Occasionally after I finish running I will be overcome with an urge to gag and a feeling like I have a ball of phlegm stuck in my throat. I usually end up on my knees hacking and spitting up phlegm and then five minutes later I am fine. During the episode my mouth is extremely dry. I have tried varying what I eat before running and that has not mattered. I usually run in the morning and have just a piece of chocolate and some espresso prior to the run. It is very hot in Austin, Texas so I usually run early in the morning.

This reaction never happens during the run and never immediately upon stopping. It is always between 1 to 3 minutes after I have finished a run. It usually happens after harder runs, but has also occurred after long slow runs. The runs vary in distance between 5K and 5 miles.

I would really like to know what is causing this, what I can do to stop this from happening, and if this is dangerous in any way.

  • It is quite common... I don't have a reference handy, but I believe it is your respiratory system that returns to normal. I usually only see this when I run hard and not for LSR... Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 20:50
  • How much water are you consuming before/during these workouts?
    – DForck42
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 19:48
  • Not much before the workout and none during. I get up and have an espresso and a square or two of dark chocolate. I will occasionally drink maybe 3-4 ounces of cold water prior to the run itself. Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 21:33
  • I would definatley start drinking more water before and during the run and see if that helps. I'm probably wrong, but that's what jumps out to me.
    – DForck42
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


Sounds like you're having dry heaves. I generally receive these when I:

  1. Run much harder than I'm used to either distance-wise and speed-wise.
  2. Have an empty stomach. I'm pushing myself so hard that I would actually vomit but since there's nothing in the digestive system, nothing comes out.

This happened a lot to myself and other Marines during training. Naturally, being gung-ho Marines we welcomed it as a sign that we were pushing the right amount. This isn't really dangerous if you're otherwise healthy.

Some ideas to lessen it:

  1. Gradually work your way up to the distance or speed that you want.
  2. Consider only water or a slice or two of bread in the morning about half an hour before your run. That's very easy to digest. Chocolate and expresso might be too rich for your digestive system in the morning.
  3. Have a longer cool-down period. Here's an analogy: When you run a car very hot for a long time and suddenly stop, you'll hear the engine having all sorts of cooling down sounds. Our body is similar. Your blood and energy moved to the extremities to push yourself hard and when it cools down, the digestive and other systems get the focus of the body again and reactivate.
  • This reaction happens whether I stop running and stand or continue walking after I finish running. In 3. above does that mean I should jog for sometime after the run and have a more gradual cool-down versus going from running to walking? Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 21:30
  • Yes, try jogging for a few minutes to cool down and then proceed to walking. Other ideas: 1. Drink water during or immediately after the run. Since it's so hot in Austin, you could be dehydrated. 2. Drink warm or hot water either before, during, or after the run. The cold water might be a shock to your system.
    – Allen
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 13:34
  • The gradual cool down by jogging seems to have worked on the last few runs (knock on wood). I also tried an exercise belt with two small water bottles and drank a little during the run and then immediately after. This was only on the last run, and the gradual cool down by jogging seemed to do the trick. Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 0:51

I get this when I'm out of shape

I've been working out off and on since I was 16 (28 now). I have a tendency to take breaks from my workout regiment because of life circumstances or because I get bored of maintenance workouts.

When I do decide to start getting back into shape, the first few weeks are brutal. I experience similar problems, difficulty breathing, stomach tightness, ears feel blocked, coughing, borderline lightheaded.

Same thing here, it doesn't happen during or as soon as I stop but after I've finished. Lasts for 20-30 minutes during which I have no appetite.

I was diagnosed with 'Sports Induced Asthma' (even though I don't use an inhaler) when I was young so I usually blame it on that. In Colorado at high altitudes it was much worse, here in San Diego it doesn't effect me nearly as much.

It usually goes on for about the first 2-4 weeks of training (I typically target 1 mile sprints, and 2-4 mile runs) then subsides as I get into better shape.

One way I've found to overcome this is to do interval runs until your cardiovascular and respiratory systems get strong enough to keep up.

Here's what I do: - Run 2-4 minutes at a fast pace - Slow down for 1-2 minutes - Repeat

By 'fast pace', do whatever you can handle. By 'slow pace' I'm referring to a pace where your breathing slows enough to hold a regular conversation.

A gradual cool down will help some (never just stop) but I've found interval rests to have a much better result.

If that help you improve you may have a condition that needs treatment. GERD can cause acid from your stomach to irritate your esophagus making you cough. A more serious form of asthma could require you to carry an inhaler for after you workout. There may be some other issue that I haven't addressed. If you don't see improvement you should probably consult a doctor.

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