I’ve been doing Spin classes now for a couple of years and every now and then our instructor throws in a Tabata track… 20 seconds of giving it our all, 10 seconds of recovery, repeated 8 times in the track.
Sounds easy. ‘20 seconds? I can do anything for 20 seconds’. First round, no problem. Ask me again on round 8. It’s a killer.
For a while, I tried desperately in my head to work out what Tabata meant, I thought it was an acronym. But no. Tabata-style training was invented in 1996 by a Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata. Aaaaah, there you go.
Together with his team of researchers from Tokyo’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports, and a group of test subjects (Olympic speed skaters, no less), he proved that training this way increases your anaerobic system (ie. your muscles) as well as your aerobic system (cardiovascular).
So it’s basically a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program with specific time parameters. You go hard (and when I say hard, I mean hard – absolute full throttle) for 20 seconds. Then you rest for 10 seconds. Then you go again – 8 rounds – until the Tabata track is complete.
Then you rest for 30/60 seconds and move on to the next Tabata.
Each Tabata will be a new exercise. For example push ups, step ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, burpees, push-press…
The word is that you get the maximum benefit from a shorter total workout time.
Sounded too good to be true, so I thought I’d give it a go.
My local gym, Energize Health Club, runs a variety of Tabata classes and yesterday I took myself off to one, run by Kristy (who also happens to be my favourite Spin instructor – which gave me both a degree of familial comfort and the fear of god haha).
I was a little nervous (first time, eek, and a sore knee from my hill sprints the day before) but Kristy was kind and welcoming. ‘This isn’t going to be so bad after all’ I thought. We did a dynamic warm up (I tried to keep up with the Jane Fonda moves, but I was a bit unco to tell you the truth – apparently sometimes the warm up is room runs, and I’m hoping for that next time just to try to retain a shred of dignity).
And then all hell broke loose.
I got so much more than I bargained for. This was INTENSE. Not just the 20 seconds ‘on’ but the 10 seconds ‘rest’ haha, what rest? Instead of using that time to relax, we did ‘active recovery’ (love it when a trainer says ‘active recovery’… one of those words is superfluous, right?!).
So it was non-stop moving, literally non-stop, for the whole Tabata. And when each Tabata was done, we all ran outside, up a flight of stairs, down a ramp, around a track and back inside. And after Tabata 2, we did 2 laps of that. And after Tabata 3, we did 3 laps. You can see where this is going.
So it became non-stop for the whole hour. I’m sure I read somewhere in my research that the kind and clever Dr Tabata said we could do it for just 4 minutes!
I was sweating like I have never sweated. And I do other training, I am not a beginner to working out. The other women in the class seemed to be handling it better (why, why, why were they not also drenched like me?) so perhaps my body will become better conditioned to this style of training over time? Or maybe they just had youth on their side? Or maybe I’m allergic to Tabata.
Anyway, all I can say is that it was bloody hard.
Excuse my language.
Today I am sore in places I have not yet been sore. So that’s kind of a good thing (and it’s forcing me to have a rest day too). And you know what they say… no pain, no gain.
Here’s the gain, as I see it:
- all that high intensity movement, and all that sweat was helping to teach my body to tolerate a higher lactic acid threshold
- I don’t normally do (ie. have never done) Group Exercise classes like this, so I took myself out of my comfort zone and tried something new, and for that, I am proud of myself
- the fact that I’m sore in new places means I was using muscles in different ways from normal, and we all know it’s good to mix up your exercise regime and ‘shock’ your body every now and again
- it should improve my speed of motion and endurance
- because my body was working harder, my heart would have been pumping that blood round faster and my metabolism would have jumped… this is great for fat burning
In fact, apparently, the metabolism stays high, burning fat, for 24 hours after the class. So as I am sitting here writing this, my body will still be benefiting from the effects of that class.
That makes the pain all worthwhile.
And encourages me to give it another go next week. If I can walk by then 😉