How The 12/3/30 Workout Has Changed My Relationship With Exercise

Otherwise known as a “hot girl walk.”

Originally Published: 
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Countless contemporary trends can be traced back to TikTok: See the octopus haircut, plum lipstick fad, and/or newfound cultural obsession with both highlighting and sculpting your jaw as proof of its influence. The platform’s trendsetting prowess doesn’t stop at beauty, however, as millions of users now turn to TikTok for exercise inspiration as well, resulting in viral workouts like the now-famous "12-3-30."

For those unaware, the 12-3-30 workout is a fairly simple (but challenging!) treadmill walk: You set your treadmill incline to 12, your speed to 3 mph, and walk for 30 minutes. Seemingly nothing to write home about, right? Well, it’s something to share with TikTok, apparently: At the time of writing, the hashtags #12330, #12330challenge, and #12330workout have racked up a total of 287 million views on the app (meanwhile, #hotgirlwalk and #hotgirlwalkchallenge have amassed a similarly impressive 120.8 million). Clearly, people really love 12-30-30 and “hot girl walks”, but as someone who had quite literally just fallen in love with running, I couldn’t bother to try yet another brand-new workout. That is, until my Gen Z-correspondent (aka, my 23-year-old sister), brought it to my attention earlier this year, finally convincing me to give it a fair chance.

Fast forward to today, and I’m a 12-3-30 convert. Read on to learn more about the viral workout.

How 12-3-30 Works

One major benefit to 12-3-30 is you’ll never forget how to do it since it’s right there in the name: You simply set a treadmill incline to 12, speed to 3 mph, and walk for 30 minutes — 12, 3, 30. In fact, according to experts, this simplicity is a major component in why it works so well as cardio. “[12-3-30] is a great lower body workout that is also good for building stamina,” fitness expert and certified trainer Sarah Louise Rector tells Bustle, noting that how easy it is to follow helps make it more effective. “In the 30 minutes, you know what to expect, as it's the same movement, for the whole duration,” she says.

What’s more, Rector notes, is that there’s a lot to be said for its TikTok-derived social component. “A workout like this, that is curated from a TikTok sensation, is a great way to encourage others to take part,” she says. “Being part of the latest craze can help motivate you and feel like you're part of a community.” Basically — you don’t have to feel like you’re working out solo (unless you want to, which, no offense, I did).

Who Should Try The 12-3-30 Workout?

Before trying 12-3-30 yourself, be sure to consider whether your body is truly up for the task — you shouldn’t jump on the nearest treadmill unless you’ve trained accordingly. “12 is a high incline,” Nat Bardonnet, celebrity fitness trainer, tells Bustle. “If one doesn’t have proper posture, they will hurt themselves,” she says.

“[The 12-3-30 workout] can be a good goal for everyone, but starting out that the exact figure might not be fully achievable if you’re not used to high inclines,” Rector concurs — so even if you consider yourself to be an all-star runner, the sharp incline could throw you for a loop. “Lower the incline to start out with to see how you go, or keep the incline, and decrease the time frame of the workout,” she says, adding that so long as you do so carefully, a little trial and error can help you find your comfort zone.

If you’d rather not experiment, Bardonnet recommends decreasing the incline to a 7 or 8 and working out in 10 to 15 minutes spurts to start. Once you’re comfortable with that, slowly increase the time limit— to 18, then 20, then 22, and so on — followed by the incline, as your strength and endurance improve. During the process, be aware of posture, she says, and be sure to only train in proper walking shoes. You should always warm up and cool down, stretching before and after.

Trying The 12-3-30 Workout: My Honest Thoughts

Having just finished training for a 5K, I felt well prepared to try 12-3-30, and I even worried it might be “too easy.” But, I couldn’t have been more wrong: Somehow, despite having run at least 30 minutes several times a week leading up to it, the 12-3-30 truly kicked my butt in a way I’d never known. As Bardonnet and Rector explained, an incline of 12 is much higher, and therefore more challenging than you realize — even if you consistently exercise. And since I had spent all my time training on horizontal ground, my body was shocked when it came time to perform vertically. While running works your lower body, core, and arms, walking on such a steep incline required more out of my glutes in particular — all while being a lower impact on the joints (aka easier on my body).

At first, 12-3-30 was really hard, and I couldn’t understand how everyone on TikTok seemingly took off on treadmills at level 12 with ease. I needed not one, but two full 40-ounce water bottles to quench my thirst during my first attempt, and completely sweat through my shirt and bra. Still, I could envision myself enjoying the process at some point, so I decided to try again the next day. And then again the next, and so on. Within a few weeks, I realized I’d been doing variations on the 12-3-30 almost every day, occasionally walking faster and for shorter amounts of times, depending on my schedule. I had even come to prefer my walks to running, as the more I incline walked, the less difficult each workout became.

It’s now been about two months since I started experimenting with the 12-3-30 workout, and it’s completely changed my perspective on exercise. While I still love running and am so grateful for it prompting my fitness journey, I had become fixated on distances and lengths of time that I wasn’t actually focused on what was right for me. With incline walks on the treadmill, however, the set amount of time forces me to get creative and listen to my body, adjusting the workout to cater to my needs, and not the other way around. As a result, 12-3-30-inspired incline walks are now one of my favorite parts of the day.

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