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Getting started with Tabata

Getting-started-with-TabataAs you’ll have read via our previous articles, Tabata training is a proven exercise method to build muscular endurance and enhance aerobic capacity.

In a nutshell it’s doing an exercise for 20 seconds at an optimum level for you, followed by a 10 seconds break before repeating the cycle 8 more times. So you get a hugely effective workout in around 5 minutes (plus warm-up and cool-down time).

Whilst the Tabata training method was originally designed for the Olympic speed skater team to workout at 170% of VO2max (170% of the maximum capacity to transport oxygen round the body whilst exercising), for non-Olympians this would probably do us more harm than good!

To give you an idea of how to calculate your maximum Heart Rate (HR), take 220 and minus your age e.g. if you’re 30 years old, your maximum HR would be 190 Beats Per Minute (BPM).  So if you were to do the Tabata method like the Olympic speed skater team, you‘re likely to see your heart rate shoot up over 200 BPM which really wouldn’t be good.

Therefore for us mere mortals, the Tabata method is about pushing yourself to your optimum level for these short sharp intensive bursts of exercise.

How to get started

The first thing that we advise when starting any new exercise program is to consult with your doctor. Thereafter simply ease into the Tabata training method.

Start slowly and build up your heart and lung capacity over a period of time.

When you take our online Tabata Classes you will automatically be involved in the warm-up and cool-down part of the workout.

If you do it alone, then make sure you are fully warmed up before you start. This will not only ensure you don’t put your body at risk of injury, but also give it the preparation time it needs before any high intensity physical exercise programs.

To help you work out the intensity to which you should exercise, based on your level of fitness to begin with, try using the Borg Scale.

The Borg RPE Scale (introduced by Gunnar Borg who rated exertion on a scale of 6-20) measures ‘perceived exertion’.

This scale of between 6 and 20, where 6 is light exertion and 20 is complete exhaustion, is compiled as follows:

  • 6 – 20% effort
  • 7 – 30% effort – Very, very light (Rest)
  • 8 – 40% effort
  • 9 – 50% effort – Very light – gentle walking
  • 10 – 55% effort
  • 11 – 60% effort – Fairly light
  • 12 – 65% effort
  • 13 – 70% effort – Somewhat hard – steady pace
  • 14 – 75% effort
  • 15 – 80% effort – Hard
  • 16 – 85% effort
  • 17 – 90% effort – Very hard
  • 18 – 95% effort
  • 19 – 100% effort – Very, very hard
  • 20 – Exhaustion

To work out your BPM, simply find the level of exertion to which you are or should be working to (depending on your starting fitness level) and multiple it by 10 e.g. a perceived exertion of 12 would be expected to coincide with a heart rate of roughly 120 beats per minute (12 x 10 = 120). Then use a heart monitor so you can keep an eye on how you’re doing.

This scale will help ensure you stay within your fitness ability, and as you build up fitness levels you can increase the amount of exertion you apply to each workout.

If you’re unsure of what starting level you are, please get in contact with us and we’d be happy to explain it further to help you start at the right level for you.

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