Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Tabata 'Miracle'

It's a miracle. You can get fit in 4 minutes a day with this brand new way to exercise. It was on BBC Breakfast yesterday. It's in the Daily Mail today! It's brilliant. It's fantastic. Who-hoo!

Except... (because there's always an except) it's not new. It's been around for a long time. High Intensity Interval Training was studied by Professor Izumi Tabata in 1996 and this method grew up around that study, based around ultra-intense exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeated 8 times.

Except... ultra-intense means absolute maximal effort for each and every interval. Have you ever worked out so hard your legs have given way beneath you as you left the gym? Have you ever been unable to get off the bike through sheer exhaustion? Have you ever felt like you've wanted to vomit a little bit? That's the kind of effort you need to put in. Still interested?

I'm not completely against this type of training - but it's about balance, and knowing why you're working out the way you are. It's about going to a gym/running outside/doing an exercise video and working your hardest. People who go to a gym and cycle at 60 rpm for an hour are in a rut and never going to achieve their goals - they are barely working out, they can talk happily to their friend on the next machine, wear flawless make-up, not sweat. These are the people who tabata will most appeal to (4 minutes, is that all?), but they are the least likely to be able to carry it out.

If you go back and read my second sentence you'll see it said  you can get fit in 4 minutes a day. Fitness is highly subjective. For me, fitness means being strong, being able to run away from danger, and being able to run around for an hour with my kids without keeling over. It means that I know I want to lift heavy weights, and I need to do at least 30 minutes of cardio.

For you, fitness might mean speed and explosive power - in which case tabata would work well. For the Daily Mail article above, it appears to be about losing weight, as that's really the only comparable statistic that's mentioned.

The most important thing that seems to be missing from all the current band-wagon articles is that it shouldn't be the only method for exercise. Mix up your programme. Tabata twice a week, 20-30 minute endurance cardiao work, circuit training, strength training...

There are plenty of articles on the internet, discussing this topic much better than I can, because I don't have the facts and figures that other people have studied.

Try this: Google 'Tabata' and 'Tabata Myth'
and make your own mind up.


  1. Good advice. I'm trying it but I'll have to adjust it a bit. :)

    1. It's a great challenge, but it shouldn't be seen as 4 minutes and that's all you need. Good luck with it. I almost did it on the rower today, but I... didn't :-)

  2. Sounds interesting. I've worked out so intensely (with a personal trainer) that I left wondering how I would possibly drive a stick shift and get home. I don't really have any desire to do that again!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

    1. Perfect intensity, if you can't drive afterwards :-)