What Is the 75 Hard Challenge? I Successfully Completed It—Here's What You Need to Know

Mental toughness or just restriction?

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Olivia Dubyak/McKenzie Cordell for PureWow/

In 2020, I completed the 75 Hard challenge. The two-a-day workouts, the water intake, the diet, the reading, all of it. The super-strict program is all over TikTok (and other platforms), and since I did it before it made its way to social media fame, I figured I would share my untainted, raw experience, along with some insight from expert.

Meet the Experts

  • Melissa Pfeister is a Stanford Medicine-certified nutritionist and founder of Stripped With Melissa. Her goal is to help clients form healthy habits and feel their best.
  • Naomi Ben-Ami, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist and the clinical director of Williamsburg Therapy Group. She has a masters and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University and works with both couples and individuals. She was formerly a staff psychologist at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital’s Center for Intensive Treatment for Personality Disorders.

What Is the 75 Hard Challenge?

The 75 Hard challenge is marketed as a mental toughness program meant to help you learn discipline and control in your own life. It was created by Andy Frisella, a bestselling author and entrepreneur who’s passionate about the importance of self-discipline. For 75 days, you follow a set of daily rules which include:

  • No alcohol
  • Follow a diet of your choosing (no “cheat” meals)
  • Drink a gallon of water a day
  • Take a progress photo every day
  • Do two 45-minute workouts a day (one of which needs to be outdoors)
  • Read 15 pages of a nonfiction book a day

If you break just one of the rules, you must start over from day one.

My 75 Hard Experience

When I decided I wanted to devote 75 days to a strict, scheduled program, I was full-on ready to go. I wrote down my plans, drew up a mock schedule of how I wanted my days to go and was ready to rock. As mentioned, one of the rules is to follow a diet. Frisella notes that this can be any kind of diet, the point is you just commit to what you decide on for 75 days. For me, this was eating high protein meals and opting for whole foods. Pfeister tells me this was a good move, noting, “As you are working out for long periods at a time, it’s good to have high protein and good carbs. Protein is the key for your muscles whether repairing or building them, protein is the fuel for your muscles.”

Following the other rules required discipline in planning, so it wasn’t 8 p.m. and I’d only had 8 ounces of water and still had a 45-minute outdoor workout to do. This is something that really made me feel empowered and strong, planning my goals and completing them. Each day was a motivator for the next, because the beginning every morning I would reflect on how good I felt about completing the day before and seeing the results of energy and motivation.

Let me be clear, though: Every day was not filled with self-fulfillment and motivation. Some days were a real test. Halfway through this program, it was easy to feel discouraged and over it. For me, that came from the fear of missing out on going out with friends abstaining from drinks and avoiding weekend getaways with my husband to stay focused and the intense commitment of going another five weeks. Which is totally normal, per Ben-Ami. “The downside for some people will be related to the intensity of the regiment with its multiple daily rules and expectations,” she says. “The intensity of programs like this could lead to physical or mental burnout, especially if the goals are not tailored to an individual's particular abilities and needs.” I definitely felt this—adding so many things to my plate became mentally and physically overwhelming, so fantasizing about the end and getting frustrated about the days ahead made this process even heavier. There was a moment for me a little past midway, however, when my brain turned on autopilot (in a good way) and this daily routine just became a ritual I barely had to think about.

My “Results”

In completing 75 Hard, I wanted to learn self-discipline, lose a little bit of fat and overall enjoy the process and not feel like I was just forcing myself to do this.  At the end of the 75 days, I did lose weight, I did learn self-discipline and for the most part and I enjoyed the process. To me, that means completing this program was a success. “At the psychological level, commitment to a process and the opportunity to experience tangible progress over time can be incredibly powerful in increasing one’s sense of agency and sense of achievement,” explains Ben-Ami. “These are important parts of building healthy self-esteem and general mental health.”

As much as the program did feel like a success, I didn’t necessarily stick with the entire routine after the 75 days. As much as it became a habit to check my diet/exercise/water/etc. boxes, when day 75 came around, my brain saw it as an end date, which kicked quite a few of these habits from my daily routine. So no, my life did not transform indefinitely. “Counter to the 75 Hard, many people find that habits are more sustainably achieved by setting small achievable goals which can be gradually built over time,” Ben-Ami suggests. And I 100 percent agree. Seventy-five days feels long when you’re going through it, but big picture, it’s only two and a half months, so squeezing that many habits in all at once is quite intense and doesn’t feel all that sustainable past the end point of the challenge.

What Practices I Kept in My Routine

When you start a challenge like this, you hope to keep some of the healthy habits you learn well after the 75 days is over. I did keep a few, many of which were my own little add-ons to the program. During the 75 days, I completed the required checklist of things while also vowing to: get myself ready for work every day (aka, no PJs), do a ten-minute meditation every day, get 10,000 steps a day and be in bed by 9:30 p.m. Out of everything, I still to this day drink a gallon of water a day, meditate and get ready for work. I’ve also continued making sure to get outside at least once a day and move my body once a day.

Things to Keep in Mind About 75 Hard

While doing 75 Hard, I became very focused on my daily checklist, and while it did help me feel good at the end of each day, when my schedule fell out of pace, I would become anxious and overwhelmed that I wouldn’t finish my tasks. And according to Ben-Ami, this kind of program can easily cause you to become hard on yourself. “The emphasis on such rigid adherence can create an ‘all or nothing’ mentality, which can lead to perfectionism, a sense of failure and decreased motivation,” she notes.

If you’re a newbie at working out and jumping into this program, don’t go from zero to 100. “It’s extremely important to ease in slowly,” Pfeister stresses. “This helps you to avoid injuries and the soreness from using so many different muscles that have probably not been worked on in a long time.” Going slowly at the beginning of something like this is also going to help you avoid burning out and will allow you to feel your progress as your strength grows.

At the end of the day, this program is intense and requires a certain level of commitment and self-responsibility. My biggest tip if you plan to start? Be gentle with yourself and remind yourself each day of why you wanted to start in the first place. Good luck!

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Commerce Editor

Olivia Dubyak is PureWow's Commerce Editor and textbook Capricorn. She studied journalism at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but has gone from New York City to...