Sunday, June 28, 2009

Six Minute Training!

Yeah, I tend to wander from training plan to training plan. And in-between, I have no training plan or goals at all. Now I have a new plan (I haven't even tried it yet, but I like it). I read about it in a recent NYT article entitled "You Can Get Fit on Six Minutes a Week?" Then I started doing some research about the Tabata training plan that this article seems to be based upon.

The Tabata training protocol is named after Izumi Tabata, a Japanese researcher who worked with the Japanese speed skating team. The protocol consists of 6-8 intervals of 20-second full-speed sprints interspersed with 10-second rest periods. Dr. Tabata found that these workouts increased speed and endurance. It is basically a form of high intensity interval training.

How can one ignore a training plan that has you doing 6 minutes of work per week? And it is supposed to increase your power, VO2max, and endurance! The main idea is to cycle through a series of 20 seconds hard followed by 10 seconds easy (running, cycling, swimming, etc). For running, it might be hard sprints for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of easy walking, then repeat for 4-10 cycles. The key is the very hard bursts of speed followed by very short rest periods. The research seems to indicate that the ratio of hard-easy should be 2:1 (20 seconds:10 seconds). Imagine if a workout could be as simple as:

1. 10-15 minutes of easy warm-up jogging
2. 6 cycles of 20 second sprints, 10 second walks (total = 3 minutes!)
3. 10 minutes of easy jogging

Do this workout twice a week and you are set! I assume you could have a few easy runs the rest of the week, but some people think the 6 minutes of hard work (with warm-up and cool-down) is enough. Hard to believe this short workout actually does lead to both improved speed and endurance. Yes, there is evidence this workout improves your muscular and cellular endurance! Hmmm...I may give this a try. Why not insert a 3 minute workout into my routine twice a week? Even my lazy ass can commit to that...until the next fad comes around.

The Tabata protocol was originally used by Japanese Olympic speed skaters. Maybe it can be adapted for serious amateur runners. If nothing else, all runners should mix up their training and include some speed work. Check out this nice NYT article about Sara Hall's training, "Changing Speeds to Go the Distance."

A few web sites that discuss Tabata training:

Tabata Training-Short & Effective Workouts
Tabata Training 101
The Secrets of Tabata
1996 Izumi Tabata research article abstract

If you want more references or articles, you can try web searches on "high intensity interval training" or "tabata protocol." You might try "Izumi Tabata" or "Martin Gibala" (two researchers in this area). If you search YouTube, you'll find a few videos of people doing the Tabata sprints.

The real problem with this training? How am I supposed to listen to my Kid Rock on the iPod if the workout is only 3 minutes long? Don't even get me started on what I'm going to do with my 2-hour World Soccer Daily podcasts!

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