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If you’re active on social media, you may have seen the hashtag #75Hard at some point, posted with physical progress pictures, a book cover or a gym selfie. But what exactly is the 75 Hard Program—and is it something you should consider trying?
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The 75 Hard Challenge was created in 2019 by entrepreneur Andy Frisella, a podcaster and CEO of the supplement company 1st Phorm. 75 Hard is not a fitness challenge, but a “transformative mental toughness program,” according to the program’s website.
Frisella created 75 Hard after interviewing James Lawrence, who’s known as the Iron Cowboy for completing 50 Ironman races in 50 consecutive days across all 50 states. After Lawrence told Frisella that you must intentionally put yourself in places that are uncomfortable in order to develop mental fortitude, Frisella was inspired to create 75 Hard.
For 75 consecutive days, 75 Hard participants must do the following every day, according to the program’s welcome email:
Furthermore, no alterations to the program are allowed. If you miss any of your daily goals, your progress resets to day one.
“You will be tempted to try to change things a little to suit you and your ‘special lifestyle,’” writes Frisella. “But that right there is the root of every problem in your life,” he claims.
The 75 Hard program claims to improve your:
By completing the program successfully, you’ll read at least 750 pages, find yourself in a dietary routine, remain well-hydrated and be able to see any physical results through a catalog of daily progress photos.
There can be benefits to following a structured wellness plan, according to experts. “As a dietitian, I’m all for people paying closer attention to their nutrition and physical activity routines, and the 75 Hard program certainly encourages that,” says Noah Quezada, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Colorado. “One of the major benefits of this program is that it promotes consistency. Consistency is key when it comes to seeing results from any type of health and fitness plan.”
Mindset coach Carrie Veatch recently completed the program, which she enjoyed. Based on her experience, she believes participating in 75 Hard can help people eliminate negativity from their lives while appreciating what their minds and bodies are truly capable of when they commit and follow through.
Personal trainer and kettlebell coach Sophie Banyard also completed 75 Hard, and she found the program tough but doable. “It taught me a lot about what you can actually fit into a day if you put your mind to it,” she says. Banyard credits the challenge as the catalyst for her giving up alcohol entirely, which she regards as one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
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There are some potential drawbacks to the 75 Hard program as well, according to experts. While Quezada likes the consistency of the program, he says he has concerns about its rigidity. “It’s very restrictive in terms of diet and doesn’t allow for any ‘cheat meals.’ This [rigidity] can make it difficult to stick to [in the] long term and may even lead to an unhealthy relationship with food,” he says.
Because it’s an all-or-nothing program, 75 Hard doesn’t allow for uncertainty. “It doesn’t teach you any skills to help deal with slip-ups or teach you sustainable behaviors,” says Saara Haapanen, Ph.D., a performance coach, motivation expert and certified personal trainer in Colorado. “It doesn’t allow for giving yourself any grace.”
75 Hard doesn’t provide guidance around specific fitness or nutrition plans, either. While this flexibility allows individuals to eat and exercise in a way that makes sense for them—one person might be a vegan weightlifter while another prefers yoga and a low-carb meal plan—it can leave those without a lot of nutrition or fitness knowledge struggling to come up with an effective routine that helps them progress toward their goals, according to Jackie Kaminski, registered dietician nutritionist and nutrition instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
It’s important to note that 75 Hard is not backed by scientific research. Frisella chose 75 days as the program length based on his own instinct, according to an episode of the 75 Hard podcast.
Although the benefits of physical activity are well documented, 75 days with no chance to rest could put participants at risk for overtraining injuries, depending on what they choose for their workouts and what their current fitness level is. The program’s built-in emphasis on perfection might also negatively affect some people, according to Dr. Haapanen.
“Programs designed as ‘X-day challenges’ typically use weight loss and lifestyle habits that are not sustainable and, in some cases, completely unhealthy,” says Brooke Cavalla, a certified prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist and personal trainer in California. In fact, she says she steers people away from any program that has an end date. “Because of this [end date], [these programs] can lead to yo-yo dieting, poor self-esteem, discouragement, body image issues and even disordered eating habits when the program can’t be maintained as a complete lifestyle change.”
While there may be pros to a challenge like 75 Hard, some experts are cautious of the cons.
“The good with 75 Hard comes along with the potential [of] habit formation and confidence with completing the program,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Jake Boly. “If you can continually remind yourself that little things add up, then I see the benefit of the program assisting with one’s ability to build better habits, which can carry over post–program completion.”
However, beware of pendulum swings after the 75 days have passed, he says. “Whenever you make a dramatic lifestyle change like doing 75 Hard, you run the risk of losing sight of the bigger picture regarding moderation,” he adds.
75 Hard could be a good program for someone who’s already active but probably isn’t suitable for beginners, says certified personal trainer and nutrition coach Stephanie Thomas. “The daily list of activities and tasks to be completed can feel daunting for someone who is just getting into fitness,” she says. Thomas recommends starting with one or two goals at a time and adding more as those goals are attained.
Dr. Haapanen agrees that certain people may find 75 Hard to be just the thing they need to kickstart healthy habits. However, she thinks there are superior options for most people based on her approach. “I prefer baby steps in life change behaviors,” she says. “In my practice, I aim to help my humans be 1% better every day. I find this [strategy] to be more sustainable, realistic and fun.”
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When choosing any lifestyle change program, Cavalla recommends asking yourself the following questions:
If you’d like to give 75 Hard a go, consider working with a dietitian and trainer to create a nutrition and exercise plan that’s best suited to your goals. Furthermore, even if the 75 Hard isn’t a good fit for your lifestyle, these professionals will help you design a diet and physical fitness program that fits your unique needs. Always speak to your health care provider before beginning a new exercise or wellness program to make sure it’s right for you.
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Haley Shapley is a Seattle-based freelance writer, a certified group fitness instructor and the author of Strong Like Her: A Celebration of Rule Breakers, History Makers, and Unstoppable Athletes, a cultural history that looks at the evolution of women and physical strength. Her work has appeared in Shape, SELF, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph and dozens of publications for hospitals and health care systems. When she’s not writing, she’s usually working toward a fitness goal; past pursuits have included running a marathon, riding her bike 200 miles and competing in a bodybuilding show.
Sabrena Jo is the senior director of science and research at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). A member of the fitness industry since 1987, she is a certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer and health coach. She’s taught group exercise and owned personal training and health coaching businesses. She previously worked as a full-time faculty instructor in the kinesiology and physical education department at California State University, Long Beach. Sabrena Jo is always searching for new ways to help people start and stick with physical activity.