Please keep in mind these thoughts are mine alone, I do not talk about this with the intent to put down or belittle the program or the creator of 75 Hard. As an SU coach, I simply wanted to see if this program was sustainable and be able to have factual knowledge one can only get by doing the program.
If you have been around for the past year or so, you most likely have heard of the fitness/weight loss trend sweeping the internet: The 75 Hard. The 75 Hard program requires you to complete five critical tasks each day. If you miss a single day you must start over from scratch and begin again at day #1 it does not matter if you are on day 74, you go all the way back to day 1. The five critical tasks include:
Consume 1 standard gallon of water
Perform 2 workouts
Read 10 pages of a self-improvement book
Follow a diet (any diet)
Take a Daily Progress Picture
Zero Alcohol and no cheat meals
If I’m being honest, I was turned off from the very start, because the motto for the 75 Hard is: “CHOOSE THE HARDER PATH”. Ummmmm, why? Why must I choose something more difficult to improve my life? Any Stronger U member knows that sustainable and real-life changes are the ones that stick best, so why does the 75 Hard ask participants to go out of their way to make it more challenging?
But, nevertheless, I read the rules and thought it didn’t look too challenging. As a pretty intense individual myself, I thought I could do this. I am pretty conditioned in life to do hard things.
I felt ready to tackle the challenge, and then I read the fine print (this might be the biggest red flag, you shouldn’t need fine print for any fitness, nutrition, or wellness challenge):
- Consume 1 standard gallon of water- WITH NO ADDITIVES.
- I hate drinking water by itself and love to add in a lime or some crystal light to change it up, but NOPE can’t do that or you start back at day one.
- Perform 2 workouts.
- One must be outside, despite the weather, that does not include a carport or garage, GET OUTSIDE, also must be spaced out by 3 hours, you cannot combine two 45-min workouts back-to-back.
- 10 pages of self-improvement reading.
- No audiobooks! It must be a physical book!
- Follow a diet, any diet.
- Oh boy, did this one ruffle some feathers, because the fine print states no sugar, but as you research it more, the creator meant no sugar from “junk”. Everyone’s version of “junk” is different and can be interpreted in many different ways.
- Daily progress picture.
- I now have 75 photos of myself half-naked and puffy face from just waking up…. cool
- Zero Alcohol and no cheat meals-.
- Again, another item that can be interpreted differently as a “cheat meal”?
The Early Days
I first started my 75 Hard journey in September, and just like all new challenges, I had the energy and excitement to power me through the first days. I was like “oh hell ya I got this!”. My daughter and I did a 45-min run in the beautiful sun, I went to Crossfit later that day, read my book, and drank my water (begrudgingly with no additives). And, because I’m a Stronger U coach, I opted to follow my macros with no cookies or anything with a lot of sugar (like I said, open to interpretation, right?) I have a major sweet tooth, so this was no easy feat for me.
My first week went by with no issues, I was motivated, I had this…. Until I didn’t. My husband and I decided we needed to go see our family in New Mexico sooner rather than later as his elderly grandparents needed to meet their soon-to-be one-year-old great-granddaughter. Since we’re still worried about the pandemic we decided to drive. All the way to New Mexico. 19 hours to be exact. But, since I didn’t want to have to restart the clock on my 75 Hard, I had to get my workouts in. How?? Rest stops and a patient husband. I ran my dogs for 45 minutes at a truck stop in Utah and another in Colorado. Was it the safest? Probably not, but it had to be done, and I always stayed where my husband could see me. Somehow I made it through the week with family and so much driving still able to accomplish my goals with 75 hard.
And Then Real Life Hit
After our trip to New Mexico, I found that a lot of my time was strategizing around real life. We had tons of upcoming events, our social calendars, and so much more, and because of my commitment to the 75 Hard, I had to figure out how to squeeze everything in around this gigantic hurdle in my life.
It first hit when we were celebrating Aspen, my daughter’s, 1st birthday! She and I went for a run that morning and then we celebrated with her. We watched as she ate SO MUCH CAKE, but guess who didn’t eat a slice with her? Me. Instead, I finished off that day with an evening Crossfit workout.
The next hurdle, one I am currently dealing with as I am typing this blog- SICKNESS, there is no way I should be going out in the Idaho 30 degree weather while sick with a really bad cold, but if I don’t want to start over again at day one, better get it done. And then later tonight, I still have to go to Crossfit.
I am a seasoned Crossfitter, former Wildland firefighter, and overall a very active person. Working out multiple times per day is nothing new to me. The 75 Hard challenge has required me to go hard for 75 days STRAIGHT and by day 20, I became exhausted all of the time no matter if I got a good night’s sleep.
I started to fear failure because I didn’t want to HAVE to start over back at day one. I believe failure is good because we learn and grow, but this failure was different, because it was only 75 days, right? I could do it, but what if I didn’t?
Around day 40 the exhaustion started to get even worse and I started to wrestle with an unshakable burnout. I started cutting my outside workouts from a run 6 times per week (with a walk on Sundays), to every other day, and then a fast walk the other days. They never said what the workouts had to be, but just 45 min of movements (remember what I said to a lot of 75 Hard being open to interpretation?), so I made the choice to make my exercise a time of intentional movement, instead of all-out exercise and my burnout got a little bit better.
Here’s the truth: 75 days is a huge window. This blog will be posted in December and I started in September! In that 75 days, life has happened, work has still pushed you, you can get sick, and if something happens that you don’t check all of your boxes in a single day.
The challenge is a physical, mental, and emotionally demanding process. It requires 45-minute workouts twice a day (so instead of finding one time per day to workout, you’re now trying to squeeze two separate workouts in). Then you’re carving out 20 extra minutes for the required reading. And let’s hope you don’t forget to drink your water or you’ll be stuck at the end of the night chugging all of your water before bed (and then you will have to disrupt your sleep to wake up and pee all night).
Trying to tackle this as a mother of a one year old who has a flexible schedule is tough, but imagine if you work a full 8-hour day and then have outside commitments. There were nights I had to go for a walk at 9-10 PM in the dark because I still needed my outside movement, but my family time needed to come first.
A Coach’s Perspective
I would never tell someone who failed that they have to start over. During my time of burnout during the challenge, even I became afraid of failure. I would never want any of my members to feel the way I did during that time. My coaching has taught me that anybody can have success in life with their diet and health if they practice consistency always remembering to give themselves grace when they need it. The 75 Hard does not allow for ANY grace, if you fail, you are a failure, and you do not have what it takes. If you struggle with mental health issues, confidence, or food, the 75 Hard should be avoided at all costs. It is not worth the damage to your relationship with food, exercise, or your body to prove that you can do it.
Do I believe when this program was created that it was with negative intentions? No, it’s just not sustainable and does exactly what I, as a coach, try to prevent: feeling guilty around things completely normal such as holidays, birthdays, family functions, etc. I think you are setting yourself up for failure if you feel like you literally can’t enjoy one day without failing.
My advice instead: wake up, move your body, focus on hitting your macros consistently, drink your water, get a workout in, and give yourself grace. A lot can happen when you choose to show up each day! You do not always have to choose the harder path, but the one that teaches understanding, commitment, and perseverance.