Tabata, the “new” buzz word in the Fitness “Biz” isn’t really new. This method of training, gets it’s name from Izumi Tabata, a Japanese scientist who helped develop the method when he was working as a training coach with the Japanese National speed skating team. Tabata readily admits that the head coach at the time, Irisawa Koichi designed the method. Tabata was asked to analyze the effectiveness of the training on the physiology of the athletes and he became credited with the training method. His 1996 study showed an improvement in both the aerobic and anaerobic systems in the speed skaters. Tabata himself felt that this method of training was only for highly trained athletes as it is very painful and tiring. He also could see that there would be others who would want to train muscle and their aerobic systems at the same time.
What exactly is tabata and why is it popular you ask? It is a form of High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) that dictates 8 rounds of 20 seconds of high intensity activity followed by 10 seconds of recovery. So 4 minutes total per session. But it should be the toughest 4 minutes of exercise you have ever done. You’ve read it in magazines, heard it on TV, “get fit in only 4 minutes”. Well this time you can believe it. Especially if you commit to it. Like any other form of exercise, the results will be linked to your performance and dedication. Remember it is meant to be high intensity. Done correctly, results will occur.
It’s popular because it is short. You could do just one 4 minute round of tabata daily. Everyone has that kind of time to dedicate to exercise. A typical tabata class will have more than 4 minutes of activity however. It will begin with a warm-up, continue with 4 rounds of exercises done in tabata training method, including plenty of recovery between rounds and finish with a solid cool-down. You will only have 16 minutes of exercises but it will be tough. This is not an activity recommended for beginners. Even seasoned exercisers not used to high intensity and little recovery have been know to run out of class to throw up. The good news is, like other activities, it gets a little easier for you body to tolerate it the more you do it. It won’t get easier to do. You want to make it tough, working at maximum potential, but you will be able to work a little harder without feeling the need find the nearest bathroom. Combine this method with your current exercise plan and your fitness level will change.
Always keep correct exercise form in mind. In class, use the studio mirror to monitor your form. Incorrect technique leads to injury. This is more evident in activities that require speed. If the exercise requires weights, choose one that allows you to complete the 20 second interval with correct form. Physiotherapists and chiropractors are telling me they are seeing tabata injuries. Watch your form to prevent injury. It won’t be the exercise that causes the injury but the way you are performing it so be aware.
In any exercise class you should be given permission to pace yourself. Keep in mind that this one isn’t meant to reserve energy. Do tune inward and drop the pace if you feel light headed, dizzy or nauseous. Give tabata a try. Especially if you are already fit. Don’t eat much before you go, bring water, a sweat towel, lots of energy and have fun!