Crossfit · cycling · racing · Rowing · running

Puke worthy workouts

I’ve written lots about pain and physical exertion. See here, here and here.

But now it’s time to tackle that other fun aspect of tough workouts, throwing up.

It’s a feature of almost every sport that I like that people sometimes barf. (I have teenagers at home, including teen athletes, so I know all sorts of good euphemisms but I’ll stick with “barf,” “vomit,” and “throw up.”)

CrossFit has a metal puke bucket in the corner, mostly as a joke. So too does the rowing club. And of course, the velodrome. Of course.

It’s sort of a joke but also sort of not. Vomiting does happen. It’s certainly happened to me on the bike.

“Intense exercise has a number of effects on the body. As well as raising metabolism and burning fat, it can also cause dehydration, dizziness and nausea. Whether you do cardiovascular exercise or strength training, it is not uncommon to throw up during or after a workout.” Read How to Prevent Throwing up when Exercising

I was reminded of all this this morning doing 200 m sprints x 10 on the erg, aka rowing machine, at CrossFit.

I was busy paying attention to how I felt about pain in response to commentators who think you really can’t say truthfully you enjoy painful intervals. And I’m right. At the fifth sprint, I had that silly smile on my face that makes other people question my sanity. Yay endorphins. I also had done a great job of keeping my times constant through the first five efforts.

Times ranged quite a bit, from the high 30s to the low 50s. For my first five 200 m intervals I was around 42 seconds.

But after five, my times started to go up. I stopped smiling. And by seven I was starting to think I might throw up. I didn’t. But I didn’t manage to eat again until lunch.

So, what happens to make your body feel that way? Read Why Do We Vomit After Strenuous Exercise?

High intensity interval training, in particular, brings about a bad combo. Lactic acid on the one hand, and blood going to your limbs rather than your digestion system, on the other. There are are reasons to skirt the edge of pukiness. In part, your body learns how to cope and recover and that’s important.

I’m not sure about the gallows humour around throwing up after a workout. But like the issue of peeing during workouts, I think it helps to know you’re not alone. Going hard, whether cycling, rowing, running, or swimming can bring it on and there’s no reason to be ashamed or proud about it.

“A 1992 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition found that 93 percent of  endurance athletes experienced some type of GI symptom (e.g., acid reflux, nausea, and vomiting) during their races.” See Techniques to Prevent Nausea and Vomiting Before, During, and After Racing.

It’s an issue with any form of High Intensity Interval Training but your body does adjust. From Precision Nutrition’s All About High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

“Most every high intensity physical activity is a state of “crisis” in the body. It endangers oxygen supply to tissues, increases body temperature, reduces body fluids and fuel stores, and causes tissue damage.

Intense exercise creates endocrine and defense reactions that are similar to those elicited by low blood oxygen, high blood carbon dioxide, acidosis, high body temperature, dehydration, low blood sugar, physical injury and psychological stresses.

Hormonally, your body basically freaks out. Then it brings out the big guns to deal with the problem. High intensity exercise stresses the body so much that it’s forced to adapt.

As Nietzsche gasped during a 20-rep squat set, “That which does not kill me makes my quads bodacious.” (It makes more sense in German.)”

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Image description: puke bucket

4 thoughts on “Puke worthy workouts

  1. I was thinking about this the other day, as I’m considering writing a post about how I got faster at running. Consistent speed work has played a big role in that, and I don’t think people like hearing that because speed work, quite frankly, sucks. I mean, I like doing it, but only because I like getting faster. The actual act of speed work, particularly toward the end of the workout, is fairly awful, with lots of groaning and burning in my muscles and FEELING like I’m going to puke, but I keep doing it because it works.

    That said, I have never puked during a speed workout, or any other kind of workout. I have puked while racing, but that is because I screwed up and ate dairy beforehand. The way I see it, if I am throwing up during physical activity, it’s usually a sign that I did something wrong, and certainly not something that I should strive to attain.

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    1. Caitlin, I hope you write that post. I’d love to read about speed work and your experience with it (especially since you say it actually worked). I can push hard if I know my effort has a chance of paying off.

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  2. Like Caitlin, I’ve never puked during a workout. It’s sometimes made me wonder whether I am, other phenomenology notwithstanding, somehow holding back from going all out. Certainly this seemed the conviction of a politely sadistic power-skating instructor I once had, who would end our sessions with a drill he called ‘Eliminateur’, and would yell at me, ‘Skate ‘arder, Mr Kenyon! I want to see what you ‘ad for your lunch!’ (He was a good guy, but firmly believed in vomit as the low-tech indicator of an appropriate “redline zone” effort.) Anyhow, I’ve been nauseous, dazed, immobile with exhaustion, on the verge of passing out — I think I’m just not a barfer.

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