The 12 Minute Athlete: Get in the Best Shape of Your Life in 12 Minutes a Day
Stryker recently released her book The 12 Minute Athlete: Get in the Best Shape of Your Life in 12 Minutes a Day. The book follows Stryker's personal challenges obtaining her fitness goals and her progress on realising anyone can be an athlete. It is now available for purchase here.
She is an NSCA certified personal trainer and the founder of 12 Minute Athlete, a popular website and app helping thousands of people get fit in as little time as possible. After struggling as a personal trainer and not being able to accomplish her personal goals, she knew there had to be a better way. Even though she was spending so much time working out, it felt like it was never enough. That's when she discovered high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and everything she knew about fitness and exercise was turned upside down. HIIT workout regimens consist of incredibly short, effective workouts based on calisthenics, cross-training, and functional fitness. 12 Minute Athlete helps athletes of all skill levels get in the best shape of their lives with minimal equipment and no gym membership. Stryker was eager to share her knowledge with a wider audience and launched her 12 Minute Athlete. You can view the official website and download the app here.
Interview with Krista Stryker
Question: What is the 12 Minute Athlete?
Krista Stryker: 12 Minute Athlete is a program of high intensity interval workouts that you can do with limited space, little or no equipment and a very short amount of time. It's a super-efficient, super effective approach to fitness.
The workouts in the book, app, and on the website use mainly your own bodyweight and combine plyometrics with strength exercises for a short, powerful, full body workout.
One of our core beliefs is that 'everybody is an athlete'. You can adapt the workouts to start at any level and keep adjusting them as you progress. You can see incredible results from these workouts in a short amount of time, even if you don't think of yourself as athletic.
Question: What inspired the creation of the 12 Minute Athlete?
Krista Stryker: I grew up in an athletic family, and though I always played team sports (basketball and soccer), they were never really my thing I totally believed that the athletic gene had skipped me. As soon as I left for college, I stopped doing any movement at all, ate way too much mac and cheese, and put on the dreaded freshman fifteen (or more). I felt weak, lacked energy, and felt totally unconfident in my body and in my life in general.
A few years into college I got sick of feeling so awful about myself and joined a gym to try and feel better about my appearance. I had no idea what I was doing, and would usually spend a boring 45 minutes on the elliptical machine or treadmill before getting out of there as soon as I possibly could. It wasn't until my older brother challenged me to do a push up that I had any desire to become strong. I was sick of feeling weak and unconfident and decided at that moment to actually put in the work to try and change.
I started running and working out more regularly, but I still hated every second of it. Even after I became a personal trainer, I didn't develop a great relationship with fitness until I discovered high-intensity interval training, which is the basis of the 12 Minute Athlete approach.
HIIT changed everything for me. All of a sudden I was busting out push ups, pull ups and burpees and still had energy left over to enjoy my life. Being strong is everything to me now, and it's my absolute favorite thing in the world to help others become strong in their own fitness journey.
I created 12 Minute Athlete to share what I'd learned in my personal fitness journey with the world. Question:
What is HIIT training? Krista Stryker
: High intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are an advanced style of interval training where you alternate periods of short, intense exercise with less intense recovery periods. Basically, this means you'll be working as hard as you possibly can for a short amount of time, resting, then working hard again. An entire HIIT session should really only last no more than about 10 to 20 minutes, and you should feel pretty spent when you're done.
One reason that I'm such a huge fan of HIIT workouts is that they essentially take your typical 30 to 45 minute workout and condense it into a shorter workout that's actually more effective than a longer, moderate intensity workout.
Since the main reason people have for skipping their workout is lack of time, HIIT workouts help you stay consistent with your fitness goals, no matter how busy you are. Question:
Can you talk us through one of the personal challenges you overcame to achieve your fitness goals? Krista Stryker
: When I first started working out on a consistent basis, I couldn't even do a pushup. I also (wrongly) believed that the only way to get fit was to run - and I hated running.
It took a lot of experimenting, but eventually, I found HIIT and bodyweight training and my strength and confidence levels skyrocketed. With this style of training, all of a sudden I was busting out push ups, pull ups and burpees and still had energy left over to enjoy my life. Question:
Can you tell us about, and what can readers expect, from the book: The 12 Minute Athlete: Get in the Best Shape of Your Life in 12 Minutes a Day? Krista Stryker
: The 12 Minute Athlete is a practical resource for getting into the best shape of your life, with my personal story included.
First I share my own journey and why I believe anybody can be an athlete, and I explain the philosophy behind high intensity interval training and the 12 Minute Athlete approach.
Then the book covers everything you need to know to start your own 12 Minute Athlete fitness journey. It's got a breakdown of basic bodyweight exercises with progressions for all fitness levels. There's a guide for teaching yourself to do seemingly impossible feats like pull ups, pistol squats and handstands. I include some nutrition basics and what I call the 'non-diet diet', which is 9 easy rules for eating healthy most of the time.
The final part of the book is a detailed 8-week fitness program with two tracks (regular athlete and super athlete) plus bonus Tabata workouts. Question:
Can you share one of your HIIT training workouts, with us? Krista Stryker
: Here's a HIIT workout that you can do using nothing but a plyometric box, some stairs, or a sturdy bench.
You'll also need to use an interval timer (or download the 12 Minute Athlete app) and set the timer to 18 rounds of 10-second and: 30-second intervals. You'll rest on the: 10-second intervals, then work as hard as you can on the: 30-second ones.
Rotate through these exercises:
Push up plank jumps
Speed step ups
Bulgarian split squats
Burpee step ups
V up in/outs
Work as hard as you can during each interval period to get the most out of the workout. Question:
How does food compliment HIIT training? Krista Stryker
: Proper nutrition helps your body run at its full potential, keeps you feeling focused and clear headed, and gives you the energy you need to crush a HIIT workout.
Rather than recommending one specific diet, I instead really try and get people to learn to listen to their own body and what works for them.
Whatever eating approach you choose to follow, making sure to focus on getting in a good amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. And the more vegetables, the better! Question:
What's the one message you'd like to spread to those unmotivated to exercise? Krista Stryker
: Anyone who tells you that they are always motivated to work out isn't telling the whole truth. Even elite athletes have days when they'd rather be doing anything else but working out. It's taken years, but I've finally gotten to the point that I know how much better I'll feel after working out so I actually don't want to skip it. If I'm not feeling up for something overly intense, I'll at least do something light, such as a little jump roping and some simple bodyweight exercises. Even on my rest days, I make sure to walk a lot because I've found that movement helps me keep my head clearer and energy levels up.
Even if you're not feeling up for a full workout, try and get a little movement in. Go for a walk, take an easy bike ride, or play with your kids (or dog) at the park. It's important to remember that something is always better than nothing! Question:
What's a typical day's food like for you? Krista Stryker
: I'm pretty active on a daily basis, so I make sure to get in enough food and nutrients to keep my energy levels up.
I usually start the day with a bowl of steel cut oats with flax seeds, cinnamon, and a little peanut butter stirred in and topped with berries.
For a snack, I'll have a piece of fruit like an apple with some nuts and maybe a protein bar (I look for ones with as few ingredients as possible).
For lunch, I'll often have rice or quinoa with veggies and protein like tofu or tempeh.
I'll often work out in the afternoon, so I'll eat a small snack beforehand then follow it up with a protein shake, usually made with plant based protein powder, frozen banana, and frozen berries.
For dinner, I'll mix it up"sometimes I'll have tacos with lots of veggies, or I'll make pasta with broccoli and asparagus, or have a different variation of lunch with rice and protein and veggies. I try and include veggies in most of my meals!
I definitely have a sweet tooth so I'll almost always have dessert, usually some dark chocolate or maybe frozen yogurt with fruit. Question:
Why are goals so important to you? Krista Stryker
: Creating clear, specific goals give you a way to measure your progress and help keep you motivated when you reach a plateau.
In my experience, when someone plateaus, it's almost always because they haven't set specific enough goals to start with. Setting clear and measurable goals and actually tracking them via some sort of training journal is a much better way to make progress long-term because it gives you a way to actually see and track your progress, then adjust as needed along the way if something isn't working as you expected it would.
I'm also a much bigger fan of setting performance goals than weight loss ones because not only are these easier to track, they're also so much more motivating long-term. These could be goals like:
To do your first push up or pull up
To compete in an obstacle race
To take up and learn a new sport or activity such as surfing, martial arts, mountain biking, etc.
Again, when setting these types of goals it's best to make sure your goals are specific (such as to be able to do one clean pull up) rather than overly broad (such as to "get stronger"). And make sure to keep track of your progress in a training journal (this can be a physical notebook, a note on your phone, or whatever you'll actually use). Question:
Can you share your current goals, with us? Krista Stryker
: Sure! I'm always working on something new to keep challenging myself and growing my athletic abilities. I've also learned that having too many goals at the same time will hinder your overall progress, so I try and focus on just a few things at once. Right now I'm working really hard to get a freestanding one arm handstand as well as training for my first amateur boxing match later this year. Question:
What's next for you? Krista Stryker
: I'm always working to grow 12 Minute Athlete and make it the best it can be. We're currently working on a brand new 12-week program launching this June for people looking to really take their fitness up to the next level.
I'm also working on some pretty exciting updates to the 12 Minute Athlete app, as well as working on a project around exercise and depression that is very close to my heart and should be out later this year.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Photos: Katana Triplett