Why you should think twice before doing the ’75 Hard’ fitness challenge

Michelle Fairburn, a mother from the United States, recently opened up on TikTok about a serious health scare she suffered due to the popular ’75 Hard’ fitness challenge.

Fairburn’s traumatic experience included a severe headache, fever, inability to eat or drink, and a “band of fire” pain in her abdomen and lower back that she described as similar to labour pain. Fairbun’s doctor suspected she had a severe sodium deficiency, a potentially fatal condition caused by the challenge’s high water intake, a whopping 3.7 litres per day.

With a growing fan base, this viral challenge, which is marketed as a “mental toughness program” rather than a fitness routine, has come under fire for its extreme demands.

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Andy Frisella, entrepreneur and CEO of supplement company 1st Phorm, introduced the challenge in 2019 on his Real AF podcast. In the episode notes, Frisella describes how he has spent over 20 years figuring out how to “master mental toughness” and put everything he learned into the ’75 Hard’ program. 

The program’s rules are that each participant must follow a strict diet, perform two 45-minute workouts per day (one of which must be done outside), drink approximately 3.7 litres of water, read 10 pages of a book, and take a progression picture. Above all, it is intended to “cultivate extreme discipline.”

It’s a tall order with no room for error. If you fail to complete any task, the rules state that you must restart the challenge from the beginning. As Frisella says, “If you mess up on day 74, you have to restart it.”

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When confronted with her health scare, Fairburn was torn. Unwilling to ‘reset’ her progress, she admitted to her 49K followers, “I don’t know what to do.” I don’t want to go back to the first day. I’m not going to be able to drink another gallon of water today.”

Despite the risks, Fairburn decided to continue the challenge, albeit with a different water intake, saying, “I’m still going to do the ’75 Hard’ challenge, I’m not gonna give up, but he says I have to drink less than half a litre of water a day.”

This ‘predicament’ raises serious concerns about the value of personal health over viral fitness trends. Listening to your body and taking good care of it should always come first, regardless of any external pressure. 

While there’s no denying the appeal of a structured, goal-oriented program, it’s critical to consider the potential pitfalls and health risks.

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Keep in mind that, despite its viral success, this program is not evidence-based. Yes, ’75 Hard’ promotes consistency, which is a key component of any successful fitness regimen, but its unwavering approach — 75 days of unwavering commitment with no room for health scares or uncertainty — can lead to overtraining injuries.

While discipline and perseverance are admirable qualities, the obsession with perfection can harm one’s well-being. Furthermore, the program offers no specific advice on diet or exercise regimens, leaving participants to figure out what works best for them. This lack of direction can be intimidating, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with fitness or nutritional science.

It allows people to adopt a new, possibly unsuitable diet regimen, adding to the already intense changes brought about by the challenge. 

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Consider someone who decides to follow a low-carb diet for the duration of the program. Beginners frequently overlook the importance of replenishing their body’s electrolytes, which can be flushed out when cutting carbs. This imbalance can cause unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, and muscle cramping, commonly called the “keto flu.”

While the official website of the ’75 Hard’ challenge advises people to consult a healthcare professional before beginning the program, it’s critical not to lose sight of one’s individual health needs and limits.

While it’s commendable to push your physical boundaries, it’s critical to remember that everybody is unique and may not respond favourably to an intense regime like the ’75 Hard’.

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