It happened to me a few times and I definitely freaked out. The pain was throbbing and intense and it usually happened just after or during really super high intensity activities involving compound movements. In general, it is quite very common to experience a light dizziness or headache during exercise – usually it is nothing to worry about. Primarily exertion headaches are harmless and can be caused by variety of factors: dehydration ( which thickens your blood) , dips in blood sugar, drinking alcohol, heat or humidity, poor neck position ( which causes constrictions on the carotid arteries) or high blood pressure. However if you experience these headaches, you should definitely consult your doctor to rule out an underlying condition – it could be anything from aneurysm to slipped disc . The underlying condition could possibly be even more serious – for example thunderclap headaches can indicate something very serious like subarachnoid haemorrhage! No pain no gain does not apply here. If you feel the pain in your head during exercise, immediately stop and schedule a visit with doctor. These pains can last from few hours to few days and can be a real bugger..!
Once you clarify with your doctor that your pain has no underlying cause and you know that yours qualifies as the primarily exertion pain, there is a number of things you can do to avoid this discomfort.
1) Make sure we are breathing properly. You should always exhale on the effort – think E-E. Holding breath on the effort ( for example as you extend your arms over head during overhead press) is a so called valsalva maneuver and causes a dramatic spike in blood pressure – so for anyone with high blood pressure it is incredibly important to get their breathing pattern right! Inhale on the negative phrase of the move and exhale on the positive ( effort phrase). Otherwise, headache guaranteed.
2) Unless you’re specifically fasting or have consulted with your trainer or PT do not exercise on empty stomach – when your sugar suddenly drops you’re going to feel it and you’ll get dizzy. Have a low GI meal around 2h prior to exercise or a higher GI snack around 30 mins before you start moving.
3) Avoid excessive alcohol consumption night before you plan to exercise heavily. No brainer – it completely sabotages your fat burning processes and performance. Your choice but I would say – just don’t.
4) Warm up and start slowly – ease your body into activity. Get your blood flowing and heart pumping. Dynamic stretches mimicking the actual loaded exercise ( for example body weight squats with your arms up before you you actually get on the squat rack )
5) Make sure your posture is correct. Keep a neutral spine and neck aligned to avoid constrictions.
6) Hydrate – not just during but also before the exercise. Dehydration is the most common cause of dizziness or headache during exercise. So easy to avoid.
So here’s to a exertion headache free workout !!! 🙂 <3