Disclaimer: This is NOT 75 Hard. To complete the 75 Hard program, one would need to complete it exactly as prescribed with no misses. On page 4 of his book, 75 Hard, a Tactical Guide to Winning the War with Yourself, Andy Frisella specifically says “75 Hard cannot be ‘customized’ or ‘personalized’ in any way.” He goes on to say “…any change to the program, no matter how seemingly insignificant, makes it a completely different program.”
“75 Hard at its core is not a physical challenge program.” Andy Frisella would say.
“I don’t want a mental toughness challenge. I want a physical challenge program. And 75 Hard has an excellent foundation for a fitness challenge” says me.
So, please, if you are a 75 Hard purist, take a breath and know that I am not going to “customize” 75 Hard. I am going to use the excellent foundation created by Andy and make a program that I am excited to tackle. I will add elements from Bigger Leaner Stronger to the mix as well.
Looking for Something New
For the last six months I have been looking for a real challenge to kick-start myself back into some good routines. I have recently run a marathon, competed in over a dozen Spartan races across the SW USA, and done many miles on the mountain bike. Endurance was my thing. Then over the last few years injuries have taken toll. I’ve gained 40lbs. My training programs and techniques have become stale and unexciting. And over the last 6 months I’ve been (still) hurting from a herniated disc in my back which has really humbled me.
I need something new. Something exciting. Something flexible to accommodate injury limitations. Something tangible to get me training again.
The one challenge I keep coming back to is 75 Hard. I won’t go into what that is, because you probably already know about it, and if you don’t the details are here.
I have purchased and read the book. I read it twice. I have purchased the app. I am ready to go. Mostly. I have yet to start.
The reason I haven’t done the challenge is that there are a couple of items that just don’t fit for me. And if you’re familiar with 75 Hard, that DOES NOT FLY. There are no changes, EVER in 75 Hard. And because of that, I find myself still at idle doing nothing. If I am anything, I’m a non-conformist. I’m old enough and experienced enough that being “tough enough” isn’t bait to me. Used to be, back when I was a juvenile delinquent, and then through my 30’s. But not now.
The concept of Andy’s 75 Hard is mental toughness. Reading his book, it comes together. I get, 100%, why he doesn’t allow deviation to the challenge. His reasoning for no compromise is that if you compromise on any little detail, then you’re not showing the mental toughness that the challenge was designed to build. Makes sense. But it’s not for me.
What I Like About 75 Hard & What I'll Borrow
There are certain elements to this challenge that are really intriguing and are the reasons that I want to use this as a baseline for my own challenge.
Here is what I will borrow from 75 Hard:
- Two workouts per day, with one outside. This is a real challenge. I’ve read a lot of feedback by fitness experts about this element being an unhealthy requirement of 75 Hard. I don’t think they’ve read the 75 Hard book though, and I think they’re missing the details. These workouts can include active recovery workouts.
- Follow a diet. This is one of the things I really like. Again, a mental toughness challenge for sure. However, this is also one element where I disagree with 75 Hard and I will change. Details later on.
- No alcohol. I love my Guinness, amber ales, and Captain and Diet Cokes. This will probably be the hardest part of the challenge, yet probably the most rewarding. For me, this is the core of the challenge.
- The app. It will run you about $5 but there’s nothing wrong with Andy making a few bucks. And if you are doing this challenge then having the calendar and daily checklist will be valuable.
- The Boss voice and the Bitch Voice. I LOVE this analogy. It’s worth the read just for that as it goes beyond 75Hard and makes sense in many aspects of life.
What I Don't Like About 75 Hard & What I will Not Borrow
75 HARD AND THE RAW “METAL TOUGHNESS” MESSAGING DOESN’T RESONATE.
For me. Some people eat that shit up.
If you miss one daily goal, you fail the whole thing.
I hate the underlying message that if you don’t do it perfectly, you have failed. But I do get that this is the “challenge” to 75 Hard, and why you would go back to start for missing a daily goal. That’s the core of Andy’s challenge. But not my challenge.
When I served in the US Navy in the Persian Gulf, I understood that if you didn’t execute perfectly, then you could fail. People can die. When working anti-submarine operations in the Pacific Ocean, if you don’t do it perfectly then you have probably failed. In the fire and EMS services, if you don’t do it perfectly, then people can die. You fail.
There was one time, as an EMT, I was breathing for a kid who was unresponsive at a summer camp way out out town. I used a bag valve mask and oxygen to breath for the kid while we waited an ETERNITY for an ambulance to arrive. Don’t do that right, you FAIL.
Not drinking 128 ounces of water? Eating a single M&M? Whatever.
Any person successful in life knows that you have to adapt and be flexible to win. Any business not willing to adapt to day-to-day changes, or keep forging ahead despite mistakes will fail every time.
In don’t believe that, in all instances, if you don’t complete it that you “Fail”. Hell – if a person completes 73 days out of 75 they have to start over. I say that 73 days sets a new course of healthy lifestyle that is a win in so many ways. Again – there are obviously people who feed off of this mentality and that’s great. 75 Hard might be toughest thing some people have done. If it works – more power to you, but it ain’t for everyone.
That said, there has to be accountability.
I plan on allowing some flexibility, particularly with the diet and what is “cheating” or “junk food.” But I will absolutely start over if I miss a workout, or blow my calorie goal for the day.
Reading 10 Pages Daily
Actually, I really like this part of 75 Hard. A lot. This probably helps make people read who would not normally read this kind of material. However, I read non-fiction books every day already. Currently reading Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews, and Andy’s 75 Hard. But I don’t necessarily need to add this to my challenge (again, I’m focusing on physical fitness and not the mental challenge aspect).
What I’ll Change and Make My Own
I won’t be drinking exactly 1 gallon of water per day.
That seems very arbitrary and doesn’t work for some people in some circumstances. Andy came up with it because that’s what HE did in a challenge of his own. It has no scientific or proven merit. 128 ounces – just a number that was put out there.
For me personally, when I train for endurance sports. I have to be careful with my water / salt / electrolyte ratio. If I drink too much water, I’ll cramp out on the trails and end up in a world of pain. Or I’ll cramp later on in the evenings on my couch. I’ve found from experience that the cramping comes from an unbalanced ratio of water, salt, and electrolytes.
To counter that I’d have to drink another 40+ ounces of electrolyte fluid like Gatorade. Now I’m up to 168+ ounces of liquid per day (in addition to any coffee or other drinks). Not for me thank you. I see no sense in doing that – just to say I completed this challenge.
- Drink 100 ounces of clear water per day while NOT working out. Five full 20 ounce water bottles.
- Hydration from electrolyte mixes, water DURING workouts, and smoothies DO NOT COUNT. I’ll drink 1-2 liters of water during workouts, so I’ll come close to a gallon. But I don’t want to worry about tracking how much water I drink out of my hydration pack.
I’ll Follow a General Calorie Deficit / Macro Diet
No Paleo diet. No Keto diet. Just an overall diet of quality food and keep to my calorie and macro goals. Shooting for high protien and high fiber, not worrying too much about carbs.
For the most part, Andy leaves the diet selection up to you, which is great. Personalization is important. However, Andy says macro-based diets do not count.
His reasoning is that on a macro-diet, there is a lot of room left for interpretation and that a person can “cheat” and eat junk food. He’s right – and if that person cheats and eats junk food then, yes, they’re probably failing the challenge. 1000 calories of lean protein and vegetables vs. 1000 calories of jelly beans. Yea, Andy’s right.
I’ll counter that and say that as someone who’s tried to follow and track a macro-based diet, that is a real challenge. To stay within a calorie deficit and track the macros of everything you put in your mouth. So far I’ve been able to get about 4 days into it before I drop it. Weighing and tracking every…. Damn…. Bite. It’s hard.
If someone is going to that level of diet prep and tracking and working out twice per day is most likely NOT eating 1000 calories of jelly beans. If you’re not used to doing it, tracking and planning your food for 10 weeks is the epitome of mental toughness. Try it.
My version: Track (with MyFitnessPal and/or MacroStax) all food every day and stay within a calorie deficit. Keep within daily calorie and macro goals. Diet will revolve around smart choices and whole foods.
My View on “Cheats” Will Be My Own
In the 75 Hard Challenge, it is plainly stated that if you cheat once – eat one single M&M then you fail and go back to the start. Nope – not me. [right now the heads of 75Hard purists are exploding].
While somewhat vague, I get the idea that any processed foods count as junk food though he doesn’t specifically say that. That’s where I get stuck with this.
The key components of the overall challenge that are important to me are the workouts, the nutrition tracking, and no alcohol. The nutrition, yes, but not to that level. I hardly eat candy, and I can restrain from junk food. However, I have kids and often have a houseful of preteen girls hanging out.
Ever try to tell your kid and their friends that they are having grilled chicken, roasted broccoli, and quinoa for dinner? I would be lynched and my daughter would run away. My daughter would have no problems with that, but other kids would.
I often cook for my daughter’s friends, and I am amazed at how picky kids can be (and I become so proud of my kid for not being that way). So rather than stressing a kid out, I like to cook in a way that kids will enjoy. Sometimes it is healthy but sometimes not. For example, I served hot dogs and pizza rolls for my kid’s birthday party last weekend, and then we made smores by the fire that night. I’m not apologizing for that. Life is fun. My own family will eat the healthy stuff the rest of the week.
By the way, I am the primary cook in our family. I take pride in cooking whole foods – protein rich and veggie-packed stuff. But with that, we must have fun meals too. Spaghetti, or smoked baby back ribs on occasion, or even (gasp) a pizza. If it’s the exception and not the rule, I’m okay with it.
However, these would be considered cheats in 75 Hard. And I would fail. For no real reason than to complete a random challenge. Once again, I realize this is the point of 75 Hard – to make things HARD. To be unhappy and get through it. Remember when I said this is NOT 75 Hard?
My Version: The way I’ll stay within the foundation of the rules is that if I have true junk food like ice cream, chips, soda, and that sort of thing I’ll start over. However, if I have a white-bread bun with my pulled-pork sandwich or have a couple slices of pizza I will not start over unless that goes out of my calorie and macro limits for the day.
No Progress Pics Each Day
No thank you. I get the idea, but weekly is fine for my purposes. Did I mention that this is not 75 Hard?
My Version: Progress pics each Monday (since I’m starting on a Monday). Along with that, I’ll take weight, blood pressure, key body measurements.
This makes, for me, the Physical Challenge more real than the 75 Hard challenge as written by Andy Frisella. And still damn tough.
By doing this with these particular steps I can still use the 75 Hard app to track and set reminders. That’s a handy tool to use for accountability.
Make a Fitness Challenge That YOU Can Believe In
I got this idea from Steve Hoyles at Hoyles Fitness, where he modified 75 Hard his way. Like Steve, 75 Hard as written isn’t what I want to do. I like the foundation though.
75 Hard has the foundations to be a fantastic fitness challenge. Andy says in certain words that this is not a fitness challenge. This is a mental toughness challenge. So I’m going to make it a physical fitness challenge that I can get behind.
Still very challenging.
Still a commitment.
But changing a couple of details that work better for me – making it more of a health and nutrition focus than a “mental” focus.
A 75 Hard Alternative – the Outsiding PHYSICAL FITNESS Challenge
In a nutshell, here’s a personal challenge that you can try.
- 10 week challenge
- Work out twice per day for 45 minutes – one workout must be outside. Have to get some Outsiding time!
- Track all food every day. Keep within daily calorie and macro goals. Diet will revolve around smart choices and whole foods.
- Drink 100 ounces of clear water per day while NOT working out. Water consumed during workouts does not count.
- NO alcohol of any type.
- Progress pic & weigh-in weekly.
* Calorie count based on my personal statistics and calculated based on my TDEE using this calculator.
Side Note: Tracking Calories and Diet Online
If you are going to do any type of diet you have to track your food. Estimating is a good way to end up eating 1,000 calories over your goal. You HAVE to track! I suggest MacroStax or MyFitnessPal.
In a nutshell, the differences between MacroStax and MyFitnessPal
MacroStax – Much more targeted with Macros by meal. MacroStax will give you your macro breakdown by meals and snacks which makes it easier to stay accountable throughout the day. The downside is that the food database isn’t nearly as robust as MyFitnessPal and you’ll have to enter or substitute foods more often. Also, it’s harder to cusotmize meals and foods than you’ll find on MyFitnessPal. There is an annual fee of around $60 for MacroStax.
MyFitnessPal – The best thing about MFP is the robust food database and ability to make custom foods and recipes. However, when doing a macro-based diet there is really no good way to keep track of macros by meals (you can, but not as easy as with MacroStax). Tracking macros is mostly done as a daily total. I think that’s fine, but it makes it easier to find yourself short or over macros by the end of the day. MyFitnessPal is free, but does have a premium service.