I was recently interviewed by Forbes Magazine for my professional opinion about the Hard 75 Challenge. You can read it here but make sure you come back to read more about this more gentle version.
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I am always skeptical about a new viral fitness trend and cringe at the thought of the drastic and often unsustainable lifestyle changes they require.
If you are reading this, you may have considered attempting the viral fitness trend 75 Hard Challenge but the idea of 90 minutes of daily exercise and absolutely no missed or cheat days seems daunting, impractical and even impossible.
Hi, I’m Brooke, certified prenatal/postnatal exercise specialist and personal trainer who has helped thousands of women find balance in health and motherhood.
I must confess, the 75 Soft Challenge caught my attention.
This more soft, modified version of the 75 hard challenge allows for more modified rules and flexibility while focusing on building healthy habits and self-improvement.
Taking on fitness and health challenges can be an excellent way to increase motivation, boost accountability, add structure and have fun with your workout goals.
In this article, I’ll walk through the pros/cons, rules and my professional advice and tips for using this challenge as an opportunity to improve your health:
Disclosure: Although I am a certified prenatal/postnatal exercise specialist and personal trainer, I am not YOUR trainer. The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute of the information and advice you receive from a healthcare professional. This website does not replace the medical advice you receive from your provider.
First, What is The Hard 75 Challenge & Why I’m against it
This program is yet another example of the power of social media and brilliant marketing strategies.
The challenge was created by entrepreneur Andy Frisella and thanks to the power of social media, it caught on extremely fast, becoming one of the most popular fitness challenges.
And while I think he had great intensions of the program, he doesn’t hold any personal training certifications, is not a registered dietitian or mental health expert (that I could find).
Here are my biggest apprehensions with the program:
According to the program rules, you cannot miss any of the days or you must start over.
So if life happens and you miss day 74, then the program requires you to start over or you fail…this is just nonsense and completely unrealistic!!
Fear of failure does not build mental toughness.
The only thing this teaches people is to not start something in case you may fail.
Failure is part of growth and we can never succeed unless we have challenges along the way.
No Specificity or Structure:
The rules are extremely vague, no specificity in the eating or exercise portion and there is absolutely no wiggle room for the realities of life.
While he clearly states this is not a weight loss or fitness challenge, the majority of those who do this program have the intention of also losing weight or getting in better shape.
However, most people new to fitness need a structured workout program that teaches the concept of progressive overload.
This helps build strength and endurance which also builds motivation to continue exercising when you see your body getting stronger
Starting a short program to jumpstart weight loss and motivation is great.
But there is nothing about this program that is sustainable and most people will revert right back to their old habits.
High Potential of Burnout or Injury
The amount of exercise required can lead to both physical and mental burnout.
Let’s look at 75 hard challenge rules:
Complete TWO 45-minute workouts a day and one must be outside
Follow a strict diet, any diet
No alcohol or cheat meals
Drink a gallon of water
Read 10 pages of an inspirational non-fiction book. (no audiobooks)
Take a progress picture
Just looking at this list feels overwhelming, unsustainable and undesirable for the average person…including fitness lovers like myself.
No way would I EVER advocate for a program with such strict rules and allows for no flexibility.
And while he clearly states that this is a “transformative mental toughness program, not a fitness program”, I still believe you can build mental strength or toughness without putting yourself through such strict program requirements.
So the question is, “Can you still build mental toughness, without strict diet requirements and extreme lifestyle changes?”
What is the Soft 75 Challenge?
Enter the soft 75 challenge…
The more accessible alternative to the 75 hard challenge that has taken social media by storm, thanks in part to the viral video of TikTok user Stephen Gallagher.
The biggest difference between the two challenges is the level of flexibility allowed, making the soft challenge a much better option to accommodate the realities of “mom life” or any other busy lifestyles.
The goal of the challenge is to build a healthy routine and habits, push yourself outside your comfort zone, improve mental toughness and promote self-improvement without the strict and specific requirements of the hard program.
With that said, let’s get into the “rules” of the soft challenge….
Soft 75 Rules
After searching the web for the rules of this softer version, I came to the conclusion that there really are no hard-fast rules to follow for this version.
Follow a flexible meal plan
Design a meal plan that fits your nutritional needs, lifestyle and goals.
It should be sustainable and enjoyable while still providing a healthy lifestyle.
Make sure to include a variety of Whole Foods, protein and healthy fats. Some ideas include following a plant-based diet, Whole 30 meal plan, eliminating processed foods and sugars, or zig-zag calorie cycling.
Allow yourself 1-2 cheat meals a week but only if you feel like you absolutely need it.
Limit alcohol consumption
You don’t have to eliminate it entirely but just aim to keep it to social occasions only and consume no more than 1-2 drinks.
Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks most days of the week) can negatively impact your progress and overall health.
Engage is 45 minutes of exercise a day.
Most people do not have time for more than 45 minutes of exercise a day so find a balance that works for you.
The idea is to create a routine that is sustainable for you and your lifestyle.Maybe you do 20 minutes in the morning and 25 minutes after work.
Workouts can be anything such as HIIT, strength training, treadmill running, swimming, yoga or a combination of your favorite way to move your body.
Include at least one active recovery day per week.
This should involve gentle movement such as stretching or guided restorative yoga. The movement should promote muscle recovery and flexibility rather than intensity.
Drink at least 3 liters of water daily and try to work your way up to a gallon.
This should be a non-fiction book focused on learning something new however read whatever will keep you motivated to read!
Is The 75 Soft Challenge Right For Me?
This challenge is a huge commitment and it can be overwhelming to decide if you want to give it a try.
Consider these 5 questions to help determine if the program is a good fit for you:
What are my health goals and will this challenge help you accomplish them?
Is this challenge aligned with my goals and needs for personal growth?
Is this something I can commit to long term or is it unrealistic for my lifestyle?
Will this program help improve my physical health without compromising my mental health?
What is my plan after I complete the program? Will I continue with the habits I developed or will they be too difficult to maintain?
Now keep in mind that because there is more flexibility with the soft version, you can adjust things to make them more realistic for your lifestyle (within reason).
Ready To Try it? How To Complete the 75 Soft Challenge
If you are ready to try this challenge, here are some tips to help you get through it and experience the benefits of improved physical, mental and social health.
Track your progress
This step is crucial and is the best way to help you stay on track and watch your body and mind change throughout the process.
Set clear goals:
Before you start, determine what your health goals are and ensure that the challenge aligns with those objectives. Make sure to write them down so that you can refer back to it throughout the 75 days. This will help you stay motivated and committed.
Use non-scale victories to help you stay committed and consistent.
Non-scale victories help keep you motivated without scale-centered obsessions.
Improve running speed and distance
Be able to do pushups or pull-ups
Be able to fit into a smaller size clothing.
Create a flexible meal plan:
Instead of thinking of this challenge as a “diet”, think of it as an opportunity to improve your nutrition.
Design a meal plan that is tailored to your personal goals and preferences.
Make sure to include a variety of food groups and a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Plan out your workouts ahead of time so you are committed to that workout.
Schedule at least 30-45 minutes of daily physical activity that you enjoy and can easily incorporate into your routine.
Here are a couple ideas:
HIIT workouts offer the most bang for your buck when it comes to building strength, endurance while burning a lot of calories and fat. If weight loss is one of your goals, I suggest sprinkling a few of these workouts in your routine 2-3 days a week.
Combine strength training with cardio. Start your workout with 30 minutes of circuit training then finish off with 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio.
Incorporate yoga or mobility work to help with recovery.
Take an exercise class you enjoy a couple days a week.
Go for a hike or outdoor bike ride.
Swim, jog or ride a stationary bike
Focus on Hydration:
Set a daily goal to drink at least 3 liters of water per day or 3 of these. Carry a water bottle or cup with you throughout your day to help you stay on track.
Solicit Friends to Do it With You:
Doing any challenge with friends or family is much for fun and helps create more accountability, enjoyment and motivation.
Incorporate an active recovery day:
Dedicate at least one day a week to rest or active recovery such as gentle yoga, stretching or a slow walk. This will help your muscles recover and prevent burnout.
Limit alcohol consumption:
If you enjoy an adult beverage every once in a while, set a goal to limit your intake to a maximum of 2 standard drinks per week (if that).
Consistency is key to getting the most out of the challenge. Make adjustments if needed but stay consistent with your goals.
Allow for hiccups along the way:
Nothing is ever perfect and sometimes life throws a wrench in our plans…and thats okay!
The most important thing is that you pick up where you left off and keep going.
I suggest trying not to miss more than one day in a row of the challenge and tack that missed day onto the end of the challenge so you still complete 75 full days.
Failing is not missing one or two days…the only way to fail is to quit.
I love my Kindle for reading in bed at night with the lights off and babies next to me
75 Soft Journal and Tracker
Stay on track and enjoy the process with this journal and accountability tracker
I love challenges because they help boost motivation, results and discipline. However, make sure to pick a challenge that is realistic for you and your lifestyle so you don’t get defeated or discouraged if things don’t go as planned.
This challenge offers a great opportunity to create new habits and promote physical and mental growth without the extreme and unrealistic requirements of the hard program.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone is the key to growth but just make sure you aren’t making yourself miserable in the process.
Ready to take on the challenge?!
Use this soft challenge tracker planner to keep you motivated, excited and accountable in reaching your goals. You will love seeing your journey and progress at the end of the challenge!
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.