Updated: Nov 6, 2020
As you may know if you follow me on Instagram, I recently finished the 75 Hard program, and while I can be pretty melodramatic sometimes, I still don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I told you it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever accomplished. If you’re here reading this, I’m going to assume one of two things - you’re either wondering what on earth is 75 Hard, or you’re familiar with it and are considering if you’re crazy enough to do it yourself. So, if you’re totally new to what the program is all about, my first suggestion would be to go and check out Andy Frisella, the man himself who created the method to the madness. He’s got the full details on his website, and has a whole podcast episode that will do a better job explaining it than I could. But essentially, in a nutshell, 75 Hard is a mental toughness program designed by Andy to help you develop the skills and personality traits that we all talk about and wish we could have. Things like integrity, endurance, determination, perseverance. It teaches you that willpower will only get you so far, and that you can’t rely on external accountability to achieve success.
The fundamental principles underpinning the program sound quite simple if you take them at face value. You have a set list of tasks (critical tasks) that you must complete every day for 75 days in a row:
Complete two 45 minute workouts every day (one must be outdoors).
Follow a diet (whatever diet you choose) but absolutely no junk, cheat meals or alcohol.
Take a progress picture every day.
Drink a gallon of water (about 3.8L).
Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book.
Sounds simple enough, right? How about if I told you you couldn’t miss a single one of those critical tasks, or make any sort of adjustments/tweaks to make them suit you and your schedule, for 75 days straight with absolutely no cheating and no compromises? The kicker is that if you miss any of the tasks, or don’t complete them exactly as they are set, you have to start from Day 1 again (regardless of if you’re on Day 6 or 60). Factor in challenges like the weather, illness and just life in general and you very quickly realise that it’s a lot tougher than it looks on a surface level.
I think there’s a few important things to point out at this stage. One being that this program probably isn’t for everyone, and so I would highly recommend that you do your own research and consume all of the material Andy’s made available on this program before you dive in. The other is that it’s a no-BS, to the point, mental toughness program that is purposely going to test you and all that you thought you knew about yourself, but one thing it definitely is not is another weight loss or fitness program. Sure, getting into better physical shape is a likely side effect of moving more and eating better, but the physical changes are not the end goal, nor should they be if you’re going to get the most out of the program. Andy is super vocal about 75 Hard being a program and not another “challenge” that you tick off your list before you forget everything you learnt and begin searching for the next one. It’s about much, much more than that.
I should also point out that the two workouts don’t have to be hardcore, Navy SEAL-style sweat sessions twice a day, and that your diet doesn’t have to be something insanely restricted that makes you just plain miserable every day. You have to do what is within your means, and your physical and health limitations in a way that is still pushing your boundaries. I definitely wasn’t running marathons everyday or eating a calorie tracked diet, but instead focused on a wide variety of exercises (gym, weights, walking, running, yoga, Pilates) and just ate a balanced, wholefoods based diet avoiding as much processed food as possible.
I started the program at the same time and on the same day as my partner. We had both been researching, reading about it and talking about starting it for ages, and had a realisation that we were virtually just making excuses about waiting for the “right time” to start it. We knew this was a sign that we could be doing better for ourselves, so decided to finally bite the bullet and just do it (Nike style).
I won’t lie - it was one of the hardest and most challenging things I’ve ever done, and I’m not being a drama queen here. But personally, for me, it was worth it. Some days when you’re tired or have no time it’s so bloody hard, but it taught me so much about discipline and time management, and actually showing up for myself when I say I’m going to do something. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved and it’s definitely time consuming, so it’s not easy. But I was at a point where I wanted to develop myself more, so I got a lot out of developing my self-accountability. You’re really only to get out what you put in, and I was ready to give it my all.
The toughest point of the whole program was definitely our last week or so. We both got incredibly sick with a horrible cold and were tired, run down, hungry for everything sugary and fatty, and just so unmotivated. But we stuck to our why, and put in place everything we had learnt so far, and got it done. Our workouts were all walks, yoga and slow movements, but we got them done.
I had quite a few lightbulb moments on the program that sound cliche but were lessons I hadn’t yet learnt and needed a swift kick in the backside to really drive the message home. One was self-accountability. The amount of times I said to myself “just eat a bite of that *insert junk food*, my partner/Andy/no one will know” or “it’s okay you don’t feel like exercising just lay there on your phone instead and you can just keep going tomorrow”. But each time, I instantly realised where I was always going wrong with the goals I set or promises I made - I either was needing someone else to pull me into line and scold me for not doing the right thing, or I would cheat myself by half-assing or pretending to do it. Even as I write this I realise what a cop out that has been throughout my life. So I didn’t eat that junk food, and I worked out when I didn’t feel like it, and I kept that promise to myself, for myself, for the first time, well, ever.
A classic, recurring nightmare I had was that I had gone to bed forgetting to complete a task and would wake up in a cold sweat thinking I’d messed it all up (I hadn’t) or even having actual nightmares where I accidentally ate something I wasn’t meant to without realising it. I laugh about it now, but the fear was real! Luckily, I developed an awesome chart that I printed out and kept on the cupboard where I could always see it to make sure I could physically tick everything off and didn’t forget anything.
People sometimes ask me how I stay motivated to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I’ve always said that I don’t actually rely on motivation, because I can’t rely on something that isn’t always there. I make my workouts non-negotiable - I don’t even let myself ask the question of “do I want to workout today?”. Because I can assure you, some days, it’s a resounding hell to the no. Doing 75 Hard reinforced this belief with me, because you need something stronger than motivation to get it done when the little voice in your head is whispering that it’s a much better option to eat Doritos and watch Gossip Girl re-runs (which sometimes it obviously is, but you have to know the difference).
So, my top 3 tips for anyone wanting to start 75 Hard are:
Go to Andy’s website first for full details of exactly how to complete the program, and listen to his podcast episode on 75 Hard;
Create a tracker where you can visually see what tasks you’ve completed every day and have it somewhere where you’ll always see it (ours was on the kitchen cupboard);
Planning and organisation is your friend - plan your meals and workouts in advance, meal prep (if that’s your thing), plan your day as much as you can so you’re not going for a walk at 1am (I managed to successful avoid ever being up this late but I’ve heard some people have!).
I know for sure not everyone will agree with every principle of the program, and I admit there are parts that are in direct conflict with things I was taught and believe. But I learnt to question some beliefs, and was able to replace them with new ones that serve me better, and reinforce those that continue to serve me. At the end of the day, it’s all about your inside game, and how you deal with that is up to you and your personal preference. Personally, 75 Hard was the game changer it promised to be. I might even be crazy enough to start Phase 1 of the program (designed for post-75 Hard), but that’s a post for another day…