75 Hard Challenge: A test of willpower and transformation

Embarking on a journey of sheer willpower and mental fortitude, the 75 Hard Challenge is not for the faint of heart.

It’s a mental toughness program that spans 75 days, where participants follow a strict regimen: two 45-minute workouts per day (one has to be outdoors), stick to a diet, no cheat meals or alcohol, drink a gallon of water, read 10 pages of a book, and take a progress picture daily.

The 75-day plan was created by motivational speaker, podcaster, and author Andy Frisella in 2019 as a ‘transformative mental toughness program’.

People take on the 75 hard challenge for various reasons, however, it has come to light that although it seems like a healthy challenge it can in fact be extremely dangerous.

However, some will argue that this challenge is far from healthy for your body. 

Helen O’Leary, 37, Clinical Director, Chartered Physiotherapist at Complete Pilates, spoke strongly on how they don’t encourage clients to take on the 75 challenge. 

Helen said: “It is not backed by science at the moment, it is very rigid so can lead to regular failure. 

“For people that are trying to get into exercise or get back into it, this challenge can have the complete opposite effect because it’s 75 days consecutively and if you miss any of the bits (diet, water, exercise or the reading) you have to restart.”

“Also with how much activity you’ve got to do (2 sessions a day) this can lead to overuse injuries, and being in medical we don’t want to do that. 

“We want to be careful around body dysmorphia as well, so exercise and food become a healthy relationship rather than got to do as much as you can.”

“I don’t believe that the 75 Hard Challenge is something you can do for the rest of your life.”

Helen said the key points of the 75 Hard should be about finding things that you like.

She explained: “So a variety of exercises, especially exercises that have a community within, because building that community means you are more likely to stay motivated and want to go.

“You’ll just enjoy it as you’ll be making friends too.”

“The general government guidelines state that 150-300 mins of various exercise a week is enough.

“Getting people to sit within that is achievable as that is 3 maybe 4 days of activity a week.”

In regards to the diet section, it’s about having a healthy relationship with food.

Helen said: “For example, the cake isn’t a problem unless you’re eating it 10 times a day, coffee not a problem unless you’re drinking it 30 times a day, so making sure you understand balance is really important.” 

She said: “Social media plays a huge role in these things anyway, unfortunately, I think there’s a whole lot of people on TikTok and places doing interesting things without having the education or the science behind them, but having a whole lot of followers so consequently it immediately gets out to a whole lot of people.”

“The good thing about it is that it encourages exercise, encourages you to think about what you are eating, it encourages self-development, and to drink enough water. 

“There are good things about it but it’s almost like it takes all the good things and then takes it massively to excess and that’s the bit that can be difficult.” 

Helen continued to speak on progress pictures: “They are brilliant but the moment you stop doing the 75 days you are bound to change back to what your body naturally is like anyway because all our body compositions are different and we are never all going to look the same. 

“I’m never going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model, it is just not possible.

“No matter how hard I train.” 

Those who have succeeded in the challenge so far have both positive and negative experiences to sharw.

Lily Millen from Dulwich completed the challenge between the 9th October – 23rd December 2023. 

Lily, 20, said: “I felt physically fit but I wanted to prove to myself that I’m capable of doing hard things and that I can push myself.

“I can be disciplined and make myself do things, really push myself.” 

The biggest challenge for Lily was trying to balance her social life

She said: “The fitness in this challenge was my whole social life, it was quite alarming for me how unsocial I became during this.

“I would wake up, work out, go to work, work out again.

“So I was missing out on so many social plans alongside not drinking alcohol.”

Incorporating friends into the challenges was a good way to balance those tasks. 

Lily explained: “I was asking friends, ‘Please can we go for a walk or a workout’.

“I was arranging so many activities with friends that were workout and fitness-related. 

“They probably hated me for that but I was like I’m so sorry but this is such a priority for me.

“They were very accommodating for that, it felt unnatural having to work a 9-5 and fit in two workouts was a bit crazy some days.”

Ellie Twiner, 22, is currently over halfway through the challenge.

She began the challenge with her sister Morgan at the beginning of this year. 

Ellie said: “When completing 75 hard I have found it more enjoyable completing with a friend.

“It has been helpful as we have been able to motivate each other.

“Also a little friendly competition never hurt!

“On the days where you have no motivation, it is nice to be able to lean on someone to get through it.” 

When talking about balance and finding time to fit it all in, Lily said: “Walking and running was a way to kill two birds with one stone.

“If I had to be somewhere I would walk or run there, and listen to a podcast and then I would have done two tasks in one and got to my destination as well.” 

It has had hundreds of thousands of views to date under the hashtag #75Hard, as its popularity has grown coming into the new year of 2024. 

This is what people are using to keep on track given to them by

Lily spoke differently about the use of social media and how this was the best way for me to stay disciplined, she chose to document via Instagram. 

She explained: “I recorded every single day with videos or photos of all parts of the challenge, food, exercise, and reading.

“I wasn’t going to cheat my way through it, if I’m going to do this, I am going to do it properly. 

“Messages and comments from people helped motivate me, at the end of the day I lost motivation but throughout the challenge, those comments pushed me through. 

Lily’s advice for those wanting to do the challenge is: “I would say be over-prepared as I overestimated how much it was going to take over my life, also I found documenting it so rewarding and a way to keep me accountable. 

“Be prepared to be organized, enjoy the time.”

“It is so rewarding and I would definitely do it again. The challenge served its purpose with me.”

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