On the brain-boosting effects of exercise, how to learn skills faster, and sprints

It took me a long time to shift my idea of exercise from something I have to do to lose weight to something I get to do because it makes me feel good.

I didn’t start working out regularly until my early twenties. Back then, I had no idea about the mental health benefits of exercise. Or that exercise has countless benefits that go far beyond appearance.

And I’m certainly not alone in this. In fact, despite a growing body of research from the past few decades, most people have no idea about the brain-boosting benefits of exercise.

Exercise can help us think better and be more creative. Even a short workout can increase focus and concentration and help us learn better for hours afterward.

Exercise has long-term cognitive benefits, too, like increasing overall brain function, memory, and learning capabilities.

If you want to learn faster, be more creative, and perform at a high level in any area of your life, make sure to prioritize regular exercise.

(If you’re interested in learning more about how exercise benefits our cognitive performance, one of my favorite books on the subject is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey, MD.)

What I’m reading —

Santiago / a poem by David Whyte

“The road seen, then not seen, the hillside hiding then revealing the way you should take, the road dropping away from you as if leaving you to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up, when you thought you would fall, and the way forward always in the end the way that you followed, the way that carried you into your future, that brought you to this place, no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you, no matter that it had to break your heart along the way.”

I also just listened to a great interview with poet and author David Whyte on Sam Harris’s Making Sense podcast.

What I’m listening to —

How to Learn Skills Faster  / Huberman Lab Podcast (Apple Podcasts / YouTube)

This episode of the Huberman Lab podcast is all about the science and practice of learning physical skills; so, pretty much my dream episode. I took pages and pages of notes, but here are some highlights:

  • We need to make errors when first starting a new skill; this is what opens the door for neuroplasticity (our brain’s ability to change)
  • Don’t focus on perfection when starting out, focus on getting in as many reps as you can in however much time you have to practice
  • After your training session, take at least a minute or more to close your eyes and do nothing; this is what helps cement the learning in your brain
  • As you get past the beginner stage of learning, you have to keep introducing uncertainty in order to keep improving

So many gems in this one. If you’re into nerdy brain stuff and also want to learn a new skill, I highly recommend checking it out.

A quote that inspires me —

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What I’m training —


I’ve found that including sprints once or twice a week in my training helps keep my conditioning up like no other exercise can. If there’s a hill nearby, I’ll do sprints uphill; otherwise I’ll try and do them on the beach.

Here’s my typical flat ground sprint workout:

  • 2 ~15-20 second sprints at 70-75% capacity
  • 6-8 ~15-20 second sprints at 90% capacity
  • Jog or walk back

Three new workouts from last week —

Full Body Bar Conditioning Workout (12 minute, pull up bar)

375 Rep Kettlebell Challenge Workout  (Challenge, kettlebell)

282 Rep Core Challenge Workout (Challenge, plyo box)

And here’s a jump rope workout I posted on Instagram.

Remember, you can get these and all future workouts right in the 12 Minute Athlete app when you subscribe as a Super Athlete (this is WAY cheaper than joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer! In addition, you’ll be helping to support the site and making future features to the app possible.).

As always, I value your feedback, so please feel free to reply directly to this email if you have any questions or comments (yes, I am a real human). I get a lot of emails and messages, so I can’t reply to all of them, but I do read everything you guys send me!

– Krista Stryker

PS. I recently wrote a blog post on the life lessons I’ve learned so far training in boxing and martial arts. If you haven’t read it, you can check it out here.


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