Fitness review: Tabata

Four minutes. That’s all it takes for every muscle in my body to be screaming at me to just lie on the floor and stop moving.

Luckily, this is a tabata class, and four minutes of intense exercise is all I have to do.

Tabata is named after Japanese scientist Professor Izumi Tabata (recognized as the ‘father’ of high intensity interval training), while he was working with the Japanese Olympic speed skating team on their fitness programme.

His tabata method consists of a combination of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. And that’s it.

Okay, there’s a warm up beforehand, and a cool down afterwards, but the entire class lasts just 20 minutes. The idea of tabata is that you spend four minutes going as hard and as fast as you possibly can, to get to your maximum heart rate and to get the most out of it.

Instructor Richard Scrivener takes my class through four tabata moves (normal classes only use two in any session), including a couple that use the plank as their basis, and then two more which involve a lot of jumping around.

It all looks so simple (even if planks are horrible and my fitness levels are dire), and the idea is that we do each of the moves twice in the cycle of two minutes. 

But by halfway through the first minute my lungs are screaming and I’m constantly confused about which arm and which leg should be stretching and which should be stationary.

By minute two I want to give up, and by minute four I want to cry. Still, it’s over and I feel like I tried – my heart is pumping like I’ve run five miles, my arms and legs have that ache to them you get after an intense workout, and my body temperature is sky high.

For the rest of the day, I can still feel the effects of the tabata, but in a good way. I feel more energised, and my body feels like it’s working even when I’m just taking a casual stroll. Granted, two days later I’m in agony, but that disappears, and once it does, I find my mind turning to when I can fit another tabata class in.

•For more information visit the official Tabata website, or find out about classes at Fitness First here.

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