Getting Stronger and Healthier with Krista Stryker

August 25, 2020

Krista is the author of the new book, The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Own Bodyweight and a leading fitness and mindset expert. She is the founder of 12 Minute Athlete and the 12 Minute Athlete app as well as a writer, TV guest/host, and motivational speaker. From trying her first push-up in college, to teaching herself to do pull-ups and handstands, Krista is living proof of her philosophy that everybody is an athlete. She is passionate about the power of exercise and movement to build confidence, resilience, and mental and physical strength.

John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact! Podcast is brought to you by the Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit themarketingmasters.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact! Podcast. I am so honored and privileged to have with us today, Krista Stryker. She is the Twelve-Minute Athlete. She has her own website. She has a book that I have read and it is in my hand right now, which is a wonderful book. Welcome to the Impact! Podcast, Krista Stryker.

Krista Stryker: Thank you so much for having me.

John: You know Krista before we get talking about all the things that you have created- the app, the book, and your website and the mission that you are on, talk a little about the journey. Where you grew up? How you even got to this place in this world right now?

Krista: Sure. So I grew up in a rainy Washington State. Growing up, I played a few sports here and there but I really did not consider myself to be athletic and failed all those presidential fitness tests. I could not do pull up, pushup, anything like that. I really left high school believing that I did not have any athletic gene in me. So I went to college just kind of resigned so that I was going to be weak. I never was overweight. I did not struggle with too many eating issues but I just felt very weak. As I said, I could not do anything. I got into fitness kind of just because I was super depressed and had nothing else that I was interested in my life. There was a moment where my older brother encouraged me to do a push-up. He found out that I had never do push up and I did three of like the worse push-ups anyone has ever seen. But that triggered something in me that day where I decided “You know what, I am going to give this a real shot. I am going to see if I can try to get better, try to get build some strength.” That is really where it all started. It took me years, seriously years, of trying to figure out the right work out something that stuck. It did not come naturally to me at all. But it has been an amazing journey so far.

John: How old were you when you had that sort of epiphany of doing your first push-up and starting the journey? The starting of the official journey towards the Twelve-Minute Athlete.

Krista: This was in my early twenties.

John: Okay.

Krista: I am about twenty-two.

John: Right. I assumed like any journey, because, in many ways, this is not only about your fitness journey and your personal journey of health and wellness, and I mean overall health and wellness. But also this is the beginning of your journey as also an entrepreneur.

Krista: Definitely.

John: That has ups and downs and zigs and zags. Share a little bit about how it evolved. How your workout journey evolved? What you found work and did not work, and also mixing that with food. Because so many people that we either know personally or acquaintances, they always say “Hey! I go to SoulCycle and I go to Equinox every week and I do some yoga but I am still carrying five or ten or twenty extra pounds.” But you see they drink soda regularly and they have a bad diet. Why do people think they can outwork a bad diet? How did that fit into your journey as well? I am just asking about the whole thing.

Krista: Oh man. Diet is an interesting one. First of all, I do not believe in any one diet. I do not think anything is perfect for everybody. So I am not going to say do this and this will work for every single person.

John: Right.

Krista: But there is some good baseline. You know, eat lots of vegetables, try not to eat processed food, get in some protein, focus on whole food in general. I did not know any of this stuff. So when I went to college during that time in Sayamille[?], I pretty much ate like boxes of mac and cheese and wondered why I could not look the way I wanted to look.

John: Right. Which is sort of, but that is not abnormal. That is part of the college journey. People will eat like that through college, right?

Krista: Exactly. So it took a long time like I said for me to learn that. I also had a fairly unhealthy relationship with food where I had this crazy idea that the less food you eat the better you are. I thought if I just do not eat all day that will be great. I have this relationship with food where any food that I ate, I thought I was being a bad person which looking back is insane.

John: Right.

Krista: It took a lot of time for me to kind of switch that mindset to thinking about food as real fuel for your body, for your workouts, for your daily life. So it said, you know, vegetables are maybe in the things that just give you energy and make you feel right.

John: Let us talk a little bit about the journey. So now, you start this journey as both an entrepreneur but also a personal journey on getting really fit and getting feeling better. Who did you look to for inspiration, first on the fitness side, and then on the diet side? What were some of your “aha” moments that, “Ah, this person has a ride[?]. I am really learning a lot from this person’s inspiration or journey.”

Krista: That is a great question. When I was early starting out on the fitness journey, I actually moved to Amsterdam. I was in the Netherlands for a few years. Yeah, so that was like crazy. I just graduated college and this is probably where my fitness journey kind of took place. I could not work at that time which is terrible for a person just out of college. So I have had something that I was focus on. Decided to get my personal training certification because I had met some really cool trainer, who were very encouraging. From those first push-ups, like really encouraged me that if I stuck with it, I could get stronger and fitter and do all these things that before, I never thought were humanly possible. So that is some really cool people there.

John: Talk a little bit about that. I have traveled the world on business and on some pleasure. I was supposed to actually have a speaking event this summer in Amsterdam which of course is canceled or postponed because of the COVID-19 tragedy. Talk a little bit about health, wellness, and fitness in the Netherlands. Are people generally into that? Is that a big part of the culture there, is working out and eating well as well?

Krista: Biking is. People are outside constantly year round even when it was dark and rainy and freezing in the wind center. Always biking outside.

John: Really?

Krista: In Europe in general, I would say that like working out in a gym or even doing just like a specific workout is a newer thing. It is not as big as you do not see SoulCycles everywhere there.

John: Right. We can not cease. [crosstalk]

Krista: But people like to do an outdoor workout. Exactly. It is getting to be more popular but in general, people are very active in their daily lives.

John: That is interesting.

Krista: Biking, walking everywhere. The food tends to be better than American food- fresher, and a lot of produce. That was great. They do not supplement it sugary. You can get a coffee and it tastes like espresso and water and milk. It is not like laid them with tons of sugar like many American coffees are.

John: Right.

Krista: But that was a good teaching experience for me.

John: So a good launchpad for the beginning of your journey, in Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

Krista: Yes.

John: On the food side, the quality of produce and more produce. Did you find anybody or someone in particular, or book you read, or the video you watched inspiring about food as fuel versus food equals bad because starving is supposed to be good? Which is, of course, you know, is the tragic misconception out there that so many of us fall into. I think I was into that at some point when I younger man my self. Where did the food is fuel mantra become part of your DNA and how you go forward every day?

Krista: That is a good question. So again, there was one trainer specifically that I let and we became friends and he was really the star of that inspiration for me. Because again, it is like I would look at it as less is more for food and he is like, “No if you want to get stronger, you actually have to eat and I want you to eat these things,” and it was the start of a much healthier relationship for me with food. That was pretty amazing.

John: How many years in your journey… Now you come back to America. You settle back in your home, or did you go settle somewhere else when you came back from Amsterdam and the Netherlands?

Krista: I moved from Amsterdam to New York where then I worked at one of the Big Boss gyms for quite a while.

John: Okay and then from New York, you then migrated west eventually?

Krista: I did. I came to California.

John: Sunny California.

Krista: Sunny California, always chasing the sun.

John: I do not blame you. I love it too. I am a native New Yorker who now lives in the sunshine. So I totally get it. When did you feel that you have reached the point as both in your journey, personal and entrepreneurship, where now, your two journeys which start, to even converge into something new and you create your book, your app, and your website? How many years into the journey did that happen?

Krista: Well I learned very early on that I was really bad at working for other people. I really did not like the kind of standard nine to five situations. So I was always trying to create something different. I thought for a while that working in the gym for some training thing would be great. Anyone who has ever done that will know that it is absolutely exhausting. You are up at five A.M., training clients early morning. You have a long break during the day. Then you are training clients at night, usually six days a week. It is not very fun long term. I knew that was not going to last and I had always been a writer. I studied Journalism in college and actually worked as a journalist for a little bit. So I always looking for ways to kind of mesh the two things- fitness and writing. I really started, for my app, as just a blog. This was about seven years ago when blogging was really big. I started that with the hopes that I could create my own job and not have to work for anyone else.

John: When did you launch your website? Was it website first, the book first, or the app first? Which came? Like, explain the order of that and how you came up with your vision and your execution of the vision?

Krista: Yes. So as I have said, it started just as a blog and really was super consistent with that. At the time, everyone was starting. Again, it was two thousand thirteen. Everyone was starting a blog. I was very conscious of that. I had three months of content before I even told anyone that it existed. I had the whole kind of brand figured out and launch that. I think mid-two thousand thirteen. I did that for a while. My next product was my app. I really stuck with that. It had been extremely consistent content-wise, and I had seen the world change in that another time as well. Then I released the book early this spring.

John: That is awesome. For our listeners who just joined us, we are just so excited and honored to have with us today Krista Stryker. She is the Twelve Minute Athlete. She has a new book out, The Twelve Minute Athlete, which you could buy on her website which is www.12minuteathlete.com or in Barnes and Noble and other great bookstores and of course on Amazon.com. I have the book on my desk. We are going to talk about that. I have read your book. Before we get into that, you kept saying the word consistent. I think as an entrepreneur, for our listeners out there, there is a lot to that. A lot of people have good intentions and they start up a blog or they start the other version of the blog which is really in many ways a podcast. But most people do not stay consistent with it. It is the consistency of you just sticking to the blog and continue to get your thoughts and your energy into that, and the app that has made a success to date.

Krista: I think I would say yes. I think my philosophy in life is consistency. I kind of go slow and shift away on things. This is the same as my fitness journey, go slow but just stay consistent. I do that. It is the same thing with the blog, the app, and you know the book. It is always overwhelming to write a book. But if you chip away at it a little bit each day, eventually you will have an actual book. So yeah I think it is a huge difference.

John: Right. So you came up with the app first. Then I am on your website now which by the way is just not only gorgeous but it is full of great information. It is vibrant. The colors are beautiful. Again for our listeners, it is www.12minuteathlete.com. Then the book just launched this spring. Talk a little bit about how many years that it takes you to put a book together, edit the way you want, and get it out there?

Krista: I had the idea for the book may be like three years ago. Then I put too much pressure on myself to put it together. But then once I did, it was about a six-month process. As I said, I just committed to writing a little bit each day and it came together not easily. There is always a struggle with these things, but I was pretty happy with the end result. It was years of thinking of doing it and just kind of malling the idea overnight in my head.

John: Well for our listeners out there, I shared this with Krista while we were off the air. It is important that you hear this. I went through the whole book. Read it, enjoyed every page, and thought that it was so valuable, not only because of the wisdom that you put down and aggregated on this book. But because of the simplicity of it. I do not mean that simplicity in a bad way. I mean that in terms of clarity. There are pictures that go along with what you are discussing. There are programs that go along in terms of nutrition and work out programs. You make it real. As I said off the air, you make it goofproof. You know what, life is complicated enough Krista, so the fact that you made this accessible to all of us in terms of your clarity and your simplicity, my hats off to you. The book is so well done and I really have to share with all listeners. This book is really well worth it because it is just all there for you if you want it. If you want it, it is there. So a really great job.

Krista: Thank you so much.

John: Great job on every level.

Krista: You make me feel great.

John: Oh well, it is the truth. I mean you know and that is why I do this show. It is to have great people like you that have put the work in. Put the real work in, and have something of importance to share that can make people better, make an impact on their lives, and make the world better ultimately. You have done that. You have done that in spades here. I have to say this though. I am so glad you put in the book. It is under your bonus section. We are going to go back and go over some of the other sections as well. But I just love this section because I never heard of the word until I had, and I bought this way before COVID for my wife and myself. I bought a Peloton years ago because my wife really does not like to going to gyms and she enjoys the privacy of working out. We bought enjoyed the Peloton. But I never heard of the word in my life before Tabata. In your book, you even cover that. Can you share with our listeners a little bit about what a Tabata workout is and why it is so important to our general health and wellness?

Krista: Sure. Tabata workout is a four-minute workout. So super, super short. But the idea behind it is that it involves a period of work that is twenty-seconds long and a period of rest that is ten-seconds long. There is research behind this. When you are in that work and in a roll, you want to go as hard as you possibly can. If you think about it, if you are sprinting, you want to actually sprint so that you are exhausted at the end of that twenty seconds. Then you get a short break and you go again. It ends up being eight-rounds. It sounds doable because it is four minutes but they are very hard. There is tons of research that they are incredibly effective and can take the place of a much longer workout and really boost your endurance, [inaudible]. All these great things and it does not take very long. You can do Tabata workouts with a variety of different types of exercises. I really like it. The classic ones would be sprinting. Sprinting on a bike, plyometrics which started with are… Jumping-base exercises like squat jumps or burpees. Jump burping is a great one. So there are all sorts of ways to make them up.

John: That is so wonderful. Tabata is just another form of something you are a big advocate of, which is High-intensity interval training, right?

Krista: Correct.

John: This is something that took me years to learn. It is in your book and you outline this really well. But explain to our listeners, the science behind, which is something that we all have a little bit upside down. You go to a gym, you work out or you go on a treadmill and you do an hour walk on a treadmill.

Krista: Yes.

John: You could feel ravenous in terms of your diet. The rest of the day post-workout. But why, in what is a very short burst of energy workout. A HIIT, high-intensity interval training workout, does that reduce your appetite typically and actually shrink it, which sounds counterintuitive. But you talk about it in your book, it is brilliant. Can you talk a little bit about the science and the reality of that?

Krista: Yes. That kind of treadmill workout that you are referring to, it is what we call a moderate-intensity workout, where you are working at maybe fifty to sixty percent of your maximum capacity for forty-five minutes or more. What tends to happen is that you burn calories during that workout and then you return to baseline afterward. This gets into endurance work, which at some point like you said, you become very hungry. I used to do this type of workout and wonder why I was starving all day long.

Krista: HIIT workouts on the other hand, because you are working super hard for such a short amount of time, it actually increases your metabolism for up to twenty-four to twenty-eight hours after the workout, which is awesome. So you burn more calories. Because you are not putting your body through a longer workout, you do not get as hungry. It really normalizes your appetite, which again, is something that I personally experienced when I first started to get in fitness and they really, really work.

John: Right. For our listeners out there that just joined us, we have got Krista Stryker with us. She is the Twelve Minute Athlete. Her new book is out on Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble and other great bookstores, and of course, on the www.12minuteathlete.com. You could also find Krista on Twitter, on her great Instagram page, and on Facebook.

Krista, talk a little bit about COVID-19. We are living through this very, very challenging period. People struggle with weight, fitness, nutrition, regardless of this kind of cloud that hangs over not only the United States but around the world right now. How has COVID-19 affected people’s health and fitness routines, and also mental health? You are a leader in this field now and because you have the app and the book and you have become a public figure, what are you hearing from people that follow you, that you have become an inspiration to? What are you assessing over the last four months? How are people struggling and what words of wisdom can you share with them to get over the challenges that we are all facing right now?

Krista: Yes. I am not going to lie. It has been a challenge for me as well. It has been a difficult, crazy time. That much is true.

John: Yes.

Krista: But one thing that has given me a lot of hope, I will tell you is that, before this, I feel like so many people come clean and they are just talking about their workouts and their fitness in terms of weight loss and appearance alone. There is research and I know from personal experience working with people that just having weight loss or appearance based goals, is not as motivating long-term. So, what I try and get people to do is have other reasons to work out. These are reasons like for your mental health because you feel better after your workouts. They really help with depression and anxiety, things that I have suffered through a lot of my life.

Also fun things, like having goals, to be able to do a skill or a strength-based exercise that you never could do before. One thing that I have really seen during this time is that people are switching their thinking around their workouts to, “You know what? I realized that I need to get out of the house for my mental health, so I am going to do a workout in the park,” and realize how much better they feel from that. That makes them so happy. Just that a little switch because people are just realizing that exercise, it is about so much more than just how we look and our weight alone and that it brings so much joy through our lives in general.

John: I could not agree with you more. I feel that my headspace gets really bad if I do not do cardio every day. Everything becomes almost overwhelming. I am a huge fan of what you are proposing here. There are many things that I love about your book, as I shared earlier. Talk a little bit about your eight-week workout plan. To get on the right track, to get faster, stronger, fitter in just eight weeks, if they follow a program that you put together in your book and in your app. Can you share that a little bit?

Krista: Sure. One of the amazing things about this type of training, HIIT training, bodyweight training is that you really can see and feel results fairly quickly, even within a few weeks. You are not going to lose ten pounds in three weeks, that is not really the goal. But you will physically feel stronger and fitter. You will feel an increased amount of endurance and just feel better overall. Eight weeks is a really great amount of time to stick with something. It is also really hard to stick with something that long.

Most people start a workout plan and they are super excited to start it. Then, two weeks in, they are already burnt out because they are trying to go too hard too soon, or worse, they injure themselves. This really takes you through workouts, mostly bodyweight exercises, things that people can do in their home or a park. They are really ideal for this time. Two months is ideal for making progress during workouts and also making it a habit.

John: That is so interesting. When I look at you on Instagram, we have never met or in your book, you look as fit as any human being I have ever seen. I try to get myself inspired by folks like David Goggins, Gabby Reece. You are as fit as these world-class athletes. What gets you motivated? How do you create new challenges for yourself now on a regular basis to constantly reinspire yourself, Krista?

Krista: I love that question. I am always looking up to people. People are amazing. There are so many amazing athletes and entrepreneurs. I love Serena Williams. She is so inspiring to me. She just works so hard. I also am always trying to learn something new. That is one of the things that I really promote that people do, to keep workouts and fitness challenging and interesting. In the last few years, I personally have been trying to get better at handstands and boxing. I came into those two things like a total beginner. There are so many amazing hand balancers on Instagram that I have gotten the chance to train with over the years, which is incredible. Again, boxing is a whole other type of training, but it has been so fun to learn and challenge myself and to see what I can really do when I try and stick with it.

John: Right. Boxing is so much fun. It is one of my favorites. But I am going to tell you a funny story about headstands in your book. I am reading your book and I get to the headstand part. Then I totally was deflated when you said, “Do not use a wall to learn how to do headstands. You will become much better, and stronger, faster if you do this the right way to start with.” I am like, “Oh my gosh, I have used a wall my whole time that I have been trying to master this. I am doing it all wrong.” Like you said, “The journey is the journey. You can always learn from everybody.” It was fun to learn that. I am like, “Okay, now I have got to start to do this without the wall.” When I got to that part, I was like, “Oh, she is so right, but the wall is so comforting.”

Krista: It is. You know, baby steps. You work up to it. You do not have to go full in right away.

John: Talk a little bit about two things that look almost innocuous from afar when you are watching other people doing them in the gym, but are truly two of your all-inclusive go-to’s. Pistol squats and pull-ups. Explain why they are so important and can be so explosive to getting fitter faster.

Krista: I love those two exercises. Pull-ups are just amazing. They were not here and there for the body, and I would say especially for women, they are an amazing confidence booster. Because so many women are told they will never be able to do a pull-up. So, when I break it down for them and say, “We start out with bodyweight rows, where you are horizontal and building strength there and the next step would be what is called a flex hang. You are just hanging. You are basically holding yourself up to the top of the bar.” All these things are an amazing strength-building exercise. But they also really teach you that you can do hard things. When I see people get that first pull up, it makes me tear up myself because I remember that experience.

Pistol squats, there are so many reasons that I love them. One is they require no equipment at all. A pistol squat is a one-legged squat where you are going all the way, basically, your butt touches your calf and then you stand back up. It is really hard. But a lot of people do not work them because they do not know how. A lot of people will go instead and use weights, which have their purpose for sure. But pistol squats, you can work on them anywhere and they build up strength unilaterally. Meaning that you are going to strengthen both legs.

Most people have one leg or one side that is stronger than the other. This really helps even it out. Just like pull-ups, there are pretty easy, doable steps that you can work to build up to the exercise. It is nice to have that kind of checklist where you realize that you have made progress because you are working at it. You are at this step, next is going to be this, and all of a sudden, you can do this thing that is really, really hard. It is just awesome.

John: In your book, you cover the issue of working out on a fasted stomach versus having some food and fuel in you. Can you share the pros and cons of each with our listeners? It is a fascinating analysis you put in your book. I would love you to share that little snippet.

Krista: All right. There are different reasons to work out, fasted, and not. I am going to say that everyone is different. So not everyone will have the same experience. If you are going for just total fat loss and your workout is a little bit less intense. Let us say you are going for a jog or just doing a moderate-intensity workout, fasted can be fine. The research shows that you can burn more fat that way. However, if you are going for total performance, meaning you are going for a new personal record or PR, or you are doing a really hard HIIT workout or a sprint workout, you really need some food beforehand, because you are just not going to perform as well, otherwise.

John: What kind of vitamins do you take if any, and why do you feel that they are important?

Krista: I take a specific kind of whole fruit-based vitamins. I have been a lifelong vegetarian. I have been supplementing like vitamin B and some sort of algae supplement is great for me. I think it is again, very personal and recommended. If people can find a good naturopath or something like a homeopathic type doctor, then they can get those personalized recommendations, versus just buying random stuff at the store that they do not know if it is good or anything like that. But it can be really helpful. Or a green supplement is another awesome one.

John: Right. I loved in your book where you talked a little bit about the benefits of caffeine before working out. Can you share it? There is so much that we are inundated with. Drink coffee, do not drink coffee. Coffee makes you live longer, coffee makes you smarter, coffee is anti-cancer. But beyond coffee, you also mentioned in your area on caffeine in our ability to work out and get the most of our workout, you talk about even great things like green tea, which I am a huge fan of. I drink green tea every day before my workout. Share a little bit about your science behind caffeine and getting the most bang out of your buck for your workouts.

Krista: Yes. Most of us love some form of caffeine. If you have it, fifteen or thirty minutes before a workout, whether it is coffee or green tea or some sort of pre-workout, maybe not the crazy kinds that are full of chemicals, but a more natural one, it really can help you push harder during your workout, as well as increase your endurance. Both of which are awesome. It can also even help a little bit with recovery afterward, especially if you are doing workouts more often, or if you ever do two a day. It has been shown that having a little caffeine after your first workout can help you recover faster for your second one.

John: Talk a little bit about when to cut it off. When do you cut off caffeine for the day so you can make sure you get enough rest so you can recover?

Krista: At least eight to ten hours before bedtime is ideal. Some people metabolize caffeine a little bit differently. So you have to really pay attention to your own body and decide. Just see. If you have an iced coffee at two P.M., does that keep you from sleeping? You just want to experiment with that a little bit. But generally, by early afternoon at the latest, you should cut it off.

John: Krista, before we say goodbye for today, can you share with our listeners one exercise that you recommend for people trying to stay fit, do the best that they can besides eating right as much as they can during this COVID-19 period until we get to the other side and they can go back to whatever their new normal is. Give us one exercise, one little taste.

Krista: I would say burpees, but everyone hates this. So I am going to say…

John: That is a good one. That is a great one actually.

Krista: It is a great one, but for some reason, everyone hates burpees. I love burpees. I would love to see more people get a jump rope. It is such a great exercise. To jump rope. It can be very fun. You can take your jump rope anywhere- to a park and do a workout there. Starting out with just the basic single under jumps, and then you can learn some fun skills. It is a way to make progress and challenge yourself always. As I said, you can take it anywhere. So, if and when we get to travel again, I would bring a jump rope with me anywhere I go in the world. It is like you have this amazing workout tool. They are cheap and you can buy them online. I really recommend that everyone try that.

John: What is you one guilty pleasure when you take a break from eating clean? What do you love to take a break with?

Krista: I have a huge sweet tooth.

John: What did you say?

Krista: I have a huge sweet tooth. So I love chocolate. I love ice cream. I love homemade, not store-bought, but homemade pie. Oh my gosh, blue[?]berry pie is my favorite thing in the whole world.

John: That is awesome. Krista, your work is so important. For our listeners out there again, Krista Stryker has a new book out. The Twelve Minute Athlete. Get fitter, faster, and stronger using HIIT, High-intensity interval training, and your body weight. It is available on her website, 12minuteathlete.com. It is also available at Barnes and Noble and other great bookstores, and Amazon.com. You could find Krista also on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram. You could download her great app on the 12minuteathlete.com.

Krista Stryker, you are making a great impact on everyone’s lives, making the world a better place. We are just grateful for all your great work and your time today. Thank you again.

Krista: Thank you so much.