What’s Up With That? Odd Physical Side Effects of Running

running side effects

(Hopefully) you know to expect tired and fatigued muscles after a marathon or a long training run. But there are some other, stranger, running side effects the may occur after a long training run.

Does your mouth taste like you have been sucking on pennies? Did your IQ suddenly drop 20 points? It’s not just you. These side effects are common and are usually nothing to worry about.

Please note: I am not a doctor and my explanations here are my layman’s understanding of what causes this stuff. If you are concerned about any symptom you experience, please consult your doctor. They are much more likely to actually know stuff.

Getting Stupid a/k/a Brain Fog

You finish a long run and suddenly can’t finish a sentence. Or remember your best friends name. And where, exactly, did I park my car?  Congratulations, you’ve run long enough to get stupid!

Getting stupid: What’s up with that?

During long runs, your body (and brain) devours all of your glycogen, its fuel source. While your brain is not a muscle, it behaves like one and it is just as worn out as your leg muscles after you finish.

After your run, your brain has literally run out of gas.

A snack and a drink designed for recovery will help replenish your stores.

While you are recovering, just be aware of situations where this brain fog can be potentially dangerous, such as driving home or crossing the street- I once spaced out on the fact that you need to wait for the little crossing guy before crossing the street. Oops.

A Sudden Coughing Fit at the Finish

You feel great crossing the finish line of your first marathon, and suddenly every time you breathe in you start coughing.

Excessive post-finish coughing: What up with that?

You have what’s commonly called runner’s asthma. It’s similar to what happens to those with asthma, but it’s due to your exercising and isn’t chronic. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction occurs when the little muscles within the lining of your lungs begin to spasm.

Runner’s asthma can be worse when you are newer to running or you have pushed yourself harder than usual (which is why it is common at event finish lines).

Taking deep, slow breaths can help minimize the coughing.

A Nose Running Like Old Faithful

You are as healthy as a horse without a nasal drip in sight, until you start running. Next thing you know, your nose is spewing snot.

Endless sniffles: What’s up with that?

This phenomenon has a name: exercise-induced rhinitis. It occurs when your nasal passages are irritated, by… well, pretty much anything. Air-bourne allergens (like pollen, mold, or dust), smog, car exhaust. Apparently not all scientists think that pollution and exhaust cause rhinitis, but I’ll add it in here since there is no way car exhaust isn’t an irritant (in my entirely non-scientific option).

When you exercise outside, you take in more air. Taking in more air means inhaling more irritants and more sniffling.

There are prescription and non-prescription nasal sprays available to reduce nasal drippiness, or always pack kleenex.

Rhinitis is a great reason to master the snot rocket- the runner’s art of holding one nostril and shooting snot out the other. The snot rocket is sadly one of the only runner’s skills I cannot seem to master.

Am I Sucking on Pennies?

You are pushing yourself to your limit at your weekly track workout and you can’t get that terrible metallic taste out of your mouth.

Metal-mouth: Whats up with that?

You’ve pushed yourself so hard that your blood cells are leaking. More specifically they are releasing heme, a blood component. It can be gross, but its nothing to worry about if it happens only rarely and at the end of a hard workout.

If it happens regularly, or if you are coughing up blood, that is a very different story and get to your doctor ASAP.

Getting Itchy With It

You are setting out on a nice, cool fall morning run and a few minutes in your legs start itching something fierce.

Getting the itchies: What’s up with that?

This itching is usually caused by your blood vessels warming up, expanding, and irritating nearby nerves. It’s annoying, but will take care of itself as you warm up. The itching can be minimized by not skipping your warm-up.

Admit it, you probably skipped your warm up, didn’t you.

In rare cases, the itching could be due to an allergy to exercise (which is a real thing). If the itching is accompanied but respiratory symptoms, rashes, and hives, get to your doctor ASAP.

 

Running Side Effects

 

You may also enjoy:

Am I a Real Runner

Side Effect May Vary: Odd Effects of the Marathon Taper


 

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Sent every two weeks, the Huffing and Puffin newsletter contains interesting links on running, fitness, inspiration, and whatever else catches my eye.

Sara is a runner, running coach, writer, blogger, and a lover of all things written.

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