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  • Writer's pictureSumbella

The Mother of all workouts (that takes just 12 minutes).

The Analogy

Whipping cream.

I will often groan both inwardly and outwardly when I am given this job to do in the kitchen.

I believe my reluctance about whipping cream is justified.

If you have ever tried to whip liquid cream to make it thick, you'll know that you have to whip for ages until you see any results.

Your arm gets so numb you wonder whether it's worth it, when seemingly nothing is happening.

After several minutes, there is a point I usually stop. Things are still so runny, anyway.

And at this very point, someone will come along and pick it up, mix it for a moment, and it magically turns thick and creamy with just a couple of stirs.

There are lots of lessons we can draw from whipping cream.

But to preface this article about a workout, the point is working out daily often feels like nothing is happening. Just like whipping that cream.

Until one day, you realise you can go a little further, run a little faster, push a little harder.

One day you realise you're not so breathless anymore.

And maybe one day, sometimes after months of 'whipping cream', you realise your clothes are fitting you differently, perhaps hanging a little more loosely.

It is just like the moment the whipped cream becomes thick and scrumptious.

The Premise

The workout I share in this article is like that.

For weeks, maybe months, it feels like nothing is happening.

But so much is happening.

I have been doing this workout for years. The first time I did it, I nearly doubled over with shock at how hard it was - I did it as a run, using sprints as the 'work' intervals.

So why is it the mother of all workouts?

  • It makes you accustomed to a valuable fitness principle of on-off (pushing your body, and then resting it in intervals).

  • It gets you to understand your maximum capacity - and to increase what you can cope with.

  • It helps instil a daily movement pattern and habit into your life and body.

Some other perks:

  • It is short enough to not skip.

  • It is simple enough that anyone can master and do it.

  • It is flexible enough that you can do it anywhere.

I treat this single workout as a foundational tool that builds on other fitness areas in my movement each week.

Here's how to do it:

The Steps


12 mins total.


For the first 4 mins: Jog, walk or move gently. You should be able to hold a conversation while moving at this point.
For the middle 4 mins: for 20 seconds, sprint or walk or move your body as fast/hardas you can. For 10 seconds rest - shift down to a walk if necessary, but don't stop. *Repeat this 20 secs on / 10 secs rest 8 times.*
For the last 4 mins: Jog, walk, or move gently to cool down.
You're done. :)

As time progresses, you might feel you can do more after this 12 minutes.

Or even perhaps that you want to do more.

Any further movement you do after this foundational workout is a great bonus.

Alternatives to running

For me, the easiest way to do this workout is to gently run, and then sprint during the 20 second 'work' intervals. It never worked well for me on a treadmill, because of fiddling with the buttons to change the pace so frequently.

If you can't run, you could walk, and then increase your walking pace during the workout intervals.

If running isn't right for you, you can replace the sprinting intervals with jumping jacks, squats, push-ups - any activity that gets you moving.

The Tools

This workout does need a couple of practical tools to help make it work well.

App: Interval Timer (or equivalent) - There are so many, I use an older one 'Intervals Pro', but there are many others that may suit you better.
App: Sports Tracker (or equivalent) - I also like to track the run itself. Again, there are many run trackers, but I use SportsTracker because it lets me add lots of varied fitness activities to my sports diary.
Music: I love blasting a good motivational track for doing this workout. It's only 12 minutes long, so you need about 3 songs (assuming each is about 4 minutes). Strongly recommend making a power playlist that fits the vibe easily.

The Summary

This format for a small but mighty 12 minute workout can be done daily - or if not, frequently. I do this most days before a run or to warm up for a run, but I tend not to do interval workouts during period weeks.

Here's the layout again:

You warmup for 4 minutes.
Then you work hard as you can for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds 'resting'. You repeat those 8 times.
Then you cool down for 4 minutes.

It's a simple workout that anyone can do.

It's short enough that you can do it daily without impeding on much else.

It's effective, because it builds your stamina and heart health over time.

Let me know if you try it, and how you feel at that final interval before the cool down. Garhh! :)

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