Challenge Accepted

Posted: March 13, 2021 in Uncategorized

Coming into the new year my nephew presented me with a lifestyle challenge he wanted to tackle in hopes developing better habits and a deeper sense of accountability. In order to further incentivize him (and a handful of friends who I felt could use a kick in the ass) I agreed to, both, do and document the challenge, as well as offer a $1k freeroll should he finish it (*note I offered the same freeroll to several friends, as well as some larger bets at 3 to 1 odds).

The challenge, referred to as #75Hard, is rather simple in it’s rules:

  • Create and stick to a diet (no cheats/no alcohol)
  • Workout twice a day for 45 mins each. One workout outside
  • Read 10 pages of non fiction
  • Consume a gallon of water
  • Take a daily progress pic.

Examining the list of accountabilities made two things abundantly obvious to me from the start:
1. Tracking would be the only real addition to my daily
routine– specifically macros, number of pages read (i usually listen to audio books), and water consumed.
2. This wasn’t at all going to be hard for me, and thus my expectations were incredibly low.

In spite of my low expectations, and my nephew bowing out early due to a lower back injury from jumping back into deadlifts cold, I decided this was worth seeing through, if for no other reason than to demonstrate the ease and, hopefully, desirable results.

I began this challenge at 195lbs and about 17.5% body fat. 75 days later I am 194.8 lbs and I estimate about 14.5% body fat (I will confirm next week w/a dexascan). My physical transformation has been consistent and quite surprising given that I didn’t really increase my workload, nor caloric deficit much, if at all. So how is it possible that such small changes yield such big results? Here are my major take-a-ways from the 75 Hard Challenge.

  1. Energy is renewable

    Somewhere in the first week, through current day, my energy levels spiked in a way that I haven’t felt since college. I’m more active than I’ve ever been in my adult life and I still have gas left in the tank by the end of each day. My sleep is out of this world, I wake without an alarm, and most importantly I rarely suffer from low energy when it comes to putting effort into anything requiring a high level of focus. Cognitively I feel as sharp as ever, and this is off the backend of 75 straight two-a-days. The hype is real; our bodies are meant to be pushed and utilized to the fullest.

  2. A handful of small changes can add up to very significant results.

    This feels counter intuitive to me, as most people endure the greatest body composition change when they make a big lifestyle change (think overweight person switches to a whole foods diet, adds exercise and eats at a caloric deficit). What I think I failed to notice is that a small change in body composition, once you are in relatively good shape, looks very significant in the mirror. Moreover, as the muscle and fat ratio shifts in favor of muscle, results are more easily measured and noticeable to the naked eye.

  3. Without strict accountability metrics (tangible) we falter far more than we realize.

    If you had asked me to grade my fitness/nutrition performance based off effort, consistency, efficiency & intensity prior to this challenge I would have easily said A/A-. There was no part of me that thought my work/accountability was less than 90%+, but I was certainly wrong. Prior I would struggle through bouts of lethargy and routinely take a “me day” in order to justify not feeling 100% up to the task. Simply having to show up and document my day to day routine allowed me to drop ~3% body fat in 2.5 months executing the SAME routines I had been for YEARS!
  4. Having a well organized plan is worth more than the actual execution

    I freerolled 5 people in this challenge and made a bet against 2 others. Of the freerolls none finished the challenge to the letter of the law. One quit, two made exceptions to the rules in order to jump start a slower lifestyle change, and two out right failed but were allowed to continue under penalty. Of the two I bet, one failed two weeks in while the other plans to double the length of the challenge. The difference between the lone success and the bumps in the road? Planning. Having meals, water, progress pic upload times, workout windows etc. are absolutely imperative to the process of turning a challenge into habits, and habits into rituals. I excelled at this because I’ve been doing it (without proper accountability) for decades– I empathize with those overwhelmed by the importance of being diligent in the planning phase.

  5. Forgiveness + action is true grit.

    I think a struggle for many is the idea that they have to be perfect in their execution, and thus the task seems insurmountable. Despite the rigidity of the rules, there’s a lot of room for forgiveness, so long as it’s tied to action. The biggest examples of this are the workouts and diet. The rules are pretty generic. For diet, it’s just create a plan and don’t deviate. Mine was a whole foods diet, but notice I didn’t restrict anything– not calories, nor carbs– only processed trash foods. This gave me the leeway to have a “bad” food day where I consume too much of one thing or not enough of another. So long as those things are whole foods I’m fine. Same goes for workouts. Routinely my outdoor workout was either a sport or just a walk with the dogs. Building in these hacks so that you can see your way to the finish line goes a long way in easing up on the daily stresses which go along with attempting to juggle being social with being disciplined. Obviously there’s no hack to adding shit food or alcohol into your diet, but that’s kind of the point. Make positive changes for the reward of said change, not as a punishment for years of abuse.

  6. Change is only as permanent as your mindset allows it to be.

    My first instinct at the completion of 75 Hard wasn’t to go stuff my face with cake and ice cream, but rather to push the envelope further. I want to be able to maintain my new found abs and even spend some time leaning out further for brief intervals. Fitness, nutrition, and let’s be honest, aesthetics are top priorities in my life so the idea of undoing positive results feels self destructive and lazy to me. I know not everyone has the same priorities, but I do believe this level of intensity should apply to whatever you do hold in the highest regard.


The last thing I want to touch on is the plan of attack I had for these 75 days, as well as how I plan to move forward.

Fitness

With regards to my workout regiment I have to give a ton of credit to two good friends, and trainers, Rob Martinez and Yves Dubois. Together I collaborated with each of them to have a well formulated plan of attack. The goal was to first build then a slight cut which progresses into a brief, but intense cut. Finally, we’ll land on a 12 week maintenance period. For me both diets and workouts are cyclical (generally broken up into quarters), working together to attain each quarterly goal.

To begin was the building phase. I didn’t want to go into a bulk since I spent most of quarantine being lazy and eating relatively poorly, additionally I still had a nagging back issue that was restricting my range of motion. Rob is a fantastic movement specialist so we began with a brief rehab routine and focused specifically on core strength. Within a week my back was 100% and the workouts shifted to packing on muscle. I would spend 4 days a week training heavy with Rob, doing full body routines for moderate reps while steadily increasing the load; the main emphasis being time under tension.

Yves helped build me an at home workout which focused on increasing my stamina. Largely all body weight movements, we hammered out a lot of high intensity training with very strict form. The end result was about a 4 lb gain after the first 10 weeks of the challenge.

Phase 2 was shifting more into a cut. From a strength training standpoint that meant adding volume to the strength routines while increasing cardio. Every other day alternated between a strength training and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), yielding a 4 lb loss. Currently I’m still in phase 2 and will continue to be for about the next 6 weeks, ending in a 2 week long intense cut where we’ll decrease volume a bit to coincide with dietary changes.

Nutrition


My diets are consistently similar as far as what types of food I consume, but alter slightly based on what training phase I’m in. During the building phase my caloric intake was about 15% above maintenance. I consumed about ~1.5g protein for every lb of body weight, putting me around 300g/day. My carbs and fats were consumed about equally, making up roughly 25% of my calories respectively.

Moving into the cut my overall caloric consumption is about 10% below maintenance– resulting in my protein consumption has dropping closer to 1.25g/lb of body weight. I have also begun carb cycling where every 4th day or so (I’m less strict and kinda just listen to my body’s cravings) I will up my intake to make up about 40% of my total calories, ultimately reducing both my protein and fat consumption accordingly.

Once the cutting phase is over and we move into maintenance I will be adhering to a pseudo keto diet for those 12 weeks. I say pseudo because I anticipate still having relatively high protein consumption (by comparison to a traditional keto diet).

Final Take

I’m not sure how I’ll approach the next phase of all this (as far as creating content, issuing a challenge goes), but I’m certain to keep going, my desire to push physical boundaries is greater than it’s been in a very long time. I think I can reach 10% body fat, via the dexascan, by summer and am putting that target in my cross hairs. I hope this whole process has shown to be helpful to someone, and if push comes to shove I’ll be happy to do more content like this in future should it have a greater impact. This goes without saying but I can’t recommend enough taking the time and resources necessary to invest in yourself, your health, and your mental well being. Here’s to staying accountable.

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