Dizzy Daze

CrossFit Victoria BC - Colleen is not dizzy... she is energized!
Colleen is not dizzy... she is energized!

Several times I’ve heard the question: Why do I get dizzy when I work out?

I’m no medical professional, but I did some reading on the subject. If you’re feeling dizzy during a WOD, especially if it’s some sort of a heavy lift, chances are it could be a reaction due to pressure on your Vagus nerve. The light-headedness felt under heavy strain can often result from this pressure. This nerve starts in the brainstem and extends, through the jugular foramen, down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen. It is responsible for a host of bodily actions including heart rate, blood pressure, etc., and this can be affected under stress, physically and emotionally. If too much pressure is put on the nerve under stress, a drop in blood pressure and heart rate can occur. This in turn can lead to dizziness and/or fainting spells.

I have also come across several suggestions to help prevent this dizziness from happening. One solution could be to try not holding your breath under max loads. A slight release of pressure throughout the maximal effort portion of the lift will keep the core tight, yet take some of the strain off of your cardio-respiratory system. On the other hand, some are of the belief that you should hold your breath, especially on maximal load lifts. Holding your breath allows you to use your diaphragm as a natural thoracic brace (think: lifting belt). It keeps all of your organs and muscle tissue in the core locked in by using counter pressure, and ultimately aids in locking in the lever that you are using your back for. Mark Rippetoe himself advocates that holding your breath is actually better than breathing in and out during the exercise. He recommends a technique for this called the Valsalva Maneuver. Essentially, the Valsalva Maneuver involves trapping air inside the lungs in order to provide air pressure, against which you push for things like childbirth, or stabilization for lifting. I think the guideline for applying the Valsalva Maneuver (simply put – when you hold your breath during the lift) is that it’s most necessary any time your spine is being loaded. It helps you keep your core tight and your back locked in extension, which is vital for back safety. This is also called “thoracic fixation”.

To recap on this idea: Just take a big breath, hold it, lock out, put the bar down, breathe out, repeat. If you’re moving a bar, hold your breath. In fact, if you’re moving anything heavy, take a big breath before you move it, then move it while you hold your breath. Later, you can apply breathing at the top of the movement, but note that when you breathe at the top of a move, (e.g. a press, or a deadlift lockout), the bar isn’t moving. As a general rule, if something heavy is being raised/lowered/shoved/pulled/moved-in-any-way by you, take a big breath before it happens, and hold your breath until you’re no longer moving that object.

I’m not at liberty to say which technique is best to reduce dizziness during WODs and lifting. But if this is a problem for you, do some reading, get some advice, and try out a few different techniques until you find what works best for you.

Today’s Workout:

Buy In – 500M Row

WOD – 5 Rounds not for time:

Deadlifts x 3 reps working up in weight each set
LSit Holds 10-20seconds
Handstand Pushups (can be modified) x 6 reps
Turkish Get-ups x 3 reps per side

* move slowly in between exercises and the focus is on technique, not speed!!!

Compare to August 13th, 2009

Cash Out – 500M Row


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