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Give Tabatas a Try!

Some of my Tabata Favorites: Single-Leg Bicep Curl

As I sweat through these hot and hazy days of a New York City summer, I enjoy working out in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym. However, I realize there are many who take advantage of the season to get outside and get moving. Wherever you like to workout, Tabata training is the perfect way to get your heart pumping and muscles moving.

This high-intensity training protocol was founded by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata in the 1990s. His studies showed his formula produced similar health benefits to traditional cardio workouts, but here’s the kicker: a Tabata can be completed in just four minutes.

The formula is simple: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Even better: you can create a “Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout. Another thing I love about this type of training is almost any exercise fits into a 4-minute Tabata. Here are some examples:

For fitness newbies or those getting back to working out: Start slowly! My very first Tabata was split into two exercises: front squats and push-ups. So, the first four 20-second rounds of work featured squats and then I shifted to push-ups for the last four rounds. Other ideas:

  • Jump rope (can be done in or outside of the gym)
  • Planks
  • Chin-ups (can always be done at a playground or find a tree branch – a strong one, of course!)
  • Front squat to overhead press

Side Plank

For the seasoned fitness enthusiasts:

  • Jumping lunges
  • Side lunge to overhead press
  • Treadmill sprints (make sure to safely straddle the treadmill during the rest periods)
  • Overhead medicine ball slam

Feeling at the top of your game:

  • Stationary bike sprints
  • Squat thrusts
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Burps

The Plank

The Push-Up – All Images by Lauren Bachner

A few important notes before you jump into one or more Tabatas:

  1. You must warm up! Try five minutes at a slow/medium pace on an elliptical machine, stationary bike or take a light jog.
  2. If you do more than one Tabata – you must rest for 60 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
  3. While the idea is to push out as many reps as possible in the 20-second work period, you shouldn’t sacrifice good form. Better to do “perfect” push-ups on your  knees with your stomach drawn-in and glutes squeezed nice and tight than risk injuring your lower back with sloppy reps.
  4. Don’t forget to cool down and stretch when you’re done!
  5. There are lots of apps out there to help you keep track of the work / rest intervals. I use UltraTimerHD on my iPhone. For non-iPhone users, one of my fitness friends really likes the Time for Tabata app.

One of my favorite, no-heavy-thinking, under-60-minute workouts at the moment:

  • Warm up (includes SMR on my calves, TFL and lats)
  • 30-minute elliptical
  • 20-minute Tabata Derby (example: Front squats, side planks, push-ups and single-leg bicep curls – alternating legs)
  • Cool down (includes more SMR)

If you have a favorite Tabata training combo, I’d definitely love to hear about it!

I’ll be forever grateful to fitness guru Roberto Murichi for introducing me to the Tabata. Trust me, if you’re looking to add some spice to your normal routine, Tabata training a great way to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fitness & Footwear

Like many women, I love shoes. I love them even more when I find a great pair at one of the discount shoe paradises that have popped up all over the country. There is one type of shoe, however, that I will gladly pay full price for if I have to, and that would be my sneakers. Why? Because wearing the proper footwear while you workout is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from exercise-related injuries.

Here’s a little trivia for you: there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons in each foot.  (No, I didn’t have those numbers memorized, I looked them up in AFAA’s Fitness: Theory & Practice, Fifth Edition.) That means there are 370 places vulnerable to injury in your feet alone.  Now consider that improper foot support can lead to compensations made by your knees and hips, and you are putting your body at risk for a world of hurt.

So, what’s the best footwear? It depends on your foot type.  If you have a high arch, you need sneakers with good shock absorption. If your feet are flat and/or “roll” inward or outward, you need a sneaker with stability. An “average” foot needs a shoe with both cushioning and stability.

I don’t know your foot type, but I can tell you what works for me.  Since my fitness routine includes walking, elliptical training, riding the stationery recumbent bike, rowing, and weight training, cross trainers keep me well-grounded and stable. I started wearing New Balance cross trainers five years ago (I currently wear the 1011s), and I get a new pair every six months.  I can honestly say if I wait longer than six months, I start to feel pain in my knees while I’m on the elliptical or while doing squats and lunges.   My current pair are two months old, and at the moment, I wear them with orthotics as I continue to recover from a stress fracture in my left foot.  (A subject for a future blog.)

While I am not a runner, most of my friends who are will only pound the pavement in running sneakers.  I also have friends who have sneakers specifically for when they’re on the tennis court. Many basketball players like high tops for the extra ankle stability. If there is one sport you play often, it’s a good idea to get a pair of sneakers specifically for that activity, and also have a more “universal” pair, like cross trainers, for days when you mix up your routine.

I look at it this way: I have far too many purses in my closet and most guys have more ties than they will ever need.  So why wouldn’t you spend the money to have at least one good pair of sneakers to protect you from injuries while you’re working so hard to stay healthy?

In the end, wearing the proper footwear is one of the easiest ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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