Tabatas seem like the “thing” these days…well, actually, this protocol has been around for 19 years! Some cool facts:

  • Named after Izumi Tabata, head researcher on the 1996 study
  • Originally meant for Olympic Speedskaters
  • Called IE1 Protocol (Intense Exercise 1 Protocol)
  • Proved to provide more gains in cardio conditioning in a shorter period of time compared to “steady state cardio” (e.g. running for 30 minutes at the same pace)
  • Concluded that Short High Intensity bouts of training is more effective than Long Low Intensity training (Layman’s conclusion).
  • Intensity of training is no question the factor for change, but don’t count out the importance of Volume of training as it contributes to conditioning and mastery. (*The study had athletes do 4 days of Tabata and 1 day of Steady State, not strictly Tabata.)
  • The interesting thing about these studies is that they only look at what is being studied, they do not shed light on all the other activities and recovery protocols the athletes take on (that may well contribute even more to the results!) At best, Tabata protocol gives us training parameters that make us feel like we are exerting ourselves like Olympians and thus yielding Olympic worthy results… at the end of the day, Tabata is a powerful placebo effect in the non-laboratory settings of our neighborhood gym facilities.

I don’t mean to bash Tabata because I personally love the rush and challenge. But I think there is more value that we can yield from understanding this protocol as it relates to the bigger picture.

Holistic thinking is where my mind naturally gravitates towards. I stumbled upon Buckminster Fuller when listening to my blue sky thoughts and learned that he is the founder of something in line with my own natural inclinations; Synergetics.

“Synergetics is the system of holistic thinking which R. Buckminster Fuller introduced and began to formulate. Synergetics is multi-faceted: it involves geometric modeling, exploring inter-relationships in the facts of experience and the process of thinking. Synergetics endeavors to identify and understand the methods that Nature actually uses in coordinating Universe (both physically and metaphysically). Synergetics provides a method and a philosophy for problem-solving and design and therefore has applications in all areas of human endeavor.”

Upon discovering this 2 years ago, my mind was blown.
As it relates to all that we do, it explains that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and by that, a gravity towards the interdependence over independence philosophy.
“Synergy means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately.”

Our workout program is comprised of many parts: it is not solely the Tabata day, or solely the Cycle day, or solely the Flexibility day, that contribute to our success, it is the sum and more of these efforts that contribute to our success…

  • Tabata’s do not make me more fit, it contributes to it.
  • Eating healthily does not make me more healthy, it contributes to it.
  • Sleeping 8 hours and drinking my recommended water intake does not make me stress free, it contributes to it.

My two-cents conclusion:
We should continue to explore the depths of our intensity training as it builds mental toughness. It also acts as a catalyst to the positive habits we strive to build. But we should look more to the way it interacts with the other activities we engage and try our best to find the ultimate balance rather than the ultimate burn.