Four Minutes to Fat Loss & Greater Fitness

Hi All!

Sounds like a late night TV ad, doesn’t it? But you actually can get great results in four short minutes. If you’re a realist at all, however, you’ll know that any workout this short is going to be really hard.

And it is. That’s the Tabata Protocol, an interval training method developed by Izumi Tabata, a researcher and head coach of the Japanese speed-skating team.

Imagine going as hard as you can (that’s 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10) for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest—and doing that 8 times. There’s your four minutes. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Well, give it a try and you’ll find it’s not for your average bear! I had my Bootcamp class work on it after a demonstration by Personal Trainer Corey Santamaria, a Tabata trainer at Carleton U.

We started with four Tabata intervals of burpees and worked our way up to eight over eight weeks (along with our other Bootcamp activities). Then we added skipping Tabatas. It was interesting and a real workout—even for Bootcamp veterans.

That’s what’s great about Tabata. You can start with one set if you’re a beginner and as your heart becomes more conditioned, you simply add on more intervals.

It’s also fun because any activity can become a Tabata interval. You can hit the fitness trail or hit a heavy bag or hit the floor for some burpees! Anything goes! Although it’s recommended that you start with cardio activities, and then add on play things like weights or bosu.

Your heart rate will skyrocket during this workout because it takes time to build up heart and lung capacity, so wear a heart rate monitor and record your maximum heart rate. Do this workout 3 times per week–no more. You need a good day of recovery between workouts.

When you see your maximum heart rate is lower than previous workouts, you’ll know you’re becoming more conditioned and you can add another interval.  

If you want to increase your aerobic and/or anaerobic capacity, lose weight and/or reduce fat, or you don’t have a lot of time for training and/or want to maximize the time you have, Tabata is for you!

If you like the research behind your workouts…

Dr. Tabata conducted his original study at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. Using highly-trained endurance athletes in peak physical condition, he found that skaters who used the routine five days a week for six weeks improved their maximum aerobic capacity (which measures your body’s ability to use oxygen) by 14% and their anaerobic capacity (which measures your ability to go really hard for as long as you can stand it!) by 28%.

By comparison, a study of traditional aerobic training (70% of aerobic capacity for 60 minutes) for the same number of weeks showed an improvement in aerobic capacity of only 9.5% and no effect on anaerobic capacity. Now those are results!

So whether you’re interested in running (or biking or skating or…) farther or faster (or both), the Tabata Protocol is a great workout. Why not give it a try? If you do, let me know your results!

 To Your Health!


 For Tabata’s full research, go to:
of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K.

For more information on Tabata workouts, see the following websites: 

*** Medical Dislaimer ***

You know the drill: Go see your doctor before starting any kind of exercise routine.


About tracygagnon

Tracy’s life-long passions have intertwined to create an interesting career. Since childhood, Tracy has loved writing, public speaking and fitness. She graduated from Carleton University’s School of Journalism in 1986. Since that time, she has written for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, created and written several newsletters, written award-winning technical manuals, as well as marketing materials, reference check reports, proposals and other materials. She has written for all levels of government, private industry and the not-for-profit sector on a variety of subjects. Throughout her life, Tracy has also found herself publicly presenting various types of information—from teaching small children to swim and adult fitness classes to presenting communication seminars and creative speeches (through Toastmasters International). In order to pull all her interests together, she created Inward Journeys in 1994. Her purpose was to help individuals and groups draw out their potential. She wrote programs on communication, teamwork, self-esteem and motivation. Each program was interactive and very often had a physical element to help participants internalize key points. Some of her experiential team adventures included: rock climbing, whitewater rafting, sailing and dogsledding. The final thread from childhood was a love of fitness, which was already manifest from the days of Participaction and flexed arm hangs (yuk!) to Inward Journeys and finally onto a new challenge at Carleton University. At 42 she became a fitness instructor at Carleton U—a dream she had had since she was 16! Eventually she was offered a full time contract position, where was able to finally put all of her skills to work as a writer, presenter and fitness enthusiast. She created the Fitness Now newsletter, the To Your Health blog, and taught fitness classes to people from all walks of life. After a year and a half, however, her contract wasn’t renewed and it was time to move on to a new adventure. Her passions have never dimmed and because of that Tracy has created a new fitness blog called Along the Fitness Trail. Please join her on her new adventure.
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