Dizziness after running is not uncommon, but it’s the last thing you want to feel after a run. And if it’s something you experience often, it’s a good idea to figure out what’s behind it to determine if it’s a serious issue.
The good news is that once you know the cause of your dizziness, you should be able to fix it. And even better, knowing the cause means you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Read on to learn more about feeling dizziness after a run.
Are Dizzy Spells After a Run Normal?
Feeling dizzy after exercise is not uncommon. If you’re experiencing it, don’t worry—it’s most likely just a case of getting to the bottom of it so you can figure out how best to stop it from happening or treat it when it does happen.
Different Types of Post-Run Dizziness
There are different kinds of dizziness, and each one has different symptoms. To figure out the underlying cause, you must first pay attention to how you feel when a dizzy spell strikes after a run.
Lightheadedness makes you feel like you’re going to pass out. If you lie down, this usually stabilizes. It often happens after high-intensity exercise or endurance exercise.
Vertigo is when it feels like the room is spinning. You may feel off-balance and like you need to hold onto something. This doesn’t usually get better when you lie down—even if you close your eyes, you might feel like you’re on a boat. Nausea and vomiting can accompany this feeling.
What Causes Dizziness After Running?
Here are the most common reasons for post-run dizziness.
Drop In Blood Pressure
Stopping an intense workout without taking the time to cool down may lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can suddenly make you feel dizzy, which is likely a cause if you’ve been doing intense workouts and neglecting your cool-down.
Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance
If you’re running in summer weather, dehydration could be to blame. It presents with many symptoms, and dizziness isn’t the most common, but it’s important to know that it can happen.
It’s particularly likely if you’ve been doing long runs without using an electrolyte tablet to replenish what your body has lost. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, fatigue, and nausea along with it, you could be dehydrated. Keep in mind that you can dehydrate in cool weather too!
When You Don’t Breathe Properly
Incorrect breathing can also lead to feeling dizzy. If you take shallow breaths, your body may not get enough oxygen. This lowers oxygen levels. A rapid heart rate and reduced blood pressure means your brain won’t get enough O2, leading to unpleasant dizzy spells.
Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar may be to blame if you haven’t eaten for a while. The glycogen in your muscles is used up when you exercise, which means your body has little fuel to help push itself forward.
But once the glycogen in your body is depleted, your blood sugar can drop sharply. It’s important to note that while low blood sugar is often associated with diabetes, it can happen to anyone.
If your symptoms include shaking, sweating, fatigue, and confusion, you may be experiencing an episode of low blood sugar.
Inner Ear Disorders
The inner ear plays an important role in your balance. Inner ear infections or injuries can cause dizziness at unusual moments, so if you’ve been struggling with an ear infection, this is a likely cause.
Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke
Closely related to dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke can also cause dizziness. Dehydration is often a contributing factor to heat stroke, but it’s compounded by the fact that your body temperature increases to dangerous levels.
Overexertion and Fatigue
Overdoing it can lead to dizziness after your run. If you did a particularly intense session or increased your distance, you may have inadvertently overtrained, pushing your body too far for its capabilities at that point in time.
Running at High Altitudes
It’s common to feel dizzy if you’re training in an environment at a higher altitude than you usually run at. As there’s less air at higher altitudes, your blood oxygen level will likely drop, leading to lightheadedness.
You should adjust to this over time, but be prepared for dizzy spells as your body acclimates to the altitude.
Certain medical conditions can cause dizziness after a workout. These are often associated with the cardiovascular system, compromising the body’s ability to pump oxygen. These may include:
- Bradycardia (low heart rate).
- Congestive heart failure.
- Heart valve damage.
Other diseases that can contribute to dizziness include nervous system conditions and hormonal issues:
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Multiple-system atrophy.
- Adrenal problems.
- Thyroid issues.
Medication Side Effects
In rare cases, medication can lead to dizzy spells. It’s more common in seniors who are on chronic meds and those who take multiple medications daily.
Tips to Prevent Dizziness After a Run
Following these tips can help lower the chances of dizziness after exercise.
Warm Up and Cool Down Properly
Warming up prepares your muscles for the activity you’re about to do. Cooling down allows your blood pressure to come down naturally and gradually, reducing the chance of having a sudden drop that can have negative effects.
Maintaining hydration throughout your workout will help keep your blood flowing effectively, circulating oxygen throughout the body.
Your muscles, organs, and brain will get the nutrients and oxygen they need to perform optimally, which can lower the chance of getting dizzy due to a lack of oxygen.
It’s also important to ensure you replenish the electrolytes you may have lost through sweat. You shouldn’t need to do this on runs shorter than an hour, but taking an electrolyte tablet with you is a good idea.
Fuel Your Body
Whether you suffer from diabetes or not, ensure you’re fueled for exercise. If your dizzy spells happen most often when you run on an empty stomach, there’s a high likelihood that a lack of fuel is the problem.
Take an energy bar along on your run for quick post-run nutrition. Choose one that’s not loaded with sugar but still offers a good amount of carbs.
Use Breathing Techniques on the Run
Maximize your oxygen intake while running by breathing deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Try to breathe into your belly, not just your chest. You can try to match your breathing to your steps, but make sure you’re breathing deeply enough.
Avoid Running in Extreme Conditions
Avoid running in extreme heat if possible, as it can easily lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. Running the cold can also contribute to dehydration as you may not drink as much as you would normally. Try to run in pleasant weather as often as possible and don’t forget to drink!
Don’t Overexert Yourself
While there’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself a little harder during some training sessions, make sure not to overdo it. You should gradually increase your intensity, speed, distance, and duration by 5 to 10 percent weekly.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can have many negative consequences, especially when exercising and expending energy. If you start your run already fatigued, it’s much more likely that you’ll experience some unpleasant physical effects, and dizziness could be one of them.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet of whole foods will fuel your body properly for effective exercise. Eating processed foods will not only leave you hungry, but it won’t give you the nutrients your body needs to perform well during a run.
Aim to eat protein with every meal, stick to whole foods that aren’t processed, avoid sugar as much as possible, and eat a decent amount of fruits and vegetables daily.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention
We all suffer from dizzy episodes on occasion. But if it happens often or changes from lightheartedness to vertigo symptoms after your exercise, you should seek medical attention.
Vertigo may be accompanied by other symptoms. It’s especially serious if you suffer from speech or vision changes, confusion, nausea, or vomiting.
If you struggle with lightheadedness regularly and can’t seem to find a reason for it, it could be helpful to get a professional checkup to rule out underlying conditions.