If you follow any health or fitness influencers on TikTok or Instagram, you’ve likely heard of the 75 Hard Challenge. It’s one of the many health and fitness trends to blow up during the pandemic, and it’s more focused on developing “mental toughness” and healthy habits than anything else. But is it suitable for women?
Entrepreneur and CEO of the fitness and supplement brand 1st Phorm, Andy Frisella, created 75 Hard as a “mental toughness” program. On his website, he describes this program saying, “75 Hard is a transformative mental toughness program. If you're looking for a new fitness program or challenge, this is not it. This is a program that can change your life...starting from the inside. Are there physical changes? Yes! But trust me when I say the physical changes you see on the outside are a FRACTION of the results you can earn by completing 75 HARD...This is not your next ‘internet challenge.’ Think of this as an ironman for your brain.”
Though many see it as a fitness or diet program, the main goal of the program is to develop healthy habits and promote higher self-esteem and wellness. The program is surprisingly simple, too. The rules are to “work out outdoors twice a day for at least 45 minutes, drink four liters of water per day, read 10 pages of nonfiction a day, take a five-minute cold shower, take progress photos every day” and “perform unrelated tasks like random acts of kindness or talk to someone in person daily.”
The diet part of the 75 Hard challenge doesn’t have too many strict rules, only to cut out alcohol and cheat meals. The only other rule is that this program should be followed for 75 days in a row to increase mental toughness and physical strength. This means that anyone on any type of diet or fitness program can try 75 Hard, as well as anyone from beginners to seasoned athletes. The biggest caveat is if you mess up on any rules (even if you’re on day 74), you have to start all over again at day one.
75 Hard is a transformative mental toughness program, not strictly a fitness program.
Though some of the rules like drinking more water, working out every day, and reading every day are great goals that are scientifically proven to improve our health, is the 75 Hard Challenge good for women specifically?
Is 75 Hard Good for Women?
Though it’s slightly controversial to say in 2022, we all know that men and women are biologically different, and this extends to health and fitness. Though this doesn’t mean that women and men should do completely different exercises (we all know that women can strength train and men can do yoga and pilates), there are plenty of "sex differences in body composition," like how men have more muscle mass than women.
Aside from some of the obvious differences between men's and women’s bodies, like reproductive organs, men and women have completely different hormone cycles. While men have a 24-hour hormone cycle, women’s hormone cycles revolve around their menstrual cycles, which are usually around 28 days on average.
A women’s hormone cycle consists of four phases: the menstrual phase (your period), follicular phase, ovulatory phase, and luteal phase. It’s beneficial for women to eat and exercise around their cycles for optimal nutritional and fitness benefits, and it also helps balance your hormones.
This could conflict with the 75 Hard challenge during the menstrual phase, as it’s more beneficial for women to engage in lower-intensity workouts like yoga during this phase. Two 45-minute walks or a mix of walking and stretching could be doable for some women, so you would have to know your abilities during your menstrual phase before undertaking 75 Hard. Additionally, it's essential to give yourself grace with the cheat meal part if you're in your luteal or menstrual phase and participating in this challenge.
Many experts are critical of the 75 Hard Challenge because of the lack of leniency in the program and the requirement to track progress through taking pictures as it can be harmful to your mental health, especially in regard to eating disorders. Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Sabrina Romanoff says, “Something unique about the program is its incorporation of photos to promote and track progress, which translates to the type of trends that flourish in this digital age. There are some damaging consequences associated with these dieting and lifestyle trends that should be considered.”
Taking daily pictures of your progress could lead to excessive fixation on appearance.
Romanoff continues, “In clinical practice, I’ve observed how following an intensive diet and lifestyle program leads to rigid rules and obsessive thoughts that can lead to greater mental health concerns and disordered eating behaviors. While aspects of this program may be designed to motivate, such as the daily photo component, it may lead to excessive fixation on appearance. Self-surveillance is a significant component of eating disorders and could trigger upward social comparison, as members are viewing often edited or unattainable images of their peers online.”
Romanoff brings up several good points, as we know that social media can influence eating disorders and that young women are more likely to develop eating disorders than their male peers.
75 Hard challenge isn’t for everyone, so it’s also important to consult with your doctor before you try it or any other program. If it works for you, that’s great, but it's okay if this isn’t the program for you. Luckily, there are plenty of other wellness programs for women (28 is a great app to help you work out and eat around your cycle).
75 Hard Success Stories
While there is plenty of criticism of the 75 Hard Challenge, there are even more success stories. Search the #75 Hard hashtag on Instagram and you’ll find thousands of success stories, but we pulled some of our favorite stories from women who tried the challenge.
Laura Pavlich wrote, "This was a mental challenge. It was not a physical challenge or weight loss challenge. Accomplishing the list (with mindfulness as a bonus) each day was the goal. I did discover some findings for my body and how it responds to types of cardio, foods, and sleep.”
She continued, “I gained knowledge. Both in my field and for mental, spiritual, and emotional improvement and wellness. And inspiration! I gained friends and colleagues who have the minds and bodies that are true examples of health and wellness. I gained better sleep patterns which I needed. I gained a new and special relationship with my kids. I earned their respect by sticking to my word and staying true to myself as a woman and their mom, in which THEY would not let me fail! They are my biggest supporters!!!”
Travel influencer @emilygoesplaces also found success. In a blog post, she wrote, “I thoroughly enjoyed the past 75 days completing this challenge. In my opinion, the first 15 days and the last 15 days were the hardest. During the first two weeks, it took practice getting the hang of the challenge and what was required. The last two weeks I went on some weekend trips, and it was my birthday week which made it more difficult to follow the rules perfectly while still enjoying myself. I ended up losing 10 pounds during the challenge which brought me down to the least I've weighed since freshman year of college. I am happy to report I feel healthier and happier than I did prior to the challenge and am very excited and ready to keep up the habits I've developed.”
So, is the 75 Hard Challenge good for women? It can be, but it’s crucial to note how working out and eating according to your cycle is better for women. If you can find a way to make the 75 Hard Challenge work for you and your hormone cycle, go for it, but be sure to be kind to yourself during your menstrual phase.
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