Tabata for Beginners and Benefits for Women Over 40 – SheSpark

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Tabata for Beginners. An Interview with Lisa Aston, CPT, Specialized in Kinesiology (this article is an edited version of the original published in June 2016).

A couple years ago, a friend texted me, “I’ve signed you up for a class at the gym.  You’re going!”  And I was afraid.  Very afraid.

The peer pressure worked and I showed up for a Tabata class.  It turned out to be one of the most challenging hours of my life!  At the end, I felt SO proud of myself.  I didn’t keep up with every exercise in that first class, but I had made it through.  And I wanted to go back and get better at it.

My motivation can also be credited to the instructor, Lisa Aston.  She is positive, energetic, fun … and she looks phenomenal over 40.  She is also an expert; a wealth of fitness information.


AUDREY:  When people ask me what I’ve been doing at the gym and I say Tabata, they have no idea what I’m talking about.  What exactly is Tabata?

LISA:  Tabata training is a high-intensity workout designed to work the total body.  It is normally programmed to be timed in 20-second intervals of high intensity work, followed by a 10-second rest period.   The idea is to push your body to its limits for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds to regain the strength, and oxygen, needed for the next set.

Tabata training includes sets of cardio with and without weights, plyometrics, and basic weight training exercises. All are performed in the same 20-seconds-on/10-seconds-off set.  Each exercise is performed in 6 to 8 sets.  I call the Tabata class I teach “Body Max.”  People get the idea very quickly!

AUDREY: What is the benefit of Tabata to over-40 women?  What makes it different from other types of exercise?

LISA:  For women over 40, it is imperative to increase and maintain muscle mass in order to improve our metabolism.  Our metabolism can decrease 1% every year after 40.  That may not seem like much, but do the math. By the age of 60?  Or 70?  What do you want to look like?  Feel like?  Be able to do?

Because Tabata combines weight training and cardio, and because it’s challenging and fun, Tabata training has become very popular.  And it deserves to be. It’s not your run-of-the-mill cardio and weight-training class. Tabata challenges you to push yourself outside your comfort zone.

If you know you have to do an exercise for just 20 seconds, you can do it. You rest for 10 seconds, or maybe your rest takes you into the second set.  That’s okay!  By the third set you’re ready to go again!  You might continue needing longer rest periods for a few weeks, but soon you will find that 10 seconds may not FEEL long enough, but it IS enough to get to the next set!  Everyone can do this class!

AUDREY: Starting a new exercise program can be intimidating.  What is your advice for someone who wants give Tabata a try?

LISA:  Tabata-style training is perfect for someone starting out, whether in a class format or with a trainer.  Knowing you have 20 seconds to perform an exercise, you can go all out, or you can pace yourself.   It’s up to you.  You can start with just 2 to 3 sets of each exercise, for 20 on/10 off.  Each week, add another set, until you’ve made it to 6 sets.

It’s a great way to watch improvement and your progress will keep you motivated.  Knowing at one time, three sets was more than you wanted, and now six sets is what you’re demanding!  It is the greatest feeling when class is over and you have pushed your body in ways you never thought possible.

You actually look forward to doing it again because next week’s class will be the same timed format, but with totally different exercises.  Doing the same thing over and over gets boring and can cause injuries.  Training your body to push for 20 seconds is your own private challenge.  And each class there’s always something different to challenge yourself with.

Tabata training is a high-intensity workout for watching your body accept the challenges you have given it.  You’ll realize that no matter what your age or fitness level, your body will perform for you.  All you have to do is start.

Tabata for Beginners Video

Here’s a beginner’s Tabata video from Nicole Perry, creator of Pumps & Iron. It’s a 10-minute workout with simple instructions and no equipment necessary.  Be prepared!  You’ll sweat like crazy, so make sure a towel and water are handy.  Remember to use these post-workout skincare tips, too.


About The Author

Audrey Stefanik is a beauty product reviewer and creator of In her words: “This is a blog for 40-something’s, by a 40-something. I’m an average person, busy with a family and a job. I’ll never look twenty again, and that’s OK. I just want to feel good about myself, and that’s what these products do for me. When you feel good about yourself, you feel confident. And nothing is more attractive than confidence.”

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