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How to Start the 75 Soft Challenge When You're Out of Shape and Broke

The 75 Soft Challenge is a 75-day program to help you build healthier habits. It seems like an impossible feat when you're out of shape, overwhelmed, and strapped for cash. But with some strategic planning, it's more attainable than you may think.

Working from home—working out image by Elf-Moondance
Source: Pixabay

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To start, there are four main rules you've gotta follow:

  • Eat healthily and limit drinking to social events. No strict diet, just focus on making good choices most of the time. Sidenote: I'm leaning toward the Blue Zones diet.
  • Work out for 45 minutes five days a week and rest one day a week to let your body recover. The workouts you do are up to you!
  • Drink 3 liters (about 12 cups) of water daily. This one's essential for staying hydrated and healthy. Some other liquids that would count toward your water intake include:
    • Plain seltzer or sparkling water (no added flavors or sweeteners)
    • Unsweetened tea
    • Black coffee
    • Water with some fresh lemon, lime, cucumber, or mint added for flavor
  • Read 10 pages of any book you want each day. Reading helps keep your mind sharp!

The great thing about this challenge is it pushes you to be consistent with some simple healthy habits but doesn't require you to be perfect. The rules are reasonable enough to stick to long-term, especially compared to the original version (the 75 Hard Challenge). 

Here's how to make the 75 Soft Challenge work for you.

Start Small

Shooting star image by K Zoltan
Source: Pexels

Shooting for the stars will only set you up for failure when you're starting from zero. Begin with baby steps. Can't do 45 minutes of exercise? Start with 10-15 minutes and build up from there. The same goes for the other rules. Read a couple pages a day. Drink an extra glass of water with each meal. Cook one healthy meal a day. Build momentum, then ramp it up.

Do Free and Low-Cost Workouts

You don't need a fancy gym membership or equipment to workout effectively. Go for walks, jogs, or bike rides outside. Do bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and planks at home. Check out free workout videos on YouTube or FitOn (my personal favorite). Invest in a couple sets of resistance bands - they're inexpensive and versatile. Explore exercise apps with free trials like SunnyFit. Stick to what's realistic for your budget.

Meal Prep On a Budget

Healthy eating can get pricey, especially with inflation right now. But there are ways to eat well on a tight budget. Make big batches of chili, soups, and casseroles on your day off, then portion them out for quick meals throughout the week. Load up on cheaper produce like bananas, potatoes, onions, and frozen veggies. Buy protein in bulk when it's on sale. Oatmeal, eggs, beans, and other pantry staples are affordable options. Get creative!

Check Out Used Books

A woman reading a book in a hammock
Source: PikWizard

Reading 10 pages daily doesn't have to put a dent in your wallet. Browse used bookstores or thrift shops where books are just a couple bucks. See if your local library offers e-books to rent for free or get them free from other places. Ask friends if they have books you can borrow. Worst case, grab a magazine or just read online articles to get your pages in. Information is everywhere for cheap or free if you know where to look!

Lean on Friends for Accountability

Tackling the 75 Soft challenge solo can be tough, especially if you're forming new habits. Get a workout buddy to join you on walks or home workouts. Cook with friends and meal prep together. Start a monthly book club or join one online. Having other people alongside you will keep you consistent. And it makes healthy habits much more fun!

Be Gentle with Yourself

This challenge is meant to help you, not run you into the ground. Some days, your willpower and energy will be lower, and that's okay. Recognize when you need a break. But then get back at it the next day. Celebrate small wins along the way. Shift your inner dialogue from discouragement to encouragement. Changing lifelong habits takes time. Give yourself some grace.

The 75 Soft challenge may seem unattainable, but it can fit into any budget and lifestyle with the right mindset and smart strategizing. Tune out the intimidation factor and turn up your self-belief. Take it one step at a time. You've got this!


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