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Doing Things Right Or Just Doing Them: Thoughts on Tabata

tabata-appI got some really interesting feedback recently when I wrote about doing Tabata workouts. You smart readers and commenters made some great points, so I wanted to delve into them a little bit.

My first entry into Tabata was doing a workout we posted over on Fit Bottomed Mamas, which consisted of four moves for four minutes each. It was 16 minutes of fast and furious exercise that got me sweating for sure. (I just typed “swearing” instead of sweating; Freudian slip.) True Tabata protocol consists of a warm-up, eight intervals of all-out high intensity exercise (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off) and a two-minute cool down. So, with that said “True Tabata” is just one move for four minutes of intervals.

As one commenter said rather humorously, Tabata intervals are meant to be so difficult that you can’t imagine doing it again for at least a week. Or, put in another way, “If you’re not on the verge of puking your guts out, you’re not doing Tabata.” One reader mentioned that static exercises, like planks, aren’t the best use of the protocol, which is meant to improve both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, meaning you increase your endurance and ability to sustain high-intensity exercise for longer. Many people recommend exercises that have a cardio element to them for Tabata, like mountain climbers or burpees — even straight up running or jump rope.

Now, even when you’re pushing yourself really hard, verge-of-puking pushing takes an amount of “for realness” that many people don’t muster in everyday workouts. This is probably why when you see Tabata workouts like this one and this one, there isn’t just one move. Sure, you push yourself and challenge yourself, but you might not be going as full bore to be considered Tabata. Like me, maybe you’re taking things just a bit easier so you can do a few more moves to work yourself from head to toe.

And in my humble opinion? If you’ve read anything we’ve ever written here, you’ll know what I think: That’s fine!

For me, I’m not as concerned about doing Tabata protocol to perfection; I’m more concerned about challenging myself and pushing myself. Sure, I may not be nailing the workout in such a way that I could be a participant in a scientific Tabata study, but that’s not really what I’m going for in my workouts. I’m not as into pushing myself so hard that I might puke, but pushing myself to the point of being totally spent on some days.

So if you’re interested in trying anything, Tabata or otherwise, I say don’t be as concerned about doing it “right.” Even if you’re not doing true Tabata, it’s still high intensity interval training, which is still an awesome way to work out. And always listen to your body. We always say it’s better to skip a round than to puke anyway!

What do you think? Do you worry about doing things “right” or just getting active and doing them period? —Erin

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  1. Ellen says:

    Good post – one of my fave sayings is, “don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” Or as I once heard at a sales training session, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” That last one is a little cringe-worthy… but when it comes to making sales calls and working out… there’s an inescapable kernel of truth in there.

  2. Tish says:

    I like that quote actually @Ellen and I like your thoughts on Tabata, Erin!

  3. Donna says:

    Interesting post. I think doing them “right”, should be an eventual goal, but I sometimes find myself being happy with just getting something done, even if it’s not perfect. Tabata is something I’ve been wanting to get into, and I’m guessing it will be more of just getting it done, rather than doing it right…

  4. Marcie says:

    I’m a certified Tabata Bootcamp trainer and the way I structure my classes is this: 8 – 10 toning/cardio exercises broken down into three parts – level 1 at 70% effort for 40 sec w 20 sec break, level 2 at 80% effort for 30 sec w 15 sec break and last level 3 at 100% effort for 20 seconds. An example is: squatting body weight, then adding a jump, then adding jump w quarter turn. I throw in about 3 regular true tabatas in between these (something like mountain climbers or burpees alternating). Not all of it is super intense cardio, we do planks, push-ups, resistance band work, in addition to the crazy hard stuff. I think the combo makes it tough but bearable and people come back wanting more!

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