Going to the gym can be impractical when you’re a mom of littles, but thankfully there are many great workouts that can be done from home. That’s why I’m such a fan of the Tabata workout, and it just might be the perfect choice for moms on the run … pun intended!
Tabata Workout: Not for the Faint of Heart
A Tabata workout is a high-intensity workout. Although it lasts only a few minutes, it will really kick your tail. They’re perfect for those of us who don’t have a lot of time to devote to fitness but want to get in a good workout.
Note: Those with any condition that prevents strenuous exercise should not do a Tabata workout without first getting an OK from a doctor!
Is Tabata Perfect for Moms?
I get it … you’re busy! It takes time to prepare healthy food from scratch every day (What? They want dinner again? I just cooked last night!). It also takes time to make healthy cleaning products, or follow a natural beauty routine, or research how to best take care of your family. Living a wellness lifestyle is a full-time job.
But staying fit is important, too (and part of a well balanced life).
That’s why the Tabata workout is so perfect for busy moms! It only takes four minutes. Literally, four minutes and you get an intense workout.
What Is a Tabata Workout?
I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the gist: sprint hard for 20 seconds; rest for 10 seconds; repeat for a total of four minutes (generally 6-8 rounds). That’s it. Sounds simple, but this short workout can burn some serious calories.
Developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in Japan, Tabata exercise has been found to be superior to other types of exercises. In a 1996 study done at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, Dr. Tabata and his colleagues studied two groups of athletes: one group did medium-intensity exercise for long periods of time and the other did high-intensity exercise for short periods of time.
Tabata and his team observed the athletes for six weeks, and after that time, it was found that the first group increased their aerobic capacity (how long you can run) by 9.5% and their anaerobic capacity (how long you can run at maximum effort) by 0%, while the second group increased their aerobic capacity by 14% and their anaerobic capacity by 28%.
The second group showed greater improvement in lung capacity and oxygen utilization, while the first group showed only minimal improvement, thus proving the benefits of short, high-intensity training.
How to Train for Tabata (Hint: Slowly)
The Tabata regimen was originally created for elite athletes as a means of improving athletic performance. If you’re like the average mama, you may need to work your way up—train so to speak—for Tabata sprints.
You can start by doing some simple interval training:
- Begin with longer, less intense sprints, with a longer recovery time in between.
- Instead of 20 seconds of all-out running, try 60-90 seconds of mid-intensity running, followed by a one minute break rather than ten seconds.
- Every few days, increase your intensity and shorten your exercise and break times.
- Start with only a couple of minutes and work your way up to four minutes, a few times a week.
The Unique Advantages of a Tabata Workout
Burns fat – Intense cardio burns calories and melts away fat. But more than that, it may affect how our bodies process glucose, a huge contributor to belly fat. One study found that “a high amount of moderate-intensity exercise alone was very effective at improving oral glucose tolerance….” Intense exercise may help how our bodies process sugars.
Builds muscle – Tabata exercise allows gives muscles an intense workout.
Creates endorphins – Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.
Highly portable – No fancy equipment or special place needed for this workout!
Short and sweet – Get your exercise out of the way quickly … a bonus for every busy mama.
Other Tabata Variations: Not Just for Runners
Armed with Dr. Tabata’s research, you can apply the Tabata exercise principle to any type of workout. In fact, cycling is one of the more popular ways to utilize the method.
Other great workouts to use the Tabata principle with:
- jumping rope
- push ups
- pull ups
- kettlebell training
- basically any type of exercise—get creative and have fun with it!
How to Do Tabata, Step by Step
Are you ready to give Tabata sprints a try? Remember, make sure to work your way up, starting with gentler interval training. Once you’ve done that, get ready—this intense workout will kick your exercise regimen into high gear!
Step 1: Start by stretching: You want your muscles nice and warm, because the level at which you’ll push them can lend itself to pulled muscles. Even better if you can do your workout in a warmer place versus outdoors on a cold day.
Step 2: Get a timer ready: Make sure you can easily see a clock with a second hand or have a timer handy.
Step 3: Run, Forrest, run! Run as hard as you can for 20 seconds.
Step 4: Rest: Take a breather for 10 seconds.
Step 5: Repeat: Again, run for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second breather. Repeat 6-8 times, for 4 minutes total. (Many people, even well-trained athletes, can’t make it past 6 times. That’s normal, and, it should be noted that if you’re not struggling, you’re probably not working hard enough. Tabata sprints are meant to be difficult.)
Step 6: Cool down: Stretch again, catch your breath, and sip some room temperature water. Allow your body to come back to normalcy gently.
That’s it. The whole process should take less than 30 minutes.
How Often Should I Do Tabata Sprints?
Because Tabata sprints are such an intense workout, only two to three times a week should be plenty. You can do weight lifting and gentle exercise like yoga the other days of the week. It should also be noted that the long-term benefits and enjoyment of Tabata sprints may wane, which is why pro athletes typically do them during training seasons and not year round.
Health experts remind us:
For the majority of the population, improving longevity and general health can be done by brisk walking for 20 minutes three times a week – and doesn’t involve spending money joining a gym. (source)
It’s reassuring to know that the best health benefits come from consistent, no-fuss, moderate exercise and a varied routine.
Make Your Wellness Matter
As moms, when taking care of a family, our own wellness should be a priority. It’s easy to let my own needs go by the wayside when I’m taking care of everyone else, but there are a few things I know I should prioritize. If I’m healthy, I can keep everyone else healthy.
By taking advantage of the fast and easy exercise Tabata sprints provide, you can check one more thing off your “keep mama healthy” list.