How to Do 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts if You're Just Starting Out

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If you’ve been a couch potato for most of your adult life, or if your definition of a vigorous workout is half an hour on an elliptical machine or recumbent bike while reading a book, these workouts must seem a bit… hard.

Impossible even.

And I’m not judging. A few years ago, I would have felt the same way.

Back then, if you’d showed me these workouts, I would have laughed in your face and told you there was no way in hell I could do one.

But here’s what you have to realize: it’s all mental.

You can do these workouts.

No matter what kind of shape you’re in, you can start doing these HIIT workouts today.

Because it doesn’t matter how many breaks you have to take, how many reps you can do or how much you have to modify an exercise just to be able to do one single rep.

All that matters is that you try—and that you really, truly give it your all.

But if you’re new to the site, or you just haven’t found the willpower to do one of the HIIT workouts quite yet even though you’ve been here for a while, here are some tips to stop you from procrastinating and start getting in the best shape of your life:

Getting started is the hardest part

If you’ve never done a workout like these ones before, that moment that you decide damn it, I’m finally going to actually try one of these workouts—that’s always the hardest part.

But you just have to take it one step at a time. Throw on your exercise clothes, lace up your training shoes, and actually key in the interval times into your timer—there’s no backing out now.

You’re going to do this.

That first one is always the hardest.

It gets easier, I promise.

Aim for to 2-3 times a week to begin with

If you haven’t exercised vigorously for a while, don’t try to do too much at first. Doing these HIIT workouts just a few times a week is plenty for beginners, and much more than that will leave you feeling to sore to accomplish much else.

Aim for two or three times a week at first, and make sure to do something active on the other days as well, such as go for a walk, a swim, kick a soccer ball around or go play ultimate frisbee in the park with friends.

Then, when you feel up to it, try adding another day or two.

Learn to listen to your body

When you engage in vigorous exercise after not having worked out for a while, it’s inevitable that you’re going to be sore from it.

And while these soreness remedies will certainly help, they’re not going to erase all your aches and pains.

So you just have to deal with it.

Soreness is not a bad thing. Sure, it hurts, and it may make it hard to walk up the stairs at times. But if you continue to work out, and make sure and stay active on your non-workout days, the soreness will get better.

However, there’s a difference between being sore and something really being wrong. If you feel like something is “off,” if you’re extra fatigued, or just have a gut feeling you shouldn’t be working out today, don’t.

Learn to listen to your body and what it needs, and you’ll lessen the chance of injury and overtraining.

Make sure you’re eating right

You can’t expect your body to become strong, fit and healthy if you’re not giving it the right fuel.

This means if you’re trying to lose weight by starving yourself, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Not only will your metabolism actually slow down, your body will try as hard as it can to keep the fat you have (and I’m guessing that’s not your goal).

Plus, if you’re not eating right, you won’t have any energy to actually work out.

So what exactly does it mean to eat right? Here’s a few simple rules to follow:

  • Include protein with every meal 
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every single day
  • Eat a blend of protein and carbs after every workout
  • Eat whole foods (a.k.a. not processed foods) whenever possible
  • Eat small meals throughout the day

Curious to learn more about my take on nutrition? Read the 12 Minute Athlete food philosophy.

You can do it

It’s time to stop making excuses.

Because it doesn’t matter if you’re fat or thin. Young or old. A seasoned athlete or a complete newbie.

You can do these workouts. You just have to try.

Now go crush your workout. I know you can.

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57 thoughts on “How to Do 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts if You're Just Starting Out”

  1. As a vegan, what proteins do you recommend? Also have you heard of the 80-10-10 diet by Doug Graham? What do you think of it?


  2. Thank you for putting these workouts together. However, I am clueless about how this works. I downloaded the timer app. For example, for an 18 – 10 – 30 workout, 18 is the number of rounds, but is the 10 the interval and the 30 the countdown, or vice-versa? And once I get that programmed in, then I see for the first workout there are 6 exercises. How much time do I spend on each????

    Sorry for the newbie question, but I do not get it and don’t see this explained…

  3. How many workouts should I do per day? If I work out in the morning, should I be aiming for 3 x12 minute workouts for this to be effective? I love the App; great job!

      • Is there currently an android app? I would love to be able to complete these workouts with the same program you suggest using but I can’t find the app in the Google app store in my phone.

        Also, I’ve seen the videos and the days, but I’m still a little confused. There’s like say 5 workouts for today and I’m not sure how many reps of everything to do and for how long the other things should be done.


        • Unfortunately the Android app isn’t out quite yet… stay tuned!

          And, if you look on the workouts of the day (such as today’s), it’ll tell you what to do – the 12 minute HIIT workouts don’t have a prescribed number of reps, just timer settings and you do as many reps as possible within those time periods. Feel free to email me if you have further questions Aly!

  4. I am cofused as well on how to do the workouts. I have read How to do the workouts but I’m still lost. Also, how do I plug it into my timer? Sorry but I am a newbie to your program.

    • No problem, Misty. If the workout timer setting says 18 x :10 x :30, you’ll plug in 18 for the number of rounds into your timer, :10 for the rest period, then :30 for the workout period. Go all out during the workout rounds—you should be exhausted and sweaty at the end!

      Let me know if that helps or if you still have other questions.

  5. Hi!

    I was just wondering if there’s any chance of a Window’s phone app being available at some point as well?
    There’s always iPhone apps, but barely ever ones for Window’s. However with my husband working for Microsoft I can’t possibly get myself an iPhone 😉 !!!
    Enough with the whining… Your site is great, my body is killing me… The 30 minutes on the reclining bike while reading a book, that was me (made me laugh when I read it). So thank you very much for this!!!


    • Do a little warm up beforehand – jump rope for a couple of minutes, do a few bear walks, shoulder rolls etc., enough to get your muscles warm and your heart rate up just a bit. Then go hard!

  6. Just wanted it say thank you for your awesome app . Found it on a fitness site ,been hitting it hard 4 days straight since. It’s so different an keeps me going. Quick thought an question , is signing up for hiit on the go free or was it the 49.99 that I saw wasn’t quite sure. My thought was since I’m no fitness guru maybe in a future update maybe there could be a brief description as to which workouts work which area , abs , arms , etc… Just a thought. Thanks again. James.

  7. Hi there! Love the workouts. I was curious though if I should follow with cardio, or should I do cardio on a seperate day? Cardio meaning spinning, running, stairclimber. Is there such a thing as too much cardio?


  8. Hi Krista, new to all this so a bit confused. Just downloaded the ebook. With regards to the timer, on my phone you only have an option to put in hour, minute, second, there is no option for number of rounds so will I have to get a timer for this? Second, say I do the first workout in the book, do I do high knees for 30 secs and rest for 10 secs, then reptile push up for 30 secs and so on. Or do I get through all of then in the 30 secs? How many reps of each to do. Sorry prob seem like stupid questions!

  9. I’m SUPER excited to have found 12 minute athlete and am pumped to get started!

    Krista, I’m wondering if there’s a series of warm up/cool down exercises that you recommend before/after the 12 minute HIIT workout. Is there a post about this on your website?


  10. Hi Krista – came across your site on a fluke and love it. I started my first HIIT 12 minute workout today. I am so out of shape that I didn’t get through all 18 rounds but I will keep pushing and I will get there.

  11. I’m finishing my last semester of grad school while working as a live-in 24- on call-staff member, doing an internship, taking 3 classes, doing research, and a full time job search, and it has been the busiest semester of my life (and the first time in 4 years that I haven’t worked out). Needless to say, my body is not used to be challenged, and I felt the initiative to start this tonight. Holy crap, my body is jello, and I need to take it a little easier next time (didn’t listen to myself), but I can see how powerful this could be! Going to do some light yoga tomorrow and hopefully try again Saturday!

    Thanks for the cool site. 🙂

    • And PS, I deeply missed that exercise and additional energy part of my life. So I’m excited to see the difference this makes it helping me pull through this final stretch with something that is less time consuming than an hour trip to the gym! And that wasn’t a brag fest about business- but more so how hard it has been to keep up with this part of my life. And this seems like a good way to start back on track!

    • Wow, you are DEFINITELY busy, Amelia! So glad you’re making your health and fitness a priority again though – it’s so important to take care of yourself even when your schedule is as crazy as yours is. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  12. Four workouts on the list, twelve rounds so I’m assuming cycle through the four three times? Just found your program today

  13. Hi Krista – great site! I have the app on my iPhone, and am wondering if there is a formula to choosing what exercises to include in a workout. Do you choose one that works arms, one that works legs, one whole body exercise, etc.? I want to pick a few exercises for different workouts each time, but didn’t know if there was a guide to choosing the best mix.

    • Hi Krista! I just signed up this morning and I’m excited to get started. Sadly, I’m a dietitian and used to be a fitness trainer who has let things get out of hand. I have put on signficant weight, am horribly out of shape and have been given 6 months to get my cholesterol levels down or will be put on medication. I have a horrible family history, including diabetes and heart disease. My husband is very fit and I feel so ackward beside him (feeling like people are wondering what in the world he is doing with me). I’m walking proof that KNOWING and DOING are very different things. I KNOW what to do, but I FINALLY feel empowered to DO! Thank you Krista! I look forward to your emails!!!! Let’s get this started!!!!!!!!!

  14. Hi, Krista!

    I absolutely LOVE this! Found 12 Minute Athlete by accident in downloading workout apps 2 days ago, and this popped up. Was so excited in what I saw, payday (today) couldn’t arrive fast enough! Love my kettlebell, plant to get a 35 and a 50 within the next few months, and a sandbag too.

    I’ve been consistently working out for four months and LOVE the gains so far….but I need a fresh challenge,I’m totally fickle with my workouts and discovered kettlebells. They will always be in my workout library :).

    2 tiny gripes: your 12 Minute tanks and tees only go to the XL size; I’m a big woman, so I’ll always need a 2XL for the tanks and tees. Hope to see a more diverse line of those sizes, as well as hoodies, sweat wrist and headbands and maybe jackets. As for the gym, I agree w/ your philosophy for that…but what about swim clubs if one doesn’t have access to natural bodies of water to exercise in? Are those in the same philosophy on your gym one?

    Keep up the fantastic work! Glad to have found the site and the app.

  15. I finally purchased the 12 MA app and did “some” of my first workout.
    In attempting to complete it I found I am not anywhere near as strong as I thought I was nor as I have once been. It sucks!! It seems my back is fairly strong but my arms are very, very week. Push ups are almost impossible.

    How do I strengthen my arms and upper back so that I am able to do a complete and proper push up??

    I know I can increase my cardio for endurance but that doesn’t help me do a good burpee or push up.

    Thank you in advance.

  16. Downloaded it while looking for a HIIT work out, First on Apple store so BOOM! I did one excersice today that had me stomped! LOVED IT! will continue to do this! thanks!! SO MUCH!

  17. I love the idea of fast, short workouts!!! I do have a question concern though: About 2-2.5 years ago, I injured by back (was told I have a herniated disc) – I’m mostly pain free, but do suffer spasms every few months. It’s been very difficult for me to get back in shape as I’ve been afraid to do anything high impact…….such as running/plyometrics. Do you think it’s possible to get results doing low impact interval workouts? I can usually do things such as mountain climbers, or even jump squats……just not tuck jumps or box jumps, or burpees.

  18. Is this workout program appropriate for 53 year old woman that can’t do one pushup? I’ve gained 20 pounds from menopause that I need to lose.

  19. i was a professional swimmer for almost 12 years i was ranked 4th and 6th on the world ! now i am a petroleum engineer and i stay alot of days away from the city in the field when i found this work out it was the best for me coz all i needed is 12 mints with smart workout ! thank you who ever the person is who started this work out and who ever write the workout . just wana say i follow up ur workout and do them all 🙂

  20. I see that someone else asked this same question, but it seems the answer has been deleted? How much time do I spend on each exercise. It seems wrong that I would do one of each for 30 seconds….I’m confused!

  21. Hi, I just did my first very modified workout. I felt tired but motivated. I signed up for super athelete. This is what I’ve been looking for. I am a 53 yr. old working mom. I need to workout and build strength, but had hardly any time. I can do this anywhere. Looking forward to this new journey.


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