the long term and not switching diets every few days as many people do,” says MacPherson. “There’s a lot to be said for consistency, it just doesn’t have to be so rigid in my opinion.”
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Healthier alternatives to #75Hard
If you’ve determined that the 75 Hard Challenge isn’t for you and you’re still looking for a plan to follow toward self-improvement and a healthier you, there are plenty of options out there you can pursue instead.
“If you’re up for a health-related challenge, try setting reasonable, attainable goals, and track your progress using something more definitive than progress pictures,” advises Warwick. “Consider following the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.”
Of course, as with starting any potential new fitness regimen or diet plan, be sure to consult your doctor, dietitian, nutritionist, or health support team first. And if you’re still dead set on trying the 75 Hard Challenge, at least consider making some alterations.
“If people are looking to follow this challenge anyways, I recommend making some alterations,” suggests Forristall. “When choosing a diet to follow, don’t choose something restrictive or extreme. Instead, choose a sustainable habit that will benefit you in the long run such as including a vegetable with every meal.” These changes can help you make it a more palatable and healthier experience in the long run.
“The best element of a good fitness and nutrition plan is something that is sustainable for you individually. The changes you make should be changes that you are able to continue with long-term and that direct you towards your goals.”
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