One of my biggest pet peeves in the gym is when I see people wasting their time on the cardio equipment. You don’t need to be an expert to know how to walk on a treadmill or use the elliptical machine. And you definitely should be able to determine if you’re working up a real sweat or simply fluffing around.
I’ve dropped down my cardio a little relative to a couple of months ago but I’m still doing 20-30 minutes at least four days a week. I’ve been playing more tennis with Rob lately (almost every day for the past two weeks!) which has been an awesome change from my usual gym sessions. Not to mention the weather in Sydney is gorgeous at the moment so it makes slogging it out in the gym even more depressing!
When I am in the gym doing cardio I always focus on the quality of my workouts. Not every session has to leave me on the verge of puking, but I want to make sure my time isn’t wasted. I usually do a ratio of 1:1 sprints mixed with inclines, usually on the treadmill. But lately (maybe because of my holiday-induced laziness) I’ve been doing lots of Tabata-style workouts.
Tabata training is like interval training on steroids. The idea came about as a result of a study undertaken in 1996 which proved cycling 20 seconds of extreme high intensity exercise (170% of your VO2 max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, maximises athletic improvements. Tabatas are extremely high intensity and very short in duration. The 20/10 cycle is usually repeated eight times, for a total of just four minutes. Studies have proven that this short session burns more fat than a 60-minute aerobic workout!
My prescribed cardio amount is 30 minutes, so I would feel a bit guilty doing only four minutes – no matter how intense it may be. The first time I did Tabatas I managed two rounds through, but I was obviously not working hard enough! If you’re doing Tabatas properly, you should be absolutely spent after four minutes. The last 2-3 of the eight sprints should be a real struggle.
This is what I did this morning after my shoulder workout:
|Time (mins)||Speed (km/hr)||Incline (%)|
*Minutes 10-14 are the Tabatas. Sprint for 20 seconds and then simply rest on the side of the treadmill for 10 seconds. Repeat eight times.
Since I started doing tabatas, I love it! Cardio just flies by instead of being a drag and you really feel as though you have exerted absolute maximum effort. Tabata training has also reduced my body fat in the past few weeks.
I especially love doing these sprints next to people who are not exactly working to their full potential. The other day I tried a Tabata workout on the elliptical and two girls were next to me on separate machines. They didn’t even bother turning on their machines to monitor their speed or alter the resistance. In fact, they were so engrossed in their conversation that they actually stopped moving at times and literally just stood there blabbing away. It really makes me want to yell at people to get the heck out of the gym!
You can try tabatas on any cardio equipment. Sprinting is just my favourite because it forces you to push yourself or else you would face-plant onto the incredibly fast-moving belt (BUT if you are a beginner or generally a bit clumsy, I would avoid using the treadmill!). You can also try skipping rope, jump squats or lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, or box jumps to name a few, following the same 20/10 pattern. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can also try it with very light barbell squats, weighted lunges, deadlifts, or even a clean and press.
Have you ever done tabatas? What’s your favourite method of doing them and which one are you most curious to try? I would love to try weighted squats!