I Tried the Viral 75 HARD Challenge. Here's How it Went and What I Learned
75 HARD is a transformative mental toughness program that will build mental strength and discipline within you.
If you're on TikTok or follow any fitness or pop-culture media outlets, you may have heard about the 75 HARD Challenge. It went viral online this past year and I've seen countless success stories from those who've completed the challenge. I was intrigued when I originally found out about it but didn't decide to begin until about 6 months later when I was ready to fully commit.
So, what exactly is the 75 HARD Challenge?
Created by Andy Frisella, an entrepreneur, bestselling author, public speaker, and Real AF podcast host, the 75 HARD Mental Toughness Program is designed to help you take control of your life in just 75 days. On his website, Andy says "this is a program that can change your life ... starting from the inside. Are there physical changes? Yes! But trust me when I say the physical changes you see on the outside are a FRACTION of the results you can earn by completing 75 HARD." The challenge is guided by a set of rules, intended to be followed strictly.
The rules of the challenge are as follows:
Why I Decided to Participate
A good friend of mine introduced me to the challenge on October 21, 2020, and asked if I wanted to do it with her. At the time I hadn't heard of the challenge and thought it was way too difficult. Looking back at our text messages surrounding the conversation, I responded, "I don't think I can do it. 2 workouts seems a little crazy for me rn".
To be fair, at that time it would not have been healthy for me to be participating in the challenge. I was recovering from my arthroscopic hip surgery for Femoral-Acetabular Impingement (FAI) that I underwent in late 2019 and was experiencing complications with hip flexor tendonitis. I soon found out I'd need to have the same surgery on my other hip in early 2021 because I had a torn labrum there too.
Fast forward to late March 2021; my second hip surgery recovery was going much better than my first and my physical therapist gave me an exercise program she wanted me to complete every day to make sure I was progressing my mobility and flexibility. During my previous recovery I had found it very difficult to be motivated to work out every day and was also struggling with anxiety and depression due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I definitely did not complete my exercises as much as I should have the first go around.
This time, I wanted to be on top of my physical therapy and I wanted to continue the progress I'd made on my mental health in the past year. I had also turned to food as a way to gain comfort and happiness during the pandemic and wanted to move away from that and eat cleaner. Additionally, I'd been stuck inside all winter and really wanted to get outside and move my body more. The timing just seemed right, and I was excited to begin a new journey just for me.
My Goals Going into the Program
Before beginning anything, it's always a good idea to set some actionable and attainable goals. I had many things in mind before beginning 75 HARD. My goals were as follows:
Stay on track with my post-hip surgery physical therapy exercise program.
Focus on my mental health and don't fall victim to perfectionism or an all-or-nothing mindset.
Get outside at least once a day.
Eat less processed foods and less fast food.
Eat more whole foods, fruits, and vegetables.
Lose a few pounds before summer.
Develop sustainable, healthy habits.
Feel accomplished and proud of myself.
How I Molded the Program to My Unique Needs
Knowing one of my goals for the program was to be ok with not being perfect and to not be too hard on myself, I made the decision for myself up-front to diverge from Andy's rule that, "if you fail, you MUST start over on Day 1". In my mind, the only way to fail was to not try my hardest each day. I was 100% invested in this program and did try my best all 75 days. There were a few days where I didn't do an entire 90 minutes of exercise or I forgot to take a progress photo, wanted to eat a sweet treat, or fell asleep before I finished reading, and for me that was ok. I went into this wanting to feel proud of myself, develop healthy habits, and be mentally healthy, and I did all those things on my terms.
☑️Step 1: Follow a diet. I chose to follow a vegetarian diet because that's the diet I've been following for the past 2.5 years. I also chose to only eat whole grains, limited fast, processed, and fried food, as well as full-fat dairy.
☑️ Complete two 45-minute workouts. One of those workouts MUST be outdoors. At least one workout a day would be a 45-minute or more outdoor walk or hike. The other workout would be my physical therapy workout which often included at least 10-15 minutes on the exercise bike with the remaining time focused on strength building exercises that target certain muscles.
☑️ Absolutely NO alcohol or cheat meals. In early July 2020 I decided I wanted to try and complete a year alcohol-free. This rule was the easiest part of the challenge for me to abide by because I had already been alcohol-free for many months prior. As far as the cheat meals went, I followed my diet very well throughout the challenge. I did allow myself to have sweets in moderation and will admit to taking a few bites of my boyfriend's seafood at dinner by the beach. In my mind a few bites of something are not a whole cheat meal.
☑️ Take a progress picture every day. I tried to do this before my workout each morning. I ended up missing a few days while camping because there was no mirror and a few days while away from home in a different environment.
☑️ Drink 1 gallon of water. Every workday I'd start my morning with two cups of hot tea and a big glass of water. I purchased a gallon-sized water bottle that helped me to visualize exactly how much water I needed to drink each day and the progress I was making.
☑️ Read 10 pages of a book. I rotated between 3 different books during this challenge including, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh, A Promised Land by Barack Obama, and The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell. I was in a book club for each of these books which increased my motivation to stay on track.
How It Went
I thoroughly enjoyed the past 75 days completing this challenge. In my opinion, the first 15 days and the last 15 days were the hardest. During the first two weeks it took practice getting the hang of challenge and what was required. The last two weeks I went on some weekend trips, and it was my birthday week which made it more difficult to follow the rules perfectly while still enjoying myself. I ended up losing 10 pounds during the challenge which brought me down to the least I've weighed since freshman year of college. I am happy to report I feel healthier and happier than I did prior to the challenge and am very excited and ready to keep up the habits I've developed.
What I Learned
Drinking a gallon of water isn't too hard once you develop the habit, but you will need to pee a lot. At times I was going to the bathroom every hour to 2 hours.
It is much easier to complete this challenge at home than it is while visiting elsewhere or while in an environment where frequent bathroom breaks aren't easy to take.
You begin to look forward to completing the tasks because it is rewarding to do so consistently.
I recognized I was definitely stress eating before and would give into some of my cravings perhaps more than I should have. Sweets in moderation help to fulfill a craving.
A support system and having people around you who support your goals helps so much.
I love walking. I really enjoy getting out and walking around the neighborhood every day after work. It allows time for reflection, peacefulness, and exercise.
Some people will think you're crazy or stupid for doing this challenge. I chose to block out that sentiment.
The challenge as written may exclude folks with certain health circumstances, disabilities, or needs. I think it's up to the participant to mold the challenge to their needs and that's ok.
Tips for Success
Use some sort of tracker to keep track of all the tasks you need to complete each day.
I chose to use this free printable PDF checklist. I printed it out and taped it to the closet door in my bathroom.
You could download the 75 Hard app to help you track your progress and post your results online.
Track your meals - whether it be to track the macros, calories, or even just to have a record of what you ate.
My company offers discounted membership to WW, so I chose to track my meals on their app.
Schedule your workouts and reading time in advance so you can't use the excuse that you don't have time to complete them.
I created recurring calendar events for 2 workouts and 10 minutes of reading every day. I modified the timing of the events when needed to work around my schedule each day.
Aim to drink most of your water at least 2 hours before you go to bed, so you don't have to wake up in the middle of the night to pee.
Join a book club.
Do the challenge with a group of friends or a support system.
Don't beat yourself up if you break a rule, we all make mistakes.
If you decide to embark on this challenge, I wish you the best of luck and mental toughness. You can do it, if you set your mind to it.
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, just a millennial blogger sharing my experiences. Like any program that requires physical exertion, you should consult a health care professional before starting to determine if it is right for your needs.