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CrossFit Personality Rory Mckernan on 75 Hard, the Protocol That’s Improved His HRV, RHR & Recovery
CrossFit media personality Rory Mckernan discusses the diet and lifestyle changes he's incorporated while taking on the 75 Hard challenge, which have helped him boost his HRV, lower his resting heart rate, and spend a lot more time in the green.
2021 was a benchmark year for me. Most notably for the context of this story, it ushered in my 40th trip around the sun. While it may not resonate with the younger audience, I know that I’m not alone in my reaction to this milestone. My arrival at midlife hasn’t delivered a crisis, per se, but I have been hit with an overwhelming desire to maximize my mental and physical potential while I’m still creating “good old days.” Rather than amassing a list of overwhelming and long-range resolutions, every New Year’s Eve my wife Ange and I typically drop a bad habit (or three) for a period of 30 days. Sometimes they stick (I haven’t had alcohol in two years) and sometimes they don’t (I’m still a big pastry fan), but we always enjoy a healthful and clear start to the year.
Rory's Diet & Lifestyle Changes From 75 Hard Challenge
This year, Ange upped the ante when she told me she wanted to try 75 Hard. I was sold immediately. If you’re not familiar, 75 Hard is a set of 6 “rules” to follow every day for 75 days. Created by Andy Frisella, the list is simple at first glance. But the compounding difficulty of sticking to the script for 75 straight days with no breaks has proven to be a huge and rewarding challenge. I mention it specifically here because much of what I outline below are the direct results of this challenge. If any rule is broken, you immediately go back to Day 1:
- Follow a diet of your choosing with no alcohol or cheat days for 75 days straight (Kid’s birthday? Sorry about it. Thanksgiving? Should’ve started on a different day).
- Workout twice a day for at least 45 minutes, and one of these efforts has to be outside.
- Drink a gallon of water per day.
- Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book.
- Take a progress picture every single day.
I began following these rules on December 26th, because… Christmas dinner? Here are my personal protocols in more detail, along with a few additions that I added in voluntarily:
- Adhering strictly to "macros," through the RP Strength App.
- Eliminating coffee, dairy, and reduced added sugars. Noteworthy here is the fact that I will still drink caffeinated tea from time to time. My desire was to see the effect of coffee, specifically. I also make an exception to the added sugar rule in my morning workout shake. This is at the recommendation of my nutrition coach, Nick Shaw.
- Cold water submersion (or immersion) for at least 90 seconds every day, post workout. I use a cold plunge tub and I credit it with many of the changes you’ll see below.
- Adding a second workout session, typically focused on single modality, Zone 2 work. This can also take the form of a walk.
- Spending at least 1 intentional hour outdoors, which coincides with my workout.
- Incorporating meditation. This has been my least successful pursuit, but I’m working hard at it.
Results: Better HRV, RHR & Recovery
While I have substantially affected body composition and weight on the scale, the result that is the most compelling to me is my improved WHOOP recovery–in spite of an increased workload and unchanged hours of sleep.
Prior to starting 75 Hard on December 26, Rory's WHOOP recoveries were fairly evenly mixed between red, yellow & Green. Soon after, mostly green.
You can see in the graphic above, shortly after I began implementing these changes I’ve spent a great deal of time in the green. I’ve also recently set a personal best for my heart rate variability (60 ms), which I didn't know was possible.
Rory's HRV quickly trended upwards after making the above diet and lifestyle changes.
Not only that, but my resting heart rate has trended dramatically in a positive direction too, dropping from an average of roughly 60 bpm to the high 40s.
Similarly, Rory's resting heart rate Improved significantly as well.
Additionally, I’ve posted lower strain scores in spite of elevated workloads. I'm getting faster at CrossFit and my strain is staying steady or decreasing–it’s getting easier. Oh, and one more thing, I feel fantastic. Check out Rory’s episode of the WHOOP Podcast. Top photo credit Ginny Coleman Photography