#75Hard: The Good, the Bad, and the Growth
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
This past spring, I did something insane. Finally, after seven attempts, I completed #75Hard. What is #75Hard, you ask? Created by entrepreneur Adam Frisella, it’s a mental toughness program designed to help you “win the war against yourself” (or, to stop taking the path of least resistance). Every day, for 75 days straight, you do these activities without exception:
Complete an outdoor workout for 45 minutes,
Complete an indoor workout for 45 minutes,
Stick to a diet with zero exception (no junk food or alcohol),
Drink a gallon of water
Read 10 pages of a self-development or business book, and
Take a selfie tracking your physical progress.
Making even the slightest error re-sets you to Day 1. (And, by slightest error, I mean no-lemon-or-lime-in-your-water slightest error) It’s military grade precision or nothing at all. Why, during a global pandemic, would I do this? The wellspring of health is a clear mind and vibrant body. When my physical or mental state is even a tad fatigued, everything suffers. (Besides, I have this inner Henry Rollins who needs to be sated; even when things are “easy” in life, I need something challenging to keep me engaged -- or entropy reigns). Here are the highlights: The Good: 1. It organized my days. For a lot of 2020, I was in the early stages of my internet career (and living off of unemployment). I didn’t have a “real” job anymore, so I was in only child heaven of learning whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Most of the time it was good, but on long and listless days, I found myself living in a Dali painting. Having these non-negotiable rituals forced me to
“avoid the void,” do things, and get more out of my days. 2. I got a ton of energy. Working out twice a day, eating clean (on the first iterations in 2020, I did Whole 30; on the final iterations in 2021, I did a pescetarian diet with no added sugar), drinking a ton of water will boost your mood and make you bounce off the walls with energy. 3. I fell in love with reading “real” books again - For the most part, I’ve been an audiobooker for the past few years because, in LA, it makes traffic bearable. Rediscovering the joys of reading before bedtime took me back to the top red bunk of my childhood when I read “The Baby-Sitters Club” books by lamplight. To this day, I’m so happy I rediscovered the joy of curling up with a good book before bedtime. 4. I loved reading business/self-development books - Before #75Hard, I consumed screenplays. Dipping into business/self-development was new and exciting, and my favorite books from #75Hard were Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Principle, Tim Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Work Week, and Jack Canfield’s Success Principles. 5. Junk food ceased to exist in the grocery store. It was weird. After the tenth day, I stopped seeing junk food in the grocery store because it was verboten. (Nevertheless, at night, I dreamed in cake, pancakes, and any other victory goodies that I’d consume once the program was over). 6. I lost 5 pounds - When I did Whole 30 in 2020, I lost 5 pounds. Could I have lost more in 2021? Sure, but that wasn’t the reason why I did the program. I didn’t need to lose a ton. 7. I gained body confidence - I got so used to wearing a midriff-bearing sports top and running shorts that they became my uniform (even at the grocery store). I didn’t feel self-conscious anymore. The Bad: 1. Weird Gotchas - I joined the official #75Hard Facebook group to be inspired by other people’s progress (the weight loss in that group is insane). But my inspiration was deflated when I learned a lot of little “sub-rules” that I accidentally broke (i.e., waiting a minimum of 3 hours between the workouts) only to learn about them after the fact (hence the constant re-sets). I developed a weird paranoia about details. 2. Social Life Interruption - When it came to social plans and outings, I was a royal pain. Not only did I have to ask weird questions of my server (i.e. “are you sure there’s no sugar, glucose, or fructose in this tortilla?”), but I also had to be crystal clear with friends. Ben and Sebastian, my friends who became family during the pandemic, even noted “well, we wish we could’ve invited you over to meet Joshua, but you can’t eat anything. Sorry.” When it was all over, Ben shook his head and whispered, “never again.” 3. Bandwidth - With so much emphasis on exercise and food, I couldn’t help but wonder, “am I majoring in minor things?” Even though I have an arts background, could I have been using that space in my brain to do other things? (Cure cancer perhaps)? 4. Weird workout times - During this program, it was not uncommon for me to do my indoor yoga workout after 10:00 p.m. I nevertheless was able to sleep, but it was odd. The Growth: 1. My preconditions - Having lived in SoCal for 15 years, I’ve been rushed to the hospital twice for dehydration/heat exhaustion (I’m very fair, so it happens). When I began #75Hard, I thought, “Sweet. Drinking a gallon of water a day in the blazing July/August heat will actually hydrate me.” Not quite. 2. What happened- During a heat wave last August, I was jumping in and out of my air conditioned car and big box stores to run errands when I began to feel faint. I drove home, drank more water, put the AC on, and rested on my bed. The dizziness worsened, so I dialed 911. Moments later, paramedics arrived and whisked me away to the ER. I drank so much water that I had flushed my sodium and electrolytes out - there wasn’t anything in my system to make the hydration “stick.” After two hours of recovery, I was okay enough to take an Uber home. Previously, I had heard of overhydration (but only thought that happened to serious athletes). I didn’t know that it could happen to me. 3. The bills - When the bills came from the paramedics and hospital, the co-pays added up to approximately $6,749. (And yes, I had PPO insurance, and yes, the total cost before insurance was much higher). Is this typical in the US? Yes. Do the professionals who helped me deserve to be paid? Absolutely. But this amount seemed a little outrageous for a 1-2 mile ambulance ride, a saline drip, and some pleasant conversations with a male nurse and female doctor. Did I worry about it? No. Since I was unemployed at the time, I sought out the appropriate help through the hospital and got most of the bills thankfully waived (I even wrote them a thank-you note). 4. The silver lining - Knowing that I’m susceptible to overhydration is super- helpful. Since the temperature has been rising in Southern California, this feedback helps me plan for future heat waves. (As a sad coda, I learned that during the same heat wave, someone died from heat exhaustion while hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains). Heat exhaustion is not to be messed with. Conclusion: Despite what happened, #75Hard was an excellent way to push my limits and try new things. (I neither fault the program nor its creator for what happened; my overhydration was merely circumstantial). I would do it again to re-set any bad eating or exercise habits, but I’d also do it to condition my brain. I've learned that there's the gym and then there's the "Gym of Life." In the gym, you have the luxury of training yourself mentally (and physically) at your own pace. But the "Gym of Life" kind of doesn't care. It will give you a 50-pound leg lift and order you to do it now. If you can train yourself to do hard things in easy times, those things become eas(ier) in hard times.