Do you ever find yourself dreading going to the gym? I’ve definitely had my own fitness ruts in the past and wondered if I’d ever actually enjoy my workouts again during certain times in my life. Running on a treadmill or working on an elliptical machine holds my attention for about four minutes before I’m staring at the door. I really believe that there is some type of movement out there for everyone to enjoy and I always talk to my clients about what it is they would actually look forward to. I ask: what’s fun for you? For me, one thing that got me back into fitness again was some high intensity interval training (HIIT). Your workout routine might need tabata, too!
It is so great how many classes and studios there are available now. Some people get a thrill from running outside or training for marathons, some have a zumba or a spin class they never miss. I have friends who wake up at 4:30am just to attend their favorite class and the reason for this, aside from seeking better health, is developing a community of like-minded folks that you look forward to seeing as much as doing the workout itself. Have you experienced this magical desire to workout? Are you still looking for it? I can help you find your passion again.
What is Tabata exactly?
When I tell people I do tabata they often don’t know what it is, and honestly I didn’t know what it was like until I went for my first class. Tabata is a high intensity interval training style developed by a Japanese doctor and researcher, Izumi Tabata, and the head coach of the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, Irisawa Koichi. Tabata is designed with a 20/10 format: you work as hard as you can with maximum intensity for 20 seconds, then rest completely for 10 seconds, completing rounds of 6-8 on any given exercise, then moving to the next.
What Makes Tabata so Effective?
Something I love about tabata is all of the research that has been done around this exercise (not surprising since it was developed by a medical professional). Many research articles on tabata focus on short workouts, even 20 minutes. I do it for 45-60 a couple times per week but the fun thing is, you get a lot out of doing a little.
Original research found that athletes were greatly increasing their V02 Max with this type of training. V02 Max is measure of the maximum volume of oxygen a person can use, measured in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). If you can improve your V02 max through training, then conceivably, you improve your performance and stamina. Through training, most people have the ability to improve their V02 max by about 5-20%; for reference, in the original tabata study, the athletes increase their V02 max by 14%. Subsequent research has also found that tabata training meets American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for improving cardiorespiratory endurance.
Why Your Workout Routine Might Need Tabata!
A couple things to note, when I say “tabata”, myself and my cohort at the gym are likely not actually accomplishing the level of intensity that was being studied by Olympic athletes (lol – you THINK?). But we are working at maximum capacity for our own levels. Call it interval training, HITT, or tabata if you like, it has been one of the only activities I’ve wanted to stick with long-term and actually look forward to attending each week. Many other gym and fitness programs use this kind of formula. I’m onto F45 now and there’s a workout on Mondays called “Abacus” and…it’s tabata.
I will warn you that you’ve got to be careful when you’re doing this type of activity. Working as hard as you can over and over is exhausting. I got an injury from tripping on the box because I was really fatigued and broke my attention for a split second. Swinging heavy weights and jumping on and off things in a crowded room could get dangerous so be sure to create enough space for yourself, know when to modify for safety and always stay aware of using proper form.
One of the best things about tabata? You can download apps and do it anywhere. You can do this at home with minimal equipment. You can do it in your hotel room or hotel gym and you can do it outside, too, if you’re on the go. You could even use it with my indoor winter workout when you don’t feel like braving the rain to get to the gym.
Logistically you can accomplish tabata with a free interval timer on your phone. Try Tabata-timer, Tabata Stopwatch Pro, or Interval Timer-Timing for HITT Training. Many experts do not recommend tabata for beginners so if you are not used to intense exercise or are working on increasing your current physical activity status, I recommend starting with safer activities than box jumps or kettle ball swings and be sure to communicate with your physician to make sure this type of activity will work for you. A sample, basic tabata structure could include crunches, V-sit, push-ups (knees are ok!), burpees, body weight squats, jump rope, jumping jacks and a plank (again, starting on your knees may be necessary). You can always work your way up from there, adding in new exercises and challenging yourself by adding weights. Please always be safe and work with a professional when starting out.
If you do decide to try tabata at home or at the gym, I strongly recommend building in time to stretch and warm-up. Sometimes the classes don’t provide adequate stretching time and it is essential to warm up all of your muscles before using them. That goes for a post-workout stretch too, seriously your muscles will thank you the next day.
My Take on Tabata
As a dietitian, I know that nutrition is so important to fuel these types of workouts and support your recovery. HIIT exercises breakdown your muscles when you work them over and over in a circuit like this. So pay attention to your protein intake post-workout and don’t forget your water – you are sure to get sweaty with this one. Want to learn how to fuel your workout dietitian style? Learn more here and be sure to reach out any time.
What do you think? Have you tried this type of training? If you’re in an exercise rut, maybe this is for you. If you’re looking for more personalized recommendations, I have a background in fitness and nutrition and I’d love to connect, support you and hear about your fitness passions!
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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