THIS week I learnt a new concept from my sessions at Paragon strength and conditioning centre in Darlington.


To start with, when trainer Stephen McClean said we were going to finish the week with a Tabata, I thought he said Tabitha. This sounded like either a Beatrix Potter character, or the sort of favourite great-aunt who fed you lemonade and custard creams.

I know now, it is neither of these things.

My two sessions at Paragon had been fairly steady until the last four minutes of my second workout.

A combination of me feeling very sluggish after a game of indoor hockey and a tough hill run on Monday-Tuesday, and the fact the approaching weekend was due to feature two full games of hockey, meant we were going not quite a hard as usual.

Stephen introduced me to the Nordic leg curl using the glute-ham machine and a stretchy band, a hamstring exercise which I could really feel working into the muscles.

Apart from that, and a narrowly-averted disaster in which Stephen caught a 10kg dumbbell which I nearly dropped on my face (lame left arm), it was so far so straightforward.

Until I was introduced to Tabata.

Google tells me it is a form of high intensity interval training dreamt up by a Japanese scientist.

It lasts four minutes, with 20 seconds of hard exercise, followed by ten seconds of rest, all repeated eight times.

I didn’t know any of this beforehand, and just as well.

I was on one of the gym’s two Watt bikes, and after a warm up, it was right into it. I went full on flat out (by my standards) for my first 20 seconds, and my second sprint, but after that I was regretting going so hard so soon.

But I guess that’s the idea of it. No point pacing yourself – it’s only four minutes, go as fast as you can.

My speed did drop off towards the last couple of sprints as I ran out of breath and my legs started to burn.

At the end, when I could breathe again, I climbed off the bike to find my legs were now made of jelly.

They came back to life fairly quickly, but it took my chest a couple of hours – I turned up at work coughing like an old sheep.

But by the afternoon, everything had settled nicely, and the next morning, I had no muscle stiffness and was feeling quite sprightly.

Maybe instead of slogging up and down hills for hours in the quest for fitness, four minutes is all you need.