The Workout: Exercising on the Go
Use short intervals to create a workout you can take with you this summer.
For many of us, summer means travel, such as a big road trip or a long plane ride to a get-away destination. However, having just completed a grueling drive myself, I know that travel takes a toll on the exercise schedule, leaving little time for a workout. Fortunately, there are Tabata intervals, which take just four minutes. That's right, four.
What are Tabatas? They are workouts structured around short, intense intervals, and they are growing in popularity. The concept started at the Japanese National Institute of Fitness and Sports and was pioneered by Dr Izumi Tabata. The original Tabata protocol called for a basic aerobic warmup, then intervals where the athlete was pushed to his or her maximum aerobic capability for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second recovery, for a total of eight sets, or four minutes.
What's interesting about the Tabata model is that it flips the standard interval and recovery formula on it's head. Yet studies have shown the Tabata protocol to be highly effective, dramatically increasing athletes' fitness levels. As a result, Tabatas have grown in popularity throughout the exercise world.
I first heard of Tabatas a couple of years ago from a running coach, and I was skeptical. But then I started incorporating them into my indoor cycling workouts, and I loved them. However, I always thought Tabatas were just for running or spinning. Until, that is, I had a trainer throw in a set of Tabata-style abdominal intervals to a workout session: 20 seconds of crunches followed by 10 seconds of recovery, for a total of six sets (as opposed to the traditional eight sets). That's when I realized that Tabatas could be used for anything, and that makes them the perfect way to structure an on-the-go workout.
Pressed for time? Do a 10-15 minute warm up, then a full set of very intense cardio Tabatas, like the type described here. Then cool down. You're only pushing yourself for four minutes, but it's still a great workout.
If you have more time and want a little variety, you can use the Tabata structure to create a less intense but more varied workout, using both cardio moves and strength exercises. After a standard warm up (15 minutes of light jogging), select two or three cardio exercises (such as jumping jacks or wind-sprints) and two or three strength exercises (such as crunches or pushups). Then use the Tabata model to put them together. Do one set of cardio followed by one set of strength, then keep alternating.
So, for example, try doing 20 seconds of jumping jacks with 10 seconds of recovery for six to eight sets. Then do 20 seconds of pushups followed by 10 seconds of recovery, for four to six sets. Then a segment of burpees (six to eight sets) followed by lunges (four to six sets). Jump rope, then do squats.
Be sure to keep a timer handy to measure out your 20 second intervals, and try to not let yourself recover for more than 10 seconds. If you're up for the challenge, do a full set of eight intervals for each exercise, although with strength-based exercises, you'll probably find that six or even four sets are plenty.
You can mix and match as you see fit, making the workout as long or as short as you want. Best of all, you get to decide what exercises to use. Pick ones that you know how to do with proper form, and skip ones you don't like (personally, I'd ditch the burpees).
You can this type of do-it-yourself workout anywhere – your back yard, a hotel room, or at the rest area on the highway. You might even be able to get some weary motorists to join you. There's no equipment, no class, and no trainer, so that means no excuses. But remember, you're free to modify as you like, perhaps opting to include intervals like sitting in a chair, reading a book, or sipping lemonade. Because during the summer, that kind of workout is okay, too.