High-intensity Tabata workouts spur metabolism

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It's 5:45 in the morning when the Tabata faithful show up at Carmel Total Fitness. Tabata is a high-intensity interval training class.

Monica Cronin is one of the two instructors who share the job of leading the class.

"The point of Tabata is to fatigue it is to push yourself to the point where you think you might not be able to do one more and that is when you are going to really stimulate and effect change in your muscle," Cronin said.

Tabata is named after Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata. He designed the workout to metabolically charge your body after he conducted studies comparing moderate high-intensity training with high-intensity interval training. He found athletes training in high-intensity interval training improved their aerobic systems, as well as their anaerobic system. The athletes who did the moderate high-intensity training only improved their aerobic system and had little to no change in their anaerobic system.

His plan is simple - kick start your metabolism in four minutes sets. In Carmel, the instructors watch the clock and lead a large body movement like jumping jacks for 20 seconds.

"They will give us a countdown and you always get excited when they say 'Five, four, three...' because you know you are almost done," said Justin Schneider, who has been attending classes for nearly a year.

After the 20 minutes of activity, you rest for ten seconds and then go again.

"They always keep telling us you can do anything you want for 20 seconds," Schneider said.

It is a simple concept. Trainer Patti Cummins says you can do it anywhere.

"You need nothing here but your body," she said.

Schneider is 29 years old. He is an elementary gym teacher and a football coach. He says since taking the class he has increased his endurance and cardio capacity and decreased fat. Tabata is now his workout of choice.

"I can go as hard as I want and every different fitness level can fit in because you can make those adjustments and those modifications," he said.

Schneider says he is even incorporating the concept in his curriculum at school.

It's easy, because there is no dance, no choreography, just the basics like jumping jacks, pushups and a bit of competition.

"We have a few guys in here that push each other really hard and that helps, I think, because we kind of see each other going and we want to go just as hard as the person next to us," Schneider said.

For Natalie Engledow, it's about efficiency.

"It's a fun class and it moves quickly," Engledow said.

She has sampled yoga, Pilates and Barre classes, but this is the one that stuck.

"I didn't think I was going to be able to get back into this kind of shape after having three kids. You just don't have the kind of time to do it. But not a lot of excuses come up before 5:30 in the morning so, because this class is so compact, you can get a good workout in a short amount of time before the rest of the house is up," Engledow said.

The class is over in forty minutes and she is out the door at 6:30 am. Her metabolism is charged and she is still burning calories.

"The days that I come here, I am so energized all day long," Engledow said.

The classes are Monday and Wednesday mornings. The fee is $100 dollars for eight weeks, or $6.25 per class.

If you like the concept and would like to try at home. Sample workouts are written out for you at TabataTraining.org.

There is also a free Tabata app you can download on your smartphone. It has a timer that is preset for 20- and 10-second intervals. All you have to do is push start and it will count you down. Ideally, you would warm up for five minutes, exercise for eight four-minute sets, then cool down for at least five minutes.

Carmel Total Fitness website