If you’re one of the 689 million active TikTok users around the world, you may already have spotted the #75hardchallenge on your feed while scrolling for some fit-spiration (the hashtags #75hard and #75hardchallenge have already accumulated more than 990.2 million views collectively). But if you’re thinking of giving it a go, I say keep on scrolling.
Before I explain why, you first need to understand the assignment, which arrived on the scene back in 2019 when motivational speaker, author, and supplement company owner Andy Frisella introduced the concept of the 75 Hard Challenge on his Real AF podcast to help people lose weight and change their lives for the better.
Noting on his website that the challenge is ‘not a regular fitness program’ but a ‘mental toughness program’ - which he is apparently qualified to deliver based on his “20 years of intensive study and real-life experience” - the basic rules of the 75 Hard Challenge include:
- Follow a diet – what diet you’re meant to follow isn’t specified, but Frisella bans alcohol, sugary drinks and ‘cheat meals’.
- Work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes each time – one of these workouts must be an outdoor session. Rest days are not allowed.
- Drink one gallon (4.5 litres) of water a day – because waking up to go to the loo multiple times through the night will obviously give you the good night’s sleep you need to power through those workouts.
- Read 10 pages of nonfiction a day – entrepreneurial and self-help books are recommended.
- Take a 5-minute cold shower every day.
- Take progress photos. Every damn day.
And here’s the best bit: if you fail, i.e., you have a glass of wine after a tough day at work, or you miss one of your workouts because you’re feeling exhausted, or you forget to read 10 pages of motivational mantras because you have more pressing things to do like work or looking after your kids, then you have to go back to the beginning and start again at Day One.
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Is the 75 Hard Challenge bad for you?
In a word, yes. But before I break down why it’s so bad in my capacity as a qualified personal trainer, it’s worth noting that Frisella doesn’t have a single health, fitness or nutrition qualification to back up the validity of this plan, let alone any scientific research. This alone should make you approach the challenge with caution.
For starters, let’s look at the exercise rule of “two 45-minute workouts a day”. There are no guidelines in place to take your current fitness level, previous injuries or any underlying health conditions into consideration. In fact, there are zero guidelines at all on the type of activities you should be doing, which goes against all expert advice that a workout plan should be safe, effective, personalised and progressive.
Frisella’s approach fails to tick any of these boxes, and while I like the fact that outdoor workouts are promoted (for the mental health benefits, I’m guessing), training outside as a hard rule isn’t always feasible or safe, and two 45-minute workouts a day without any rest days for recovery is simply unsustainable and unhealthy for most people – even for the super fit. The truth is, you’d setting yourself up to fail before you’d even begun, and who needs a plan like that in their life?
Not all challenges are good challenges
It’s the same with the ‘follow a diet’ rule, which is so vague, it’s dangerously open to any kind of interpretation. I’m all for cutting down on booze, sugar and drinking more water to boost metabolism and lose weight, but when you start restricting or even eliminating entire food groups from your diet - or labelling certain foods as ‘cheat foods’ - it’s easy to start craving those foods.
This could also lead to cutting out certain macronutrients from your diet which is not advisable either. And that can set you on a slippery slope towards feelings of guilt, binge eating and disordered eating habits – not to mention that you’d be seriously lacking in the fuel needed to power through those 45-minute workouts twice a day.
But the rule that really grinds my gears is the one that involves taking a progress photo every day. There is absolutely zero evidence out there to support the idea that taking daily photos of yourself in a bikini or your Ironman pants will boost your motivation to stick to a diet and/or workout plan.
If anything, this kind of behaviour can only encourage an unhealthy obsession with how your body looks as you scrutinise each picture searching for a "positive" change in your physique – and heaven help you if you happen to be feeling a bit bloated that day.
Choose progress over perfection
For many Brits, achieving the current NHS guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week, is challenging enough.
No doubt, this is why the 75 Hard Challenge has spawned a plethora of ‘easier’ versions, including the 75 Soft Challenge and the 30 Day Transformation, both of which are still super restrictive, ridiculously unrealistic and just as likely to end in failure.
While I’m all for having goals in your life and a desire to be a better version of yourself, you need to be kind to your body and mind along the way. Any quick fix ideas that promise to ‘glow up’ every aspect of your life in a month or two will only end in misery.
And if you don’t believe me, you’ll find the proof on FitTok, because for every "I passed the 75 Day Challenge!" video, you’ll find ten "I failed the 75 Day Challenge on day eight" videos featuring miserable people crying into their duvets because they couldn’t stick to the rules. Well, in the case of the 75 Day Challenge, I say rules are for breaking.
75 Hard Challenge: do these workouts instead
Not all workouts are equally as good for everybody. The most important thing is to pick one that you find interesting; it's more likely you stick with it for longer.
It's not everyone's cup of tea, but Henry Cavill likes doing squats (lots of it, apparently) while Daniel Craig used to go ham with heavy weights for Casino Royale. Others might prefer full-body workouts or core exercises.
If you want to build muscle, check out this push-pull-legs workout or this strength workout that uses body weight exercise only.
For toning, we'd recommend using kettlebells – smaller ones – and doing active workouts that focus not only on muscle building but getting the heart rate up too.