coughing, shortness of breath after intense exercise

Soooooo, I like to do high intensity interval training at the gym about 2x a week. My normal method is to do about 30 seconds of high intensity, followed by 60-90 seconds of regular intensity (after a warmup) and repeat that cycle about 8 times, then a cooldown. I’ve never had any real problems with this despite my pulse going to 95% of max during some of the intervals.

Today I decided to try a different cycle which is 20 seconds of high intensity, 10 seconds of regular intensity and do 8 cycles of that. I figured my background in HIIT meant I was in aerobic shape to do this.

However after about the 5th cycle (only after about 2 minutes of HIIT cycles) I started to get a strange taste in my mouth, coughing, trouble taking a deep breath, chest pain, etc. Even when I cooled down and got my pulse down to what I normally try to get it to during my cool down period (during HIIT cycles I go for 90-95% of max, during cooldown I shoot for 70%) I still had the problem. After about 20 minutes it went away. Now over an hour later I just have mild coughing like I just recovered from bronchitis.

The last time I felt like this was in high school when they would make us run. Does anyone know what this condition is? Looking on google the only thing that seems remotely similar is EIPH (bleeding in the lungs due to intense exercise) but the info is mostly for horses.

I don’t understand why I’d have coughing and trouble taking a deep breath for about 10-20 minutes after I quit the intervals. Normally after a 5-7 minute cooldown (doing normal HIIT cycles) I mostly feel fine and I’ve never had trouble taking deep breaths, coughing, etc. due to HIIT. I’ve also never had issues with asthma before.

Go to the ER.

Looking it up online, these symptoms are not that uncommon among runners or bikers who push themselves too hard. They lived, why shouldn’t I? That philosophy has worked for me fine in the past, and extrapolating that trend I should be fine in the future. Fine I say.

Can’t help but think how many people have thought this and were actually suffering heart attack?

Are you still short of breath?

Do you have history of asthma or reactive airway? Sometimes asthmatic symptoms can be triggered by exercise.

Those 10 second recovery intervals were pretty much worthless, you were basically going all out non-stop.
Your usual cycle of :30/1:00-1:30 will not prepare you to go :20/:10.
However, you should have had your breathing/hr back to near normal very quickly.
What was the air quality like?
Usually, the only time I’ve had lingering discomfort is when ozone levels are high.

Holy shit. You went 0:20 high intensity, followed by 0:10 recovery? That’s a rough workout. No wonder you felt like shit. The ratio I’m used to is the other way around, and that leaves me gasping after a few minutes.

At any rate, that sounds a bit unusual to me, and a bit like post-exercise asthma. I very occasionally get coughing after an intense workout, but not the combination of coughing and shortness of breath.


Yes, some people have had this happen and it was no big deal. Others have had this happen and were having a heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism, or the beginning of exercise induced asthma.

ER. Please.

E.R. is probably a good idea, but they’re almost certainly going to tell you you’re asthmatic. Coughing during and or after intense activity is one of the hallmarks of asthma, and in my case the very first symptom to arise, long before I ever got chest pain/tightness or shortness of breath etc, when my 9th grade gym teacher made us spend an hour a day for a week running laps. Now I get all those symptoms, yay.

Just curious - what should we do about exercise induced asthma? I’ve had symptoms like that pretty much all my life, but because I’ve always been that way, doctors seem to give zero fucks when I mention that issue. (Meanwhile I kind of suck at real exercising, as a result. I can do slow endurance-related stuff, but start exerting myself and it’s cough, wheeze, gasp.)

A doc that actually regularly treats exercise-induced asthma can prescribe medication to take before you exercise to prevent such attacks, enabling you to exercise without such discomfort.

Usually albuterol, 2 puffs 10 minutes before you start exercising. If you need it more than a few times a week, they may add a daily dose of something like Advair, which is longer acting and can prevent you from needing the albuterol so often. And a good nurse will talk to you about where to find out pollen counts so you can avoid outdoor exercise on high pollen days (since there’s often some element of environmental trigger - asthma isn’t as neatly divided as labels such as “exercise induced” might lead you to believe), extremely hot or extremely cold days*, and days when you’re sick.
*This week? I’m ordering all my patients to stay indoors, period. This cold is making everyone’s breathing wonky, including mine, and I don’t have lung issues!

Yep sounds like exercise induced bronchospasm, easily treated with a few puffs of Albuterol before exercise like WhyNot said above. I’d get it checked out by a representative of the medico-industrial complex. Air quality has a big influence on it, too. When it gets cold around here everyone fires up the wood stoves, right when there is a nice inversion layer keeping all the particulate matter right down at ground level. <cough><gasp><a-huck!>

A few puffs on his inhaler is what my son used to do before soccer practice. He had no problems, when he remembered to do it!

I’m not really sure why everyone is telling the OP to go to the ER. This is really common, and I’ve experienced it numerous times myself in similar situations. As said, your intervals were way too intense with too little recovery, and you overdid it. Same thing happens to me if I take a break from hard core cardio and try and jump right back in to it - especially if I do it outside in cooler air. Feels like my lungs are bleeding, sort of a metallic taste. I was told that it was possibly due to a build up of lactic acid, but of course everyone is different and in your case it could be bronchial spasms.

My advice: don’t do that. You are not getting any benefit from that style of interval, you’re just going to hurt yourself. You need recovery in between max sprint efforts, and it should be somewhere between 1:3 and 1:10 (i.e. my cycling coach has us do 20 second hill sprints and gives 2 minute recoveries in between).

Because this:

Sounds an awful lot like this:

Now, statistically speaking, is it more likely to be exercised induced asthma/bronchospasm? Absolutely. But we have absolutely no way to rule out PE (or MI). An ER does, and it’s pretty easy to do so. And even if it is “only” asthma/bronchospasm, that needs to be treated too, so that next time it doesn’t risk becoming exercise induced death.

Basically, any time a person uses the words, “chest pain,” it’s worth checking out, especially if it’s in conjunction with difficulty breathing and excess stress on the cardiovascular system. **Wesley Clark **isn’t new to working out. There’s a difference between being winded and having “trouble taking a deep breath.”

Not that I want to encourage the OP, but it sound like he was using a “proven” method called “The Tabata Regimen” and didn’t just pull it out of a hat:

Although I question any study that has participants exercising at 170% VO2Max - I assume (and hope) it’s a typo.

How exactly does one shoot to have their HR drop from 90/95-70% in 10 seconds - is that normal?

  1. The ratio he used is not an odd thing, it is the actual validated Tabata protocol (warm up, then 8 sets of 20s all-out to 10s rest or active rest, then cool down). There are many variations that get thrown under the umbrella of HIIT.

  2. I am not an adult doctor, so take this as completely unprofessional thoughts, but pulmonary embolisms are generally associated with prolonged inactivity. MIs don’t generally cause cough and are not worse with taking deep breaths.

  3. In addition to exercise induced bronchospasm I’d think about exercise induced GERD - the bad taste in the mouth goes with that.

When had you last eaten and what did you have?

Using me as an example, that would be dropping from 180 to about 130-135. Not likely. However, I have seen on a HR monitor my HR drop about 20 bpm in the time it takes to manually check pulse(6 second count).

Finishing an all out 10k, I would see a drop from 185 to under 100 in less than 75 seconds.

I do not believe the heart rate drops in the 10 seconds off very much, certainly not to 70% HRmax.

A good review of the Tabata study.