Tabata Training for Beginners

 Tabata Training for Beginners Photo by Wanderlinse

Are you ready to take your HIIT to a new level?

Then it’s time to try tabata training.

Tabata training, or tabata intervals, came out of a 1996 study by Izumi Tabata. The study compared short ultra high intensity interval training vs. long steady state cardio (you know, the “fat burning zone” intensity on your favorite cardio machine). The study found that the tabata group, performing just 8 cycles of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, had similar VO2max improvements to the group performing longer steady state workouts. But the tabata group was the only group to show improved anaerobic capacity, meaning you can push a little farther and little faster when running, cycling or any other fitness activity. It also means you can get highly effective fat burning workout in very little time.

When I introduce clients to Tabata training I like to alter the original protocol by doing only 6 rounds and warm up with a short core workout before. This is, of course, after our usual dynamic stretching before any workout. Before you attempt this core/tabata workout I suggest you do the same, warming up with things like jumping jacks, arms circles and knee lifts.

You’ll only need an interval timer  or stopwatch for this workout. That’s the other great thing about tabata training – the best exercises require nothing but your body.

Start with two sets of the following core exercises:

  • Alternating Leg Lifts
    Lay face up with hands to the sides or under your tailbone. Start with legs in an L position – one leg parallel to the ground, one leg perpendicular – the switch for 10 reps on each side.
  • Supermans
    Lay face down with arms reaching forward and overhead. Squeeze glutes and low back to “take off” lifting hands and feet up in the air. Release with control and repeat for 10 reps.
  • Windshield Wipers
    Lay face up with knees bent and lifted above hips. Your arms should be out to side, making a T with the upper body. Your feet should be level with knees. Rotate through the middle, leaning the knees off to on to one side. Twist as far as you can without the opposite shoulder coming of the ground. Return to center and twist to the opposite side. Repeat for 10 reps on each side.

Now you’ll need your interval timer or stop watch. Set it for 6 rounds of 20 second of work and 10 seconds of rest. You’ll do each exercise for all 6 rounds before moving to the next exercise. Rest for up to a minute or two between each exercise if needed.

  • Reverse Lunges
    When lunging go as low as you can, bringing your knee to the ground if possible. Also the longer the step you take the more the emphasis shifts to the glutes. Alternate legs and make sure you keep your forward knee over your ankle.
  • Push Ups
    Push ups may seem simple enough but, if you keep good form, your chest and arms will be screaming by round 4. Drop to your knees for a modified push up if you’re at a beginner to intermediate fitness level.
  • Squat Thrusts
    “Burpees” work your body from head to toe. Be sure not to cheat on form for the sake of speed or volume. Protect your low back by making sure your abs are tucked in, pulling your belly button back towards your spine.
  • Table Lifts
    Take the table pose from yoga and add motion. Drop your glutes to the ground just long enough to tap them on the ground, then lift back up by squeezing your glutes and pressing the heals of your hands into the ground. This is also one of my favorite exercises for shaping shoulders and arms.

First time with Tabata style training? Let me know how it goes. If you’re already a Tabata fan, what’s your favorite exercise for intervals?

Are You a Victim of the Reward Factor?

Exercise alone with not give you the results you want if your goal is fat loss. Exercise can help balance the energy intake equation or create a calorie deficit, but you must address food choices and habits to see real and lasting results. You have to get real with how you use food for things other than hunger. For me I had to deal with eating out of loneliness and using food a distraction, for recreation or as a reward.

One of my first half hearted at attempts at fitness got hijacked by the “reward factor”. I got a gym membership (my first and at a gym different then the one that would later become my gym home for over a decade) because my employer at the time paid half. It was a great benefit and certainly ahead of the curve at the time, almost 17 years ago. One of my co-workers had just had a baby and she also signed up to try to work off some of the baby weight.

Neither of us had a clue what we were doing. I had taken a weight training class in high school but the coach spent most of his time with the basketball and football players. My lifting partner and I did the occasional leg press or a few seated rows but mostly we sat around and gossiped.

When I attempted to start exercising with my coworker we basically did the same thing. We wondered from weight machine to weight machine and spent some time on the Stairmaster gossiping. I don’t even know how long we actually were there that first workout. I don’t think we cared.  We were at the gym and that was something, right?

In fact it was such a good thing we felt we should reward ourselves for our hard work. How about the Olive Garden just around the corner? Yes, ma’am pasta and breadsticks sounds like a great idea after a “hard” workout. I don’t remember how many times we did that, treating ourselves to something after fledgling attempts at fitness. Needless to say, our workout plan didn’t last long. We didn’t see any results from those evening trips to the gym. So what was the point? The gym continued to bill me long after I stopped going, only stopping when they went out of business. Sound familiar?

I know better now but there are many other gym goers who still think and experience the same thing. I see them grabbing a calorie-dense post workout smoothie or treating themselves to over sized bagels or protein cookies. I see them frustrated at their lack of progress. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I know I’ve worked hard, so I deserve this little treat, they are telling themselves.  Meanwhile all their work is slowly undone by excess fat and sugar. When they step on the scale a day or 2 later they just can’t figure out what the problem is. I’m working so hard, they think to themselves, why isn’t the number on the scale going down? They haven’t done the work on getting real with food. They can’t see the connection.  The haven’t realized that the “reward factor” is what is holding them back from reaching their goals.

You can’t out train a bad diet.

Exercise doesn’t justify eating excessive amounts of food, no matter how “healthy” it is.

If you’ve hit a plateau or your body isn’t changing the way you want it too despite regular workouts you need to be honest about your food.

  • You can exercise all day long but if you refuel with too much of anything you won’t see the results you want.  You must balance calories in with calories out, no matter if these calories come from protein shakes or gluten free organic cookies.  Quality and quantity matter.
  • Exercise is not and should not be means to a reward. Don’t negotiate with yourself, saying that so much exercise equals so much ice cream or pizza. Exercise for the calorie burn but also for the joy of movement. Exercise to create shapely and strong muscles. Exercise to keep your body functioning at an optimal level. Exercise IS the reward.
  • The truth is you are probably burning fewer calories than you think during a workout.  Calorie calculators on many machines and web sites can be way off. Even our wearable activity trackers have a margin of error. Don’t use them as a justification for additional snacks or treats. Treats should be treats, without strings or guilt attached.

Exercise is good for health and the calories burned will help you reach your fat loss goals. The key is to not use exercise as a justification for the foods you know aren’t good choices but want to consume anyway.  Refuel post workout, but do it with a balanced and healthy choice.

Have you had to overcome the reward factor? What caused your thinking to shift?

Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats from Around the World Cookbook Review

When I started looking I was surprised at the number of vegan gluten free cookbooks on the market. I was worried my niche of reduced dairy and gluten would limit by choices but they were actually quite overwhelming. I was drawn to Allyson Kramer’s books by the gorgeous photos. I was drawn to the colors and textures coming alive in the pages before I even had a chance to read the mouth watering recipe descriptions.

Brian gave me her book, Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats from Around the World, last Christmas but I admit I hadn’t cooked out of it a great deal. The year kicked off with a flurry of new clients and projects (such is the life of a fitness professional). When busy I stick to my favorite tried and true quick dinners like the taco recipe from Tosca’s Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook or this great lentil sloppy joe recipe that makes plenty of leftovers. Both recipes are done in 30 minutes or less.

In what may be my biggest criticism with the cookbook, most of her recipes appeared more complicated than I wished to attempt on a busy Wednesday night. For example, the English Cottage Pie is seemly simple dish but the multi step process requires at least 45 minutes of preparation time before it even hits the oven. I save it for Saturday nights when I have more time and need leftovers for the week.

Also, with Brian traveling a lot, I also haven’t cooked as much because I am trying to avoid leftover overload. When he’s gone, they just start to pile up. I’ve also been cooking less when he’s gone to just give myself a break.  I cook simple things like eggs or making dishes he doesn’t have a taste for like Instant Potato Soup from another of my favorite vegan cookbooks.

But the cookbook has been calling to me, begging me to experiment with ingredients like jackfruit and dulse.  As I made meal plans I consciously included recipes that I promised myself I had to try. In the last couple of weeks here are the recipes from the book I have tackled:

Spiced Lentil Harira

Pain Ordinaire

Veggie Frittata (without the Salsa Verde)

Save the Fishies Cakes

English Cottage Pie

Farinata Pizza


Banana Nepalese Pancakes with “Bacon”

Big winners? The Veggie Frittata and the English Cottage Pie. They passed the leftover test (if they leftovers move I know Brian liked it, if they didn’t I shouldn’t make it again any time soon). Both take extra prep time but are worth it when you can.  The pancakes were okay but I like my protein pancakes better. I enjoyed the side of bacon more and see myself using it for more than just breakfast.

I can’t say the Save the Fishies Cakes tasted like fish (it’s been a loooong time since I’ve had fish) but they did taste pretty good. The biggest disappointment? The Pain Ordinaire. I must have done something wrong because it was runny like soup. Yet I baked it anyway. It tasted a bit yeasty but actually created a decent loaf, albeit a somewhat crumbly one. I do intend to try it again in hopes it was just operator error.

And I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of the amazing collection of recipes she makes with no gluten or animal products. I haven’t even touched the sweet treats, soups and salads.  I’m sure you’ll see pictures of future experiments on Instagram or during What I Ate Wednesday on Facebook.

I’m always looking for new recipes to play with. What’s your favorite gluten free and dairy free cookbook? Have you tried Allyson Kramer’s recipes out?

Tips to Help Somone Control Eating Ep 106

Personal Trainer Pamela Hernandez discusses some tips for someone interested in healthier living, but has trouble with control.

In this video:

  • Focus.
  • Look for positive changes…what you can do, rather then what you can’t.

Subscribe in iTunes HD

Kiwi Cooler Post Workout Protein Smoothie Recipe

Kiwi Cooler Post Workout Protein Smoothie RecipePhoto by Pamela

My husband and I don’t like to use the phrase “trip of a lifetime”. There are very few places you can’t revisit if you really want to. However you can have an experience that may be exceptionally rare or hard to recreate.

Such was our flight to Hong Kong. We used frequent flier miles to travel in style via the first class experience on Cathay Pacific. For the 15 hours (each way) we spent in the air, we were treated like royalty. We had our own pajamas to lounge in our lay flat beds. Brian was able to join me in my “suite” for meals that we ordered from an actual menu at an elegantly set table. The food was beautifully presented and tasted delicious. The bathroom was clean and stocked with lotions and hydrating mists. When I needed another pot of tea or to have my bed made all I had to do was buzz and one of the amazing flight attendants was there to assist me.

In this luxurious setting I also came to love their signature mocktail – the Cathay Delight. Served both in air and in the first class lounge at the Hong Kong airport, the Cathay Delight is a delightful blend of coconut and kiwi juices with some refreshing mint. I later found out that they rotate this drink with another signature concoction, adding to the uniqueness of the experience. If we had chose to fly at a different time I might have missed it altogether.

Luckily I was able to recreate some of the experience at home by lounging in my Cathey Pacific pajamas after a workout and enjoying my own protein packed version of the Cathay Delight. I call it the Kiwi Cooler.

Kiwi Cooler Post Workout Protein Smoothie RecipePhoto by Pamela

Kiwi Cooler Smoothie

  • ½ cup kiwi juice (juiced from 3-4 fresh kiwi)
  • ½ cup coconut water
  • 1 scoop Designer Whey French Vanilla
  • 3-4 mint leaves.

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve poured over ice or by itself.

Yield: 1 Smoothie
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 0 Minutes

Per Serving: Calories 205; Total Fat 2.1g; (Sat Fat 1g, Trans 0g, Poly Fat 0g, Mono Fat 0g); Protein 18g; Carb 29g; Fiber 0g; Sugars 20g; Cholesterol 55mg; Sodium 90mg

The coconut water is refreshing and a great source of post workout electrolytes. The kiwi and mint add a smooth and subtle flavor if you’re not a fan of plain coconut water. It’s everything you need for a great recovery shake.

Do you use coconut water to recover from a sweat session? Plain or do you need a little flavor kick?