I was inspired to take on the 75 Hard Challenge after seeing some of my Instagram friends do it. I started on a bit of a whim. I didn’t think much about it and just decided to do it.
It is a big undertaking and a huge commitment in some ways.
In other ways, it was much the same as what I was already doing.
It was not a complete stretch, like it would have been a few years ago.
I knew it would be hard. I also knew it would be possible. I couldn’t guarantee completion, but I could give it a try. When I started I was doing just that. Starting. I wasn’t attached to the final outcome. I was willing to take on a challenge and allow myself to experience it with no big expectations.
I am not a 75Hard guru. I didn’t read the book. I listened to one podcast and I wasn’t a fan. I am not an expert of knowledge about 75Hard, nor do I plan to be. I am not even sure if I agree with anything about the founder or the program. This is not an endorsement in any way. I was simply intrigued by the program and just decided to give it a try.
The day I decided to start was on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I counted out the days it would end the day before my 46th birthday. I could celebrate my birthday by having a meal of my choice and having my very first rest day in 75 days. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was signed up for an 8K Shamrock Shuffle race on my first official rest day. I would basically be doing 76Hard, and my birthday would be the real rest.
The timing was almost perfect. I hoped to be in top physical and mental shape for my birthday and upcoming Spring Break. The timing of this all gave me a serendipitous nudge to do it, with slight pressure. Who would want to start over when I would have this story of beating the winter blues between my Dad’s death anniversary and my birthday? I thought it could be a positive focus during a dark time. I decided to do it…you guessed it…just one day at a time.
I’ll share my thoughts on each part of the challenge and my performance below.
What is 75 Hard?
It is a mental and physical fitness challenge. The rules are: complete two, 45 minute workouts each day (one must be outside) follow a diet, no alcohol or cheat days, drink 1 gallon of water, take a progress picture and read 10 pages of a personal development book every day for 75 days. The rules are if you fail to do any of these tasks on any day you have to start over at Day 1. Let’s review the tasks and see if I successfully completed this challenge.
Drink 1 Gallon of Water Daily
I already drink a ton of water daily so this was an easy task for me. On the first day, I equated that 5 refills of my water bottle would equal one gallon. I had 5 water bottles before noon on that day. It’s safe to say, I drink enormous amounts of water and I hardly had to track this portion of the challenge. You could say, I’m a big drinker. (wink!) In fact, when one of my client’s heard about this challenge she was worried about my risk of overhydration. Each body is unique. I feel I am safely tending to the water needs of my body. I successfully completed this portion of the challenge, without having to think about it. I drink more than a gallon of water everyday. This part was no challenge for me.
Take a Daily Progress Picture
I don’t enjoy taking a picture of myself but this task seemed completely doable. It only takes a second to snap a picture! How could this be so hard? I was shocked that on a few occasions this was the hardest task of the day. There were a few occasions where I had to get out of bed at the end of the night to do it. After a long day and 2 workouts (more to come on this), I was completely spent. It was hard to get up the energy to get out of bed and stand in front of a mirror for a picture. It is not something I value, so I was not motivated to do it. Speaking of, taking body selfie pictures was a new skill for me to learn. At first, I didn’t know how to stand, how to pose, or how to take a progress picture. I actually crowdsourced ideas on Instagram, because it was awkward to take a picture of my middle aged body for the purpose of taking a picture of my middle aged body. This felt very Vanity Smurf to me, if you know what I mean. It is not at all how I want to spend my time. I don’t pay that much attention to the mirror. This completely bores me, actually. I barely look in the mirror to wash my face or apply my makeup. I just don’t spend that much time looking at myself. I don’t know how to pose. I wasn’t going to share the pictures. What was the point? With time, I learned how to look in the mirror and not the camera. Progress! I started to pose with more confidence. I started to flex my muscles. I started to smile. I decided to try to look my best, not my worst, as I was accustomed to doing. It’s forbidden to take a picture in the locker room at the gym, which is the place I am dressed appropriately for this daily pic. I found a secret dressing room with a door to lock to take these progress pictures. I started to feel really proud of my strong, healthy body. There are physical changes, that you can see. My stomach is tighter. My shoulders are stronger. The biggest physical change has been my level of confidence. I feel better in my clothes. I felt proud of the body I created by working for it. I look fitter, tighter, and stronger too. Did I successfully complete this portion? I say yes. In full transparency, one night I freaked out that the pictures would be in a database somewhere and I didn’t want anyone seeing my half naked pictures on the internet, so I took a picture of my face instead of body. One day I was feeling really over it and it was freezing and I took a picture of my hiking boots in the snow instead of my body in the mirror. That was my progress that day. You can determine that I failed if you want. It doesn’t matter to me. In my mind, I took a dedicated progress picture every day. Success. I think this was the biggest success. I learned to smile at myself in the mirror.
Two 45 Minutes Workouts (one must be outside)
Prior to the challenge, I was working out for an hour 3-4 times a week. Adding in two 45 minute workouts to my daily routine seemed like it would be the biggest challenge of all. It was also January in Chicago which means below freezing, downright dangerous temperatures. I have a busy schedule, so I knew prioritizing workouts would be a must if I was going to seriously attempt to complete this challenge. Working out is important to me, but on many days, my job, my family, my sleep, and my social life have come first. This would not be the case with 75 Hard. The workout would have to be the top priority. This put the hard in 75 Hard. I also had some things working in my favor. I set my own hours and my children are teenagers. I have more time and independence at this point in my life than in previous seasons. I belong to a gorgeous and bougie spa gym. You don’t have to twist my arm to get me there. A hot tub soak and a steam room sweat are motivating rewards at the end of a work out.
With my plan in place, I was set to get started. The first few weeks were good. I was proud of myself committing to this new challenge. I modified it a bit by doing a 1 hour workout and taking a ½ hour walk with my dog every day for the outdoor workout. Most of my classes at the gym were an hour and the temperatures were dangerously low outside. Some days were too cold for even the dog in his puffy winter vest. So technically this was a modification, where the official rules would say I failed. I don’t see it as a failure. I had to work with what I was given with the weather.
Working out so much felt good. I was enjoying doing more yoga and taking action on a path to wellness. The days started adding up.
After a few weeks, I was getting bored of the same routines so I added in more. I got cycle shoes and joined the spin class more often at the gym. This class leaves me feeling absolutely euphoric. I love it so much! I am getting better and one day found myself killing in the front row! Go Me!
I ventured into the weight area of my bougie gym. I had always been intimidated by this part. I was proud of myself for taking the plunge into this area and trying something new. Weight days became easy days because I didn’t have to wash my hair. All the washing and drying of my hair seemed to be a challenge in itself.
I started pushing myself harder on the treadmill to prepare for my race at the end. I learned how to program new routines into the treadmill.
Things were going well. I scheduled all my workouts into the calendar. As I reached the ½ way point I was very confident that I would get my work out each day. It was not a matter of IF, only HOW and WHEN. My confidence was high. I was still just taking it a day, or week at a time. Not looking too far ahead. Even if I didn’t complete it, or didn’t complete it perfectly, it was still a very positive goal and I would receive benefits from my efforts.
Mostly this challenge gave me MORE of what I love. More yoga, and more time outside. Yes please. This is my love language.
After some long work days I would have to leave my house in the dark at nearly bedtime to get my workout in. This was tough. When I got to the gym, it turned out to be the best way to wind down from the day. I didn’t want to come and then I was so glad I did. I usually ended up working out harder and longer than planned.
After hitting the halfway mark I was getting really sick of it.
I think this is where mental fitness really becomes a challenge.
I had done enough and I still had so much more to go. The workouts were losing their luster. I was really sick of prioritizing my workouts when the laundry was piling up, I had a long to-do list for work, my kids needed my attention, and the house was falling apart. It became less automatic as it was a few weeks ago. I wanted to give up every day. I considered it often. Somedays I went to the gym last thing before bed and then again first thing upon waking up.
You would think that my body would be rock solid but the scale didn’t move an inch.
Why was I doing this? I could just quit now.I was very, very tempted but I stayed the course. I went outside for a work out every day and I worked out for 90 minutes every day.
I successfully completed this portion of the challenge.
In full transparency one workout was 45 minutes of restorative yoga, in the form of my legs up the wall, laying in the dark, listening to my oldest teenager talk. On that particular day that was the best I could do. That was literally all I had to give to 75Hard. I kept my intention, my promise and my time for it, so I am calling it a win.
On most days easy yoga or walking was one workout. Walking and easy yoga made up about 50% of the workouts. Running, spinning, dancing, hot yoga flow or lifting made up the other 50%.
I worked out hard and I worked out soft. I worked out and moved my body with more consistency than any other time in my life.
Having no rest days was the hardest part. My body was usually the right amount of sore, but not having a day to recover at all in 75 days was really difficult.
Yesterday was my 8K race day. I am happy with my pace and completion.
My results are in the top ⅓ of my age group.
Today is my official rest day, and I don’t want to rest. I want to do yoga or go for a walk.
I am shocked I feel this way. I thought I would want a day to lay around or stay on the couch, and I don’t. I’ve been dreaming of this rest day for months and now that it’s here, I want to move my body.
Moving my body isn’t a punishment anymore, it’s a celebration of me. Today is my birthday, what better way to celebrate myself than to walk, dance, jump, stretch, and move?
Follow a Diet
For the diet portion. I decided to eliminate fried foods and red meat. I wanted to eat mostly vegetarian and have at least 15 plant points a day (plant points is a term I use for anything that comes from plants, this could include fruits and vegetables, but also spices, beans, nuts and more). No cheat meals and no alcohol. No problem. I am sober.
I started to look forward to finding the healthiest, most vegetarian meal on any menu. At burger joints in the midwest, this can be a huge challenge. One night my husband was going through a drive through to bring home dinner for us. I checked the menu online and ordered the vegetable soup. He called to tell me they were out. So I ordered a veggie burger. They were out. I ordered a baked potato, they were out. There was literally NOTHING on the menu for me that wasn’t red meat or deep fried. I couldn’t eat out with my family that night and I wasn’t in the mood to make dinner. This sucked.
I mostly felt better when I turned down fried food. The more I learned about red meat. the happier, I was eating less. Then I started having symptoms of things that could be explained by not enough protein found in animal products, and a deficiency in vitamins found in red meat.
I started to wonder if this really was the best thing for me.
I think it’s important to note that I didn’t eat an All Healthy Diet. In fact, even obeying my own rules I overcompensated sometimes with white breads, pastas, and sugar. If I wasn’t having french fries, why not have a vanilla shake? Pasta is vegetarian, I could add more cheese and butter. I wasn’t going vegan after all.
The diet portion was my biggest challenge. I have never successfully completed a diet. I did the Whole30 for 17 days once. I called it the Whole17, because I’m funny like that. Hardy har har.
That was the closest I’ve ever gotten to completing a diet challenge. I did Noom once and had too much in the dangerous red limited food category by the time I added creamer to my first cup of coffee each day. I don’t know how to track and count anything.
I don’t do diets and I don’t want to. I am completely clueless when it comes to macros or keto or any of it and I actually want to keep it that way. Considering my history with addiction and perfectionism, I think I could be a likely candidate for disordered eating. I don’t want to add this to the list of things I need to “fix” about myself. I don’t want the inches around my waist to be another reason I am not good enough. I have a lot of resistance to diets. I like eating healthy. I eat big portions. I think food is a great pleasure of life and I don’t want to deprive myself of it.
Making myself smaller isn’t a goal of mine and I don’t want it to be. Do I want to be lean, fit and strong? Yes I do. Do I want to measure, count, and obsess over it? Definitely not. Counting is way too complicated for me. My body knows this too because I am always the same weight.
Regardless of changes in my fitness, diets, and even giving up alcohol, my weight on the scale is the same. And it’s a lot. I weigh a lot. I look so much better in all my after pictures but the actual weight is the same. Do not follow me for weight loss tips. Do follow me for learning how to love yourself and glow and look freaking fantastic in your own skin whatever it is. Follow me for food pics, because the camera always eats first.
How did I do with the most challenging 75Hard task?
Well, I kept changing my own rules. I didn’t really know where to draw the line in the sand from the beginning. My commitment was wobbly.
I had fried food a few times and didn’t realize it until after I was done eating it. That sneaky shrimp tempura in my sushi for example. I didn’t think of it. I didn’t stop my plan and just kept going. One time, after turning down cheese curd appetizers and a steak dinner, I literally ordered beignets for dessert and scarfed them down happy as a hog. They tasted so freaking good. When the waitresses cleared our plate, it dawned on me that they were donuts. Deep fried donuts. I laughed so hard. My own mind protected me, by not calculating that beignets are delicious deep fried nuggets smothered in sugar syrups until it was too late and they were down the hatch.
Still, I marched on. Turning down 99% of deep fried options. Making mostly vegetarian choices. And saying a hard no to burgers, beef, and the beloved steak I plan to order with gusto for my birthday dinner today now that this is over.
Read 10 Pages of Personal Development
Easy peasy. Done and done. I read almost 50 books last year and ½ were personal development. I am a self help junkie. Reading personal development is totally my jam and I surely exceeded this goal by a landslide. Thank goodness one thing was easy for me in the 75Hard Challenge.
So sums up my 75Hard experience. Will I do it again? Maybe. Will I keep some habits? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Mostly.