my team is requiring us to do a diet/exercise/”mental toughness” program

A reader writes:

We’re back in the office responsibly and safely, and different departments have started team rebuilding exercises to “make up for lost bonding time.” Le barffe. My division lead decided on 75 Hard as our team-building exercise. 75 Hard is a program that includes a diet and exercise regimen and some lifestyle changes and philosophies that are medically unsound and flawed. Also didn’t we just go through a pandemic? Wasn’t that hard enough?

The one palatable part of the “reset” is to read self-help and business books so I emailed the team this: “Thanks for the invite, but I’m not comfortable with this program and don’t feel it would be a beneficial experience for me. I’d be happy to participate in the joint reading section so long as the reading material has some positivity behind it. (Insert book recommendations that were immediately tossed out for being ‘girly’.)”

The response was, “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience blah blah.” I stood my ground politely and my manager later hinted to the division that not participating in team-building exercises will be negatively reflected in our yearly reviews. He then said we should bring in a doctor’s note if we wanted to be excused. Uh. No.

Other people on my team who don’t want to participate are staying relatively quiet, but I think enough is enough.

In the past my department has done habit resets before, holding each other accountable with obnoxious reminders that REALLY skirt the limits of ableism and bullying. It’s a startup that doesn’t really have what passes for HR. Instead they do “peer mediation” which is a nightmare. The company president/owner is a relatively level-headed woman but should I escalate this that high up (great-grand boss)? There’s a lot going on that I think necessitates the need for an HR department, this just highlights it. Part of me thinks it’s time to cut bait, but honestly, this particular job is a major resume builder to a great freelance career so I should probably hang out for a while.


I looked up 75 Hard. It pitches itself as a “mental toughness” program and its rules include:
* follow a diet (including no alcohol and no “cheat meals”)
* work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes
* drink four liters of water per day
* read 10 pages of nonfiction a day
* take a five-minute cold shower a day
* take progress photos every day

Oh, and it was created by a guy who sells supplements. Presumably so he can later sell you supplements.

This is wildly inappropriate for work. WILDLY.

Your employer has no business mucking about in your diet or whether you “cheat” on a diet or in your exercise, your showers, or your “progress photos” (which I assume means the goal is to lose weight, which is another thing they have no business in).

And these rules would be medically contraindicated for loads of people. Eating disorders? Disabilities that limit physical activity? No.

This would be inappropriate even if it were optional, but they’re saying your participation will be reflected in your performance reviews? Hello, legal problems.

I’d send this to your manager and, since you don’t have HR, cc the president: “I’m concerned about the requirement to participate in 75 Hard, a program that’s been widely criticized by nutritionists and medical professionals. Since the instructions conflict with my doctor’s recommendations, I won’t be able to participate. I hope the company will re-think its encouragement of the program in general, given the potential legal liability if it continues to be pushed on employees. In particular, I’m alarmed at the implication that not participating will affect my performance review, and I’d like to get your assurance that won’t be the case.”

Ideally those other people who don’t want to participate would do the same. The more of you who push back, the harder it’ll be to blow you off.

But you’ve also got to take a look at what’s going on in this place more broadly. You’ve got “peer mediation” in place of HR (how does that work for, say, discrimination or sexual harassment?), you’re got “accountability reminders” that you characterize as ableist and bullying, you’ve got book recommendations rejected for being “girly” … even aside from this 75 Hard debacle, are you really having a great experience there?

The job market’s pretty good right now; you don’t have to put up with this kind of amateur startup bullshit.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 967 comments… read them below }

  1. raincoaster*

    “ The job market’s pretty good right now; you don’t have to put up with this kind of amateur startup bullshit.”

    Kicker of the YEAR!

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      I want that phrase exactly to appear in the resignation letter. (Not that you need an actual letter, I just really want that phrase handed over to the leadership in writing)

    2. Liz*

      I love that so many of Alison’s responses these days are basically — this place sucks, get out!

      How the turntables…

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yep. I feel like there’s an…I don’t know, slightly saltier/exasperated Alison shining through these days and SHE IS AWESOME and I am here for it.

          1. Sleeve McQueen*

            I think we are also seeing Salty Caroline Hax. I think she’s gone for the “divorce” button a couple of times lately. Advice Columnists have no time for bullshit

    3. Can't Think of a Name*

      Yup! There’s no need to stick around in this toxic cesspool and warp your professional norms for a resume builder. It’s a candidate’s market – there are plenty of other really great jobs out there that DON’T have this baggage!

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Dang it, I just said essentially the same thing and hadn’t scrolled down and now I look completely unoriginal…

    4. Gnome*


      Does anyone else want Alison’s next book to be something like “How to Build a Business while Avoiding Amateur Startup Bullshit”

    5. SuperDiva*

      Yes, so good! I work for a startup and we are a normal and functional company. It is possible! Don’t buy into the toxic mythos that all startups are crazy and that’s just part of the special sauce that makes them so disruptive or whatever. Look at what else is out there, you might be pleasantly surprised at the options you have.

    6. Candi*

      (reads question)

      (doesn’t really feel like reading the comments)

      (reads Alison’s reply)

      (Promptly scrolls to the comments to celebrate the AWESOME.)

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    A manager who falls for this kind of cultish, hype-laden, dudebro thing is probably not a good manager.

      1. The OTHER other*

        Right! A successful start up should be busy with actual work, most have more than they can handle and are struggling to keep on top of it all.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Seriously. Who on earth has time to work out TWICE a day, even if it is just 90 minutes total? Unless they’re giving me work time to do that (AND shower afterward), that’s a total non-starter even without all the other toxic BS involved in 75 Hard.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Exactly. I work out at least once a day during the week for up to 35 minutes at max, and sometimes, that’s too much, lol. I can’t imagine having the time to do two workouts and get my actual work done. Though I guess they would expect you to work late to finish both, smh.

        2. Jopestus*

          I do, but i am nuts about the exercising topic, so it does not count.

          Oh, and i would never make others follow my routines. It is a hobby to me and i enjoy the suffering brought by it. The feeling of every muscle being sore and lungs being in tatters after a workout and a run is just something else, but I openly admit that this is no longer in sane levels.

          75 Hard seems like a load of manure anyways. That is NOT a way to make people get interested in healthy lifestyle, which i assume is the “well meaning intention” behind the point made by the boss. It does not even seem like a good way to improve results. The best way to get people in better shape would be to advocate for cycling or walking to the work, if possible. But even that must not be forced.

          1. Jopestus*

            And now that i reread the post, i have to state a few things here. I do not do 90min every single day. I do that every second day as one session and even with that i have “shutdown days”, as i call them, when my body just tells me to rest and not to even try. I also walk a lot. Exercising consists of muscle training or running and they alternate.

            Second, i do not have a strict diet. It is impossible to exercise a lot and improve the results if you do not eat enough. Human body eats itself if you fail to feed it according to its energy needs.

            All in all, that program is built to be failed. The body will simply break if it is overexerted, even if it is not fed sufficiently and there is both overexertion and malnutrition on the table in that program. Its inventor made it to sell needless stuff to people who try to do it.

      1. BubbleTea*

        And four litres of water? Four LITRES? I am currently breastfeeding and I don’t drink four litres of water in a day! There is such a thing as too much water.

        1. Lexi Lynn*

          But, it would be fun to respond to your boss when he asks you a question about work that drinking 4 liters of water mean that you’ll be drinking and peeing all day so no working until the stupidness ends.

        2. mean green mother*

          I have a condition where I have to drink a ton of water and eat a ton of salt, so this is very normal for me. But I’m also constantly peeing, so I don’t know how I could also do all this other stuff! Totally ridiculous.

          1. Pants*

            I drink a lot of water too, out of habit. I know I don’t clear 4 litres regularly but I’m sure I have before. Peeing. My god, so much peeing. Not too much, I’ve asked. It still takes up so much dang time!

            1. Rebecca Stewart*

              Yep. I feel better when I put a lot of liquid through me, usually about 3/4 of a gallon to a gallon a day. Yes, I pee a lot.

              I saw that line about nonfiction books and thought, “I wonder if the book on histology of non-mammalian synapsids that I’m reading is the sort of thing they want?” (giggle)
              But daily photos? I weigh daily but that’s data point collection more than anything, and by now if I’m up two pounds suddenly and I didn’t eat out yesterday, I know it’s my cycle, and shrug and go on.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            Another water drinker who eats salt straight out of the packets, and yeah, I am intimately familiar with my toilet. I probably spend as much time there as I do in bed.

        3. laowai_gaijin*

          Eh, I get in that much. I empty one liter bottle at work and another at the gym, and I usually have 3-4 glasses a day otherwise. But not everybody’s as thirsty as I am. That’s also why I read romance books.

      2. Ellie*

        Yes, if the girly comment didn’t tip you off, this kind of commitment is a huge time drain. You can’t keep up that kind of regime when you’re working full time, and raising kids (or either one, probably) which is going to disproportionately affect women. And working out twice a day is so inefficient, you have to shower twice, wash your hair/do your makeup twice, get to the gym and back twice (if that’s where you go), and have twice as many workout outfits than if you just go once a day for twice as long. Still though, I’d consider a strategy of malicious compliance, coupled with evasion and lies, and see if that gets them off your back. Maybe one of those workouts can be during the workday? Maybe you have to leave a bit earlier to get to the gym? And whose to know how much water you are drinking anyway… a couple of water bottles to act as props and some falsified logs and you’re probably fine on that one. Same with the diet, its just at the office, right? You don’t live with these people.

        Not that I’m disagreeing that this is a huge overstep and completely ridiculous, but sometimes bumping along until its quietly dropped is the easiest way to deal with this kind of thing. I can’t imagine many people are going to keep this up past a month or so.

    1. sharkie*

      I had a manager like this, (he was the one that is infamous on here for flipping the corn hole board after losing)
      and he was NOT a good manager at all. I hate that dudebro’s like this always seem to do well in business.

      1. raincoaster*

        They call themselves “serial entrepreneurs” when you know their in-laws call them failures. Having crashed four successive companies is not a resume; it’s a rap sheet.

        1. Candi*

          They’re the ones whining that no one (except sometimes family) will loan them money anymore.

          Dude, you crash multiple successive businesses, especially if the quality was so poor you couldn’t even sell off the remains, banks and such are going to look very askance at you, even the “friendly neighborhood” ones that support small businesses.

    2. Holey Hobby*

      It totally sounds like a cult.

      In fact, as I read, my brain discovered a fun fact. Did you know you can give the William Tell Overture the lyrics “It’s a cult,” over and over again, and it works perfectly?

      1. Pants*

        Omg. I don’t believe you’re a monster right this moment,* but I might change my mind after a month of singing this. I listen to a lot of cult-related podcasts. (A fascination of mine.) I’m going to be singing this all my life, I think.

        * I probably won’t think you’re a monster at any point though because this is pretty amusing and catchy!

      2. Candi*

        It sounds like a cult since this kind of nonsense has to harness the “power of belief!!!” since they have zippo science backing it up. And when they’re already harnessing that, it’s soooo easy to increase devotion, and therefore sales and customer retention, via the “power of faith”. It’s very dark.

    3. Yessica Haircut*

      Yep, these kind of credulous dude bros raving about the latest fad self improvement regime are a dime a dozen in startup culture. Life is too short to deal with workplaces that have these kinds of people in charge.

    4. Beth*

      I had to look it up, and found these pearls of commentary on the thing:

      “spoiler alert — this program is dangerous, unsustainable, and can lead to disordered eating along with a lower sense of self.”

      “Andy Frisella, podcaster, author, and supplement company owner, started the 75 Hard Challenge. We believe he is a marketing genius because while this plan is free, he’s building a brand and following around it. Which he can then sell products or services to later — if you succeed, here’s a product for the next level. If you fail? Here’s a product to help you succeed.”

      “There are no compromises, substitutions, or flexible options to these rules. You have to do all 6 for all 75 days perfectly. Mind you, these are all rules he’s come up with on his own without an outside team of dietitians, personal trainers, or therapists.”

      ” . . . two 45-minute workouts a day is a lot for anyone just starting out [. . .} Plus, the challenge doesn’t consider underlying health conditions, previous injuries, or current fitness levels. He does mention seeing a doctor first, but this mentality of extreme all-or-nothing puts you at greater risk of injury.”

      Nope nope nop enope nope outta there liek a nopetopus!

      1. I think I work*

        No wonder you loose weight. You have no time to eat with all the peeing, the exercise, and the drinking.

      2. Artemesia*

        It doesn’t consider that you might have a life either. Imagine as a parent taking 90 minutes a day to exercise? No good parent has that amount of free time in their day. And plenty of other people have obligations that also make 90 minutes of self absorbed preening difficult to schedule.

        1. biobotb*

          Yeah, seems like the only people who could do this are single people with no caretaking responsibilities, no hobbies and no friends.

      3. Sharpie*

        The Army doesn’t do that much exercise a day every day. And the other stuff on top?

        Asking for serious trouble – and I’m not a doctor. (I am an ex-soldier, though, British Army.)

        Your boss is off his trolley, out of his gourd, off his rocker, nuts, three fries short of a Happy Meal, one card short of a full deck…

        There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t have bosses who secretly wish they were Special Forces.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          “Your boss is off his trolley, out of his gourd, off his rocker, nuts, three fries short of a Happy Meal, one card short of a full deck…”

          And he hasn’t got both oars in the water, his elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top, and he’s several sandwiches short of a picnic and a couple of dimes short of a dollar.

          This is fun, I could do it all day! 8-D

          1. Candi*

            Few nuts short of a pouch, has non-functioning brain cells (amount variable), thought they said “trains” the day they were passing out brains, few hoops short of a circus, barking at the moon, as nutty as a fruit cake, has a screw loose, off the wall and off his rocker.

        2. Anonymous Today*

          “There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t have bosses who secretly wish they were Special Forces.”

          That’s it. He secretly wished he’d been a Ranger or made it through SEAL Training.

          Why does he think anyone else has the same secret wish?

          And there are now female Rangers, though I don’t believe there have been any women who have gone though SEAL Training or even if they are permitted to try out as yet. So much for “too girly”.

          1. ThisIshRightHere*

            ooh this is A Thing. I work in a government agency where lots of guys who didn’t/couldn’t make it in law enforcement or the military eventually settled down to do security-adjacent desk work. They all have the exact same dudebro profile and love any activity that helps them pretend to be real policemen/soldiers. This nonsense would be right up their alley. Except they wouldn’t force the entire staff to do it; they’d find a way to make participation “exclusive” to their little dudebro club.

            1. Red 5*

              I’ve known these dudes too and what gets me is that I also know an Army Ranger and he is super chill and not like those guys at all.

              But DC is covered with guys who want you to think they could have been special forces.

        3. Candi*

          Oh sheesh, that reminds me of a story dad told me from when he was an Army drill sergeant.

          So another newbie drill sergeant is running things, and decides to have the recruits double-time* from the practice field to a particular gate. He did not check the distance first.

          It took them all. friggin. morning. to get there and back to the field. Over four hours. This session was supposed to last an hour and a half.

          And then the guy was shocked, shocked I tell you, with the amount of trouble he got into. Dad ran off a list of other things the troops were supposed to be doing that day “and you don’t pull that on 6 week recruits.”

          Yet somehow, it still sounds saner than what this company wants.

          * A fast marching pace of 180 steps per minute, 30 inches in length for the Army.

    1. EBStarr*

      I love it! I feel like her writing has a very “life is short, no time to pull punches” tone these days and that is exactly how I feel myself.

      1. Bridget*

        After however many years of writing this blog I feel like her responses have a very strong undertone of “I’m getting too old for this shit” and I am Here For It.

        1. The Original K.*

          It also feels more … radical? Or at least that she’s being more deliberate in calling out the ways in which the system sucks.

          1. Cora*

            I think Alison is fairly radical personally. Maybe the great resignation is allowing her to bring more of it out here.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yeah I think part of it is that in the past there’s been so little workers can do. I mean, try and start a union, maybe. But most abuses are legal, and if HR / leadership aren’t supportive the employee’s only option has been to try to get a new job, which isn’t easy. And worse, leaving abruptly or on bad terms could get you a bad reference and thus you can be blacklisted in your career. Workers have had very little power. If Alison’s anything like me, she’s getting fired up that maybe for two minutes we actually have the upper hand (although I think the economy’s pretty patchy right now; my sector isn’t doing all that great despite the surge in other sectors).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, definitely. I try to give practical advice that will help people get the outcomes they want for themselves within the system we’re in, and for nearly the whole 14-year history of this blog, the reality has been that workers haven’t had a lot of options — so often the framework has had to be, “Well, you don’t have a lot of options but if you suck it up, over time you’ll work yourself into a position where you do have more options.” But stuff is different right now. I don’t know if it will stay different, but we’re in a moment I’ve never seen before where workers have a ton more power. Holy hell, use it!

                It’s also true that 14 years of reading my mail would/should radicalize anyone. So should the last two years. Also, now I am old and fed up.

                1. Justin*

                  As I look for what I hope will be a more permanent professional home post-degree, I’m not settling for any nonsense (I should write you about an interview I just had), and it’s odd to feel like my values might be able to guide my decisions. I’m not letting this rare opportunity slip by! No bullshit!

                2. EPLawyer*

                  At a certain point, you want to stop saying “welllll, let me soften this all up for you and give you a million reasons WHY things are they way they are” and get right to the point “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” See also “It’s a worker’s world right now, take advantage.”

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Also, there is a whole thing about how when I started this site I was very much writing from the perspective of a manager (that was the whole point) and also someone who the system had more or less worked for. I am way more aware now of all the people it doesn’t work for and all the reasons why, and I’m sure that’s reflected in what I write here although it and I are very much a work in progress.

                4. 404_FoxNotFound*

                  Ditto with the appreciation and being so done. Thank you for continuing to write and respond to folks!

                5. Wendy Darling*

                  There’s totally a different mood right now. Workers feel empowered more than usual and employers…. do not. IT’S GREAT. I love it. I’ve been throwing my weight around like a lunatic who does not fear death because I kind of don’t care if I lose my current job, and I’ve been getting all kinds of concessions I didn’t feel like I could get before. Like I’ve actually slowed down my job search a little because it turns out my job is way more tolerable when I feel like I have my employer over a barrel and can just make them fix stuff I don’t like by making it clear I’ll walk if they don’t.

                6. Can't Think of a Name*

                  It’s so great. I work in HR/recruiting, but have also always been a big advocate for worker’s rights and would always get so frustrated at the systemic things I couldn’t change (it is so infuriating to KNOW you’re lowballing someone, but the powers that be won’t let you offer more because “we’re in line with the market” when the market drastically underpays people).

                  Although the current job market definitely makes my job harder in some ways, I love it because it’s finally forcing meaningful change to happen in how employers hire and treat their workers!! Take advantage of it while we can!!!

                7. Allornone*

                  Alison, you have always been one of my favorite advice columnists, and lately, you’ve been my absolute favorite hands down. I actually have a great job now that I love (thanks in large part to your advice), and I’m still eating every word you write up. Your advice always seems so spot on, and I’m definitely digging the old and fed-up energy.

                  On a personal note about the employment climate now, while I’m so happy to be out of the retail sector (where I languished for many, many years. If only you had been around to tell me to intern in college. Holy crap) and firmly entrenched in non-profit work, I do envy that those who are still in retail finally seeing some basic wages. I worked YEARS to make what people are getting hired at these days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome and loooooong overdue, but alas,oh well.

                8. Pants*

                  I love that you’re advocating for employees to harness the current economic and working conditions to their advantage while we have it.

                  I’m on the snack committee for the Old and Fed Up Club meeting this month. I make a mean Basque cheesecake. Any other suggestions?

                9. Fiddle_Faddle*

                  “Also, now I am old and fed up.”

                  Yup. Best thing about getting older: you realize you’ve taken enough sass in your life and you’re not taking any more, and anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my stockings. (Note: I tossed the stockings, heels, skirts, and makeup since they’re just another form of “sass.”)

                10. J3*

                  “Also, there is a whole thing about how when I started this site I was very much writing from the perspective of a manager (that was the whole point) and also someone who the system had more or less worked for. I am way more aware now of all the people it doesn’t work for and all the reasons why, and I’m sure that’s reflected in what I write here although it and I are very much a work in progress.”

                  This piece of self-insight is lovely, humble, and wise– I wish everyone who has the kind of platform you do was this reflective! :)

                11. Candi*

                  We have the greatest opportunity since WWII to equalize and reshape the workplace, and knowing what we know now, we can work and do our best make sure the changes we can make STICK this time.

                1. Candi*

                  We need awesome employers. The more we have, the more we have better workplaces and working conditions, and the more the stick-in-the-muds and the good ol’ boys have to change just to keep workers.

            2. Eleanor Shellstrop*

              I agree entirely, and I am adoring the increased amount of ‘Don’t take this shit!!’ from her.

              1. Candi*

                Alison’s gone past “I should care” (about what entrenched culture thinks) and into “why should I care?” (when there’s much better ways to do things, and we have an awesome opportunity to DO SOMETHING.)

        2. Magenta Sky*

          I think the world of (bad) business management has been particularly full of obnoxious idiocy the last two years, as well.

      2. Cranky lady*

        I said something similar to a colleague this morning. He was being tactful and I basically called out the BS (professionally).

  3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    Also, I don’t love that book recommendations are being tossed for being too ‘girly’. Ick.

    1. The Original K.*

      That and the 75 Hard requirement point to what sounds like a bro-y culture, which is one I’d hate.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep, that is indeed gross. Seems only ‘manly’ non-fiction counts, most likely some sort of self-improvement wank.

      1. Lucy Skywalker*

        And the fact that they specify nonfiction, as thought reading fiction is a “weakness.” Heck, why do they even mention reading at all? Aside from the fact that forcing health/weight loss plans on your employees is wildly inappropriate in the first place, why do they care what or even if you read? When I read the first few requirements, I thought “this actually might be a good program for someone wanting to live healthier and lose weight.” Then I read the park about non-fiction and the cold shower (WHY?? just WHY???)

        1. Dahlia*

          Tbh restriction + a 45 minute work out twice a day sounded like a good way to get an eating disorder to me, not a good way to manipulate your weight.

            1. The Magpie*

              Oooft, same here. Absolutely not my pal. I had to unsubscribe from everything I could find, because they kept finding ways to try to email me and lure me back.

          1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            Especially since the recommended amount of exercise is generally given at 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes per day for 5 days.

            1. Lucy Skywalker*

              I thought that 30 minutes of exercise was the minimum required for good heart health, and that you had to do more if you actually want to lose weight.

                1. Red 5*

                  Yeah, common current understanding for this stuff (based on science not marketing) is that you lose weight by changing how you eat, you maintain weight by exercise.

                  That 90 minutes of exercise, depending on the intensity, could potentially not even work off your breakfast. It takes far more movement than people think to burn calories, and it’s incredibly complicated math.

                  Generally if you actually look at the science of metabolism and weight you find that most of these “programs” are BS and don’t work, and they cause more harm than help. There are some great NPR Life Kit episodes that lay out some of the basics for why it’s all rubbish and how smaller and more logical changes actually have greater impact.

            2. Boof*

              That’s a min, not a max. 45 min a day workout isn’t bad (probably good!) for most healthy people, but it is infeasible for many.

              1. Boof*

                sorry, 45 min twice a day.
                I say this as someone who would aspire to such heights, but could only realistically do it swimming, and do not have the time or pool for that. 3rd trimester pregnancy + job + two kids just leaves me completely drained currently.

                1. Bamcheeks*

                  I mean, if i’m allowed to count those 90 minutes of exercise (plus changing / showering time) as work time and my workload is correspondingly decreased, sign me the fuck up! If you’re expecting me to find a magic two hours every days outside work, I would like to see your maths.

            1. Pennyworth*

              I hope everyone would just assume the exercise was on the clock and start turning up late, leaving early or just disappearing for 45 minutes during the day. ”Sorry, can’t make that client meeting, gotta exercise.”

              1. Fran Fine*

                I actually do exercise 30 minutes a day during work hours, lol. I’m just too spent to do anything but plunk down on my couch after work, and I’m not the only one – many of my teammates are vocal about exercising during work hours as well, and our manager’s cool with it.

              2. Nineleaf*

                AND taking long lunches to cook their whole food, nutrionally balanced lunches from scratch too.

                “Sorry,” *shrug* “‘No cheat meals.'”

            2. Laura*

              90 minutes of exercise a day _and_ getting around to reading up on WWI trench warfare on the clock? Might be worth the cold showers. /sarcasm

          2. quill*

            Sounds like a good way to eat up your free time on top of a probably already pretty lengthy startup schedule.

        2. socks*

          Honestly, the first few points aren’t great either. 45 minutes of exercise twice a day is a great way to hurt yourself if you aren’t used to it (and lots of people don’t have an hour and a half to set aside *every single day*). A strict diet with no treats at all just isn’t sustainable for most people, and it’s waaay more likely to lead to their weight yo-yoing than it is to lead to sustained weight loss. The 4 liters of water a day won’t hurt you but it’s also more than most people need.

          I assume the reading is about developing more knowledge about the world or something like that. It’s still none of the employer’s business but IMO it’s the second least objectionable thing on the list (after the water thing).

          1. Sloanicota*

            As I recall the instructions were that one of the 45 minute sessions (and I agree, that’s a *lot* of time for the average person) must be outside regardless of weather. Again, being out in rain/snow/freezing/boiling temps has different impacts on people with different conditions, and the risk of injury too.

                1. socks*

                  Of course, what a fool I’ve been. If only I was as mentally tough as these guys I’d be thrilled to go test myself against 100 mph winds :'(

              1. Tessie Mae*

                The first thing I thought of when I read that was a hurricane. And I don’t even live where there are hurricanes. I then thought about nasty weather where I live: thunderstorms (oh, sure, I’ll exercise outside and risk being struck by lightning), snowstorms (including blizzards), ice storms, etc.

                No thanks.

                1. daffodil*

                  In a snowstorm I might do two 45 minute workouts outside, also known as snow removal, but I wouldn’t consider that, like, a lifestyle choice.

                2. CalypsoSummer*

                  We get “black flag” warnings all the time in the summer — the heat and the humidity means no exercising outside, no matter how much the manly macho dude-bros doing their manly macho “75 Hard” regimen want to get heat stroke.

                  And in the winter, it gets very dark very fast. Jogging along roads in the dark when people are anxious to get home — well, they’d better have their affairs in order, and their insurance card in their pocket.

                3. Candi*

                  It’s worrying enough to walk along darker roads when you’re wearing a reflective harness, are being cautious, and are walking home from the bus stop after work or class. (Yes, I wear a reflective harness. I think it’s stupid-looking, but I’d rather have less chance of getting squished.) People are fragging nuts.

              2. Camellia*

                It is THAT the wind is blowing, it is WHAT the wind is blowing. You can’t exercise much with a STOP sign in your spleen.

            1. EmmaPoet*

              Yeah, I’m fine no matter how cold it is, but once it hits 80, I start having issues, especially when it’s humid. And where I live we have rolling thunderstorms for a lot of the summer, so there’s weeks at a time where we all try to avoid being outside for more than five minutes anyway.

            2. Sakuko*

              That’s just silly. My poison of choice is weight lifting. Of course you can lug tree trunks in the wilderness, but there’s no benefit from doing it like that compared to a nice, dry gym.
              But of course for that sport it’s entirely pointless to do it twice a day, every day, too. Your muscles need time to regenerate and “grow” between sessions.

              1. Candi*

                I can’t swear to the accuracy, but a few years ago I read an article that said exercising every day was long-term damaging to your muscles since “microtears” wouldn’t have time to heal -the article was referring to splits between individual lines of cells, really zoom-in level. They also said that even the most heavy duty exercise regimens of Olympiads, professional athletes, and Iron Man competitors have them exercising every other day when there isn’t an event approaching.

                I know that in college, when covid and wildfire smoke isn’t an issue, the posted training regimens are 2-3 times a week, staggered days.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                TBF exercising outdoors is better than indoors, for the fresh air and vitamin D. We’ve just all got used to being comfy.

            3. Red 5*

              Oooh, yeah that’s a total no go for the asthmatic over here. Above and below certain temperatures just being outside at all is potentially dangerous. Throw in a code red air quality day and I’m going to be looking at consulting lawyers for discrimination if this was pushed as part of my review.

              Asthma is a really common condition too. The ableism is so deep I can’t even.

              1. Candi*

                I have permanent bronchial damage due to multiple bouts of bronchitis as a kid. Just rushing around on a cold day can send me into a gasping fit if I don’t pace my breathing. I learned to fight back panic attacks mostly because it takes forever to breathe properly again.

                (Stood me in good stead when mask wearing came about. My lizard brain was like “takeitofftakeitofftakeitoff or WE’RE GOING TO SUFFOCATE AND DIE!!!” and the logical part of my brain is like “back in your hole, we’re breathing fine!” *stomp stomp*. Eventually worked past it.)

          2. Amaranth*

            I’m curious whether they need to technically allow work time to accomplish all of these things if they are making them required.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Of course not, you are expected to work insane hours PLUS find an hour and a half in your day to exercise.

              The 5 minute cold shower is because that’s all the time you will have for a shower. You won’t even have time to wait for the water to warm up.

              1. MusicWithRocksIn*

                Plus all the extra time you are gonna spend peeing. I try to drink water to stay healthy, but that is a lot of water and would probably send me running to the bathroom once an hour at least.

                1. Candi*

                  (fills large cup with ice cubes)

                  (pours small amount of soda over them)


                  Yep, it absolutely will. But my kidneys like it –once in a while.

          3. kt*

            If it’s a work requirement, I am glad that they’ve, uh, apparently instituted a <6 hour workday. With two 45 min exercise requirements and time to change clothes, etc, they should probably cancel all meetings and work from, ah, 9-10 am and then 4-5 am. So keep the 10-4 workday. That's cool. And with the reading time, maybe do that at lunch, so no lunch meetings?

            I don't know, folks. It sounded ridiculous initially but I'm coming around. "Oh I can't get that Teams message… I'm doing my workout (listen to podcast while strolling the neighborhood)." "Oh that critical pricing app went down? I'll get to it tomorrow, gotta get in my yoga…." "Right we're not providing customer support during those hours, talk to you soon!"

          4. Cold Fish*

            A few years ago I joined the gym and of course the trainers were always “drink more water”. I wasn’t even up to 4 liters a day but it got to the point that I literally couldn’t go an hour without running to the bathroom and it was seriously effecting my sleep as I was up several times a night. I cut back the water intake but even now, 3+ years later, I’m experiencing aftereffects. So I’m not convinced about “The 4 liters of water a day won’t hurt you…” statement. The whole thing sounds problematic and should definitely not be a work requirement.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I read an article that says the guy who invented this (and as Alison said, he’s just a regular guy who sells supplements, not any kind of expert on anything) didn’t consult with anyone on these numbers so for all we know that much water could be dangerous. I certainly wouldn’t feel good drinking that much; it’s gotta vary by body size right??

            2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              I just pulled up a quick convert for liters to ounces. 64ounces is the usually recommend amount of water a day. 8 glasses of 8 ounces each. 4 liters is 135.something. So well over double the recommended.

              1. Coder von Frankenstein*

                And that 64 ounces is *including* the water that you consume in your food. Virtually all food has water in it–often quite a lot of water. Most folks don’t need to drink anywhere near 8 glasses per day.

                You have to really work at it to drink enough water to be harmful; but it can be done.

                1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                  Yes, people have literally died from drinking too much water too fast because it upsets the balance of ions in your blood and cells. It takes a lot of water, but if you realized in the evening that you were “behind” on your mandatory 4 liters of water and chugged a couple liters in under an hour you could trigger water intoxication.

                2. SweetFancyPancakes*

                  Many years ago I worked with two people (a man who was over 6 feet tall and a tiny woman) who decided to have a contest over which of them could drink the most water during the workday. I remember the woman curled up under her desk huddled up to a heater because she had lowered her body temp so much that she couldn’t stop shaking. That was the end of the contest. They were both actually really nice people and the guy felt terrible that it had affected her so badly.

                1. Candi*

                  Part of the problem was media reporting. The scientists reported “you should consume this much liquid every day to be healthy.” They included every bit of food that has juice or other fluid in that assessment.

                  The media reported it as “you must drink this many glasses of water a day” and idiocy has never recovered.

            3. ThatGirl*

              I drink a pretty good amount of water during the day, especially when I’m in the office – but it becomes a cycle; I get up to get water after I’ve finished my coffee, then an hour later I have to pee, so I go to the bathroom and get more water and… round and around. If I was trying to drink 4 liters a day, plus exercise for 90 minutes, I feel like I’d spend the whole day either drinking, peeing or exercising.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I keep water nearby most of the time when I’m working so that I can take a few sips whenever. I think that works for me much better.

              2. Candi*

                If you’re drinking out of habit, put the glass farther away if possible.

                If you’re drinking out of thirst, and it’s water, hold the liquid in your mouth for a few moments before swallowing. Dry mouth membranes can also trigger “thirst” even if there’s plenty of liquid circulating in your system. But only do it with water that has a fairly benign pH.

            4. AdequateAdmin*

              Yeah, I’m skeptical about the water thing too. I’m a fairly slim woman of average height, but 4-6 liters is how much water I go through when I’m doing 10+ hours of field work (aka extreme hiking) in the desert in July. 5-6 liters is the rule of thumb for what people should bring, expecting that some of that water will go to someone else (leaky water bladders FTW!), be used for minor artifact rinsing, etc. But it’s absolutely not required that you will drink all of that in one day.

              And yes, the night pees. The bane of my existence.

            5. hamburke*

              I regularly drink 3 liters. It took time but I did eventually get on a better pee schedule and do feel better. I started it for the very vain reason that the back of my hands looked old. They don’t anymore…

          5. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            There’s a sort of attitude in these groups that you have to work out your mind along with your body (which I agree is a good balance to strike, but I think this is often toxic), and the way to do that is by reading self-help and aspirational biographies (think like reading a Steve Jobs biography because you want to be like him). History often rolls in as well, but I feel like the attitude is not really “broaden your scope and explore the humanities,” it’s more like “sometimes books are the barbells of the brain, suck as much Improvement out of them as you can!”

            Basically, it feels like the messaging is that your brain can be just as deficient as your biceps, and you need to do something about that if you want to Succeed and make the Big Bucks working 4 hours a week from home.

            1. Gumby*

              On one hand, I don’t read a ton of non-fiction and reading more could be helpful. (In a twist of irony, I have been meaning to finish reading “Get Things Done” for well over a year; I got enough into it to get some helpful hints and really like it so far…) But I do read way more than 10 pages per day of fiction.

              On the other hand, you want to push this as some sort of balanced mind-body program and it’s almost entirely body-focused. 1.5 hours of exercise, 10 minutes of reading. There, balanced. Gah.

            2. SarahKay*

              Reading self-help – Ask A Manager would count, right? ;)

              If my manager for some reason suddenly decided to mandate reading 10 pages of non-fiction a day then I would definitely count AAM and comments (3 page-downs of comments per column, plus the original column seems a reasonable approximation to ten pages). However, I struggle to imagine my current manager even imposing a target as silly as that; my imagination cannot come up with a world in which he’d also mandate the rest of this nonsense.

            3. Candi*

              What’s ridiculous is fiction can be plenty informative. Not just about word use and grammar, but about facts that authors put in their stories. Fiction got me interested in the Ottoman Empire (historical fiction/romance -more history than romance), Celtic history (Deverry books), and the Geneva Conventions (Tower and Hive series, a poorly-written short story about whether the conventions apply to sentient robots).

              Plus it’s just plain fun in its own right. You don’t have a minidragon developing a jet-fuel metabolism and smacking a big dragon around in real life. (Discworld.)

            4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              And working out your mind along with your body was already invented thousands of years ago by yogis in India, no need for all that non-fiction, just imagine you’re breathing through your arsehole.

          6. Catherine*

            Oh, the four liters can absolutely hurt you depending on your size. I gave myself mild water intoxication by drinking too much water on a hot summer day and throwing my electrolyte balance off. Luckily my roommate figured out something was wrong with me pretty quickly and called a nurse for advice.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          First, I want to be clear I think this particular program is bunk and also has no place at work.

          That said, I don’t see anything odd about trying to create a holistic wellness program that incorporates mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Doing things that are intellectually stimulating and help you learn more about the world around you (like reading non-fiction or visiting interesting places) can be very healthy. Having a daily routine that helps you feel cleansed and energized (like taking a cold shower or walking through a park) can be very healthy. Obviously these particular choices are not going to work for everyone… that’s just the nature of a rigidly structured program. We’re not one-size-fits-all creatures.

          Frankly, I think it would be worse to push employees into a plan focused only on physical health. As LW points out, at least this one has components that people can participate in even if they are unable or unwilling to do the physical fitness parts.

          My concern with this program – aside from the fact that I don’t think a wellness program is appropriate team bonding for the workplace – is that it seems to be focused less on wellbeing and more on becoming a “real man.” It seems obsessed with a particular flavor of toughness that I associate with misogyny, homophobia, and assholery.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah the only benefit of this program is that it doesn’t dictate what diet you follow and that it leaves the choice of exercise and the choice of nonfiction book up to you – that’s good (although OP’s books got rejected by the team, which sucks). But it’s got a very hard core bro edge that won’t gel with most people’s needs. It’s fine if it works for someone and I’m sure there’s people it would be great for, but it’s not at all good as a mandatory all-office thing, any more than thrilling ski weekends or white water rafting are good for mandatory work events.

            1. EPLawyer*

              It’s some bro wannabe’s idea of what tough guys like Navy Seals do. (trust me Navy Seals drink alcohol among other things).

            2. Sakuko*

              It doesn’t really, though. It sets standards outside the diet/exercise you want to follow, which might not agree with it.

              Like, cheat days are often an integral part of a diet/dietary change, but the program doesn’t want to know anything about the diet you do and still tells you no cheat meals at all.
              It also tells you 45 minutes exercise every day. That just doesn’t work for all sports. I do weight lifting. 90 minutes every day is too much, it doesn’t give the muscles time to regenerate between trainings and therefore will severely limit the result you can get from it.

              So, if you want to create a program that gives people the freedom of choice, then don’t impose random restrictions on those choices, since you don’t even know what they are going to be.

              1. Candi*

                One of the best pieces of diet advice I read (for those who can follow it) is to have a diet be 80% diet, 20% cheat, usually timed by week. (Tweaking as necessary.) If you “slip”, you stick it under the 20% and get on with your day without feeling guilty.

                Another was never to outright deny yourself. Weaponize procrastination and tell your craving you’ll have the treat “later”. “Later” is easier for the craving part of the brain to deal with then “no”, even when you do it again and again.

                For me, knowing I can cheat makes it easier not to cheat. And it’s easier for me to ignore a craving for doughnuts (which I can kick down the road) then chocolate (which will give me a blazing migraine and is permanently on No). Human brains are weird.

          2. Cordelia*

            Eh, frankly I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone’s place of employment to mandate a spiritual component to a workplace wellness program. Especially if it’s going to influence reviews. Spiritual wellness is perilously close to religion (protected class), and if someone is an atheist then saying that they can “choose any kind of spiritual wellness” still doesn’t cut it. Plus, anything as potentially deep and personal as spirituality isn’t going to benefit from being required by the entity that also ensures you have a roof over your head. I’m not sure how helpful coerced (via a paycheck) spiritual wellness really is. Probably best for employers to mind their own business on that one.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone’s place of employment to mandate ANY wellness program, spiritual or otherwise. Health and wellness is incredibly personal, highly variable, and intimately intertwined with many protected classes (age, religion, disability, sex, ethnicity, pregnancy, etc).

              1. quill*

                Not to mention no workplace is QUALIFIED to give any mass medical advice, because even if you’re all doctors, doctors can’t give medical advice at random: you have to be their actual patient.

              2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                “I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone’s place of employment to mandate ANY wellness program, spiritual or otherwise.”

                Hear, hear! This boss is so far out of line that he can’t even SEE the line from where he’s standing.

                If no one has nominated him for worst boss of the year yet, I hereby do so. Because he suuuuuuucks! There have been worse bosses discussed here at AAM, but this dude deserves at least a(n dis)honorable mention!

              3. Red 5*

                The only wellness program any office should mandate is forcing their managers to learn about how burnout is a systemic problem created by workplace norms and culture so that they can stop creating it. Other than that, it can just be not being a toxic office and valuing lower level employees. That’d make me a lot healthier a lot faster than a group chat about diets or a workout class.

          3. Boof*

            I think it’s an annoying overreach when WORK tries to institute these things, unless it’s something extra you can opt in for (like a paid gym membership or personal trainer of your choice consult or something), especially if there’s no extra time given to actually DO the wellness initiatives.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              That’s why I said I think the program has no place at work.

              Even if it WERE an amazing program (spoilers: it’s not), it’s still not appropriate as a mandatory work activity.

            2. Bibliothecarial*

              I absolutely love my workplace’s wellness initiative. It’s completely opt-in and they give you maybe 15 different activities to choose from, including free webinars about wellness, signing up for a CSA, exercising a certain number of days per year (whatever exercise you want), etc. You pick up to 5 activities and you earn MONEY – actual dollars, up to an extra paycheck for some of us! – for doing them. And you can change your mind if you want. It’s very customizable, so disability-friendly, and more of us participate! OP’s managers need to learn the difference between a carrot and a stick.

              1. F as in Frank*

                Our work on place wellness program is also good. They budget for everyone to have $500 for “health and wellness”. The best thing is that the definition is extremely broad and will cover active shoes, activities, equipment, lessons, top up the amount our benefits pay for massages, etc. I’m using mine for this year to pay for a bike tune up and some replacement parts

                1. Boof*

                  having a really broad $500 “Wellness fund” to spend on your choice of what that means sounds perfect :B

              2. pope suburban*

                Yes, I think this is the right way to do it. Offering support to employees who would like to pursue lifestyle improvements (in that these things will improve their individual lives, not that there’s a right or wrong way to eat/move/read/be) and then keeping quiet about it is enough. That trusts employees as adults who know their own needs and limits, and it doesn’t inject God knows how many kinds of potential harm into the workplace. Like, hell, I’d be thrilled if my employer covered even one of my gym memberships! But I’d be pissed if they did that contingent on the rest of my coworkers being forced to sign up.

              3. Fierce Jindo*

                I’d still much rather they just redistribute all that money (including the money to administer this program) to employees directly as salary or reduced health premiums.

                I have my own ideas about what’s healthy, and choosing from a list my employer made and spending time proving I did that crap isn’t on it.

                1. WantonSeedStitch*

                  Very much this. Wellness may look to me like a good baby carrier for hiking so I can actually get out on the trails and not have to stay home because of my baby. For another person, it might look like grocery delivery so they don’t have to risk going into a store where people aren’t wearing masks because they’re at high risk for COVID. For someone else it might be a gym membership. Or a therapist to help them deal with an eating disorder. Giving us the money to do with as we need is a better plan all around.

                2. Candi*

                  If they’re going to maintain their own list, the company should have a way to add to it or get something granted as a one-off. And it shouldn’t take a 40-slide PowerPoint and a 15 minute presentation for why something should be included or permitted. One or two emails with proper sources and arguments, tops.

          4. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            The actual problem is that it’s not your employer’s place to dictate any wellness program, no matter how good, bad, or universally applicable it is. All the criticisms of this program in Alison’s response and here in the comments are just outlining how outrageous it is to expect to get away with this one in particular, and evidence of why a business should not try to dictate these things–because, as you say, they cannot guarantee that the program is universally reasonable and applicable, and thus they should not attempt it, in case they run afoul of labor laws, or even just alienate people who come to work to WORK, not to have their whole lives taken over and values forced on them.

            Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you get to run your employees’ lives. That is a cult, not a workplace.

            1. Sweet & Low*

              This would be horrendous with any workout/”health” program, but I feel 75 Hard is especially egregious. In addition to what Alison mentioned, one of the workouts has to be outside regardless of the weather and if you mess up just once (skip a workout, eat a cheat meal, don’t read for the day, etc) you have to start the entire 75 day program over again.

              Also, the supplement company this dude runs is an MLM.

              1. Candi*

                It’s supported by/associated with/intertwined with a MLM should be an automatic blackmark at any point. Particularly since, if the idea has any true merit, it can be broken off and run as its own thing, legitimately. That it stays stuck to an MLM says far too much, at least about the people running it.

        4. anne of mean gables*

          I cannot express to you how quickly I would quit my job if it required a cold shower. It’s November, I live very far north, a hot shower is one of the few physical pleasures of my day and you will pry it out of my cold dead hands.

        5. R*

          Oh my god Christ yes. I have a master’s degree in modernist literature. I’ve read Ulysses. I’ve read Infinite Jest. I’ve read Gene Wolfe and Borges and Delaney and avant-grade French shit, but I’m sure The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a very cerebral experience and has a lot to offer me.

          Nonfiction snobs are the worst. Fortunately it tends to tick them off when you dismiss all nonfiction as simply 5000 word Medium posts padded out to 250 pages.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            Back when I was active on internet dating sites, I had it as my policy that if someone had nothing but nonfiction mentioned in their profile as far as books they enjoyed, I wouldn’t contact them. I figured they would think I was lowbrow and I would think they were a bore.

          2. daffodil*

            “5000 word medium posts padded out to 250 pages” (Imagine I followed this quote up with 16 fire emoji)

            1. R*

              Oh, I have two words for Faulkner, believe me. ;)

              I don’t know what it is because I absolutely love Shocking and Sordid Stories and Wild Formal Experimentation, but I’ve really never been able to click on to his vibe. I think Light in August is the only one of his I’ve finished on my own (Sound and the Fury was for class and I cliff notesed my way through that one.) I guess I’ll give him another go in another 5-10 years but i guess ive just never really understood how to approach him.

          3. Hex Libris*

            Book snobs of any kind are the pits. Also a great way to turn people away from your preferred genre.

          4. The Dogman*

            I go the other way, leaving aside technical manuals and research books most non-fiction is super dull!

            Travel books in particular are really annoying, but the worst are the “self help” books… Deepak Chopra especially can go suck a bag of hammers, he is such a dick.

            1. CalypsoSummer*

              Most non-fiction is super dull??

              A Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchmann
              Bailout Nation, by Barry Ritholz
              Drink, by Iain Gately
              Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, by Lizzie Collingham
              Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs, by Adrienne Mayor
              Here If You Need Me, by Kate Braestrup
              Cleopatra and Anthony, by Diana Preston
              Give Me A Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea, by Tim McGrath

              Might want to reassess what you’ve been reading. You’re ignoring a LOT of really interesting books.

            2. Candi*

              You’ve been reading the wrong non-fiction.

              Try: The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum.

              One of the things discussed is the rise of the Medical Examiner system in NYC. Although I can’t remember if it’s that one or Blood On the Table: The Greatest Cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner by Colin Evans that has the story of the two coroners fighting over the corpse. (The one who got the corpse would get paid.)

          5. laser99*

            I’m blushing—I mostly read non-fiction. But in my defense, most current fiction is more or less unreadable.

            1. Candi*

              I think that depends on the genre, the sub/cross genre, and the author. There are definitely some who you’re like “WHY did this get published?” (And the sales figures reflect it.)

        6. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

          I’d be tempted to suggest Laziness Does Not Exist and maybe Health At Every Size…

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Or The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck — think that might send a message to this bozo?

        7. Nephron*

          Cold shower is to make sure you are suffering and non-fiction is because there is a strong thread of pseudo-intellectualism in bro-health culture.

          1. Gumby*

            I also get the feeling that OP’s workplace will want to read biographies or whatever of male athletes. And let me tell you, I had to read “It’s not about the bike” for a book club once and a literary masterpiece it wasn’t. (Apologies to any Lance Armstrong fans; I found it kind of boring. Not to mention that even when I read it back in the early 2000s, it was clear that it was far from telling the whole story.)

        8. banoffee pie*

          I thought those ‘toughen up’ types would think all reading was ‘wussy’. But I guess there is a subsection of Jordan Peterson types who think non-fction is manly. Facts, etc. Thought experiment, what’s more manly, a non-fiction book about some ‘wussy’ hobby or an Andy McNab novel? lol (Not gonna name a wussy hobby cos I obviously don’t agree with the term or the intent behind it at all, and probably all my hobbies count as wussy to those manly ppl anyway haha)

          1. Candi*

            They probably think Tom Clancy is awesome (aside from being fiction) and John Scalzi is “wussy”. Even though the Scalzi books have the alien deer-like things that consider humans a light snack.

        9. My Cabbages!*

          Honestly surprised there wasn’t a stricture against masturbation considering how much like a Victorian moralist regimen this sounds.

        10. Jayn*

          The spiteful part of me would specifically search out literature criticizing this sort of BS (and ideally this program specifically).

          Also I immediately hate anything that advocates for a specific diet, as those are so GD personal. My personal goals are different from many other people’s, and the odds are that any given diet would be designed to work against them.

        11. Rebecca Stewart*

          I mean, I like non-fiction. I just like fiction too. Actually, I like reading period.
          But cold showers? Oh, no. Hot baths. With a book.

        1. banoffee pie*

          Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez. Or any feminst non-fiction. Though I doubt these types would consider them non-fiction. They’d call them ‘propaganda’.

      2. HoHumDrum*

        Yeah the nonfiction thing stood out to me too- I’m sorry, when did reading fiction become not intellectual enough?? Or unmanly, or not rigorous or whatever?? Why 10 pages of nonfiction specifically? If I were forced to participate in this my form of malicious compliance would be to read 10 pages of People magazine everyday. Hey, it’s nonfiction!

        This reminds me of a tiktok comment I saw on a video of a woman avidly reading a thick novel and the comment was like “You guys act like this makes her intellectual or something but that book is probably fiction, which is basically the same as watching mindless television. I prefer to expand my mind and actually learn things by reading Reddit for hours every day, I don’t waste my time on dumb stories”. Yeah, a little part of me died inside when I read that.

        Anywho, all reading is good reading, whether it’s Reddit or novels or people magazine, and f- this idiotic program.

        1. JLP*

          The amount I learn from fiction (mostly romance novels) is really quite a lot. Learning how to deal with emotions, empathy for others, cultures, etc. Especially if you focus on choosing books about folks that aren’t like yourself. I really dislike when people put down other people’s choices for how they want to spend their limited free time.

        2. Candi*

          Learning isn’t just about absorbing knowledge. (Says the certified bookworm.) It’s about exercising your mind and using that knowledge. There’s nothing like reading a book or a series of books, and a small detail or sentence back there comes to mind as you’re reading something over here, and you’re like “Holy CRAP.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, and let’s keep in mind that the people doing “peer mediation” of HR stuff are presumably the same ones who reject books for being “girly.” That’s going to be some terrible peer mediation.

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            I guess “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is a no-go, then?
            “YaYa Sisterhood”?
            “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings”?

            Maybe a biography of Cesare and Lucretia Borgia?
            “The Art of War”?
            “The Prince”?
            “The Psychopath Next Door”
            “Outsmarting the Sociopath Next Door”

        1. Christmas Carol*

          I would like to respectfully recommend How to Get a Job, Secrets of a Hiring Manager, by Alison Green

          1. Lizy*

            That’s probably not a good book in this situation. I mean, this is a work issue, and I’m sure plenty of women explain things, too, and we really shouldn’t generalize that all men are asshats that “mansplain” to women only. It’s basically reverse discrimination, and quite frankly we need to rise above that and be better.


            1. Yessica Haircut*

              You definitely got me on this one! I could feel my blood pressure rising for the first half of the comment.

          2. banoffee pie*

            How about ‘how to lose friends and alienate people’? Think it’s more of a memoir/comedy though

        2. Emma2*

          I haven’t actually read it, but Whistle Blower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber by Susan Fowler feels like it might be a useful read for this team.

        3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          I would love to recommend Bad Blood…or would that be considered too girly because it’s about Elizabeth Holmes?

          1. CalypsoSummer*

            It’s all about some blond chick who decided to dress in black because Steve Jobs did. WAAAAAY too girly!~

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            Was that a movie about a school that turned into something like Nazi Germany? One of my kids had to watch that for a sociology class ‘cough’ years ago.

          2. EPLawyer*

            We watched that one in High School. back when we rode dinosaurs barefoot in the snow uphill BOTH ways to school.

            1. Candi*

              Saw that in high school too. Fellow student kept asking why the teacher got disciplined the way he did. I commented he was supposed to be teaching history, not making them be good little N[bleep]s.

              And we rode our dinosaurs without saddles.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I think Lord of the Flies is a good book, but it is not a kid’s book, or even a “young adult” book. Partly this is the subject matter, but also it simply isn’t written to appeal to that age group. It gets assigned to high school students because the characters are of that age. This is a failure of logic.

          1. Pool Lounger*

            Most books you’re assigned in high school aren’t written for young adults or kids. Middle school maybe, but by high school you’re reading LOTF, Catcher In the Rye, Walden, Grapes of Wrath, etc because they’re considered lit canon. LOTF I remember as being one of the few books we read in hs, along with 1984 and Brave New World, that most of us students seemed to like and relate to (as opposed to The Scarlet Letter, which led me away from Hawthorne for years, sadly).

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              You make a fair point that these aren’t written for young adults. I put it poorly. A book can appeal to that age group without necessarily being written for it. I don’t think Lord of the Flies does, despite the age of its characters.

              1. JB*

                I don’t think any of the books we read in high school appealed to the majority of young adults. Schools aren’t actually interested in teaching a love of reading, just familiarity with ‘the classics’.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  My sense is that this has changed in recent years. My wife teaches high school, but not English, and my kids are in middle school. The books I am seeing or hearing about aren’t nearly the dead white guy canon I was raised on.

                2. Candi*

                  If it helps, Richard Hershberger, one of my college English classes was all about reading not-dead-white-guy stuff. We wound up with Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (it’s pretty dry, I think it’s a translation problem), and One World Two: A Second Global Anthology of Short Stories</i), a collection of short stories edited by Chris Brazier, Ovo Adagha, and a few others.

              2. JLP*

                I hated LOTF because it was assigned as punishment in like 8th grade. Also, it’s all boys. I’m annoyed by the number of white male authors I had to read whereas others my age didn’t have to read Jane Austen. (My own school’s curriculum … mileage will vary by school district)

                ::puts away soap box::

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              And Hawthorne is a tough row to hoe for that age group. Melville, too. Moby Dick is every bit the classic it is reputed to be, but I was about forty before I could appreciate it.

              1. Metadata minion*

                I love Moby Dick, but both I and it are kind of weird. It’s the literary equivalent of having Ishmael sit on your couch and ramble about whales for 12 hours straight. I have no idea what high school students are supposed to get out of it other than some interesting vocabulary about 19th century whaling technology.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  To the extent that it is, or formerly was, assigned reading in high school I suspect it was because of the exciting whaling parts, not the discussion of cetology. This is what the old Classics Illustrated comic books were for.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  Oh, I also love Moby Dick. I’m autistic and a lot of my friends are to, so for me it was “my friend is infodumping to me about whales :)” and put me in that mindset.

                  My senior year english teacher did not like my essay about Ishmael being autistic, though. That one got me sent to the guidance counselor and forced to redo it.

                3. Candi*

                  I read an abridged version that took most of the whale and hunting data out.

                  @KoiFeeder, that sucks. If we can theorize Holmes was high-functioning ASD, why not other characters? As long as it remains a friendly debate. (For what it’s worth, I think Ishmael had some PTSD going.)

              1. Candi*

                Thing is, I didn’t like it. Too much of it seemed “people being stupid to be stupid”. Bigoted reactions I get, but some of the material seemed “stupid to make plot.”

            3. Hex Libris*

              For me, Scarlet Letter was one of the few assigned books in high school I actually liked. I refused to read Steinbeck after getting mauled by The Red Pony freshman year.

              1. Guin*

                My daughter was assigned The Red Pony in sixth grade, and I refused to let her read it. I read it in 7th grade and it scarred me forever. I wrote a letter to her teacher explaining why I felt graphic scenes of a dying and dead horse were inappropriate for a girl who had been taking riding lessons since she was four, and spent all her free time brushing the ponies at the barn. As I recall, she ended up reading some nebulous John Cheever story.

          2. Person from the Resume*

            It gets assigned to high school kids because it’s a classic. High school students are often assigned books that wouldn’t be considered YA or that they are likely to enjoy because the book is a “classic.”

            1. BubbleTea*

              The definition of “classic” apparently being, books by white men which the school administration had to read when THEY were teens. Rather like the argument that English public schools (as in, fee paying private boarding schools) are “character building”. Sure, but what kind of character are we aiming for?

      1. banoffee pie*

        I don’t see what the problem is even if the books are ‘girly’. Aren’t some of the staff women? I don’t get it. I’d be tempted to say, all faux-naif ‘but is there something wrong with being a woman?’

        1. CalypsoSummer*

          ” . . . is there something wrong with being a woman?”

          If you’re a dedicated dude-bro, there sure is!

    4. Magenta Sky*

      That alone would warrant including in the email that the CEO gets cc’d on links to the numerous recent news stories about the toxic bro culture in many startups. And the effects those news stories have on the companies.

      There are very few good ways to be famous on the internet. And this isn’t one of them.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I would absolutely loop in the CEO because she needs to know what B.S. is happening in the lower ranks. If she doesn’t mind, that will tell you a lot about how much you want to stay there. I find that often at a startup the higher-level folks are more accessible, so take advantage of it.

        1. OtterB*

          I agree you should loop in the CEO and let her response help guide whether you try to stick it out longer or bail now.

        2. Omnivalent*

          The CEO won’t care. But you loop her in anyway so that when you leave and negotiate severance pay and a neutral reference, you’ve got proof that the CEO was on notice of the toxic culture, and can’t pretend to be shocked, shocked to find dudebro hijinks at her company.

          1. MoreFriesPlz*

            This is a new issue happening several levels down, that it seem unlikely anyone’s told her about. If all that’s been messaged to her is “team building is happening!” she might be pretty surprised /displeased.

        3. Chauncy Gardener*

          I’m sure the female CEO would love to hear about the “girly” judgement calls happening in her company.

    5. kt*

      Can we get the rec list, OP? Would love to read with you! Seriously genuinely interested! Let’s put it in the Friday thread if we don’t want to derail.

      (I’m betting you didn’t even propose any Jasmine Guillory novels…. which are what I’ve been reading :) )

    6. Sara without an H*

      I would have recommended Robert Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule.” Would that have been considered “girly”?

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Eh, it might pass muster if they just focus on the macho-ness of the word “asshole”. But yeah, I’d be tempted to recommend this too!

      2. Elitist Semicolon*

        I used to assign this – or at least the “Are you the asshole?” quiz – when I taught pre-professional students. It’s a good entryway into talking about situations where calling someone out is necessary (ex. for safety reasons) and how to do that without being an asshole.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’m guessing “girly” means it’s about psychological health and these are the kind of dudebros who think only ladies have a psychology.

    7. JSPA*

      more than rub the wrong way…

      They are literally saying, “girl things are not company appropriate.”

      Think about that. Maybe substitute in any other class-protection type division.

      This company is quite possibly well over the bright, shining “discrimination” line–not just tiptoeing along it.

    8. Cricket*

      A couple years ago my team did a book club. It was ok most of the time, but all the books were very White Man. I suggested a few books by women and they all got shot down, lol.

      1. Candi*

        The trick is to suggest authors where the names don’t sound female, due to pseudonym use or language patterns. At the least, the reactions when they find out will be filmable and uploadable to Youtube.

        Start with George Sands.

    9. raincoaster*

      This company sounds like they’d instantly buy into any management training bullshit book if the author’s photo looked sufficiently roidy. I’ve dealt with Those People.

    10. Web of Pies*

      Also you’re just supposed to read 10 measly pages of fiction? I want my stories in 50-page chunks at LEAST.

      I vote the program should flip, two 45-minute reading sessions per day and 10 reps of exercise.

  4. bunniferous*

    Yeah. Some folks at my job did this one. A hard NO from me. Ridiculous. People can do what they want tho.

    1. Miss Muffet*

      It’s a totally diff ballgame, isn’t it, if a small group say hey we want to do this and keep each other accountable? People do this with weight loss or whole 30, etc, challenges a lot. But those folks are actually just opting into it, and happen to work together and it’s not a part of their work performance.
      They’d probably still insufferably talk about it all the damn time… ha

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I’m such a contrarian, I’d probably bring donuts and heat bacon in the microwave just to torment and sabotage them.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          And read great fiction, and comment constantly about what excellent lessons it holds for business success.

          1. R*

            Clearly the most efficient solution is to pick up a copy of Like Water For Chocolate or some other book with elaborate, lusty descriptions of meals and hit ‘em on both fronts at once.

            “Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour.“

            Make eye contact while you read them that last part.

          2. Candi*

            There’s a great line in one of Katharine Kerr’s books, I think The Black Raven where Nevyn reflects that they spent so much time making Maryn an awesome king candidate, they neglected (Nevyn too, he was tutor and advisor) to work on Maryn’s interpersonal skills on the civilian level. It’s a very good thing for Maryn’s back, at least twice over, that sworn loyalty is a Big Freaking Deal in their culture.

            And we’ve heard of managers like that on here. Great on running businessy things, terrible at people skills, and then they wonder why people bail.

      2. Andy*

        Yeah, but this one sounds unhealthy. If you are fit, young and do sport a lot, you can do two intensive 45 mins of exercise per day. If you are out of form, your change to injure yourself with such regime is unreasonably hard.

        And you are supposed to eat right and more when exercising a lot, so that bodyb recovers. This program combines above with diet.

        Same with cold showers. I do cold water hardening and one of recommendations is to start slowly. You are supposed to listen to your body and stop when it feels bad. 5 min is where you get after a while.

        1. ceiswyn*

          I have Raynaud Syndrome, as do around 1 in 25 people. Let us say that when your fingers go white in room temperatures below 18C, cold showers are… not recommended.

          1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

            Right? Everything else aside, (and there’s a lot else to put aside) this regime would put me in hospital. Literally.

          2. Irish girl*

            i fell you, i dont have it Raynaud’s but my grandmother did and i have poor circulation and wet and cold equals really bad for me.

          3. brunhilde*

            Me too! And let me tell you, the physical recoil reaction I had to that part of this Whole Lotta BS was EXTRA. You can pry my boiling hot showers out of my hands never. Not even after death.

            1. La Triviata*

              Also, I’m older and have arthritis. Some mornings a hot shower is one of the things that get me moving more easily.

              So … nothing girly, nothing accounting for older people or with a disability … anyone have the EEOC on speed-dial?

              (not relevant, but in regard to the liters of water, I recently read a forbidden fiction book in which someone snorted two kilos of cocaine … um, no)

              1. Candi*

                What!?! Even if they COULD snort that much, they’d be very dead before they got through it! Plus all that lost profit.

                Research, people!

          4. Rebecca Stewart*

            I swear I spend six months of the year just keeping my hands and feet warm.

            Problem is, if you just suffer through it? Every chill and rewarm cycle damages the blood vessels. I’m nearly fifty and the tip of my right thumb is now just a little numb all the time. I’m upping the care. I do not want to wind up losing fingers in my old age.

          5. Susan Ivanova*

            That, plus metal plates from a broken ankle a few years back that are letting me know right now that it’s down below 50F. I don’t even want to know what would happen with cold water.

  5. Erin*

    I enjoy exercising, reading, and eating healthy food. I also know that I need to drink more water. Nothing about being forced to do this sounds like a positive experience.

    OP, I hope you find a new job very quickly.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience blah blah.”
      WTF is team building if not a supposed positive experience?!

      1. The Other Katie*

        Teams at this company can bond in shared misery over their work environment without adding this in, I’m sure.

        1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

          (insert slow clap here)
          The OP’s description of this place made my skin crawl. I can’t imagine a job that would pay me enough to do something like this, regardless of any hypothetical future career impacts (and they are hypothetical). Surely in this job market you can find somewhere that offers career growth that doesn’t deliberately try to make you miserable in your free time.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          That actually happened with me. I was in a miserable job. I still periodically meet up with some of my partners in misery, fifteen years later.

        3. quill*

          Reminds me of trauma bonding within cults, ESPECIALLY the peer call-outs and bullying.

          OP: if your company shares two things in common with Syanon or Scientology, that’s two too many. Get out!

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I am DEEPLY skeptical of anyone who believes that team building and personal development aren’t intended to be a positive experience. If your manager’s primary philosophy is that the only way to “become a better person” is through suffering, I very highly doubt that they’re a supportive and competent manager in other ways.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yep. I came here to comment on “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience blah blah.” too. It’s a team building thing. It should at least make some attempt to be positive, and it should have an opt out option.

          1. Candi*

            I mean, at least with Capture the Flag nonsense you get positive “we beat them/we’ll beat them next time” vibes, even though there is usually some suffering. Or a baking contest. Or decorating cubicles for the holidays. This mess is just… seems like it was made by someone who enjoys the thought of hurting, and others hurting.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I enjoy all those things and am already by nature a pretty committed water drinker and four liters a day is a hard “no” from me and my kidneys.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Yeah, between a bladder the size of a walnut and the blood pressure medication that’s really a diuretic, I’d have to move my desk into the bathroom so I could sit on the toilet full time.

      2. londonedit*

        Yep, my normal week involves running on four mornings and drinking about 3 litres of water a day. That’s as much as I’m prepared to do – and half the point of me doing it is so I can also drink wine and eat cheese.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah that’s a lot of extra time in the toilet. I mean I don’t think I can drink that much water without a lot of water emptying time.

          I do a dance class for about 1 hour about 3-4 nights of the week and another on Saturday but that’s about as much exercise as I have time for in my life given the need to work, cook, do other life maintenance etc and have a social life.

        1. Reba*

          I just commented that below lol. This line runs through my mind whenever I see people just going about their day with giant personal water bottles. (understanding that people have different needs, I would never say anything about it!)

          1. The Magpie*

            I do have a giant personal water bottle with me all the time at home, and a slightly less giant personal water bottle with me when I’m out and about, but that’s only because I get very suddenly, very intensely thirsty ALL the time. I think it’s probably related to having IBS and constant environmental allergies.

            But, either way, I just have it with me so that I always have adequate water on me to slake my dry throat and mouth whenever it arises. I don’t actually force myself to drink water when I’m not thirsty.

      3. Sleet Feet*

        So did drink a gallon a day for a while, and I got water poisoning. It was no joke severe muscle cramps, fatigue, brain fog, and awful GI issues. I had to not drink water for a couple of days and eat more salty foods to recover. It was awful.

      4. Aggretsuko*

        If I drank as much water as people told me to, I’d just live on the toilet all day. I’ve tried it and know from experience.

      5. Jill of All Trades*

        The blood levels of one of my meds rises and falls with the amount of water I consume in a day. If I’m too dehydrated, I can end up in the hospital due to toxicity. If I drink too much water, its effectiveness is reduced and I’m likely to end up in the hospital due to my symptoms coming back if I don’t correct that within a few days. My current dose is pegged at 2-3 liters of water a day.

        I am so salty over people who demand that employees do exercise and diet regimes (with progress pictures???? what the frolicking frogs).

      6. Velawciraptor*

        I’ve got a maximum fluid intake recommendation from my cardiologist and 4 liters is more than double that. Hard pass.

        Some people just prefer to take medical advice from their doctors rather than from some con artist their employer is infatuated with. Weird, right?

        1. Candi*

          Whether you believe Frank Abagnale’s story about impersonating a doctor, at least he talks about researching the material and handing stuff he didn’t know over to the actually trained people. That’s way more than these type of scammers ever do!

      1. I Faught the Law*

        I was immediately reminded of Joe de Sena, who founded the Spartan Race Series. I enjoy the events, but his personal philosophy and the lifestyle he follows (and forces his kids to follow) are maniacal.

    3. Olivia Mansfield*

      “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience . . . ”

      I laughed at this and it’s not even funny, but how typical of startup dude-bro culture!

    4. T. Boone Pickens*

      I was stunned reading this letter. I’ve done 75 Hard and I’d like to think I’m in pretty good shape. It was brutal…BRUTAL. On no planet would I ever consider this to be a WORK APPROPRIATE team building exercise. I mean WTF!

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        We could all sing together, I recommend “Look Down” from Les Mis.
        Now THAT’s a team building exercise.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Or divide into two teams, each with its own chant:

          “Sparta, Sparta, we make the earth shake! Yeah!”
          “Trojans, Trojans, we will never break! Hyunh!”

      2. kt*

        Agree. I know people who’ve done it/tried it. I think it’s great if you want to do that sort of thing (minus the water, that’s potentially unhealthy). I find challenges interesting as a means of self-exploration, and am willing to get a lot of flack from ppl for doing a Whole 30 or whatever. And also, this is not at all work-appropriate.

      3. Anon for this*

        Yeah, I managed two hours of outdoor exercise, each day, only missing days when it rained, all summer… but now that it’s winter that’s just not possible, it gets dark way too early. And I never did the rest of it, although I enjoy some non fiction.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          Yup, I did it over the summertime too because there was no way my backside was gonna go outside in subzero weather to bang out a workout. As Murtaugh says, “I’m getting too old for that shit.”

  6. MissBaudelaire*

    I mean, how much crap are you willing to put up with because it’s a great resume builder? OP, I wouldn’t tolerate this. I see no issues with doing as Alison said and writing to your manager and CC’ing the president. This is just all kinds of Nope.

    I never saw the beat of “We need to bond as a team!” Do we? Why? Can we just get work done and have fun now and then? You can’t make me like or be pals with any of these people.

    1. The Original K.*

      And if colleagues want to become friends, it’ll happen organically by virtue of time spent together. You spend enough time together, similar personalities/common interests tend to find each other. You don’t have to force it.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I have coworkers I like well enough but I don’t need to have a best friend at work. I have real life for that. If I make a friend, great! But I get paid to work, not join a clique.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          One might argue that, at many startups (especially in tech), employees don’t have much of a “real life.” Your coworkers might be the only people you see (other than a romantic partner or roommate) in a given week.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        Right? I have coworkers that I am pretty close to, but we just vibe well. I’ve also had coworkers I didn’t hate, but I wouldn’t invite them to my birthday or anything. We made pleasant small talk, and worked. And we were all content with that. No one made us take cold showers or anything to do it.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          “Managerial magical thinking” is a perfect description of this. I like it as least as much as “amateur startup bullshit”!

          I’ve never worked at a startup, but I have experienced a ton of “managerial magical thinking” in my time, and it is every bit as bullshit
          as the amateur startup stuff! ;-D

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      The point about bonding as a team is managerial magical thinking. A team that functions well often will bond as a result of this good functioning. The idea of going out for drinks after work seems plausible: the fact that they function well tends to make them enjoy one another’s company, so extending this after hours becomes desirable. And part of this efficient functioning is that if some of them need to get home to feed the kids, this is not a big deal: We’d enjoy it if you could come, but of course you do what you need to do.

      Where the magical thinking comes in is that the manager thinks the direction of causality can be reversed by fiat. If a team that functions well spontaneously does stuff together outside of work, then our magician manager concludes that forcing a team to do stuff together outside of work will make them function well. This is a subset of the broader class if incapacity for abstract thought.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Richard, I appreciate your brilliance and insight—this sums up the problem in a nutshell. (And is applicable to so many other work issues as well. Like, high-functioning teams make it safe for people to offer feedback. Therefore, we will require you to give your boss feedback, even though it may not feel safe. Then we’ll have a high-functioning team! Or…y’know, not.)

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        “We’ve bonded through adversity and become so close!”

        “We better create some adversity so we can bond!”

        It’s a slippery slope.

        1. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

          I worked for an organization where a staff bonding exercise was hiking to the top of a local Very High Point together. One of the more buff bro’s on staff who leaped up there like a billy goat said to me after I finally hobbled to the top that we were “bonding through adversity.” Yeah, bro, mileage varies on the adversity thing. Bro was way below me in seniority and I shut him up with a look.

      3. Sara without an H*

        Excellent point. “Team building” is also, in my experience, a substitute for actually analyzing what’s going wrong with the team in question. Faulty processes? Unclear goals? Excess bureaucracy? Poor management? (NO! It couldn’t be THAT!!!)

      4. Anon for this*

        I bonded very well with our overtly anti social team member, simply because we were the two best people in the department and were constantly working together to pick up the mess caused by 40 people being sloppy and careless. He did not do casual conversation. At all. But we have a wonderful working relationship built around “you won’t believe what we have to pick up now”

      5. Candi*

        This kind of fill their schedule with hardship nonsense also works against team bonding. People who are tired, stressed, and physically sore generally have much less patience and tolerance, while people who are well-rested, relaxed, and feeling okay to good are more tolerant and open to what their coworkers are up to. Silly and funny things are also more likely to happen, and shared laughter is a very strong bonder.

    3. Sacred Ground*

      If/when this company’s toxic culture and total cluelessness brings it to a public scandal, or as word gets out in the industry about how poorly it’s being run, then having it on your resume may end up hurting you.

  7. Web of Pies*

    Oh god, the heavy bro vibes. It is hard to find the words to explain how much I hate your description of everything happening! “It’s not supposed to be a positive experience”??????? My condolences that you have to work in that, OP.

    1. All the words*

      It screams “This is how you alpha male. What loser here doesn’t have what it takes to be an alpha male?” to me.

    2. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Yeah, that one is a LOT. I’m sorry, but existence is tough enough right now to subject myself to something you actively say ‘isn’t supposed to be a positive experience’ in the name of team bonding. What the heck.

    3. Anonybonnie*

      Speaking of bro vibes… my first thought reading all this was how pissed off my OB would be at the very IDEA of me exercising and dieting at this level right now. And I’m nowhere near the point in my pregnancy where I’m ready to tell my manager.

      1. Candi*

        Now I’m having a freakout of what this kind of stress can do to someone who’s pregnant. People don’t need that!

  8. Chairman of the Bored*

    I’d get a doctor’s note saying that she advises I not participate in this idiot scheme for vague “medical reasons”.

    I dare an employer to be so stupid as to explicitly ding me on a performance review because I was following medical advice. That would make my year.

    1. KHB*

      Oh, I would (or at least would like to think I would) get a doctors note asking for me and everyone else to be excused for very specific medical reasons. I imagine that any sensible doctor would be as appalled by this as we all are, and they’d be able to go on the record saying that this is not a good plan for pretty much anybody.

      I wonder how the division lead would respond to a note like that.

      Other than that, I just want to applaud you, OP, for kicking up a fuss about this in public, in front of your whole team. Not many people would be brave enough to do this, but whenever employees see that they’re not alone in thinking that management is being ridiculous, it helps everyone. Go you.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        I would 100% get a doctor’s note telling me that cold showers are contraindicated for me because Reasons.

        1. Az*

          I was in the army (a long time ago). They told me where I slept, what I ate, and when I showered. But they did not tell me what temperature I could have my shower. If it would be an overstep for the literal army, there’s no way I will put up with it for a regular job.

      1. Deen*

        I’ve done this program- I lost 15lbs and completely tanked my mental health. It is so completely time- and thought-consuming trying to keep up on all of the daily requirements (literally no off days or you have to start the program completely over), I can’t believe an employer would be encouraging it. I found it very at odds with being tuned in and productive at work.

        1. Foila*

          Yeah, even if I for some godforsaken reason decided to try this if my own initiative, it seems like a good approach would “let’s not and say we did”.

    2. anonymous73*

      Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother with a doctor’s note. No company is going to force me to participate in something that has NOTHING to do with my job. If they want to be petty and downgrade my review for saying no, let them. This is not a place I’d want to work. I would polish off my resume and be 100% honest in any interview when asked why I was looking for a new job.

    3. Brett*

      You don’t even need vague medical reasons. Working out 90 minutes every day is going to be outright rejected by just about any doctor. Even top tier athletes build in rest days. As someone currently training to try to represent the US in international competition (age-group, not talking olympics), I would be furious about this as it completely screws with training program that has been developed with the help of personal coaches and nutritionists.

    4. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      This is the exact right thing to do. There are plenty of reasons why people would not want to do this, many of which are protected by the ADA, not to mention that armchair psychology is often actively harmful.

    5. Hekko*

      I advise that my patient NOT participate in this lunacy, as it is unhealthy for any and every human being I’ve ever encountered in my carreer.
      Signed, any sane doctor of medicine


  9. Terrible as the Dawn*

    I’M sorry, but is that “45 minutes, twice a day” requirement a total of 1.5 hours of exercise a day? WHEN DOES THAT HAPPEN EXACTLY. And then I still have to find the time to make a prescriptive meal instead of ordering out? Excuse me, please, but can I do that on work hours? Will you contract a laundry service for me? What the actual.

    1. Miss Muffet*

      I was thinking the same thing. And all the reading, etc. I mean, sign me up if you’re still paying me 100% to work 3 hours a day to have time for the rest of this BS but even then. Rest is also a part of a good workout routine…

      1. Cora*

        I also don’t like the focus on only reading nonfiction. People who have this little empathy and consideration for other people are the exact ones who should read some fiction, not just more “mental toughness” books. \

        But mainly, who has time for all this. When in the world am I supposed to exercise for 1.5 hrs a day!!

          1. Sara without an H*

            I know! I’ll read Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Both volumes! Especially the chapters on pastry and sauces!

          2. Tessie Mae*

            Except they probably have to be pre-approved cookbooks, which only contain “healthy” recipes consistent with the program. No 101 Tasty Appetizers/Scrumptious Desserts.

        1. MilitaryProf*

          Sadly, many of those same folks will define the “mental toughness” books as non-fiction, even though the vast majority of them are just the ramblings of a delusional author, making them, by definition, a work of fiction masquerading as non-fiction.

          1. Despachito*

            Of course, because it takes really a tough person to read all the BS.

            This is really awful. I wonder whether the company gives its employees PTO to fit in all this nonsense – 1 hour and a half for the exercise (wait, make it at least two – of course they will need to change and shower to look professional – and that is, if the gym is on the company premises and paid for by the company. If they have to travel to the gym, I’d say at least two hours and a half. Plus the gym fees covered, of course.

            Then the diet – of course they will provide you time to prepare the healthy meals, which might take about an hour.

            Plus the reading – how long can it take an average reader to read 10 pages? I’d say an hour too, and if someone is dyslexic, they will of course need acommodation for that.

            That is, if I am counting correctly, already about 4,5 hours of the company time dedicated to your health, and of course paid for. There is not enough time left for work? Tough luck then, they do not want you to jeopardize your annual review, as they themselves said this would happen if you do not follow all their BS … or do they?

            Oh, and an extra bonus – you will toughen up your mental muscles every day by having to deal with such obnoxious, clueless asshats as your management. Better than dumbbells…

            1. Nina*

              Sorry, I know I read fast, but I’m hearing you say the average reading pace is ten pages of a trade paperback an hour? that… explains so much of my life.

              1. Despachito*

                Being a fast reader myself, I was just guessing – a wild shot in the dark.

                Do you think that an average reader will take more, then? That would be great – if the employer is so invested in the employees reading non-fiction, he’ll be certainly happy if they do it meticulously, as deserved.

                So let’s add another two hours – one of thorough reading, the other of drying your hair, as ColdFish is so rightly suggesting. I think we are up to 6:30, with an hour and a half left for work… oh wait, you are entitled by law to have a lunch pause, aren’t you? And you will certainly want to chew slowly to avoid digestive problems – your employer will definitely understand, as they take such extraordinary care in employees’ wellbeing….

        2. Llellayena*

          Well, AAM classifies as “non-fiction” so if they want me to read 10 AAM articles a day (on work time of course, they’re work related articles!) I’m ok with that. Hello, archives! But cold showers? Total of 1.5 hours of exercise a day? Overly rigid diet (aside from the See-food diet: I see food, I eat it…)? Hell no.

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          Some of the shallowest and most boring people out there are the ones who don’t read much fiction.

      2. alienor*

        A while back there was a trend on YouTube to follow some guy’s “Billion Dollar Morning Routine.” It had some not-bad stuff in it (although it also featured cold showers, WHY) but the main drawback was that it would literally take hours to do the whole thing with all the meditation, journaling, reading, smoothie-making, tea-drinking etc. I work at home and am able to have a relatively chill start to the day, but not that chill.

        1. quill*

          The kind of routine you can have when you have a billion dollars and don’t have to do any work whatsoever.

          1. Nanani*

            And get to count your routine as “work” where normal peopl have to actually work and do the routine outside those hours.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      My first “hell, no” was the cold shower, but, yeah, this program demands that you commit nearly all your nonwork weekday time to it.

      1. Terrible as the Dawn*

        I’ll be honest, I think I was so horrified reading that requirement (in November, in a very northern climate), that I skipped straight over it the first time.

          1. Terrible as the Dawn*

            Maybe we can compromise and designate a temperature of relative cold– I mean, my showers are much hotter than those of my spouse, so what if I shower that that temperature instead? Seems cold to me!

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I saw something about this somewhere last week and looked up Hard 75, and at least the version I found, that wasn’t one of the requirements – “just” the other five bits of stupid.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          I mean, the tap water is not that cold where I live, but it’s still too cold for comfort. I also have hypothyroidism, so cold and I aren’t good friends. I’m the kind of person who will skip a shower if there’s no hot water –it’s my time to relax, not to curse out the entirety of the Norse pantheon because I’m bloody cold.

    3. Science KK*

      My passive aggressive self would totally ask how to mark that on my timesheet, as well as what the manager would be having sent to us/cratered in regards to the meals…..since ya know, it’s a job requirement, so they MUST be providing this vague healthy food.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, that’s a REALLY good question to ask. Point out that if this affects evaluations, it is legally considered “required” and thus, work time.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        I just thought of that! Like, okay, you gonna go grocery shopping for me, foot the bill, and teach me how to make all this stuff? I’m not a great good (I would hazard I’m a pretty terrible one) and I am not wasting groceries on all this!

      3. Faith the twilight slayer*

        Yes, this right here. Hey, where are the TPS reports? Well, boss, I gotta go do my second workout of the day, followed by reading time, plus I still haven’t done my shower. Oh, and I’m away from my desk most of the day because I have a bladder about half the size of a golf ball. So, no reports today. But Jim and I had a great workout sesh this morning, so this teamwork thing is totally working!

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Right? Although if they allowed for that on the clock, I might be pursuaded. Please pay me while I take a long run through a beautiful park. Travel time also on the clock.

    5. ENFP in Texas*

      If it’s a work requirement, then it should be done on work time. “You want me to do this and if I don’t it will be reflected on my job performance? Fine. I’m blocking two 45-minute ‘meetings’ each day for this work requirement.”

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Better make them an hour, so you have time to shower and change afterwards. I assume one of those showers can count as your five-minute cold shower, and the other one can actually be hot?

    6. nerak*

      Also 45 of those minutes are supposed to be outdoors, regardless of the weather. I know a few people who have participated in this “program” and surprise, surprise, none of them actually see it through for the full 75 days, because it’s AWFUL.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        It sounds like a great way to do yourself an injury. I love working out but rest days aren’t optional, or you WILL screw up your body. This would be inappropriate regardless of the specific programme but this one sounds like a fast way to end up in a significantly worse state than when you started.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          (Well, I guess a really experienced person under a trainer’s supervision might be okay… but not random office workers starting cold while also working full time and doing all this other bullshit!! Agh!)

          1. Despachito*

            Haha, I tried the 30-days shred, twice.

            Every time, I lasted two days and spent another two weeks with a terrible pain in the neck.

            This is what you get if you come up from zero exercise to a full-fledged exercise within a day.

            Oh, the abyssal depths of stupidity of the management…

          2. pope suburban*

            A decent trainer would not ask you to do this. I actually manage to hit a few of these metrics (2x 45 min workouts, consistent meals adhering to a diet) and mostly-hit a few more (hydrate well, read- but I include fiction because books are great), but I’m a) wildly fortunate in my commute/work hours, and b) a competitive athlete. These expectations are totally flippin’ ludicrous and are simply not realistic for most people- I might even go so far as to say the vast majority, even. And you’re right that this is simply not safe. None of my coaches would tell me to do this. None of the trainers that work out of my fight gym would tell people to do this. It’s just a pile of bad ideas, even for people who are already very physically fit. The time investment here is unrealistic, the diet requirement is problematic for a zillion reasons (Allergies, mental-health concerns, money, time available to meal prep), the physical requirements are ALSO problematic for a zillion reasons (Disability, illness, time, money), the reading requirement is sexist anti-intellectual horseshit, and the people peddling this- at work! WHERE IT WILL SCREW UP YOUR EVALUATIONS!- are so full of it it beggars belief. I hope these people are plagued with the feeling that they are about to sneeze for the rest of their lives. This is just awful and I’m stunned that anyone could ever find this even remotely acceptable.

            1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

              ‘I hope these people are plagued with the feeling that they are about to sneeze for the rest of their lives.’
              That’s a very Yiddish curse and I love it.

            2. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

              Thank you for both taking this garbage apart piece by piece as a competitive athlete AND that excellent curse.

        2. nerak*

          No, for sure. I work out regularly and still make sure to have 1-2 days where I do little to nothing except walk the dog slowly.

        3. Gothic Bee*

          Agreed. I work out 5 days a week, and I need those 2 rest days or I end up injured (I’ve repeatedly tried to go to 6 days a week, but I always end up worse off). Not to mention, I worked up to where I am now and I struggled with some injuries early on until I figured out what worked best for my body. Someone who doesn’t already have a regular workout routine just jumping into 45 minutes twice a day is a recipe for injury unless maybe they are doing really gentle workouts intended (like a leisurely stroll and some gentle stretching).

      1. Rainy*

        I have asthma and live in fire country. There’s a pretty long stretch every year when I am stuffed to the gills with medications to support my lungs and I am still absolutely not supposed to leave a heavily air-filtered area if it’s not completely necessary.

      2. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        For no REASON too. That’s what gets me most about 75 Hard – there’s no evidence for any of it, it’s just like “this sounds hard for people, so do it”.

        1. quill*

          You don’t have to put your whole self in the shower, right? You could just turn it on cold and stick one hand in at a time….

    7. Hogwash*

      I LOVE working out and get cranky if I can’t fit it into my schedule, but 1.5 hours? I know what happens to my back and knees when I go overboard (good lord do I sound old) and I just don’t see this as healthy for the average person. There was even a study that showed that progress plateaus at a certain point for cardio- based exercises no matter how much you work out.

    8. Cat Tree*

      This type of book is marketed primarily to middle class straight men who have wives or girlfriends to handle everything else in their lives so they have time to do this exercise. Or maybe it’s a subtle suggestion to use illegal stimulants?

      1. Observer*

        This won’t even work for that very narrow demographic. Even if yo narrow it even more to YOUNG guys with all of these resources.

        Like, what happens if you live in fire country (as a few people mentioned)? Or in areas where deep snow falls are common? That takes care of the outside workouts.

        What happens if you have a physical issue? Slipped disc anyone? Problem knee? etc.

        I could go on, but it’s just ridiculous.

        1. Hobbling Up A Hill*

          Didn’t you know, you can ‘mental toughness’ your way through silly little physical issues like that with no long-term consequences.

          That’s how bodies work, right? /heavy sarcasm

          And yes, you can mental toughness yourself through some level of pain – as anybody with chronic pain will tell you – but doing it repeatedly, for long and strenuous periods is likely to lead to Very Unpleasant Consequences.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Or maybe it’s a subtle suggestion to use illegal stimulants?

        Yeah, illegal stimulants is one possibility. I suspect that there’s a huuuuuge overlap between the target market of this book and the crowd that’s into legal and legal-ish brain hacking stuff like nootropics. The “obsessed with finding ways to avoid having your state of flow interrupted by biological needs like sleep” branch of startup-culture self-improvement explains a lot.

    9. ceiswyn*

      I actually manage to do about 3 hours of exercise (walking) every day. By getting up ridiculously early and not having a social life.

      I also hike 15 miles most Sundays, no matter the weather, and do challenge walks for fun (say, 23 miles over most of the Welsh Black Mountains, including a 1800 ft ascent after 17 miles). I am not a normal human being.

      Am I ‘75 Hard’ enough for you, OP’s boss? Would you like to criticise my ‘girly’ tastes in books?

      1. ceiswyn*

        (I would also like to add that one of the reasons I do this is that I have an eating disorder that I can’t get treatment for. I do not need my eating habits to get further disordered, thanks. Also, I am almost permanently suffering from some level of minor injury, as are most of the friends I walk with, because this stuff puts a lot of strain on the body. Don’t be me, people. Have a glass of wine and chill. It’s healthier in the long run.)

    10. JustaTech*

      Yeah, my spouse was doing that much exercising when he was training for a half Ironman. He also took a one month sabbatical from work specifically so he could do that much training, as it is totally incompatible with, you know, working.

      I guess if you bike commuted to and from work every day that could count towards your “45 minutes outside” thing, but that’s going to be limited to a pretty small proportion of the working population (live in a place where a bike commute is both feasible and safe).

      Me? I’d start taking calls from my rowing machine. Video calls. Makes the other folks motion sick pretty quickly. (Actually that’s not true at all; I would get really upset, probably cry, and put my foot down that this is insane and start job hunting.)

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, pre-COVID I was getting about 40 min of exercise each way on my bike commute, which would have been super easy to round up to 45 min by riding a block or two out of my way. But I took weekend breaks to let my body rest.

    11. LQ*

      I assume since this is a work requirement those will be paid hours and one full day worth of work per week will be lost and that the company is fully on board with that.

      I’m assuming folks here are salaried but if you weren’t this would be an EXCELLENT thing to push back on since that’s a very clear time frame that is being mandated by your employer.

      1. LQ*

        Sorry WELL over a full work day, I assume you have to do this on Saturday and Sunday too, which would potentially dip into any states that have rules around how many sequential days hourly staff can work or any OT issues for items such as those.

    12. Van Wilder*

      As a working parent, this sounds like an actual nightmare. I notice there’s no requirement around getting adequate sleep.

  10. londonedit*

    Good lord. Just when you think you’ve heard everything…! Firstly, no employer of mine is going to tell me I can’t have a gin and tonic. Secondly, I’m currently not allowed to do strenuous exercise while I’m under investigation for an autoimmune condition that sent my heart rate sky-high, and I’d rather not have to explain to random people at work why I’m not doing the two sessions of 45 minutes’ exercise (also that’s a LOT for people who may never have done much exercise before – basic recommendations from the NHS are to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise spread over a week, or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise spread over a week). Of course there will be some people who’ll have no problem fitting two 45-minute workouts into their day, but plenty of people will struggle even if they do have the right fitness levels. This is just asking for a load of injuries and it’s a nightmare for anyone with dietary issues or eating disorders. There are so many things wrong with this that I can’t even be bothered to list them all for fear of boring everyone with a giant essay.

    1. geek5508*

      ” 150 minutes of moderate exercise spread over a week ” – that’s about how much time I spend walking my doggos! At least I am with that part of the “program”
      (but the rest of that stuff is FUBAR)

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly – the NHS are all ‘just go for a moderate walk five times a week’. That’s a sensible basic level of exercise for most healthy people. Not an hour and a half of crazy workouts every day.

        1. London Calling*

          And that’s easy to commit to because it’s reasonable and you’re more likely to keep it up. Not some pseudo bootcamp nonsense.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Yeah, if dog walks count my dog and I are definitely up for two 45+ minute outdoor exercises a day during work hours, more if it is nice out. The dog wouldn’t mind the daily progress photos either, and I already have him on a very boring diet with no cheat meals or alcohol. The 10 pages of non-fiction and the cold showers would be deal-breakers for him, unfortunately. I suppose I could do the 10 pages of non-fiction part (TTRPG rulebooks and cookbooks both count as non-fiction, right?), but we’d need to add a third member to the team to take on the cold showers. Perhaps a Labrador retriever or a river otter could be persuaded. If we could split the 4 liters of water among the me-dog-otter team that would also be pretty achievable at that point, so I guess that’s why this program is good for team-building.

    2. Not really a Waitress*

      If my employer does not want me to drink, then my employer should not be the reason I need to drink.

        1. Be kind, rewind*

          You and me both! But I was still super happy when one of my favorite restaurants started selling to-go sangria.

  11. Murphy*

    Obviously all of this is terrible, but “work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes”

    90 minutes every day? Can you charge this to work time? That’s a heavy commitment that work is making for you.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      Came to say this! Plus, daily reading requirement and 5 minutes of cold showering, and presumably more complex meal planning and the stupid photo shoots… All that together is HOURS to do something that is so hare-brained and insulting that even five minutes of their nonsense is 5 minutes too long!

    2. tg*

      Does this advice change at different ages? Are Megan (55) and Dave (25) expected to do the same workout? (I don’t care enough to look it up…)

      1. Selina Luna*

        Does it change based on the level of fitness someone has going in? Megan, the 55-year-old marathoner, and Dave, the 25-year-old competitive Magic the Gathering player are likely to have very different abilities to exercise for 45 minutes straight. I’d have struggled with that when I was a competitive swimmer in middle and high school!

    3. Campfire Raccoon*

      The people implementing this don’t have kids/spouses/parents/pets/house/car/life obligations/common sense. 90 minutes a day?! Maybe on a weekend where my husband has taken the kids to Australia and they’ve been gone a whole week so I’m finally caught up with all the OTHER things I have to do.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        I’m going to guess they all have spouses *cough*wives*cough* who can take care of all those other pesky details.

          1. KGD*

            Yeah that’s my thought too. I have about an hour and a half a day where I’m not working, parenting, or doing housework. This program is literally impossible for someone with small children (unless, like Empress Matilda mentioned, you’re getting all this free time on the back of someone else’s hard work). It’s crazypants. Also, even if I was childfree and had a full-time butler, there is a zero percent chance I would be willing to spend my time that way. Picturing taking “progress photos” to show my employer the impact of my diet makes me want to barf.

            OP, if you really don’t want to quit and are worried about the impact on your review, maybe you could just lie?

            1. Campfire Raccoon*

              It’s the progress photos that enrage me the most. I could probably spend the time to unpack why and verbalize it in a calm, rational manner, but: pass. LE BARRFFFE

        1. quill*

          Or they don’t do their work of living because they can afford cleaning and never cook… or because they’re fratbros whose photoshoots would reveal that their homes are biohazards.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Seriously! I’ve been making a real effort to work out 3 times a week, and I keep getting sidetracked by various kid and family obligations that come up in the evenings. Twice a day, every day would be absolutely impossible unless it could be on work time. And my spouse and I split child and family responsibilities pretty evenly most of the time!

        And others have mentioned the outdoor workout component. When exactly would they like me to do an outdoor workout when my spouse is on work travel and my children are too young to be legally left home alone? And when am I supposed to cook special food for myself that my kids probably won’t eat?

        The person pushing this clearly doesn’t have kids or other major caregiving responsibilities. Or major medical conditions. Or any sense at all that their own life might be different from others.

        1. JustaTech*

          Well you just put your kids in a running stroller or bike carrier and bring them along! It’s not like any of those things are expensive! It’s not like it’s hard to find a safe place to run or bike in the winter in North America!
          So very, very sarcastic.

          Even when I’m training for a half-marathon I don’t run for 90 minutes every day! Every training schedule I’ve ever looked at has built in rest days so you don’t hurt yourself.

          Whoever designed this “program” clear hasn’t had any training (or done any reading) on sports medicine or exercise physiology.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Ha, my twins are 7 years old, so a jogging stroller is definitely out! I guess they could bike alongside me when I run, in the dark and cold, during the time that they’re supposed to be doing their homework? Will the people pushing this program explain to their teachers why their homework isn’t done?

      3. Metadata minion*

        Oh, but you can do the exercise with your kids! To teach them healthy habits! (According to them. This sounds like an excellent way to give your kids an eating disorder and/or stress injury.)

    4. London Calling*

      In old job I left at 6.45 am to get across London. Sometimes it could take an hour, sometimes two, and the same for the reverse journey. Add in 8 hours work a day and you know, A LIFE, and I’d be noping the hell out of that before they’d finished reading it out. Or saying if it was work mandated, then I’d do it in work time.

      And they’d be prying my beer out of my cold dead hands after a 12 hour day. Honestly, some of the stuff I read on here makes the places I’ve worked look like beacons of normality

    5. retired runner*

      I used to run ultra marathon distance races (purely by choice) and a lot of the training for those involved running or exercising twice a day. that kind of training basically was my fulltime job and didn’t leave me much mental endurance to do a good job at my actual fulltime job.

      1. londonedit*

        I’ve trained for three marathons and even that completely took over my life – I did a training plan with five sessions a week and it was a lot. There would always be a point at about week 10 when I was just ridiculously tired and hungry all the time.

        1. Selina Luna*

          My father-in-law does something like 20 marathons a year. I’m not even exaggerating. A few years ago he got some insane award from his running club for doing 10 marathons in 2 weeks. Even he would see this plan as excessive. I’m just out-and-out bashing this plan at this point. It’s basically more dangerous than the nonsense in the movie Heavyweights.

    6. Idontevengohere*

      I’m also pretty sure the requirement is that one of the work outs be outdoors – you know ideal for winter.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Yup. Or summer, for that matter. Where I live, we lost count of 100-degree days, and we spent the whole season under a blanket of wildfire smoke.

        I work out more than most people I know, but who even lives in a place where “outside” is a reliably healthy/safe option all year?

      2. Brett*

        Winter is bad. Summer is worse. Do this in summer and someone in the company is going to end up with heat stroke.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        Right? I guess they live in the South and not the Upper Midwest. I once sprained my knee by attempting to exercise outside in January. Slipped on black ice. Have a permanent back injury as a result. That was trying to simply walk. Is this company willing to pay for health care that may be needed as a result of this crazy stuff???

    7. NeutralJanet*

      Not to mention that if you don’t exercise regularly, abruptly starting to exercise for 90 minutes every day is likely to backfire—and I’m assuming that the exercise in question is supposed to be at least fairly intense.

      1. quill*

        I exercise pretty regularly and 90 minutes a day at moderate levels would still be asking for an injury for me! There’s a hard limit to the amount of time I can spend on my feet.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Yup. I too exercise most workdays, but only for about 30 to 35 minutes a day (and some of those days are yin yoga days where the intention is to do light stretching and rest/recover the body) – I couldn’t do 45 minutes twice a day either. My body would give out not even halfway through the second session.

    8. B*

      I see myself lying on my cube floor, eyes closed, doing my first set of kegels….the progress pics are going to be a challenge though.

    9. EmmaPoet*

      My personal workout routine is about 90 minutes three times a week and long walks in between whenever I can. I do a warmup walk, weights/calisthenics, and a cooldown walk. I also live alone and can schedule this around my actual life, and there are still days when I wake up and go, “Nope,” because I have a migraine or whatever. If I had to do this, I’d count in my travel time and the walks I take to and from public transportation as my outdoor exercise. Because stuff this.

  12. Amethystmoon*

    If my company did this, I would seriously be looking for a new job. Our health insurance hoops to get the quarterly discounts are invasive enough without doing something additional.

    Also how are they going to police the cold shower thing??? That in and of itself is ridiculous.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        All they would get were photos of my head with dry hair and then wet hair. That only proves you took a shower. It could have been hot.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            But that also can be faked, and date/time stamps can be altered on photos. (Photography is actually a habit of mine, and I have gotten pretty good with Photoshop). Again not provable without doing some illegal things with video cams.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      I would spend 1.5 hours each day aggressively looking for an new job and I’d lie and tell them it was totally my two 45min workouts each day instead.

    2. Ellie*

      They’re not going to police anything, they can’t. They can notice what you’re doing right in front of them, and that’s it.

      Seriously OP, just lie about it. Put a rough spreadsheet together with all the stuff they recommend and then spend 10 minutes of work-time a day ticking things off of it. They’re not going to know. A couple of times a week, go for a walk or make yourself a salad, and then take a picture of it. You don’t even need to do the walk, just snap a picture of the sunrise, or the sunset, and leave it at that. Keep one of those big water bottles at your desk and maybe one of those fit balls, some inspirational picture, and you’ll look the part without having to do anything. And keep the junk food to eat in your car on the way home.

    1. Generic Name*

      That’s what I was thinking! Or maybe they are thinking the time commitment is do-able because of the time saved by taking 5-minute showers?

  13. Almost Empty Nester*

    Admittedly not helpful, but WTAF??? That’s all I’ve got. Wholeheartedly agree with Alison…job market is pretty good right now.

  14. The Smiling Pug*

    Why do companies feel like they can do this??? Forcing people to participate in health regimens that aren’t medically sound baffles me. OP, please do feel like you have to suffer through this nonsense just to have a stepping stone into a career. Alison’s right: there are other jobs out there.

  15. Em*

    I love this advice, and want to add it would be great to drop into water cooler talk that you’re not participating, and that you notified your boss/grand boss/etc. I’m not sure from your letter if your other colleagues who aren’t convinced know just how much YOU are unconvinced, but it may give other people courage to join in your totally reasonable refusal.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I was thinking if it were me, I would send Alison’s recommended words in an email and copy all! But I have so much capital at my job that I could get away with it.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I was really hoping that the reply to OP’s list of reading was in a return email, because I’d be sharing that little bombshell with everyone up the pike.
        My “girly” suggestions were not approved, because they do not support the manager’s idea of team building, which is “not to be fun.”

    2. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Great idea here! OP if you’re comfortable, I’m sure lots of your colleagues would be immensely grateful to have someone lead the charge on not doing this! (Unless of course all your colleagues are secretly masochists)

    3. Underrated Pear*

      The thing is, I have worked at a small startup that I bet is similar to the OP’s workplace. The problem (well, one of the many problems) was that there simply wasn’t anything resembling a grandboss/HR/manager. It was just two bros – who were also literally bros, as in they were brothers – who owned the company. If you had a problem with one of them (and many, MANY people had a problem with the younger brother, who was a terrible bully), there was nowhere to go. There were different teams/departments, but none had a manager, only a person who was the de facto senior member whom everyone went to with questions.

      And you know what? There were a number of positive things about working for a small place like that. But I will never do it again, for a number of reasons, chiefly the fact that life quickly becomes hell when one person in charge becomes more and more of a bully and there is literally nothing resembling an HR or even a go-between manager. (They also tend to be staffed by single people in their 20s, which IS fun when you are one of those 20-somethings, and less fun when you are older, have a family, etc.)

  16. Dust Bunny*

    If you want to see mental toughness just find out how stubborn I can be when somebody tries to foist a (crazypants or otherwise) diet and exercise regimen on me.

    1. Reba*


      I would love to reply, “I’m already plenty mentally tough. For example, I let it roll off my back when you all deride my book choices with your weird ideas about gender. Plus, I’ve decided I’m not doing this program and nothing you can say will change my mind! How’s that for fortitude?”

      What a scam.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      *me waving my walking stick* bring it on! I’ll show them mental toughness. I am the original battle axe of IT.

    3. Hobbling Up A Hill*

      I think I’d laugh if someone talked to me about the need to increase my mental toughness.

      Bitch, I do a mental toughness workout every day. It’s called existing in constant pain and with chronic illnesses. I’m still here so I’m winning.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Had to get the husband to help me get dressed this morning because my spinal injury wasn’t having any of this ‘put bra on’ nonsense. I say if I can get through that without breaking down in tears over how much of a burden I am then I’m doing ok.

        (It’s fifty fifty if I do though. I hate being in pain 24/7, I hate having limited mobility but I hate having to rely on others just to do simple life things the most

        Love and hugs to you mate, you sound like you know this struggle all too well :(

        1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

          Yeah, go about your daily business with constantly dislocating hips and spine, every day, and then get back to me about mental toughness, sunshine.

        2. Rebecca1*

          At this point, I wouldn’t break down in tears over thinking I’m a burden– but I would absolutely cry tears of rage over what a burden bras are.

    4. Willis*

      This. This example is so extreme that it’s just stupidly ridiculous but even if it were actually some healthy program, it’s not work’s place to foist it on people. I don’t even drink all that much, but I sure as hell am not going to stop because my boss wants to do a bonding program, let alone any of the other dumbass stuff. Like, the idea of him thinking he had that much control over me is really laughable.

      Definitely tell the owner. If you have his response that your reading suggestions are “girly,” that would be thread I responded to with her cc-ed.

  17. Generic Name*

    “Part of me thinks it’s time to cut bait, but honestly, this particular job is a major resume builder to a great freelance career so I should probably hang out for a while.”

    No. Eff that noise. I’ve learned, through lots of therapy, to pay attention when I tell myself I “should” do something. There are plenty of normal and functional companies that won’t subject you to ableist bullying where you can build your resume for your future freelance career. Or heck, start freelancing now. It’s an employee’s market now. Vote with your feet and say no to a toxic workplace.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Yes. Don’t stick with something horrible for a future maybe. I bet that OP can find something else to build their resume without this nonsense.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Also how great a resume-builder is it really going to be in the long run? These kind of dudebro toxic dipshit companies always look glossy at first and then are outed as hives of scum and villainy. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the reputation you would get from hanging around there long-term.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Exactly. A job applicant coming from Uber corporate 10 years ago might have been desirable. That same candidate now would get massive side-eye and a lot of questions about how they dealt with the toxic culture there and would they be bringing it here.

        Bad companies do not look good on resumes.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      It’d be one thing if this was a complete and temporary anomaly in an otherwise normally functioning company. Then maybe ride it out until people come to their senses. But they seem pretty dug in about this with the threat to *downgrade your annual review* if you refuse to participate. That is so not okay! Also the lack of a real HR person/team or even real HR processes reveal bigger issues with this place. Peer mediation?? Whatever you might think of the CEO, they are setting up their company to fail and allowing it to become toxic in the meantime.

      There have got to be other places that offer similar resume-building work that won’t punish you like this – highly recommend seeking those out.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Either the CEO doesn’t know about what her subordinates are doing and is therefore incompetent, or she does know and is okay with it and is therefore incompetent.

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Run like the wind! The cold wind down the backs of all your outdoor-exercising colleagues!

  18. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Oh double heck no. I’m already under the care of my doctor and a real registered dietician for my chronic condition. There is nothing on that list I would do even if I were 100% healthy. It’s a good thing that the job market is healthy because this program is not.

  19. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    My progress photos would be my blood pressure going up each day or my progress applying and interviewing for a new job. I’m an adult. I know how to water and feed myself. I know how to exercise and what workouts work best for my needs. I am capable of picking my own reading material. My weight is fine. Fo F-off.

    Also, I get a huge “Neo-Spartan”, for people that no nothing about Sparta or into-to-Proud Boys vibe off of this. I’m surprised “No-fap” didn’t make the list.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      New company value: Every Llama, Inc. employee is a master of their domain. You will all be evaluated on this goal at performance review time.

    2. oranges*

      It’s the adult part, yes. I am 100% satisfied with my diet, exercise, and showering routine.
      Leave me alone.

      1. JustaTech*

        The “progress” photo is just a sh*t icing on this turd cake for me.

        I eat a nutritious, balanced diet. I read plenty of non-fiction (though mostly fiction). I run a half marathon every year. My weight and body composition don’t change appreciably over the training season. That’s because I’m training to run, not trying to lose weight (or put on muscle).
        There’s nothing wrong with aesthetic body goals *at all*, but there is also more to exercise, life and health than just weight loss.

    3. Emma2*

      If I felt I absolutely had to offer up some token participation, I think my progress photo would be the top of my book with a bookmark 10 page further on each day.

  20. SecretKrampus*

    TBH, I saw something like this at my old job. They did a “biggest loser” contest so one of the staff could sell Shakeology. It was one of the most demoralizing things I ever saw. Wtf.

    1. SnapCrackleStop*

      The company I’ve worked for has definitely had some missteps and a Biggest Loser competition is towards the top of the list for me. There was not MLM tie-in, but I just couldn’t believe that HR was running 1) a weight-loss competition and 2) one with such a terrible name and associations. I’m appalled to know that my workplace isn’t the only one that did that.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        The Biggest Loser event at my workplace was started by a VP (whom I generally liked and respected) who was trying to lose weight and he thought it would be “fun” to get people to join in. He made it into a contest with a $20 buy-in with first, second and third place “losers” to win cash prizes. The company nurse did a weekly weigh-in. The prizes were to be presented at a quarterly division meeting. I thought this was a bad idea for all sorts of reasons, but it wasn’t required and there wasn’t any pressure so I stayed quiet about it.

        After months of listening to people talk about calories consumed and what everyone weighed, we all got corralled into the division meeting for the presentation of prizes. The #1 weight-loss champion was smiling ear-to-ear as the VP congratulated him on his wonderful accomplishment. The wide smile changed to a look of disbelief when the VP announced that he was “sure all of our winners will be even happier once they donated their winnings to [insert VP’s chosen charity] to feed the hungry.”

        All of the people who signed up were suck-up bro-dudes, so, I have to admit, this was pretty funny. Still inappropriate at work, but funny.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Just wanting to let you know that I love your username and now want to do a Secret Krampus gift exchange (whatever that would entail).

      Also, I saw something like it at two old jobs. One did a biggest loser contest. It was entirely optional, and no one that I knew participated. The second job took it a bit farther – two years before I left, we all received an announcement in the email that we would be able to get a $600 discount off our health insurance premiums by going to one of the company’s clinics for a physical. (Translation: your premium will go up by $50/month if you don’t do this.) I went. Got weighed in my winter clothes, coat, boots, the works. Got my blood taken and the person somehow caused a lot of bleeding with a simple finger prick, that took a while to stop. At least, they looked alarmed as I was sitting there dripping blood. The year after that, new email came out: do the company physical again, but this time, if your numbers are outside the norm, you’ll have to enroll in a program to lower your BP/cholesterol/lose weight/what have you. If you don’t enroll, your premium will go up. Hints were dropped that, in the following years, your premium would go up if your numbers didn’t go down, but I left the company a year later and don’t know if they went through with it. In an office environment, where people in 9-5 desk jobs were praised and promoted for working long hours, I think the company would’ve made out like a bandit on premium increases with that new policy.

      1. Cora*

        With this policy the winter clothes thing is brilliant – just take off your boots next time and you’ve lost a few pounds.

    3. Campfire Raccoon*

      I’ve been at places that did “The Biggest Loser”. It was awful. The lady that sat behind me already had a major issue with food. She’d gain and lose 100 pounds over and over- and that’s all she talked about. 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. Anytime she was on a downswing she’d proselytize about food/diet/water/MLM weight loss stuff. After every holiday season she’d be spearheading The Biggest Loser constest. At one point she got low enough she had tucks done – and then four months later gained all the weight back. It was hard to watch and listen to. It certainly didn’t help my own body image issues. (Typing this all out is giving me the jitters and now I need to rage-chomp gum.)

      1. Oodles of Noodles*

        I feel awful for her. Having lost 100lbs myself several years ago, I can’t imagine yo-yoing through that a few times.

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          Congratulations on your weight loss! It’s hard work!

          It was so hard to watch AND be supportive. She’d do crazy crap to lose and when I’d call her out on it, she’d act like I didn’t have the same “knowledge” she had. Girl. Girl. You cannot drink spicy lemon water and only eat 15 almonds for lunch and expect to be healthy. Once she got her grandmothers(?) diuretic pills. Every 45 min, “Raccoon! I am peeing SO MUCH!” Just… ugh.

    4. Emma2*

      Alison had a classic post a few years ago about a company that had a weight loss contest complete with a reward cruise at the end for those who lost 25 pounds (no exceptions) – it was bad. Will add a link in a reply.

  21. GigglyPuff*

    Do people not realize drinking too much water can also fuck you up?
    That’s almost twice the recommended amount for women.

    1. Serin*

      You’re suggesting that what’s “healthy” varies from person to person? BossBro thinks that kind of thinking lacks mental toughness.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, boss made that clear. At least not in his department. But it’s actually too much water for a guy as well.

    2. Pool Lounger*

      The myth that you need to drink so much water is wildly pervasive. I don’t get it. It doesn’t help your skin, it doesn’t detox you. Water in food and coffee is still water and contributes to the water your body needs. Just drink water when you want! I can’t imagine my work telling me how much to drink.

      1. Malarkey01*

        YES. Eat fruits and veggies and you almost hit your hydration level. Overhydrating can cause issues too.

        1. Cat*

          Exactly! Especially changing how much you drink without medical advice! If I drank that much along with 90 minutes a day of exercise I’d end up hyponatremic extremely quickly.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yes, I’m a nursing mother and there is soooo much advice (and products) about hydration. Of course my body requires more water and of course it’s common for new parents to be busy and tired enough to forget about their own needs. Fortunately the actual experts I’ve heard from advise drinking based on thirst, but quite a lot of people think that drinking more beyond that will make the whole thing suddenly easy.

    3. Robin Ellacott*

      A colleague a few years ago was hospitalized from drinking too much water. I had no idea that was possible until it happened to her.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        When the Wii first came out, a young, healthy woman died from chugging too much water too fast for a contest. She was trying to win a Wii for her three young children. At least it made national news, the contest organizer lost his job, and people were warned not to do this.

    4. Fabulous*

      I had to look up how much 4 liters was again… just over 1 gallon or around 135 ounces. I definitely used to drink that much while I was pregnant! Though I might be back to around 80-100 ounces per day at this point.

      All this I guess to say, 4 liters really isn’t an insane amount of water.

      1. Fabulous*

        This doesn’t mean that the program itself isn’t insane. It totally is and I would refuse to participate as well. Heck no.

      2. Observer*

        It is an insane amount for most people. No one is saying that NO ONE should EVER drink that much. But, it really IS too much for most people. A program that is being SUGGESTED at work should absolutely NOT have a “requirement” that is a bad idea for the vast majority of people.

      3. Just another librarian*

        I drink between 3 and 4 liters a day (pregnant currently but have been a nursing mom as well) and my body has made it clear that’s ‘ideal’ for ME. in no way shape or form is it prescriptive but it’s not like, an unhealthy amount either.

        1. Observer*

          It’s worth pointing out that nursing makes a HUGE difference in how much water you need. So much so that the fact that if this is a reasonable amount for a nursing woman to be drinking, then it’s almost certainly too much for most people.

          Keep in mind that just amount of water that’s leaving your body in the form of milk can easily top top a liter.

      4. Astor*

        I also used to drink 4L of water every day at my desk just because I liked it and it made some of my health issues better. But recently my doctor made me lower it because of other issues. It’s like the exercise: 90mins isnt necessarily a lot, but it isn’t neutral.

    5. EmmaPoet*

      Yes, I’m someone who deals with dehydration issues due to various medical problems and I can’t drink that much without getting sick. There are very, very few people who need to drink that much water.

  22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I want to talk about these progress photos that, as Alison mentions, are part of 75 Hard. Any work-appropriate outfit that I can think of will do a terrible job showing my “progress” in muscle building and weight loss. Are they asking for daily photos of employees in tight clothing?

    1. Sacred Ground*

      Yes. They are requiring employees submit revealing photos of their bodies for managers to judge them and will downgrade their performance reviews if they don’t show progress or decline to do it at all.

      The coming class-action judgement against them will likely be way more than the salary of an HR director who could have told them not to do this.

  23. irene adler*

    * drink four liters of water per day

    So your facility has the bathroom capacity to handle this?

    Ridiculous! Let employees do their work. That provides plenty of bonding activity right there.

    1. SecretKrampus*

      Also if you drink too much water some of your daily medication could become diluted and ineffective. So….yikes.

    2. Siege*

      No, they should DEFINITELY do this. I’m on a serious diuretic and drinking about a liter and a half a day, and a big part of me wants the clown who pitched this to have to experience some of my bathroom urgency. It might make them recognize one small component of ableism, when every meeting is disrupted every five minutes by people who need the bathroom.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Ha, that’s kind of awesome actually. (Not your diuretic of course – I hope things resolve for you soon!)

        But I was thinking of only one person having to get up and use the washroom multiple times a day. The idea of multiplying it by every single person in the office is highly amusing! Between the 2x 45 minute workouts and the constant need to refill water bottles and empty bladders, they would literally never get any work done. Just retribution, as far as I’m concerned… :)

        1. irene adler*

          “literally never get any work done”
          My point-thank you! Folks would be lined up at the loo- again and again-throughout the day.

          That’s gonna deeply cut into productivity. Management good with that?

    3. Reba*

      Re: the water myth that will not die, check out the Dr. Glaucomflecken video called “Hanging out with the nephrologist.”

      “Is homeostasis a joke to you???”

      The podcast Decoder Ring also had a great episode on how “hydration” became A Thing.

    4. Archaeopteryx*

      The water thing is so ridiculous. Even the classic “eight glasses” idea is wrong- plenty of that liquid comes from the food you eat, not just eight solid glasses of water. Four liters is an excellent way to mess up your kidneys, or at least pee yourself on your daily 45-minute outdoor forced march?

    5. anonymous73*

      I drink a gallon per day, which is slightly less than 4 liters, and I can attest that I spend a lot of time in the bathroom LOL. But this whole thing is crazy town. Regardless of this particular regimen, your employer has ZERO business trying to force you to follow any type of diet/exercise regimen. They can F all the way off.

    6. A CAD Monkey*

      Speaking as someone who drinks ~5L of water a day to help stem digestion issues, this is a ridiculous requirement and i’m personally in the restroom once an hour because of it. out of an 8 1/2 hr day, i spend 40 to 45 min just going to the restroom.

  24. Renee Remains the Same*

    I would love to see a debate between Alison and this person’s manager. I’d pay money to watch.

    1. Indy Dem*

      Alison would hands down win, even if she didn’t have her best two weapons – “the blue box of clarification” and “the italics of smackdown”.

  25. Richard Hershberger*

    These are the letters I live for! I hate every single part of this program–even the reading ten pages of nonfiction a day. I do this already, but making it mandatory would make me hate it. And apparently I don’t get to choose the book, and I almost certainly would hate the ones chosen for me, even before getting to the “self-help and business books” part of it.

    Also, if working out an hour and a half per day is a mandatory job function, it follows that I can do this during work hours and that my work load will be reduced accordingly. Did I get that right?

    In all seriousness, I would have no qualms about simply lying. Cold shower? Sure, boss. Of course I did that: very stimulating! Progress photos? Sure! The progress they show may not be immediately obvious, though…

    1. Siege*

      I normally read a lot of non-fiction, but my pandemic burnout has turned that into a hard no. Sounds like torture, in so many ways.

      1. Classic Rando (she/ her)*

        Same, and I wouldn’t even put effort into the lie. Like, “yeah, this ham sandwich and chips is definitely part of my approved diet” said with open contempt at whoever asked, and submitting the same “progress” photo over and over again.

        And CC the big boss on every email about it while also applying for better jobs.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Ten pages of non-fiction? How about reading Alison’s response and the comments. There’ll be more than 10 pages right there telling OP’s boss what a load of bullshit this 75 Hard program is!

    3. AFac*

      I *like* reading non-fiction more than I like reading fiction, and it fits more into my ‘read a page here-and-there when I get a chance’ lifestyle. But I do not read self-help and business books, because even though I prefer non-fiction, I want something that will entertain me (for my values of entertain), not scold me.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh, I thought of the *perfect* book for malicious compliance with this absurdity! “The Guide to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel. It sounds very bro, but it’s actually a graphic novel memoir of the author’s lifelong love of exercise and fitness set against the sports fads of our times. And since it’s a memoir it’s also about her life, loves, career, family, etc. Did I mention she’s a famous lesbian who invented the Bechdel Test for movies?

    4. Tali*

      Agreed, I really wonder how they intend to police and evaluate this. What if you just lie about everything? I really doubt even the higher ups are going to successfully complete the challenge.

  26. UKDancer*

    This sounds positively grim and unlikely to be popular (leaving aside the lack of medical soundness of the diet). I hate it when companies try to tell you how to live your life, how much water to drink and what your ablutions should be. I mean it’s just way too intrusive.

    I’d definitely say leave and go and work somewhere with a proper HR, reasonable process and a lack of weird interference in ones personal life.

  27. TeapotNinja*

    How are they going to monitor your “progress” on this?

    I would make it a game to come up with a new excuse for failing every week/day. The more outrageous the better.

  28. oh no*

    idk why but the thing that stood out to me is that four litres of water every day is a good way to excrete too much magnesium/potassium and accidentally dehydrate yourself (because your body needs salts to absorb water properly!) oh, unless you’re taking the supplements the program conveniently sells you, i suppose…
    source: my neurologist, who made me cut back to 3L :V

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, I have a feeling that a program created by A Guy Who Sells Supplements is not going to lead to the ultimate conclusion that you are totally fine and don’t need to buy any supplements.

  29. Mockingjay*

    Jesus F****g Christ.

    No advice. This can’t be fixed. Leave.

    There are sane jobs out there that will be better resume builders than this place.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      If the company president/owner doesn’t shut this down, then I agree with you. But it’s worth at least trying that first (while job searching).

  30. Presea*

    I am so angry I feel the need to pick apart everything wrong with the program itself. Working out that much is a bad idea for so many people of many health statuses – going from sedentary to an hour and a half of working out A DAY with no transition sounds like a recipe for a gosh darn heart attack, and I imagine people with arthritis would suffer a lot from no transition into it, even though these are both things where exercise can be a benefit. (And are you on the clock during this hour and a half of exercise? Either answer to that question is alarming!) Losing weight is bad/undesirable for so many people, especially if forced instead of gone into willingly. Taking a cold shower is a great way to create physical pain in a lot of people – I suspect I have raynauds or bad circulation. No thank you! And the diet itself… it at least gives you the minor dignity of allowing you to ‘pick your own’ of the standard restrictive diets, but still, dieting in and of itself is not healthy/desirable for a lot of people!

    Even for people who would genuinely love and benefit from this program… not a single one of these things is any of your employer’s business. Not even a little. Even if the program was much gentler and had much broader benefits for a broader group, none of this belongs at work.

    Everything about this is appalling. If they keep pushing… run, don’t walk.

    1. LadyJ*

      I have fibromyalgia and could not and would not meet these requirements even remotely. This is asking for a lawsuit.

    2. Cora*

      What if my diet includes a donut every day.
      Also it cuts out alcohol but what about caffeine? I’m sure not because its all preworkouts etc

      1. Presea*

        My diet is, I eat whatever I want for reasons that are none of my employer’s beeswax, and cheat meals are not a thing to me because I don’t ascribe to any food rules except “is this food tasty and am I willing to accept the monetary cost and short term health effects of eating it”. (Focusing on long-term health effects and food rules more complex than this drives me bonkers, personally)

  31. Merci Dee*

    So, four liters of water is just over one gallon a day. How is anyone going to get any work done when they’re spending so much time in the bathroom?

    Also, I looked up 75 Hard when I ran into a reference to it late last week, and noticed that one of the 45-minute workout sessions is supposed to be done outside every day, regardless of the weather conditions. Your area is buried under a blizzard? Who cares? Go outside and do your exercise, you twinkie. That’s why we’re 75 HAAAAAAAARRRRRRD!! /s

    1. Momma Bear*

      If this is being held up as positive, then I wonder what other toxic and terrible behaviors are also seen as positive when they are not. Like…that whole HR thing.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        The best thing is that it IS NOT supposed to be positive! The response to the book recommendations was that it wasn’t supposed to be a positive experience! Which, I guess it’s nice that they’re being honest, but!!!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          There seems to be a book club-style discussion involved? I’m not sure. But if there is, I would use it to critique the grammar and style. I would not ordinarily do this, even if the grammar and style were terrible, but this is not intended to be a positive experience. I take this as giving me free rein. I fully expect that the grammar and style would indeed be terrible for any book these mooks impose on me, but on the off chance that it is not, I can go into BS pseud0-pedant mode with the fake rules. I know them all, this being among my hobby interests. The beauty is that they are sufficiently contradictory that I am guaranteed to find violations.

          1. Guin*

            I would read everything on my Kindle, and track every single error and typo (and there are a LOT, everywhere.) I would produce graphs and bar charts showing the percentages per page, word count, and publisher, and extrapolate the numbers into foreign language versions. They want non-fiction? That’ll learn ’em.

    2. Siege*

      I just long for the day when I will eventually be able to look around and see not a single bro anywhere in the zeitgeist. They do so much damage to everything and everyone. But these are literally people who think it’s better to defoliate your gut than “waste time” in the bathroom, so eventually that day will come.

    3. ThisIsTheHill*

      Unless you get to use shoveling (known to cause heart attacks – seems like there’s a few news stories every winter here) or snowblowing as your “exercise”.

      I am so angry on LW’s behalf. I saw their comment on the open thread last week & was hoping that they would write in as Alison asked. Banancrackers.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Submitting resumes involves reading non-fiction and light exercise, such as moving the mouse and typing, so I’d do that for 45 minutes a day. I’d also bond with other people who think the proposal is bullshit, so the program works for me.

    4. CreepyPaper*

      I have a hat for a motorsport team which has the motto of ‘go hard or go home’ and even they’d be like ‘nah’ and go to the pub instead. Being ‘hard’ is knowing when to freaking quit and have a pint instead of pushing yourself to basically death. The whole thing is lunacy!

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Played on an adult hockey team that subscribed to this motto (Go Hard or Go Home). Know what we did after games? Yup. They don’t call it “beer leagues” for nothing!

        Even in their bro-ey-est moments, my teammates would have been calling BS on this nonsense!

  32. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Is it too insolent to email the supervisor back saying “You’re either 6 months too early or 6 months too late for April Fools”?

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This is akin to the classic response to a ridiculous lawyer letter, writing the managing partner and informing them that some moron is pretending to be a member of the firm.

    1. Cat Tree*

      It’s also weird that it’s based on number of pages and just feels like an elementary school assignment. On one end of the spectrum you could have a small book with large font, wide margins, and lots of pictures. Ten pages of that would be a lot different than a book with tiny font and no pictures. If they’re setting a blanket goal, why not time-based?

    2. The Wandering Scout*

      It reminds me of when I took a brief step out of my usual English/Humanities degree and did some fine arts papers, and we were asked to write a 500 word essay on an artist of our choosing.

      My fellow course-takers went around with a petition asking the tutor to remove the essay from the assignment because it was asking for an ‘unreasonable number of words’.

      1. Nanani*

        I mean, getting your point across in very few words can be a challenging exercise, and you could argue that it was unreasonably low…

        that’s not the direction the complaint went in, is it.

  33. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I had the Boss From Hell once who actually put the objective of me losing weight on my performance review. His ‘reasoning’ was I wouldn’t be off sick as often if I wasn’t obese and so by getting my weight down to an ‘acceptable amount’ I’d give more value to the company as I’d be getting more work done.

    Total, utter mental shutdown on my part. I tried to complain to HR but she said that he ‘had a point’ and suggested weight watchers.

    My obese state is mostly caused BY my health issues (and the meds I take for them), not by any overeating or such.

    Boss remained adamant that being obese was a ‘choice on your part to be unhealthy’ and that I’d better start thinking about how to improve that.

    I left the firm. First job I ever handed in my notice with no other job to go to. Couldn’t deal with that level of bigotry.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Sadly, no. I did check but was told that since I did have a lot of sick days over one year that any case I tried to bring would swiftly become all about that instead.

        Life with disabilities.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        That was…pretty much what I kept saying while driving home that night. My first experience with fatphobia. Sadly not my last.

    1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      I am disgusted that this happened to you Keymaster. Your body should never be performance managed!

    2. Andy*

      There is podcast names “maintenance phase” you will love it. They just released episode about this exact topic and are generally on your side.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Thanks for the recommendation! This whole shenanigans was around 2012 so mostly I’m just at the ‘I used to work for an arsehole’ state now.

        Still struggle with a long standing eating disorder (nearly died of anorexia in 1996) which fires off when people berate my weight but always getting better!

      2. Mim*

        Hah, yes, just did a search to see if anyone had mentioned this yet. It’s so good. I highly recommend it to anyone who even feels remotely interested in this stuff. (Weight loss / wellness industry, fad diets, BMI and its strange and unscientific history, etc.)

  34. code red*

    First of all, the entire program is ridiculous, much less work requiring it. But I kind of got stuck on “work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes”. Are you allowed to do that on work time? Because that’s the only way I’d ever have a snowball’s chance in hell at checking that particular box.

    1. code red*

      I see from previous replies that happened while I was doing other things that I’m not the only one with this issue.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      I think I’d coerce them into giving me 45 on the clock minutes twice a day for exercise, and use that time for job interviews.

    2. Willis*

      I do think it would be funny to submit weekly “progress photos” of random other people’s abs off the internet.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I laughed at that too! Then I got distracted by my outrage at the rest of the letter. But OP, you definitely have a gift for words!

  35. Holycookiesbatman*

    If you want to be even more mad about the 75 hard- the guy says you HAVE to do one of the 45 minute workouts outside ( doesn’t matter the weather) and the reading HAS to be a physical book, it can’t be on an e-reader or your phone.

    If you miss any item any day- restart your 75 day count to 0…

    It’s such an insane plan and to have your job make you do it???

    1. Kate*

      OK, so I’m reading all these comments and nopeing out so hard (for ALL the aforementioned reasons), but the PHYSICAL BOOK one is the part where I actually recoiled from the screen. LOL.

      Part of me really wants to dig into the what and why of this nonsense but most of me doesn’t want to get sucked down that despair hole. (Also, it’s time for me to go the gym. For my one indoor workout of the day, 30 minutes. Because I’m not HAAAAAAARD, apparently. *eyeroll*)

      1. Can we have single payer now please?*

        The physical book will probably be the book by the guy who designed the regimen, and he’ll get better royalties on the physical copy.

    2. Ev*

      Oh, ffs. While there are certainly valid reasons to prefer reading paper books, if that’s your thing, there’s a certain kind of only-paper-books-count person who makes it clear that they regard books primarily as fetish objects that grant them status, rather than, y’know, one of many ways to obtain information/entertainment. “How will anyone know that I’m a cool, intelligent, manly dude if they don’t witness me holding a physical hardback large enough to kill a man?” It’s just more ridiculous posturing, especially when combined with extremely minimal 10-page requirement of actual daily reading.

  36. WellRed*

    I really wish you could have asked him to explain clearly why your book recommends where “too girly.”

      1. Former Young Lady*


        Talk about the perfect holiday gift for the fragile machos in your life. This brightened my day.

  37. Naomi*

    Plenty of people are trying to make up for things they missed during the pandemic, but I’m a bit boggled by someone who looks back on the past couple of years and thinks “Alas, the corporate team-building exercises we never got to do!”

    1. London Calling*

      I left work in March, and one of the reasons I’m glad I did is thinking of all the team building exercises they’ll be running after 18 months of WFH and all the new people who have joined. I mean hell, my dept didn’t have a team BEFORE covid, I dread to think what it’s like now and what fresh hell management have devised to ‘rebuild the team.’

  38. Torschlusspanik*

    My direct supervisor falls hard for these types of things, but 75Hard would be out, because he doesn’t believe in reading.

  39. Lilo*

    This is utterly absurd and controlling. Your work has absolutely no place dictating your personal life. If your work was a partner trying to get you to do this against your will, I’d tell you to call an abuse hotline.

    Definitely job search, this place is misogynist (girly books) and controlling.

  40. e271828*

    LW, I hope you have this all in email. Especially the remark about the “girly” books. Forward to the CEO. Not sure whether to do this before or after you begin job hunting elsewhere.

    Brotopia startup culture is failing startup culture.

  41. Blomma*

    As a chronically ill, disabled person already living in a considerable amount of pain, I would basically be bedridden if I tried this. As a teen, I tried an intensive PT routine for a few months and was unable to do anything else including schoolwork. I wouldn’t actually be able to do any work if I did this program. Sooooo ableist!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’m the same. I consider myself really lucky if I can get some hydrotherapy sessions in during a month – a couple or so. If I tried to exercise every day I’d be laid up in bed for months afterward.

      Unless they can count using keyboards and mice while gaming exercise. I mean, my hands get a great workout…

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        Yeah, you want me to do this, you’d better be prepared to pay out for a lot of sick time.

  42. Points for anonymity*

    I’m also curious to know if you can do your two 45 minute workouts during work time. No way is my employer getting another 1.5 hours of my day than it already does! Wouldn’t this also have a massive impact on parents/carers and their careers?!

  43. ThanksButNoThanks*

    My first job out of college did something similar! It didn’t occur to me it was weird…I thought maybe that was just part of office life (I’ve since learned that it is NOT typical and agree this isn’t ok). But, feeling like I had no choice but to participate, I had a GREAT time in the daily/weekly check-ins telling people, “guess I lose again this week!” and telling them about the delicious ice cream I ate or enjoyable glass of wine I had. It gave me great pleasure to see the activity organizers clearly jealous that I was happily bucking against their stupid activity. If you aren’t able to get out of it and don’t want to leave your job, why not enjoy all the things they’re prohibiting and tell them you’re fine with losing the challenge?

  44. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    Taken directly from the SHRM site:
    “Numerous legal issues and compliance requirements are related to wellness programs. Federal laws that apply to the design and management of wellness programs include the following:

    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
    Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
    Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
    Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”

    Even if they didn’t intend this as a “wellness program,” then they’re running afoul of all those laws listed above and may eventually have an EEOC or DOL complaint on their hands. That’s not to mention that other state laws may protect you. If nobody will see reason, or if your workplace doesn’t have the minimum number of employees for certain laws to apply, then do as Alison says and skedaddle the heck outta there.

  45. LolaBugg*

    I don’t know if this comment is too far down the thread for many people to see this, but I’m heavily into anti-MLM snarking on Reddit, particularly an MLM called Beachbody. Many of the Beachbody “health coaches” who shill horrible shakes and preworkout powders with no prior fitness or nutrition training ALSO promote 75 Hard as a “mental toughness” challenge. It’s mainly to get before and after picture for their pyramid scheme social media pages. So be careful because it’s possible you’re also working with/for someone who is deep in the MLM koolaid.

    1. Justin*

      Oh I knew someone who was into that one. It was sad to see her fall down that hole but once she did I stopped talking to her.

    2. Amaranth*

      I’m wondering if the company is going to become known for this — working at the shiny new startup that had good potential but was really a front for MLM isn’t the stepping stone you might expect. On the plus side, it sounds like the CEO might not be aware of this side trip to crazytown and might have better sense.

    3. Cookies for Breakfast*

      This! When Alison mentioned that the programme creator sells supplements, my first thought was “which MLM?”. I’m not going to google any of this, because I must tread lightly with content that promotes restricted eating regimes, and everything in the letter has already made angry enough on OP’s behalf (though “le barffe” was hilarious, thank you OP!). But I could totally imagine my old ex-friend who now shills Herbalife and calls herself a “fitness coach” getting on board with something like this.

  46. Jean*

    I’m having a good old time over here imagining the looks on my and my co-workers’ faces if anyone in management so much as suggested this dipshittery to us, much less made it mandatory and threatened to use participation in it as a work performance metric. Some of us would literally throw rotten vegetables.

  47. NeutralJanet*

    Going off of the “it’s not supposed to be a positive experience”, what is with the trend of workplaces trying to push you in your personal life? I’ve fortunately never had this particular experience, but I’ve had higher ups talk about how we should be “willing to be vulnerable” and so forth—I don’t want to be vulnerable at work! I wonder if some managers read about how employees should be able to bring their whole selves to work and decided that that means we should have to bring our WHOLE selves to work, including our emotional baggage and whatnot?

    1. London Calling*

      Yeah, it’s like the ‘bring your whole self to work.’ No thanks. One, work isn’t entitled to assume that it’s that important in my life that I want to share everything with colleagues, and I’ve had colleagues with whom it’s actively safer NOT to share personal things. Two, I have a work self that works and a non-work self once I’ve done my 40 hours and I like to keep work and home separate.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I rather suspect it’s got a basis of ‘suffering builds character and strength’.

      Which is absolute bs.

    3. Sylvan*

      I don’t think it’s an organized effort or even entirely intentional, but it does have the potential to wear through any boundary between work and life. It also creates a dependence on your workplace, if you put your mental and physical health in your employers’ hands by being so “open” and “vulnerable” (more than we already do by getting health insurance through our employers).

    4. Lilo*

      Exactly. I owe my workplace my effort and expertise at work. My job has no physical requirements, I owe them nothing physical. Unless you’re a professional sports player (and paid accordingly) your workouts and diets are none of your employer’s business.

    5. UKDancer*

      I’ve always taken “bring your whole self to work” to mean that people shouldn’t have to hide things about themselves, so for example Firouze in my team can tell me that she struggles with concentration later in the day during Ramadan and ask for her start and end times to be flexed and Tom in my team doesn’t have to pretend to be straight so we all celebrated with him when he married his boyfriend.

      Not that you dump a load of unnecessary emotional crap on your colleagues and you certainly shouldn’t have to share everything if it’s not safe to do so. Most people work better with a work self and a home self. I know I certainly do.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        For sure, I think there is some benefit to the original “whole self to work” thing—we are all people, and it’s not good to pretend like we are all just perfect little worker automatons—but in my experience, far too many employers take it to a weird and inappropriate place

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Yup. It is much like “We are like family.” The original idea might have been good, but it has long since been weaponized.

      1. Observer*

        Yup. This right here.

        OP, if your GreatGrandBoss is as level headed as you think, this alone should get her to shut it down HARD.

    1. Ana Gram*

      Maybe it builds a functional workplace cult and that’s close enough to a team? Who knows. It’s chaos.

    2. Nanani*

      By filtering out all the women, disabled people, older people, and people with any non-work commitments whatsoever. You can have a great cohesive team when they’re identical spawns of the same bro colony!

  48. Jennifer Strange*

    I don’t just want an update for this letter, I need an update for this letter (preferably one where the manager gets his ass handed to him by the president/owner).

  49. LolaBugg*

    I keep trying to comment so I don’t know if this will show up because they don’t seem to be going through. But I am heavily into anti- MLM snarking on social media, one MLM in particular named Beachbody. The Beachbody “health coaches” shill shake and preworkout powders on social media with no prior fitness or nutrition training. A lot of them are also into 75 Hard, mainly because it gives them good before and after pictures they can fudge to show the “results” of their Beachbody programs. I don’t know if that’s what’s going on with your company as well, but it’s possible that someone higher up had the idea to have all your employees do this program so they could use the progress photos to promote their pyramid scheme. Be on the lookout.

  50. Globetrotta*

    My nutritional plan is intuitive eating, which meets my goal of not having an eating disorder and healing my relationship with food, and by definition, doesn’t have the concept of cheat meals, so take that, Tough 75.

    1. Presea*

      Very similar boat for similar-ish reasons here; I choose the food I eat to survive firstly and make myself feel good secondly and that is my diet! It’s none of my employers business if the food that feels good today is something they’d ascribe ‘bad’ morality to or not.

    2. Always Anon*

      This is also me. And like hell I’m going to tell anyone at work about something I’ve been actively working on for the last 20 years. (Yes, it does get easier. No, it never goes fully away)

  51. Sylvan*

    I would straight up rather die LMAO. Even if I were able-bodied, had perfect mental health, and had all the free time and cash in the world, screw this.

  52. she/her anon for this*

    I used to work for a Silicon Valley startup that pushed out ambitious women in my area (let’s say recruiting, but it wasn’t that) rather than promoting us. Including me, hah. We did all kinds of half-baked team building things but NEVER anything this fitness or diety. Even if you want to hang on to the startup cachet, you absolutely do not have to put up with this kind of BS. Startups are definitely not perfect but you can find another one that’s not as bad as this.

  53. Cat Lover*

    Why do companies think that “team-building” needs to be miserable and/or invasive?

    My office likes to order pizza on occasion and complain about patients. Works for me!

    1. zaracat*

      Yeah, my idea of team building is that I bring the team a home baked cake when I work on a Saturday.

  54. QKL*

    My invisible disability would absolutely be exasperated by such a program and would no longer be “invisible.” I’d loose mobility so fast and if the workouts were publicly expected, I’d be on painkillers, walking hunched over, crying while lying in the floor every day. I can only do Physical therapy approved excercises, which are plenty hard for me but cake for people with normal joints. I once had to set up a game plan when a job tuned out to include filing heavy files.

    I do think some of the more subtley problematic things in the letter will turn out to be a bigger problem. This is a woman run company, yet there is a manager with a lot of power who is falling for a program obviously marketed to men, and forcing it on those under him and using terms like, “girly.” The whole system is masculine sounding, there’s probably camo background on the webpage. What happens when the women aren’t as excited about the program not marketed towards them? What happens when the results, which claim to enhance masculine strength, aren’t as obvious on the woman who loves her green drink and slight frame or the woman who carries some extra weight naturally, or the woman who dresses a certain way that isn’t the image projected by this program? What about LGBTQ people? Do the men get better end of the year reviews and better raises? I would be very concerned about a person obsessed with traditional gender stereotypes having so much power in my workplace.

  55. Carol the happy elf*

    Ooookay. First, I see almost any “team buildy” exercises as deeply disturbed and cultish. Second, buying a program that’s so completely controlling is actually dangerous. (We have a young, seemingly healthy coworker who was just diagnosed with a heart condition called “Long Q-T”, and if you threw cold water on him, he would die, especially if there wasn’t anyone nearby who had taken CPR. His brother died during one of those submoronic “ice bucket challenges”, and his sister nearly drowned a few years before, so the dots didn’t get connected. Until he collapsed in his shower when the hot water suddenly went out.)
    Here’s a thought: Everyone take CPR and first aid together.
    Everyone hold a food drive.
    Everyone go paint a Habitat house.
    Everyone go spread mulch at a botanical garden. Everyone volunteer together at a soup kitchen. Tie fleece blankets for tiny NICU babies. (We have 3 men who still do this; babies get NFL logo blankets, because you can’t start ’em out young enough.)

    But sheesh, no butt-sniffy programs, no boot camp, no, no, no. The closest I’m willing to get to a SEAL is on an Alaskan cruise.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      I love your positive (& opt-in only!) activities – sure, we want to better ourselves, but I think helping others is a big part of becoming better.

    2. Jean*

      YES TO THIS. You know what my company does to foster community and team building? Blood drives, community service projects, and potlucks. Sometimes we’ll go to the arcade or do a bowling night. Always 100% optional and low key. LW’s company is being run by psychopaths.

      1. Roeslein*

        Lots of people can’t donate blood for various reasons (e.g. I’m under the weight limit) so it#s not necessarily the most inclusive activity, but otherwise, absolutely!

        1. Walk on the left side*

          When I worked at a place that did blood drives, and I could not donate blood, I baked cookies etc for the folks who did donate to get a quick bit of blood sugar back afterwards. They also had folks who picked up store-bought (and a variety of such, e.g. for those with food restrictions — nut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan…) so “home-baker” wasn’t a requirement either.

          Also it was, as noted, 100% optional and there were other options as well.

          At the different place where I work now, the (pandemic-time) teambuilding I have done with my teams so far has included stuff like a goofy random-teams online trivia thing, a virtual escape room, and a Jackbox games online session all DURING BUSINESS HOURS and optional. We have really good team morale and dedication.

  56. Meep*

    At the beginning of the pandemic, my Toxic Manager sent me an article titled “Microsoft Japan Made A 4-Day Workweek Experiment, Noticed A 40% Increase In Productivity”. I thought she was implying that with the stress of the pandemic, she understood that not everyone was going to work at full force.

    She immediately called me and it became very clear she didn’t even read the article. I asked her if that meant that everyone was working 32-hours a week. NOPE. Still, 50+ hours a week in four days, isn’t that great?

    (The article is here:
    hint: she is wrong).

    She then took this mindset (again without reading the article) and expected me to work from 6 am to 6 pm AT LEAST. Safe to say, toxic positivity needs to be gouged out with a hot spoon.

  57. Meep*

    At the beginning of the pandemic, my Toxic Manager sent me an article titled “Microsoft Japan Made A 4-Day Workweek Experiment, Noticed A 40% Increase In Productivity”. I thought she was implying that with the stress of the pandemic, she understood that not everyone was going to work at full force.

    She immediately called me and it became very clear she didn’t even read the article. I asked her if that meant that everyone was working 32-hours a week. NOPE. Still, 50+ hours a week in four days, isn’t that great?

    She then took this mindset (again without reading the article) and expected me to work from 6 am to 6 pm AT LEAST. Safe to say, toxic positivity needs to be gouged out with a hot spoon.

  58. Shad*

    That whole “5 minute cold shower” thing only makes any kind of sense to me if it’s supposed to be your only bathing. Which seriously only works if you have very little hair.
    Admittedly, mine is all the way at the other extreme (halfway down my back and extremely thick), and lack of water pressure contributes to the issue, but I’m not sure I could even get my hair wet through in a 5-minute shower, let alone get it clean. For once, “I had to wash my hair” is not only the pettiest of excuses, it’s the absolute truth.

    1. QKL*

      There’s this trend called an “ice bath” that some claim can be replicated with a cold shower. The thing is, there’s a breathing technique because it’s dangerous. And I do think it’s a stand alone thing separate from the normal showering.

      I also have thick hair and used to do the cold shock trend when washing my hair at the conditioner phase, it took forever. I couldn’t imagine getting all the shampoo out of thick hair with cold water. With hair as long as yours, it would turn into an hour long hair care routine straight out if the 1900s.

  59. Girasol*

    You have to read books and do 90 minutes of exercise and all but it’s not to be done during working hours. If you’re non-exempt, couldn’t you charge time and a half overtime for that? It’s a required duty of the job if it’s on the performance evaluation, isn’t it? I admit, some people whose physical conditions or family responsibilities prevent 90 minutes of exercise a day under any circumstances couldn’t join in for any amount of money. But it seems like you could round up enough of a contingent who’d be willing to say, “Yeah, I’ll do that for time and a half!” that it could make the company rethink the idea.

  60. Alice*

    Run, do not walk, towards the nearest employment opportunity.

    I would love an update if you loop your great-grandboss. Because either she’s going to flip at the insanity of this, or she’s going to side with your manager and reveal she’s not much level headed after all. Since the place you described seems very dysfunctional, my money is in the latter.

  61. Ginger Baker*

    “Oh, no worries, this ice cream is on my diet plan! Yeah, I am doing a diet based on eating only delicious foods. That’s it, that’s the diet.”

  62. anonymous73*

    Good for you for standing up for yourself and saying no. I like Alison’s recommendation, but I would focus more on “any kind of regimented diet/exercise” program because if you poo poo this specific one, they’ll likely just find another one. They have no business forcing people to participate in something like this. If they want to have it as an option, with zero pressure to join, I can “kind of” see it as okay. But this is bullshit. Keep pushing back and dust off that resume. Your company has no boundaries.

  63. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    “Le barffe” is right! They want you to “make up for lost bonding time? Just…eewww. Forced camaraderie is one of my pet peeves. Work relationships happen organically over time. You can’t force it. What your manager is demanding is so intrusive. There are other resume building jobs out there. Definitely get your resume out there and see what you can find. This place sounds like a toxic nightmare.

  64. DarthVelma*

    I have a profanity laden comment awaiting moderation…but I had another thought. I’m not sure how old this letter is…but do they want the LW and her team to do this OVER THE HOLIDAYS?!?! Like no eggnog, no sugar cookies, no fudge, no pumpkin pie?!?!

    1. Tessie Mae*

      I hadn’t thought of that. Definitely not happening (not that it would any other time of the year, either).

  65. Charli*

    So…there’s really nothing in a 75 hard that they will be able to confirm or deny that you’re doing. What if you just took the progress picture daily and pretended like you were doing it? I mean, ethics of this approach aside this could be a really practical solution. Bring a jug of water to work. The one caveat would be if they planned to do group workouts…

      1. Empress Matilda*

        It’s not a bad strategy if OP wants to fly under the radar while she looks for another job. Personally, I’m in the “burn the place to the ground and salt the earth” camp, but I’m not the one who has to work there!

        1. Observer*

          Yes, it still is. Because there is no doubt that this comes along with expectations of reporting. No thanks!

          1. Charli*

            Report what? I came to work showered….how do you know it wasn’t cold? I do my workout before I came in and one after work. I’m sticking to my diet. Here’s my water bottle, you see me drinking out of it all day. Take a few more trips to the bathroom and say you guzzle the water in the morning so you’re not up 20 times peeing.

            There is nothing here that cannot be faked if one preferred to.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t have a problem with faking it. I have a problem with the implied idea that someone has the right to this information. Obviously, if you really are stuck it better than actually doing what this idiot wants. But, it’s corrosive and ultimately invites ever more intrusiveness. And some of those things might be harder to fake.

  66. Me*

    Def be looking but I think that the nugget that the owner/president is a level-headed woman *may* make it worth talking to her. At the least about the book recommendations being tossed as “girly”.

  67. Show Pony*

    I follow many high level athletes on Instagram, and several of them have attempted 75Hard. Not a single one has ever successfully completed it. I seriously doubt these startup dudebros will get through.

    There’s an equal number of coaches/athletes/health influencers who will tell you that this is NOT a healthy program to follow for anyone, even if they are elite-level to begin with. Making this mandatory for everyone is utterly bonkers.

    1. Me*

      You can’t convince me that anyone actually completes the program. Says they complete it? Sure. Complete parts of it? Sure. But I suspect most proponents are a bunch of people fudging.

      The whole mental fitness aspect of it is especially irritating. Being able to take a cold shower for 5 minutes has absolutely nothing to do with becoming a mentally resilient human.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Agreed. I straight-up do not believe that anyone completes this programme as advertised, and I CERTAINLY don’t believe that anyone does so while working a full-time office job at the same time. Like most of these absurd programmes it’s ridiculous, transparent bullshit designed to make people feel bad about themselves when they fail and thus create opportunities to push useless tie-in products on them to “help you on your fitness journey” or whatever. It’s honestly hateful.

      2. Show Pony*

        Right, I don’t buy that there’s anyone who does ALL Of this for 75 days straight unless they a) already have cultivated most of these habits over time, or b) have no joy in their life or their sense of joy comes from deprivation. The black and white nature of it is more a recipe for breaking you down mentally instead of making you mentally fit.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Right?!?! How else are you supposed to cope with the idiocy of being forced into such a ridiculous and unhealthy program?

  68. Aarti*

    So I excersise 40 minutes a day or so. I would like to have the chance to do it twice. But, you know, as others have said, I work. I cant physically add another time to my schedule – do these people not work?
    But the thing that would make me nope right out is the cold showers. CANNOT DO IT. I love my hot showers.

  69. AY*

    I have to laugh at the utter stupidity of the 10-minute reading challenge. People who like to read will likely read far more than 10 minutes a day unprompted. For the rest, setting a 10-minute reading timer is something you’d do for actual, literal CHILDREN. Like what I did for the kids I used to babysit during the summers. It’s funny that the program designed to foster mental toughness really just treats adults like little babies who can’t manage their own free time and create their own schedules.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      It seems to be not reading in general, but ten pages of assigned reading, like in high school. It is a pretty fair guess that the books assigned will be terrible.

  70. Mirea*

    * follow a diet (including no alcohol and no “cheat meals”) – Hell no
    * work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes – Sure, if my manager will come to my house and do 90 minutes of cooking and cleaning and dog-walking and elder care.
    * drink four liters of water per day – LOL no.
    * read 10 pages of nonfiction a day – I’m ok with this but probably not. I’ve got about 3 books going at a time as it is.
    * take a five-minute cold shower a day – Didn’t the Geneva Convention outlaw this nonsense?
    * take progress photos every day – F off.

    That would be my response to allllllll this nonsense.

    Stand your ground LW

    1. irene adler*

      Actually, the Geneva Conventions apply to prisoners of war.
      Course, implement this kind of program in the workplace and war WILL break out.

      Carry on.

    1. Danish*

      I’ll be doing my 90 minutes of corpse pose in the middle of the office floor daily, thanks. Coworkers feel free to join in!

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      No joke, but that sounds incredibly hard (assuming we’re talking corpse pose versus lying down). Can you imagine being still and present for 9 minutes, much less 90?

      That said, I like how you’re thinking about this ridiculous demand. It’s awful on multiple levels.

  71. Lady_Lessa*

    That kind of work out makes my knees mildly ache just thinking about it.

    I’m with the rest of y’all in the No Way side.

    I know I need to eat better and get more exercise, but I also commute about 1.25 hrs each way per day.

    But I am looking forward to my non-fiction (“Evicted” by Matthew Desmond and “Cosmos” by Ann Druyan)

  72. CaviaPorcellus*

    “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience blah blah.”

    …It’s almost refreshing that they’re coming right out and saying “Yeah, team building sucks, always, and we’re gonna lean in”.

    Almost. But I think they should at least try to put a fig leaf over the torture like most respectable companies next time.

  73. Observer*

    The idea that you need a doctor’s note to not have to take on a medically questionable diet and fitness program is absurd. I suspect that if I called my doctor’s office asking for a note that I can’t do this program the newer staff would totally think I’m trolling. Because who does that?! People who’ve been around a while know that I’m not entirely nuts, so a an apology and acknowledgement up front that the request is nuts would work with them.

    Beyond that there are also some other issues with this. And while not a lot people will be affected by any one issue, in the aggregate, it adds up.

    Beyond the specific program there is a very toxic piece to this – you are supposed to be engaged in a “team building” exercise that your manager is explicitly telling is not supposed to be a positive experience. Really? So his idea is that the way to get people to bond is by making them all miserable? Keep in mind that even the huckster who developed this claims that this IS a positive experience that WILL (according to him) improve your life.

  74. Mia Arcana*

    I’m in recovery for disordered eating right now, and this situation would send me spiraling so quickly. Programs like this are incredibly damaging on a mental, physical, and emotional level. OP, please take this to the highest levels you can and push back against this damaging idea!!

    1. Elm*

      Same here, friend. And mine is triggered by stress and feeling like I have no control over my life…so I am being forced to monitor my eating, which I’ve been told not to do AND given a new stressor that I have no control over? Kthxbye.

      Sending good luck your way.

    1. Tessie Mae*

      From other comments, I gather that this needs to be reading a physical book. So, sure, Alison’s book.

  75. Meghan*

    I looked it up a bit more and of the two workouts, one MUST be outside. Seriously? I’m not jogging in below freezing weather. Who is this manager that set this up????

  76. 1st time poster*

    The response was, “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience blah blah.” – so team building should be a NEGATIVE experience? What the heck?

  77. Junebug*

    Wow wow wow. Even if you’re young, healthy, and in good shape, 90 minutes of exercise every single day, with no rest days, is likely to damage your body. This is why pro athletes tend to have long term structural issues. If you don’t fit in that category, this will seriously jeopardize your health, if it’s even possible. WTF.

  78. Jennifer Strange*

    So I just took a look at the 75 Hard rules, and it looks like the diet one (at least the one I’m seeing) just says “Follow a diet”. I mean, eating pizza and twinkies exclusively is technically a diet.

  79. Heather*

    One of those 75 min workouts is supposed to be outside. As we entry winter weather. Will the company cover any injuries under workers comp?

    1. Gnome*

      I would assume (because feeling snarky) that the time is on the clock, so obviously they need to take that time out of their day and if it’s cold, jog in place in the office.

  80. HIPPO Violation*

    To the OP, any chance your start-up employer is part of a PEO (company that handles payroll and benefits) as they likely have HR available to you and you may not realize it. Worth calling and asking!

  81. Gnome*

    I think Alison is right…

    But part of me wants to read a follow up that had the writer going, “Great! We’re getting a gym in the office so we can work out, and we get to have work hours to do it in! What wonderful benefits! Also, getting paid to read?! Awesome! But… All together that’s about two hours of time a day, so I’ll have to drop X or take an extra month to finish Y. So I know how to prioritize, since all of these things will be covered in my evaluations, which should I put first X or Y?”

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      YES. If these are work requirements, that should figure into how OP calculates/reports work time and discusses managing priorities. If the job requires 90 minutes of daily exercise, participation is mandatory, and compliance is reflected in performance reviews, then I’d consider that part of the workload. (These are totally not work requirements, the boss is just being ridiculous).

      Really, this seems like a good way to push back on the ridiculousness. “Hey boss, I have X and Y projects that have deliverables by end of day and also need to do my 90 minutes of exercise. How should I prioritize my time?”

  82. Sharpieees*

    Take a five minute cold shower every day lol? Dude boss, do you REALLY think it’s a good idea to ask your female employees if they’re privately showering the way you instructed them to and threaten them with a bad performance review if they’re not? SERIOUSLY?

    1. Presea*

      Excellent news, sexual discrimination and harassment laws apply to everyone, so this criticism applies regardless of the gender composition of the workers! (Not criticizing you Sharpieees, just using a lofty and fun tone to point out that this is messed up no matter who’s saying this to whom!)

  83. PT*

    I agree with Alison that you should just leave.

    That said, 75 Hard looks like it is the sort of open-ended program that is RIFE with opportunities for lying. For anyone who is at a workplace where they aren’t ready to leave but also don’t want to do something this stupid, lie lie lie:
    Cold showers: Crank it up as hot as you want, brag to everyone how you’re still freezing three hours later.
    Water consumption: carry your water bottle EVERYWHERE as melodramatically as possible
    Exercise: if you’re not exercising at work, OMG I did SOOOO many situps (from lying on the sofa to reach the doritos bag) and burpees (the beer was really fizzy!)
    Diet: I’m doing a pumpkin cleanse (omits “pie” and “whipped cream” from sentence)
    Progress photos: “how to fake before and after fitness photos” has a ton of results on Google.

    There’s nothing morally wrong with lying to morons.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      And passive-aggressively talk loudly and at length about the non-fiction you’re reading, which can be about feminism, ableism, etc.

      I wouldn’t even bother to fake the fitness photos, TBH. Dare them to comment on your body.

    2. CheeryO*

      “Sorry I haven’t responded to that email, boss. I just can’t stay out of the bathroom with all this water I’m drinking.”

    3. Free Meerkats*

      Came here to post this, you did it better. Except, don’t fake the photos. Just take real photos and feign confusion as to why you aren’t becoming buff.

  84. Tayto*

    My nonfiction would be the trashiest celeb bios I could find, just out of spite. What is with these dudebros and their nonfiction hard-ons?

  85. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    Several years ago, I got the biggest, highest-paying job I’d ever had and I was super excited for the new challenge. Within 30 days, I was swatting aside red flags about my team, my boss, my grand-boss, and the overall culture; within 6 months, I was telling myself I couldn’t leave “yet” because “things have just been really crazy and I just need to adjust–I’m *sure* things will settle down. And I really need the experience! Won’t this be a feather in my cap if I can turn all this around!”

    A year later, I was still telling myself that even though I was miserable. Three years later, I was still telling myself that even though I was barely a person anymore.

    Whatever work experience you’ll gain from this will pale in comparison to the damage you’ll have to recover from in this awful culture. SAVE YOURSELF! You deserve better!

  86. Not A Manager*

    As my name implies, I am Not A Manager. I understand that my immediate instinct is generally counter-indicated in cases like this. Nonetheless, my immediate instinct is that, in this one particular situation, the manager might be amenable to a Come To Jesus conversation. I might even do it with him and the CEO.

    My reasoning is, first, this guy’s radar is wildly off about workplace norms in general, with all the ableism and sexist remarks and stuff. Second, the OP might be ready to walk over this, and the business at this point in time might not want that. Third, it’s a startup and the CEO is apparently fairly level-headed.

    I would consider giving them the in-person version of a Glassdoor review. Tell them that you are a good worker, that you come to work to work, and that you are willing to give 1000% to work stuff. You’re not willing to be told what to do on your off time, pushed into irrelevant and demeaning activities on work time, etc. Point out that many of these activities open the company to potentially very serious liability.

    I’ve dealt with some bullies before, and this guy is a bully. What I’ve found is that *when you actually have more power than them in some area* and you assert it forcefully but not heatedly, they frequently completely back down. But you have to actually have more power. In this case, I think LW might, especially if the CEO perceives that this stuff is bananapants.

  87. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    *screams into the void*

    This is bananapants and your employer should have no standing around people’s food, exercise, bathing, and reading habits. Why do so many employers think they have the right to control aspects of people’s personal lives that have no relation to their work?! Frankly, given how… intense this program is, I’d bet that nobody is going to really be able to do it and it’ll fizzle out within a month.

    Assuming you choose to stay for a time, I’d try to push back. And yes, loop in the CEO, who deserves to know what kind of nonsense leadership in your division is up to. I’d want to know if a manager was pushing stuff that was unnecessary and hurting staff morale/commitment. As Alison says, how they handle this is going to tell you a lot about what kind of organization you’re in.

    One option is try to get a doctor’s note that says “this program is f***ed up and harmful to health and I advise not doing it” (which also could serve as documented proof that the organization was warned; hopefully someone sensible would be concerned about liability if someone got sick or hurt taking part in a program they were bullied into and required to do). But I live in Canada, where the cost to do this isn’t generally prohibitive.

    The other is to just start lying and pretending you’re doing the thing. Now, lying at work is basically always a bad idea. If they find out, that could cause you bigger problems. This is really just a bad suggestion. But I’d still be tempted to do it anyway.

    1. Walk on the left side*

      I’m gonna be the brat who nitpicks the ONE detail — they actually do have standing to ask you to read stuff as long as they give you time on the clock to read what they asking you to read. Of course, that’s literally the SMALLEST PIECE of this whole idiotic program and clearly just thrown in so they can say “mental fitness see????” so please, please, do not let my detail nitpick detract from how bananapants this entire thing is!

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Fair. To clarify, I meant that they shouldn’t have standing to determine what you read *in your personal time*. This would be a moment for OP to bring in non-fiction and read at their desk.

  88. Elm*

    Aww, it’s cute that they don’t think people will quit or sue over this.

    I’m constantly told “you’re too young for these health problems” and accused of lying about them. This “program” would be SO dangerous for me. Like, I could die. Literally die. Or end up needing surgery. And that’s just based on what is described here.

    But if I cried “ADA,” I’d have to “come out” about these and they’re no one’s business. My amazing HR person doesn’t even know because these don’t affect my job beyond needing a few extra doctor’s appointments. Everyone would know because I’d be not participating.

  89. Legume Counter*

    OMG, Imagine being in your annual review, “Well, you haven’t lost any weight during this year, and you missed taking your daily progress photos several times”. What?!?! This is insane!

    1. Walk on the left side*

      Part of me would kind of love to see them put this in writing, to be entirely honest. Preferably with a dudebro who bought into the whole crap culture to begin with.

  90. Selina Luna*

    I started to read the list of included “activities” and began to get anxiety and actual negative self-talk (I can’t do that! Where am I going to find 45 or 90 minutes a day with my commute?) until I remembered that I don’t work there and my boss would never do this crap.
    OP, if you are not the only one uninterested in participating, see if you can get some of the quieter disinterested to at least go to HR/management/and so on up with you and stand behind you while you explain why this is crap. Groups are often more effective in this stuff instead of one person who can be written off as a malcontent.

  91. Lilo*

    I actually work out myself and I did some research.

    This plan is unstructured and extreme to the point of dangerousness.

    Jumping into a big workout like that suddenly isn’t healthy. It’s a good way to cause muscle damage which can harm your kidneys. You should never, ever embark on a big workout without support from someone with training. But no trainer in their right mind would ever take someone from 0-90 intense minutes. Never. Any workout plan that had you jumping in the deep end immediately is a recipe for injury or worse.

  92. LoveToRead*

    All of this is awful. But honestly, what is with the idea these days that only reading self-help non-fiction books is good for you? I read a lot but it’s predominantly fiction because it’s a hobby and an escape. I’m not a fan of self-help books anyway as there’s always the new, better way that someone has developed to basically sell books, and I’m fed up of the idea that we’re constantly have to be improving ourselves – its exhausting. All power to you if you enjoy it and get something from it, but I really don’t like the idea that some people have that you’re a better person than a fiction reader. Rant over.

    Anyway – OP I think it’s time to get out unfortunately.

    1. Selina Luna*

      90% of my reading these days is non-fiction, but I’m in grad school, getting a degree in English education. The idea of reading most self-help books annoys the crap out of me.

    2. London Calling*

      Ten years ago I was suffering so badly from depression that I went to mental health charity that gave counselling. One of the firs things the counsellor said was THROW AWAY the self help books because when you can’t measure up to what they are telling you (and you won’t) you’ll feel worse, not better. And he was spot on.

        1. London Calling*

          I am very happy and contented, thanks. Enjoying my semi-retirement and wondering if I really HAVE to go back to work.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      A photo of me frowning thoughtfully at the pages of a nonfiction book.

      (Only if I were truly desperate to keep this job.)

  93. Observer*

    Has it occurred to anyone that the program is DESIGNED to be un-doable? This guy claims that if you finish the challenge you WILL succeed in whatever else you try. Because, of course the only thing that keeps people from success is lack of “toughness”. But of course he can’t actually show anyone who has achieved the heights he’s claiming. But he has an answer – find someone who has finished the program and FOR SURE that person is going to be amazingly successful!

    1. Elsajeni*

      Also, as someone else noted up above, any program designed by Some Guy Who Sells Supplements is almost certainly designed to get the result “aw, man, I guess you just weren’t tough enough to do it. … but you WOULD be, if you added some of these great supplements to your routine!!!”

  94. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Any team building activity that requires a doctor’s note is not an appropriate team building activity.

  95. Robin Ellacott*

    That’s horrifying.

    The office is insisting they spend an extra 1.5 unpaid hours a day (more, counting the COLD SHOWER and other activities) in required tasks, give up many pleasures, risk their health, and doesn’t even think they will (or should) enjoy or benefit from the experience.

    That’s some Dickensian thinking there, with a nice dusting of frathouse hazing.

    Unless (MAYBE) they are paying “endure this for a year then buy a nice home with cash” money, I’d get out while your sense of what’s normal is still functional.

  96. Missy*

    This was the blurb I saw for the book for the program: “Do you lack confidence, grit, endurance, fortitude, self-esteem and all the other things that don’t just make someone great, but successful in everything they do?”

    Look, I have plenty of grit, endurance, and fortitude by existing each day with a mental illness. I don’t need to be a masochist to get it.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      “We want you to have grit! So we’re going to order you to do a bunch of unreasonable, unpleasant things you didn’t sign up for, and you are not allowed to stand up for yourself!
      Total compliance is how you prove you’re strong!”

  97. FloraPsmith*

    If you don’t provide your boss with daily photos of yourself in tight-fitting clothing you will get a negative annual review?

    1. Pennyworth*

      It would be so tempting to buy identical clothes in a range of sizes, so the photograph can show them becoming looser over time as the diet and exercise take effect.

  98. SparkleConsultant*

    Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry that you’re at a company where this comes off as “reasonable”. I also have no HR and found out a third of our grading for our annual reviews is for how social we are. Please join me in finding a new place with real HR if possible hopefully soon. If you’ve got to stay for the sake of your future freelancing, then I hope you can see the humor in them being this ridiculous and journal all the gory details for future you to laugh at.

  99. OrigCassandra*

    Aligned with the “90 minutes AT WORK, right?” question is “if I am injured or become ill because of this program, is that a worker’s comp claim?”

    I don’t know enough to know if there’s an OSHA angle here, but…

  100. LikesToSwear*

    LW, I’m impressed at how restrained you were in your original reply. I’m not sure I could have done the same; I’m much more likely to have gone off about how ableist and generally horrid that program is, and what kind of moron is the idiot who didn’t consider the potential liability issues as well as the laws they would probably be breaking (depending on your size).

  101. Nicki Name*

    Was “it’s not supposed to be a positive experience” the actual words that were used? Did that person even think about what they were typing?

    LW, this “major resume builder” isn’t worth everything you’ve mentioned in the letter. Plus, if you’re headed for a negative performance review, even the resume-building part isn’t going to work out. It’s long past time to saddle the nopetopus and ride off into the sunset.

    1. Walk on the left side*

      “It’s long past time to saddle the nopetopus and ride off into the sunset.”

      This has now been inducted into my personal Awesome Phrases Hall Of Fame from whence I pull the real zingers in my greatest times of need. Thank you. I bow to your brilliance.

  102. Cookies for Breakfast*

    “Oh, it’s not supposed to be a positive experience” cracked me up. Oh, so you’re admitting only a masochist would choose to do it? Great, sign me up! (not)

    Everyone has already said everything else I’ve been thinking, with far better words. OP, I hope you can get out of this circle of hell of a workplace quickly and safely, and never, ever hear the words “75 Hard” again.

  103. Ursula*

    I’m intrigued that a start-up founded by a women (at least, I assume the CEO is the founder) has still fully adopted startup bro culture. Is the CEO super bro-y too?

    Has anyone else worked at a female-lead start up? I’m wondering if it’s common for them not to be able to avoid start up bro culture.

    1. Nanani*

      I’d bet cash the CEO is a Chill Girl who is Not Like Other Girls and this makes up the majority of her personality.

  104. yala*

    Wonder if they’d respond a little better if you pondered out loud about whether or not the company would be liable to someone being harmed by program they insisted on their employees participating in

  105. Cheesehead*

    If they’re “requiring” all of that extra stuff AND saying that your review is contingent on it, just say okay, you understand, and since this is now part of your job, you’ll be coming in late and leaving early to accomplish all of these things within your workday. And by the way, who will be doing the you know, WORK, that you won’t be able to get to in your shortened workday since you’ll be doing all of this other stuff?
    My calculations:
    30 minutes: researching/cooking food that fits the requirements
    2 hours: 2 45-minute workouts plus time to change, etc.
    15 minutes: conservative estimate on the time required for extra bathroom breaks from drinking that much water daily, plus getting refills
    30 minutes: reading the non-fiction, plus time to find appropriate material (maybe someone is a slow reader!)
    15 minutes: conservative estimate of the time for the cold shower, including changing time and time to warm up afterwards
    15 minutes: progress photos

    Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes. That’s a hell of a lot of time for their little “program” and they should be prepared to compensate you for it if they require it! Of course, the fact that they’re requiring it at all is a massive overstep, but I think that totalling it up like that puts a bit more perspective on how crazy and invasive it is!

  106. Eyeroll*

    I wonder what the work comp companies have to say about programs like these. What if an employee gets injured doing their work-mandated exercise?

  107. E*

    90 minutes of exercise per day is A LOT. I can’t even imagine trying to fit that in and I’m pretty active.

  108. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I am years behavior-free from my eating disorder and consider myself pretty well-recovered, and I would have to quit if I worked at that place.

    What people don’t realize, too, is that reignites like this aren’t just bad for people with a history of EDs; they’re a really great for kickstarting them as well. It isn’t uncommon for someone to develop an ED after unintentional weight loss from illness or stress and it’s also not uncommon for someone’s diet to progress into eating disorder territory.

    That’s how mine started: a well-meaning diet that I began in a time of intense emotional stress when I was 21. It sounded reasonable to my untrained brain at the time. And within maybe 8-10 weeks I essentially qualified for an ED that I quasi-recovered from and then had a hardcore relapse at 29. This isn’t something to gamble with and extreme things like this are absolutely gambling with people’s physical and mental well-being.

    And for what? So you can think you’re a badass? So you can feel superior? Challenges aren’t inherently BAD, but this one has always struck me as extreme to the point of helping no one. It’s not about creating habits because this isn’t sustainable. It’s not about developing a healthy mental and physical self because health requires rest. It just seems like a very DudeBro way to feel superior to the weak who couldn’t stick it out. Or a really, really good way to develop disordered eating, an unhealthy relationship with exercise, and an exaggerated shame response.

  109. Sara without an H*

    In the past my department has done habit resets before, holding each other accountable with obnoxious reminders that REALLY skirt the limits of ableism and bullying. It’s a startup that doesn’t really have what passes for HR. Instead they do “peer mediation” which is a nightmare. The company president/owner is a relatively level-headed woman but should I escalate this that high up (great-grand boss)? There’s a lot going on that I think necessitates the need for an HR department, this just highlights it. Part of me thinks it’s time to cut bait, but honestly, this particular job is a major resume builder to a great freelance career so I should probably hang out for a while.

    Hi, OP — I’m coming in late to this, so I hope you read down this far. There are a number of things in your post that trouble me (aside from the sheer asininity of the whole “team building” idea).

    You say the owner is a woman, yet you have a division lead (male) who has a history of sexism, ableism, and bullying, apparently without any correction from senior leadership. What’s up with that? Also, the company has grown large enough to have divisions (am I right?), but still there’s been no effort to create a formal HR function, either in-house or outsourced. What’s up with that? These are not signs of organizational health, nor of a start-up that’s going to make smooth transitions as it evolves and grows in size and complexity.

    Personally, I’d take all of this (not just the silly team-building nonsense) as warning signals. This is NOT a healthy, well-run organization. Read everything in the AAM archives about resumes, cover letters, and job search strategy and start planning your exit. There’s no point in waiting for the last twitch of agony before you make your move.

  110. Lizy*