No pain, no gain. That’s the basic premise of a new exercise method lunging its way into the mainstream. Tabata is a type of high-intensity interval training that only takes four minutes. It’s tough, but after it’s over, your body continues to burn calories.
“I’m excited about it. It helps melt the butter,” says Jane Clapp, head trainer and founder of Urbanfitt, who brought Tabata to her fitness studio in January.
Tabata and other interval training methods are rendering steady state cardio workouts — such as going for a long, slow run — passé.
“You see people on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes reading a magazine. That drives me crazy,” says Clapp. “If you can read a magazine while working out, you are not working hard enough. That will not help you see results and you won’t be present in your body. You also won’t get the post-workout calorie burn.”
The Tabata Protocol is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanova. It was first used to train Japanese Olympic speed skaters. The idea is to do an exercise all-out for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, and repeat this process over and over again for four minutes.
The exercises can be almost anything that uses the whole body — think of old-school calisthenics — burpies, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, hop lunges, push-ups, squats, even skipping.
“You are forcing the body to adapt again and again, versus using the treadmill for 30 minutes where there is only one adaptation phase,” explains Clapp. You’re also recruiting large muscle fibres that otherwise sit idle, and making them work hard.
The results? You burn a lot of fat and sugar, and feel pumped afterwards.
“It helps people get their mojo back,” says Clapp. “You get blissed-out after — there’s a huge endorphin rush.”
A study in the Journal of Physiology found that one and a half hours of high-intensity interval training per week was just as beneficial as four and a half hours a week of traditional, steady-state exercise.
A typical class at Urbanfitt might be four minutes of Tabata, some resistance training, another Tabata set, more resistance training, a third Tabata set and then a third set of resistance training.
Many of Clapp’s clients are working moms who have little time and lots of weight to lose. They love Tabata’s efficiency. “I like that it stokes the furnace in people,” she says.