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Today’s workout introduced me to a new term: Tabata. Since I like to imagine that the things I write are well-researched, I asked Uncle Google about Tabata. He sent me to the extremely reliable-sounding “Ask the Ripped Dude” page where I was informed:
Tabata training is one of the most popular forms of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It consists of eight rounds of ultra-high-intensity exercises in a specific 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off interval. It may only take four minutes to complete a Tabata circuit, but those four minutes may well push your body to its absolute limit.
Tabata training was born after Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his colleagues compared the results of moderate intensity training and HIIT. The study evaluated two groups of speed-skating athletes. The first group trained on ergonomic cycles at moderate intensity for one hour, five days per week, for a total of six weeks. The second group completed four-minute, high-intensity workouts on ergonomic cycles four days per week for a total of six weeks. The second group completed its four minutes of work by doing eight intervals of all-out training, and then resting 10 seconds.
The scientists' results concluded that the athletes who performed high-intensity training saw increases in aerobic and anaerobic system capacities; whereas the moderate-intensity group did not improve anaerobic performance. The Tabata training method was formed by modeling workouts after the second group.
Ok then. Sounds intense! Have I mentioned how grateful I am that we Challenge participants are in the hands of professional fitness experts? I’m not at all good about building intensity into a solo workout. On my own, my efforts generally look like a leisurely stroll or a soothing swim, possibly a light jog. But the sociability of a group class, plus the ready availability of whatever unusual equipment might be needed, helps to push me into working more intensively.
After a brief warm up, we were handed jump ropes, and informed that our first Tabata circuit would consist of 20 seconds of rope jumping, followed by 10 seconds of rest, followed by 20 seconds of squat jumping jacks. I confess, I was previously unaware that it is possible to do jumping jacks from a squat position, but life is for learning! Mostly, I was terrified that I would be unable to jump rope, since I am, in general, not a wildly well-coordinated individual, and I don’t think I’ve tried since it was a standard recess activity in the third grade. My rope was a little long, and I don’t think that helped. But to my relief I can do a basic slow jump, at least for a little while. As soon as I tried to get fancy I’d get out of sync, so I stuck with the basic two-footed skip in between rope passes, while observing other members jumping twice as fast and doing all manner of fancy tricks. Molly says it’s a practice thing, and encouraged all of us to invest 3 bucks in a jump rope of our own, because jump rope is an awesome cardio exercise which is one of those things that is highly portable and requires very little space. Maybe jumping rope might not be the most considerate thing to do in a poorly sound-proofed hotel room at 11 at night or 5 a.m., but I do see her point!
I have learned to really relish short breaks. So Tabata’s rhythm works pretty well for me. Just when I think I can’t go another step, the bell rings and I get to stop and take some blessed rest. The next activity seems actually possible after that 10 seconds!
After our first taste of Tabata, it was time to do some core and arm work. A great big thick rope (poetically called “the heavy rope”) was strung around the staircase, and each of us got 30 seconds in which to lift it up and down and try to make waves. I did not distinguish myself at this activity, but it was interesting to try. While the rope mover did his/her thing, the rest of us spent that 30 seconds doing various core exercises, whose names absolutely escape me – I think there was a flutter kick, and a thing where we laid down with our legs in the air and reached opposite hand to the outside of a foot. I dunno. I was pretty tired. I was, however, COMPETENT at doing all of these, because I have been submitting myself to Angela’s Pilates class for over a year now and actually have developed some real core strength.
We continued the aerobic part of the workout with another round of Tabata, a little lower impact. We jumped rope for a bit, again – I was more successful after knotting my rope to make it a little shorter. (Some playground coping skills are with me still!) and grasshoppers – sort of like mountain climbers except more hip-intensive. You start in a plank, and bring one foot up to shoulder level while the other is back, and then switch. I’m pretty flexible in the hips, but I found this the most difficult, in terms of intensity, of all the moves today. I noticed I was a little light-headed when I’d come up from them, so, not wanting to limit the range of motion (which is another perfectly legal adaptation) I chose to slow them down a bit.
The last Tabata round featured Skaters – moving side to side in sort of a grapevine, possibly putting our hands on the floor (mostly not, we were pretty tired) alternating with airplanes – lying down on the mat on our stomachs and either lifting our arms and legs for 2 seconds and bringing them down again, or holding it for the whole 20 seconds (ok, I may not be able to jump rope very well, but I can indeed hold this pose for 20 seconds, even when tired. Yay, me!)
As we stretched out at the end, everybody looked a little sad to leave. It really feels just as it did when I was a kid and the bell rang telling us recess was over!
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