This morning marks my first cold of the winter. I rarely get sick since I started working from home but it’s just that much harder to pull off productive work days. I’m convinced the double trips New York on the train is what did me in. My brother is in town this weekend from Los Angeles so I’ll need to suck it up. I’m planning to go for a long run today of six to seven miles to avoid conflict of plans tomorrow with the family in the morning.

Yesterday morning I felt fine when I first got up. I went to a new class at Equinox called Tabata 20:10 with Josh Fink.  I talk a lot about tabata intervals (aka HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training) in my videos and on my blog but if you are unfamiliar with them, it’s a 4 minute circuit. You do one move for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat 8 times.  Here is a sample video I did which kicks my butt without fail on any given day:

The class was structured slightly different in that you performed the same move for all 8 rounds. We rested one minute in between moves and then performed a different exercise. I knew about the class but was honestly nervous since my Tabata intervals are so intense. The class however was very feasible for me! It was challenging but like any good instructor, Josh gave modifications are advanced options.

Here is a sample of what we did:

  • Fast Paced Prisoner Squats – Hands behind head
  • Push Ups
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Single Leg Squat Standing On a Bench
  • High Knees – Hands up to sky
  • T-Twist with Push-up
  • Knee to Elbow Plank with Hands on Step
  • Bent Over Row

I wore my Polar FT60 heart rate monitor and burned 450 calories during the hour-long class. This is great for me considering that is what I would have burned going for a 45 minute run but I was strength training. Win!

My only critique is that the studies that show the effectiveness of a Tabata are only when it’s performed for 4-6 minutes.  Those 20-second burst intervals are supposed to be an all out effort. You should not be comfortable. You should want more than 10 seconds of rest. I did not find this during the class and is why I didn’t want to take it in the first place. A proper Tabata of 6-minutes shows similar muscle fiber changes as a 60 minute steady state workout making them ideal for people who do not have the time.  It does not work unless you are fully exerted.  You should not be able to perform a proper Tabata for 60 minutes with only 1 minute of rest in between!

Since the class was 60 minutes, it doesn’t really matter because I burned a good number of calories. I think the name of the class should be changed to something like, strength training intervals but whatever. I liked it and will probably go back again and push myself harder.  It’s hard to really analyze a class based on taking it only once.

The thing about group classes like this verses body pump is that you will find every instructor teaches their class differently.  If you have the chance to take a “Tabata” class, I highly recommend doing it but know that it might not really be what a true Tabata is.

Want to add Tabata to your workout? I highly recommend ending your workout to spike your metabolism for the rest of the day. Try the video above or a simple kettle bell swing using the 20:10 resting period as demonstrated below.

If you are interested in the science of the Tabata, check out this article for the New York Times.

The Tabata Class That Wasn’t at Equinox

About The Author


  • jessica

    I teach a boot camp class 3 times a week and every class I do something different. Sometimes I do a Tabata class but when I do, I tell them this is a Tabata “inspired” class not a TRUE tabata format class. All in all, it is a great workout. Interval training rocks.

    • Sarah

      Agreed! When I used to teach class, they were tabata inspired as well but I remember them needing that 10 second rest period needing to give more than 1 minute of recovery -- lol. That’s probably because I was trying to get them to do real ones! I’m always nervous to take classes because I hate feeling like I need to take a break in the middle -- but each time I take one, I’m amazed at how doable most really are. They just sound scary and I know how I teach so I assume most teach the same way.

  • Sara

    I think tabata is great. very hard but what effective workout isn’t??? also in my reading/understanding it’s been proven time and time again that interval training is simple the most effective and efficient way of training PERIOD. 🙂 Love your blog!

  • Nic

    Weird. I take the Tabata class at Equinox by me in Chicago and it’s a more traditional Tabata class as you described. 30 min. to include a warm-up and cool-down and sticks to an all out effort of each interval.

    • Sarah

      yeah -- like I said above though, most are different with different instructors. I took another Tabata class on Tuesday with a female and it was all lower body. i didn’t have my HR monitor though so I can’t compare but it lacked upper body. Was more pounding on my feet than I would have liked but slightly more cardio.

  • Salma

    I do Tabatas and I love it, it works and it’s perfect for people who don’t have time to spend an hour on the gym or can’t afford it. I do routines of 12, 15, 20 minutes and I sweat a lot, I have lost weight, not that I needed it but I got toned and it shows, and I have been doing Tabata only for two months!

  • Tiff

    I’ve wanted to try tabata training, but I think I’d be too nervous to do it in a class setting. It’s great they offer it though -- I bet a lot of people are interested.

  • alicia

    Hi Sarah,

    I love your workout videos….very inspiring. I want to try the kettleball swing exercise, any idea what pound kettle ball I should purchase? Thanks so much.

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