Dizziness, Nausea and Exercise
It is certainly no fun to get nauseated or dizzy when you work out. This is a problem that is usually associated with over-exertion, like running too far too fast. But even people who are engaged in more moderate exercise sometimes find that exercise is making them feel sick. It could be an inner ear sensitivity leading to vertigo, or a problem that needs medical attention, but there are some other easily addressed causes of nausea/dizziness to take a look at.
One of the biggest culprits is low blood sugar.
People often like to workout in the morning before breakfast, but that means that the body may have had no fuel since dinner the night before. So, you get up, get into exercising, and then the blood sugar plummets. You feel nauseas and weak. Better to have a light breakfast, preferably some protein and/or complex carbohydrate with a little fat, something that can hold you up for a while. Of course low blood sugar can occur at any time during the day. Another scenario might be the person who goes to class right after work and before dinner. No time to eat, no fuel for those working muscles. In this case a light snack or sports bar could do the trick.
While we are on the topic of food, it can’t be stressed enough that it is important to be well hydrated when you exercise. Moderate types of exercise, like Pilates, rarely require all the glucose and sodium that one finds in sports drinks, but a healthy dose of water is essential. Dizziness and nausea can both be symptoms of dehydration.
A Word to the Wise: eating or drinking too much and trying to exercise can be equally uncomfortable!
Make sure you know where your gaze should be.
Another cause of a motion sick like experience in exercise can be letting the gaze drift as you are moving. In Pilates, and most exercise, the head is held easily as an extension of the spine and the gaze is level from there. If the eyes are wandering or off from center while you are moving, this could produce motion sickness. Additionally, if you are on a Pilates reformer, a rowing machine, or even doing crunches (not in Pilates!) it can be helpful to pick one spot to look at rather than letting the eyes be unfocused with the world passing by. That would be a little like riding backwards in a car…not fun.
Just plain old trying too hard can produce all kinds of unwanted symptoms.
An exercise goal for many people is flat abs., but especially in Pilates, you might be gripping your stomach muscles too tightly. In Pilates we use a lengthening and deepening of the abdominals toward the spine achieve a deep scooped out effect in the front body. It is important that you are coached to balance the effort of your abdominals so that you pull in sides and upper and lower areas equally. If you are tightly gripping just your upper abs around your stomach, you will not feel good!
A deepening of the abs is key to doing Pilates but along with that, and this is key, there must be a lengthening and expansion of the back body. If the back body doesn’t expand as you contract the front body you will be left with compression all the way around, and that won’t give your room to breathe properly or let your organs work for that matter…very nauseating.
Be sure to breathe fully.
Like swimming, weight lifting and some other types of exercise, the Pilates workout utilizes a co-ordination of the breath with movement. Done properly, this can have a very calming and integrative effect. Many people are used to breathing only into the chest. In Pilates, we want to use all of our breathing capacity, and this means a full inhale and exhale that fills out the sides and back as well. If you are exercising with the front body in flexion it becomes even more important to breathe into the sides and back, and even into the lower back area.
It is possible to overwork with the breath. Because the breath is somewhat controlled in Pilates, it may be that you are breathing too hard for the amount of exertion you are actually putting out. Teachers may encourage students to exaggerate the breath so much that it could make you dizzy and actually create the beginnings of hyperventilation. If you are getting overworked with your breath, back off and find a flow that works for you.