8 ways to make the 12-3-30 treadmill workout more interesting

If you’ve been doing the viral TikTok workout for a while now, the chances are it’s starting to get a little dull. Put the spring back in your step and max out the benefits with these expert-backed hacks. 

Are you on board with this viral workout? The 12-3-30 trend, a moderately challenging low-impact exercise, has been strutting around the internet for a couple of years but with the hashtag #12330Workout now chalking up over 178 million views on TikTok, it’s become an integral part of a gym routine for many.

For the uninitiated, the idea is straightforward enough: set a treadmill to a 12% incline and a speed of 3mph (4.8kmph). Then simply walk your way to improved cardiovascular health, greater lower body strength and better mood for 30 continuous minutes.

But, let’s be real. Walking outdoors is one thing, doing it indoors on a treadmill with no variation is quite another. Boredom can quickly set in. If you find yourself considering a third trip to the water cooler just to break the monotony, it’s time to spice things up. 

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Here are some simple hacks to try during your next 12-3-30 workout to improve body, mind and mood. 

How to boost motivation and enjoyment of treadmill workouts

Tweak the basics to max out the benefits

Firstly, make sure you’re getting the fundamentals right. It’s not just about putting one foot in front of the other – you need to fine tune the detail.

“Keep your eyes facing forward, head upright, chin parallel with floor and shoulders back while pulling your belly button in towards the spine to engage your core,” Sean Johnson, regional fitness manager for Orangetheory Fitness, tells Stylist.

“Have your arms at 90 degrees and keep them swinging. Don’t hold on to the treadmill – we’re not pushing shopping trolleys. March those arms, like mini uppercuts, as the faster they go the faster your legs are capable of moving.

“You want to be landing with your heel first to provide propulsion. Typically, the steeper the hill the quicker your cadence, so ensure you have nice quick feet to make it more efficient,” he adds. 

Include an upper body exercise

Your legs are busy but what about your arms?

Sophie Brock, PT at PureGym Manchester, suggests: “Instead of walking with your hands down by your sides, switch your position to placing your hands together on the back of your head with your elbows pointing up – this will help you to maintain a good posture.

“You’ll be engaging your core, meaning you’re working your abs, and keeping your arms up moderately activates your upper body muscles.” For an additional challenge, hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand for the duration of the workout.

Add variation in speed and incline 

Don’t worry, the 12-3-30 police aren’t going to close down your workout if you deviate from the format. Brock believes adding some intervals can be very effective.

“For the first four minutes, follow the workout as normal, then decrease the incline to 8% and increase the speed to 4mph (6.4kmph). Do this for one minute, before reverting back to 12% and 3mph. Repeat this another five times,” she says. 

Try a walking meditation

You don’t have to be sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed to meditate. Yoga teacher Scarlett Woodford of Look Closer Healing believes a walking meditation is a fabulous way to find a bit of headspace.

“A rhythmic, walking meditation with eyes open is a great ‘entry level’ option for those who might find a traditional, seated meditation too daunting. Some people find closing their eyes can make them feel more tense, rather than less so,” she explains. 

Try Scarlett’s treadmill meditation:

  1. If you can, pick a treadmill positioned so you can see the sky as this will aid relaxation (although not possible in most gyms, so don’t worry if you can’t – it will still be effective).
  2. Spend the first five minutes focused on your breath – nasal breathing (rather than mouth breathing) will help improve cardiovascular health. Follow a slow, rhythmic inhale/exhale with no holds.
  3. Spend the next five minutes counting your steps – perhaps imagine you’re walking in a woodland and visualise the leaves as you step.
  4. Spend five minutes on the senses – think of five things you can see; four things you can hear; three things you can feel; two things you can smell; one thing you can taste (swig some water or lick the back of your hand!).
  5. Repeat until the 30 minutes are up. 

Strut to the perfect playlist

Research has shown that not only is music a brilliant mood booster, but when listening to high-tempo music while exercising it enhances enjoyment and performance, even encouraging us to give 10% extra effort.

As the 12-3-30 workout is at a set pace, you can curate a specific playlist that’s at just the right bpm. A walking speed of 3mph means you need to search Spotify for tunes of approximately 115 to 120bpm. Create a playlist lasting 35mins to allow for a set-up and cool-down period (making a themed playlist is surely one of life’s great joys).

This website lists several 120bpm playlists covering everything from pop, funk, hip hop, new romantic, reggae, house and more.

Choosing an upbeat playlist or in-depth podcast can help with motivation.

Lose yourself in a podcast

A study published in The Journal Of Physiology found that sustained aerobic exercise creates new brain cells, priming our brains for learning. During your 12-3-30 strut, you might grow your brain via an audiobook or podcast – Stylist’s pick of the best for 2023 is a good start. (Nobody’s asking, but my current listening is Dish with Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett – not necessarily intellectually stimulating, but very much appetite-stimulating.) 

Clear your work emails

There’s a reason why treadmill desks are becoming so popular, and it’s not just to help laptop-based workers hit their daily step target. A growing body of research shows that exercise can boost brain function, and a recent study discovered that just 21 minutes of exercise a day can increase concentration levels by 30%. So what better time to tackle your overflowing email inbox than during your half-hour walk. 

OK, you can’t perch your laptop on a gym-based treadmill, but as you’re hands-free, you can tap out responses to any of those straightforward but time-consuming emails via your phone. You could even schedule a few work calls (talking while exercising helps time fly), although perhaps that’s best done with familiar colleagues – your boss or new client may not appreciate any heavy breathing down the line. 

Catch up with a friend

If you’re struggling to find the time to fit both exercising and socialising into your working week, then doing the 12-3-30 with a friend is a fine way to multitask. It’s not so exhausting that you can’t hold a conversation and its simplicity means that even your most fair-weather of fitness friends won’t find it too off-putting. An extra person is motivating but also handy for reminding you that the 20-minute mark is not the “phew, done it” point that you thought it was. 

Images: Getty

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