Tabata HIIT


When I was much younger, back in my 20s and 30s, and doing a lot of race running for 10km and 10mi distances, I always made interval training part of my preparation. Back then, we called it fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish. My version of fartlek, back in the day, was done on a 440 yard track. It went like this:

  1. Jog a 110
  2. Run a 110
  3. Jog a 220
  4. Run a 220
  5. Jog a 440
  6. Run a 440
  7. Jog an 880
  8. Run an 880
  9. Jog a mile
  10. Run a mile
  11. Jog an 880
  12. Run an 880
  13. Jog a 440
  14. Run a 440
  15. Jog a 220
  16. Run a 220
  17. Jog a 110
  18. Run a 110
  19. Die

The jogging segments were just breathers and involved me going about as slowly as I could manage. The running sections were done as intensely as I could sustain.

I’d do this at least a couple of times a week, and perhaps repeat the entire sequence on an interval day. On other days, I’d just do sustained distance running training at either above or below race distance. The fundamental reason, at least for me at the time, was to have the ability to sustain an anaerobic “kick” at any point in the race. By training in this way, I could throw in a really fast 100 yards at any time in a 10 mile or 10k race as a tactic to demoralize another runner.

Well, I’m well beyond demoralizing any runner except myself these days. Hahaha! It’s pretty funny for me to even think back to those days now that I’m floating in north of 60.

Tabata HIIT

But I am still interested in interval training, even at my ripe old age; and so I was quite fascinated to learn about Tabata High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This one was devised for Olympic speed skaters and was first done on an exercise bicycle. The original Tabata HIIT involved a warm up phase, followed by repetitions of 4 minutes of interval sequences. Each sequence comprised 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest, for ½ minute per sequence. Eight repeats of this sequence gave the basic 4 minute pattern. After each 4 minute pattern, there is a period of 2 to 3 minutes of rest. So, the entire period is 6 to 7 minutes. Then one does another 4 minutes, followed by rest; and so on. Generally, you go for at least 3 or 4 of these periods, so you’re getting a 20 minute work out overall.

There are differences in this scheme than in my earlier version. Tabata HIIT is done to time, not to distance or any other measure of completion. Tabata HIIT doesn’t involve variations in the interval; that is, each repeat is of the same duration. Nothing wrong with that; I’m just observing. There are similarities. There’s clearly a rest period between the intensity phases. Also, item 19 is a constant, the “Die” part.

One advantage of measuring the interval patterns in terms of time is that almost any strength or endurance exercise can be factored into this model. You can burn it out on an exercise bike, on a treadmill, outdoors on hills, with squats, with weights, with push-ups, with whatever floats your balloon.

So far, I’ve been doing this on a treadmill, both with and without incline, and with push-ups. As a guy who’s been into running for decades (on and off in terms of intensity), I can handle the treadmill pretty well. The push-ups are a total killer for me. Which is good! I love it. If you want to feel a burn, try Tabata intervals with push-ups as the meat in the sandwich. As they say, that’ll put hair on your chest. Or knock it off.

You can find lots of other variations just by doing the usual trick: google “Tabata HIIT”. If you haven’t tried this in your work-out regime, give it a shot.

One of the claimed benefits is that it delivers both aerobic and anaerobic training in a shorter time. So, if you’re one of those working stiffs with little available time for a workout, then Tabata HIIT may be tailor made for you.