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Krista Stryker shows us how to get fitter, faster, and stronger with her book, The 12-Minute Athlete. You can find the full show notes for this episode at 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/435.
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Krista, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Thank you so much for having me.
Now your book is called the 12 Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster and Stronger using HIIT and Your Body Weight. And you said something at the very beginning of the book that I need to start adapting to, adopting, I guess for lack of a better word is calling people athletes. And I think too many times we think of athletes as guys, guys and gals we see on TV and we don't often think of ourselves as athletes.
It's true. I definitely never considered myself an athlete, until you know, five years ago or so. It's just this kind of belief in our society that we look at these people on TV and we think they're the athletes and they can train hard and do these amazing, impossible seeming things, but you know, we're more mere mortals and we could never do hard things like that. And I really like to kind of help bring out everyone's inner athlete because I really do believe that everyone can have some sort of movement that gives them joy and that we all really are athletes.
Yeah. When I first got started into all of this, it was, it was actually a tough Mudder that I wanted to do with my daughter because she was getting into the CrossFit and doing, you know, these mud obstacle races and really enjoying herself. And I was thinking, you know, I don't want to be the father that when my daughter says, Hey, I'm going to go do this thing, that I'm the spectator. I'm like, no, I want to be there with her. I want to cross the finish line with her, I want to do those things. And at the point where I made the decision and then the commitment that that's what I was going to do. I was nowhere near being able to do a tough Mudder. Eight months later, because I had that mindset of getting there and being there with my daughter. I did it! Now that was fairly athletic. When I was younger I did a lot of athletic things, but it doesn't have to be tough Mudder. You know, as you put in the book, it's like you just be an awesome grandmother that keeps up with the grandkids when they run from the monkeys to the lions, you know, being an athlete just means performing very well at the things that you want to do in your life.
Exactly. So well said.
Now, many of us don't have access to a gym or periods of time when we don't have access to a gym. You know, and when I was traveling a good bit for work, you know, sometimes you staying in a hotel and the gym they have isn't really equipped to do the things that I wanted to do. So we, we go to using body weight and I think a lot of people miss out on how effective body weight can be. Can you talk about some of the benefits of body weight exercises?
Yes. I am a huge, huge fan of body weight exercises for so many reasons. Like you said, one of the main reasons is that you can really do them anywhere. So if you're traveling, if you're sick at home, if you're, you know, in a park outside, you can still work out and really, really get an effective workout that way. Another thing that I really love about body weight type training is that you can really scale it to make it either much easier if you're starting at beginner level or much harder if you're more advanced. And so you look at something like a basic pushup, it seems pretty simple, but a lot of people, I'm sure you know, can't do a proper pushup. So The way to work at that, if you break it down into steps. So the way I like to do is with the hands elevated push up because you can really gauge that progress. You start out on something higher, like a wall or a counter top, work your way down eventually to the floor. And now if that gets too easy, then there's so many ways to make it more challenging. You can work for the one arm push up, you can do explosive variations. Bodyweight training is just so cool because there are always ways to bump up the level or to break it down if you need to build up more strength in order to get that full exercise.
Yeah, I was, you know, I trained various people even though we're all over the age of 40, I have some that are relatively fit and some that are just getting started. And so yes, the counter at the countertop, the countertop pushup is kind of a staple for me for most people that are just getting started, make sure you're wearing skid resistant shoes cause the tile floor can get slippery. But yeah, the countertop is an excellent way for you to start getting stronger in the chest and get that pushup. Whereas then I have other folks that are a little bit more athletic and been doing this a bit longer and you know the dive bomber, which you demonstrate in the book, you know, I'm like here, here's a pushup. This is going to be hard. And they'd do it. They'd go do it in the workout and the next time I hear from him it's like, Oh God never had me do that again please. And of course it's in the next workout cause that's what a family wants to hear. But it's with body weight and you just, all you've really done is taken your body weight and by changing the leverage and changing things up, you've made it much more difficult or much easier depending on what a trainee needs, which you need.
And then I think one of the other ones you talked about this a little bit in the book is that you know, with body weight, the likelihood of you actually hurting yourself is lower.
It's so true because you don't have heavy weight around. And I'm going to drop something on your foot. You're not going to do some crazy thing with the overhead squat and tweak your shoulders. There's so much less likelihood of injury or body weight training. It's very cool. And it's super functional. So usually what I see with people who start training body weight exercises more there, their whole body starts to work together better. And so any nagging injuries and stuff, they might just go away, which is amazing.
Yeah. And that is probably what I would say it'd be my favorite part of body weight exercises is almost every one of them that you would be doing theirs. There's a functional aspect to your life. So if we're talking about, you know, body weight squats will we squat sit every day and the ability to have that leg strength to do that is very, very important. And because we don't have a huge load on our shoulders, particularly early on, you know, with just doing body weight squats, you know, we're less likely to hurt our knees because again, if we're doing the squat poorly, we won't be able to do it very well with body weight. But if we put load on there, then the likelihood of injuring ourself is so much higher.
It's so true. It makes me cringe every time I go on a gym and someone's doing heavy squat and their squat form is so bad. I just want to help them get them to do body weight squats. But people don't, people don't always know about the things to do.
Yeah. And, and you know, with, with the gym that I run, you know, I actually have to go say something. I used to when I was training, when I was training, he was training people in up and I was like, if they're not my client and you know, I'm not going to butt in that I'm doing my workout. They're doing theirs and I'm just watching them from the side of my eyes so that they don't kill themselves. But it's okay. I gotta be ready to go grab a weight if someone starts to fall. But other than that, I'm going to ignore them. But now running a gym, it's like I see someone, I was like, I need to go. I need to go talk to this person. We'll have a little conversation. They may or may not listen to me, but you know, I just don't, I don't want someone to get hurt. So, but body weight exercises are kind of cool thing about them is it's very difficult to hurt yourself. The progressions there.
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I'd like to talk about progression. I talked about, you know, two kinds of extremes: the counter push-ups versus the dive bomber is two different levels, but there are lots of different ways that you can make these exercises more progressive.
So many ways. So if you, like I said, if you can do the basic kind of full version of what you think of the exercise, then you can start, there's a couple of ways to make it more challenging. You can work at unilaterally so you can take a bit bodyweight spot. Well instead of going down on two legs, do a one legged squat or pistol squat and that will make it significantly harder. So that's one way. And from there, you know, you don't typically go from that body weight squats straight to the pistol squat, you do the progressions of the pistol squat to help build up that strength. Or you can add, apply a metric aspect to this. So that means jumping, explosiveness, all that. It's going to make it much more challenging. And see the typical athletes, when you think of track athletes and basketball players and they're doing all that stuff, they're not doing heavy weights. They're doing a lot of body weight training, a lot of plyometrics training to build up, you know, maximum strength and explosiveness. So this stuff really works.
Yeah, and another one I like to use a lot is tempo. You know if you using, you know, one of the cool things about plyometrics is you're applying power and it does build explosive power. But if you really want to see how strong you are, particularly when we're talking about body weights, slow down, can you slow down the movement where there's no momentum and you're having to hold yourself under that tension for a longer period of time. It gets a lot harder.
Yeah. Like to actually, one of the ways that I love to help people build up strength for things like pull-ups is those really slow negatives. They're brutal, but they really weren't. And you can do that with so many different things if you know,
once you've gotten yourself to a point. Absolutely. I mean, so you want to have some base level and then once you start really trying to work the pull ups and then yeah, then doing the negatives is really good because you're kind of at that point, if you're close to being able to do the pull-ups, you kind of reached almost, I'm not gonna say an intermediate, but you're at a higher level of training because you've been doing some other pulling movements. So I really do like how you take someone through each of these progressions to help them build out their strength until they're able to do the exercise properly.
Yeah. And it's also helpful for your mindset. A lot of people look at something like a pull-up if they've never been able to do it before and they just can't even picture themselves doing it. It seems so hard and impossible. But if you just break it down into these little steps and then every time, you know, every couple of weeks or so, depending on how fast you're making progress, you bump it up just a little bit more. It just becomes so much more doable in your mind. And it just helps people like really accomplish big scary seeming things that they never would've have done if they were to just go towards that higher level thing to begin with.
Yeah. Now in the book you also get into, HIIT training, which is high intensity interval training. Can you talk about some of the benefits of HIIT what it is and how it helps us?
Yeah, so HIIT training, it's a style of train that basically your training or working as hard as he possibly can for a very short amount of time and then you rest. And so there a differnt kind of intervals that you've been set up. I tend to like doing like 30 seconds, anywhere between 10 seconds or 30 seconds. Yes. And what you thinking about during a HIIT workout is essentially, I like to tell people like, think about it. Like you're sprinting during that work period. You really want to give it your absolute all. You want to feel like you're not really holding back. And the, one of the huge benefits of HITT training is like very short. So a lot of people think that they need, you know, 45 minutes to an hour to get in a good workout. Especially like a cardio workout. The HIIT training, for like 12 minutes and people to try them.
If they're really pushing themselves and their at the level that they are able to push themselves that hard. You know, they walk away just like spent afterwards and that's the, that's what a good HIIT workout does. And the type of like you can add so many types of different exercises for this, for HIIT workouts. But one of the things like I like said, do jump roping exercises or like we're talking about plyometric exercises, burpees, things like that where you really feel like you can just push really hard during that workout and yeah, it's kinda, it's going to really, really help your overall stamina helps your VO two max. It was all these scientific studies that show that a HIIT workout, between 10 and 20 minutes, has the same cardio benefits as a moderate intensity workout. That's more like 45 minutes or so. Or a HIIT workout might actually have more benefits, which is super cool.
Yeah. For the record, I do have a jump ropes at my gym. So little bitty gym, but I do, I did buy some jump ropes. And so you know, a couple of different things that you said there that I want to emphasize because you know, a lot of people misconstrue just interval training with HIIT training. And I think that that's kind of, you know, when I hear someone say, yeah, I did a 45 minute HIIT training, I'm like you can't do a 45 minute HIIT training. He's wiped. And so I think, you know, one is the intensity. And the way I like to describe it is imagine you're walking through the woods with your baby granddaughter and your arms, and you see a bear and you have to run from that bear.
And if your work sessions, 30 seconds, if you stop, if you slow down, that bear is going to get you and your grandbaby. So you're going to run with every bit of energy that you have, like there's nowhere else for you to go, nothing else for you to worry about. You're just going to run as hard as you possibly can. That's that intensity. There's a set period of time and then you're gonna have a recovery, you know, so now that you've read the bear stopped chasing you and you're walking through the woods when your rest is over, if it's 10 seconds or 30 seconds or whatever your rest interval is, oops, there's another bear take off. And typically for most people, you know, six, eight, maybe, maybe 10 of these rounds. It was about all the work you really need at that point. You're not recovering and you're just spent.
And I think if you're really doing HIIT right, it is, it's very short. It's very intense. And then it's done. And you know, one of the, one of the styles that I want to talk about this in just a second, is a style called Tabata. And that quite literally can be done in four minutes. And it's really, really cool. But there are all these different intervals that you can set of how you want to go about doing the work, doing the recovery and training yourself to, cause it's working, your cardiovascular, whatever work you're doing, you're getting some work. There it balance or endurance or strength cause I've seen all kinds of different exercises that can be done in the form of HIIT.
But I would caution if you're going to do HIIT training, do it with body weight. Don't, don't try HIIT training with equipment. You know, sometimes I've seen people try to do things like some barbell movements and things like that and the form just breaks down and the likelihood of hurting yourself does too. So you do not need equipment. This is a HIIT, should be a body weight training period. And that's just how I feel about it. And that's also very important. And then the other point is, and I'd like to talk a little bit about this is the recovery, because it is so intense that for most of us it's not something we want to do every day.
Yeah. For, for most people, you know, even two or three times a week is corny. I definitely try and recommend it at least twice a week and you could do it, you know, anywhere up to four times him to week would be ideal or if you're at a really high level, but you really don't even need that.
And so to me it's just making sure that you're giving your body the opportunity to fully recover before you try to do this again and you'll know it, you'll know if you're not doing it because your performance won't be nearly what it was before you are doing jump rope and you know, you realize, okay, I can basically, do you know whether you're doing the double unders or the singles, if you're counting, you'll start to realize, okay, the first interval I did this many, and then the second interval was a little ass and then a little less and a little less, but you come into that next workout. If you haven't really recovered, you're not hitting those same numbers. So pay attention to your recovery and you can get a lot of benefit out of HIIT.
Yeah. And that's, I mean, that's one of the reasons, one of many reasons, I really encourage people to track their reps. And as annoying as it can be to count during an interval. You'll know whether you're not recovered, whether you're feeling sluggish that they, and you'll know whether you're making progress or not. So if, you know, the first week you sit there and you're only able to do six, burpees in 30 seconds, and then a few weeks later you're able to do eight. That's awesome. But you wouldn't know that unless you turned it.
Yeah, absolutely. Now, I mentioned earlier about Tabatas, I love Tabatas because they answer the question, well, I just really don't have that much time. Tabata solves that problem. can you talk about what it's about is the kind of the origin story and then just, you know, it's the structure and some basic examples of, of how we can use that structure.
Yeah. So Tabata was developed by, you know that persons name, they are good friends. His name, he was, he's from Japan, I'm blanking on the his name.
Yeah I blank on his name all the time too. Don't ask me. The Japanese guy.
Yeah, it's definitely super cool. Anyway, he found that this specific structure where it's 10 seconds reps and 20 seconds work. So for eight rounds is incredibly effective. But the key is with those 20 seconds, like think of it like I liked your bear analogy. You have to go as hard as you possibly can for this to be effective. You can't just breeze through tabata workout and think that it's going to give you great results. You have to go super, super hard. And so like you said, with the interval workouts or HIIT workouts, body weight training is perfect for that. So it's classic bottle workout is sprinting. 20 seconds sprints, 10 seconds rest, eight rounds and like believe me you will be. You can also do it with various other body weight exercises, jump roping, burpees, all those types of fun things. It's not super fun, its really hard, but it's four minutes and you're literally done. So they're amazing.
Yeah. I've, I've structured workouts with using the Tabata and you know, it's like just something as simple as the body weight squat and I've seen, you know, people that I've been training and if I'm doing a group training, I'll tell someone if you're really, really fit and you want to make this kind of exciting, add little plyometric jump at the end. So you do jump squats if you're really, really, if you're, if you're less so than, than just just do the body weight squats, but just keep moving, keep moving. And invariably, after about round four, we start finding out who you know, was really what they thought. And anyone that started with jump squats is typically typically, slowing down and now just doing squats, body weight squats, and they get a great workout. And that's why they were hugely fit.
But it's again, the intensity of this and the short recovery periods, it's just something that's really, really gonna tax you. And there's one you had in the book that I really liked, an example of a way to adapt to a tabata because the original Tabata basically had four set exercises that you have to go through and we've adapted that now using different exercises. But the burpee mountain climber, is one good example you gave him. Could you explain how we can, we can basically do a Tabata using the burpee and the mountain climber as the exercises.
I don't know if that one in the book was the tabata, was it the alternate with the rest?
Yeah, you alternate. Yeah. You alternate. It was not the rest. The mountain climber was not the rest. It's just, yeah, it was just an alternating of the two exercises.
So all you're going to do with that one is start with 20 seconds of burpees, take your 10 seconds of rest and then 20 seconds of mountain climbers. And so you're going to end up going four of each and it's gonna feel a little brutal, but it's going to be really, really effective. And the other cool thing that I think about this type of training is it never gets any easier no matter how fit you get. It will never be easy because of it is, it just means you're not pushing yourself hard enough. So it's a way to constantly improve and progressing as an athlete.
And as you mentioned earlier, if you're counting your reps, then at the end, you know, okay, when I first started doing this burpee mountain climber Tabata, you know, I was maybe doing six, like I said, maybe in the 20 seconds, maybe four burpees, and maybe eight mountain climbers and now, you know, I noticed when I started, I'm actually getting the sixth one and you know, or the 12th one in and then I'm still doing more at the end because my stamina has improved so much. So yeah, it is something that, you know, when you're, when you're training and even training with someone else. So if you've got someone else you're training with and there maybe you're maybe more fit than they are or they're a lot more fit than you are, it doesn't matter because you're, you're in your own battle, you're in your own head and soon enough you're not paying attention to anybody. But just trying to catch your breath.
Yeah. You don't care what the other persons doing.
Not at all. Yes.
People of all levels can train together, its great.
And I think that's what's really cool. You know, like I said, we all train together or we can train at home. And we're using our body weight and we're using the benefits of HIIT training to basically come away with being better athletes. And by athlete as we mentioned earlier, its just being able to perform better in everything we want to do.
I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
I liked that definition of wellness. I mean I guess my obvious first answer is movement. So move a little every single day and you know, do some sort of workout on a regular basis. Whether it's you just try to figure out what works for you. So if you start out with a couple of HIIT workouts a week and then maybe do some slower body weight movements and walks the other days, whatever it is, just really make sure that movement is built into your life cause it's going to make everything better.
And another thing that I really highly recommend, especially for people who maybe be struggling with anxiety or overwhelm or things like that, is paying attention to breathing. So I really like this style of breathing called box breathing. And that's essentially where you're breathing in through your diaphragm and out with an exhale for you can start with an inhale, a four and an exhale, a four. Do it for five minutes or something. You don't have to do it for very long. And it's gonna really help calm the anxiety, calm your nerves, reset your nervous system. It's a great thing to start your day with. I highly recommend it for people who haven't tried it. It feels a little weird at first, especially the diaphragm style breathing because it's like you're breathing through your stomach more than your chest, but it makes a big difference.
The other thing that I recommend is kind of, I consider wellness but to always be learning something. So whether that's learning a physical skill or you know, training for something like a tough Mudder, or taking an online class of something that you've always wanted to learn, reading a cool new book that you're excited about. Having something like that going on at all times. It's really great for your mental health and all of this is great for your physical health too. So all of the physical, mental well being. So it's in my mind it's all connected.
Great. The book is called the 12 Minute Athlete. And what I really like about it is that it is bodyweight. It is something you can do at home. You've put the progressions there. They're images. And I can say this, I train, I train a lot of blind individuals with my online training. In fact, they now a large percentage of my clients are vision impaired and you do a really good job of explaining each exercise, each movement along with the images, but just the explanation itself is really, really good to learn each of these exercises and their progressions. If someone wanted to learn more about you and more about the book, Krista, where would you like for me to send them?
You can find 12-Minute Athlete pretty much by searching anywhere these days, which is great, but you can go to 12minuteathlete.com or an app or at 12-minute athlete on social media, the book you can find on any online retailer, Amazon, all those good places. So it's pretty easy to find now.
Okay, well you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/435 and I'll be sure to have links there. Krista, thank you for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome.
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Today I will share my favorite bodyweight exercises. I picked these exercises because they cover the most of the fitness modalities depending on how you use them.
Note: There is no sound in the bodyweight exercise videos to facilitate you watching the video while you listen to the podcast.
This is my favorite bodyweight exercise. It builds strength and mass in the thighs and butt. Hold on to something if you have issues with balance or squat depth. Add a jump to the end to add intensity and power.
This works the chest and triceps. Start with your knees on the ground and progress to a full push up. Elevate your feet for intensity or add a clap at the top to work on power.
Sprints are a great exercise to build metabolic capacity and endurance. Sprints should go for 20 – 30 seconds. Note: This was hard to demonstrate in my yard, but I hope you got the gist.
This is a great, low risk-high reward core exercise. Be sure to breathe during the hold. Go longer for more intensity or add a rocking motion, which would make it a hollow rock.
The bear crawl works your shoulders for strength and improves mobility in the hips (both great for us desk jockeys).
Anyone that has done burpees, hates burpees. But they keep doing them because they work. A full body exercise that helps build endurance and strength.
This is another core exercise that allows you to work core strength more dynamically across multiple core areas (front and sides). The abs are a set of muscles, so hitting them from multiple directions helps keep them strong and balanced.
One of the main reasons elderly people lose independence is from a fall that results in a broken hip. Many times the fall is to the side and they are unable to respond in time to stop it. The carioka forces you to maintain balance as you move sideways. It does provide some endurance benefits as well (especially when part of a circuit where you're already metabolically taxed).
I like the side lunge because it is one of the few bodyweight exercises that isn't front or back. Like the squat, it builds strength and muscle mass in your thighs and butt, but from a different angle.
This exercise builds strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps and is metabolically challenging (endurance). Be sure to work through the full range of motion.
This is another good exercise to help with hip mobility as you build strength, in your legs this time. Do this slow and controlled to get a really good hip stretch during each lunge.
As you can see, my dogs had as much fun with this as I did. For the dog lovers, the German Shepard is Angel, the Chihuahua is Joe Joe, and the Lhasa Apso/Poodle mix is Baby. Of note, I did all of these exercises in a circuit and it was quite taxing. I could see doing three rounds of this, with a short rest between each round as being a great workout for even the most fit individuals.