"75 Hard", "75 Soft", "75 Just Right".
Katelyn Sander

"75 Hard", "75 Soft", "75 Just Right".

Living Well

Written by: Meg Sharp, Wellbeing Consultant, Cambridge Group of Clubs

Remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? While there are likely a few key learnings from that fable, there’s a strong suggestion that extremes are typically unpalatable, but there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle that is “just right”.

This often plays out with health based habits and behaviour changes, where different exercise, diet, and lifestyle recommendations exist on a continuum: Extreme, hard core, strict versions on one end with relaxed, perhaps decadent versions on the other and the behaviours, commitments, and physical, mental, and emotional transformations that accompany each.

These transformations often take the form of goals each of us might aspire to. We then seek the “best” workout, diet, or other change as the vehicle to drive us there. 

One challenge with looking for the “best” behaviour is we can unwittingly cast alternate behaviours in a negative light. For example, we determine that running intervals on the treadmill is the “best” way to lose weight, and thus walking through the woods is if not “bad” then “mediocre”.

Keeping motivation high during times of change is vital. And motivation loves positive energy: hope, praise, positive reinforcement, and accomplishment. We need to surf on the edge of our own capabilities. And like lifestyle regimes, we are all built differently. What if running intervals hurts my knees? And is simply too physically taxing? Trying to run is not only painful and injurious, it makes me feel like a failure. Is that a “best” option?

What if walking up the hills in my neighbourhood makes me feel energized? I love listening to the CBC while I stride past interesting houses, and my spouse loves to join me on Saturdays. As I get stronger, I find routes that include stairs. Fast forward three months, I am LOVING these walking workouts. And as I’m now stronger, I’ve started incorporating 60-90 second runs every 4-5 minutes. Seems like I very much chose a “best” option for me.

New health and fitness protocols can be fun. If they resonate with you and you have the right foundation such that the time, energy, fitness, and mechanical commitments and challenges are appropriate, go for it. And know that arbitrary fitness recommendations don’t fit everyone.

I was recently asked my opinion on two fairly recent lifestyle challenges: the “75 Hard Challenge” and the alternative “75 Soft Challenge”.  I’m embarrassed (?) to admit, I’d never heard of either one. 

On the off chance you’re not familiar with them either, both stipulate specific behaviours you are supposed to commit to, every day, for 75 days. Here are the simple outlines:

75 Hard:

  • Pick a diet to follow – no alcohol or cheat meals allowed.
  • Complete two 45-minute workouts, one of which must be done outdoors.
  • Take a progress picture every day.
  • Drink 1 gallon of water.
  • Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book (audiobooks not included).

75 Soft:

  • Eat well and only drink on social occasions.
  • Train for 45-minutes every day including one day of active recovery.
  • Drink 3 litres of water.
  • Read 10 pages of any book.

I’d like to make a few comments and then create a Challenge of my own. Maybe I could even call it the Goldilocks Challenge?!

The 75 Soft feels reasonable and healthy to me. I imagine it doesn’t resonate with everyone. For some of us, 45-minutes of structured activity a day isn’t possible. And 3 litres of water might not be necessary or palatable for all. But I don’t mind this challenge.

Plenty of clever people have published interesting critiques of 75 Hard. So, I won’t waste too much space here, but I do have three things to say: 

  1. For some, tracking progress through scales and pictures IS motivating. For many however, it turns the focus to physical transformation (do I weigh less/more? Are my legs smaller/bigger? Do I look “better”?). When we focus on how exercise, dietary changes, drinking less alcohol, and sleeping more make us FEEL, we are far more likely to get positive reinforcement, feel great about what we’re doing, and, therefore, keep the train moving up the hill.

  1. Strict guidelines can garner amazing results. Sometimes at the end of a specific challenge (75 days, for example) a person will feel highly motivated to permanently adopt a few – or even many – of the changes they’ve encountered and moving forward enjoy a lifetime of great health and wellbeing. Sometimes the changes are too strict and foster a why bother mentality before the challenge is even done. Sometimes, once the challenge is complete, the person simply reverts to their old, well-ingrained habits. Determining what changes are realistic, implementing those, adding to them as you progress, or dropping the ones that don’t work in favour of trying something different, typically leads to more permanent, sustainable lifestyle changes. This type of approach also helps you weather the storms that are inevitable. For example, when suddenly a 45-minute workout every day is impossible, you know you can maintain your fitness by committing to 12 minutes a day, and build back to the 45 when the time is right. Or when you go on holiday and indulge in late nights, tropical cocktails, and deep fried fish tacos every day, you know you can get back on track when you get home.

  1. I find it difficult to fit in any reading (which I love) and enough walks with my dog (who I also love). I can do research through audiobooks and journals while we walk together along the water or around the block. Feels like a win to me. I’d be in trouble at this point in my life if my reading had to be on paper.

The Goldilocks Challenge:

  • Pick a time commitment: at least 21 days and up to 3 months.
  • For every week you are committing to the changes for the majority of the days. So, 4, 5, 6, or 7 days.
  • If a change isn’t working, you can swap it for a different one in that category at any time.
  • On week 1, choose ONE behaviour from each of the buckets below: MOVE, EAT, SLEEP.
  • As the weeks progress you increase/augment 1-2 of the behaviours or add 1-2 more. 1-2 total additions or augmentations from ANY category.
  • Keep a journal of the chosen behaviours and aumentations every week and try to be as specific as possible. For example:
    • Week 1:
      • Add 5 minutes of strength training, 4 days a week
      • Eat more vegetables, 7 days a week
      • Meditate for 5 minutes, 5 days a week
    • Week 2:
      • AUGMENT: Add 7 minutes of strength training, 4 days a week
      • Eat more vegetables, 7 days a week
      • Meditate for 5 minutes, 5 days a week
      • ADD: Avoid Alcohol, 4 days a week
    • Week 3:
      • 7 minutes of strength training, 4 days a week
      • Eat more vegetables, 7 days a week
      • Meditate for 5 minutes, 5 days a week
      • Avoid Alcohol, 4 days a week
      • ADD: Walk 10 minutes after dinner, 4 days a week

Note: Alcohol, while technically a dietary change, impacts sleep quality to such a powerful extent I included it in both buckets. That means if you initially choose Alcohol for your SLEEP bucket, you need to choose something else for EAT.


  • Increase your exercise bouts by 5+ minutes every day. This means if you aren’t exercising at all, start with 5+ a day! If you already have an established pattern, try adding 5 minutes to the majority of your workouts.
  • Add 5+ minutes of mobility to your daily routine.
  • Add 5+ minutes of strength training to your daily routine.
  • Add at least one high intensity interval to your workout.
  • Walk/move after dinner.
  • Walk/move before breakfast.

BONUS: Trying a new activity just ONCE – counts for a full add in any given week.


  • Drink at least 250mLs MORE water.
  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Eat more protein.
  • Slow your eating pace – put down your utensils between every bite and chew slowly. 
  • Be mindful when eating.
  • Pack your lunch.
  • Avoid dessert after meals and sweets between them.
  • Avoid alcohol.


  • Meditate for 2+ minutes.
  • Set a bedtime and stick to it.
  • Avoid screens for 90+ minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages after noon.
  • Limit your caffeinated beverages to 1-2 per day.

Simplified version: Pick one from every category. Stick to it with small incremental progressions every week for three weeks. See how you feel and see what sticks. You can brush this off and try it again, anytime you like.

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