Why Work Out Till You Puke?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Lita Collins does a deadlift during a CrossFit workout at Ross Valley CrossFit on March 14, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Between Crossfit, P90X and the Tough Mudder races, extreme work outs (that sometimes cause participants to vomit or otherwise injure themselves) are growing in popularity. Julie Beck, senior associate health editor at The Atlantic, and Gretchen Reynolds, author of the "Phys Ed" column for the New York Times Well blog, explore the motivations behind this form of exercise and wonder if it's even healthy.


Julie Beck and Gretchen Reynolds

Comments [35]

suzinne from bronx

These people make me laugh. Never worked out; never will!

Aug. 07 2014 08:28 PM
Lee Hetfield from Manhattan

Why I work out hard, by the minute, big milestones: min#2: Before I even get to the park my chest is open, I am breathing, feeling an immediate rush. Min5-10: Hard work getting revved up to sustaining 85% of my max HR. Min 17 Ahhhhh endorphin release starts: Joints feel better, muscles loose, the music sounds greater than ever, it is propelling you. Endorphins even make intervals tolerable! Revving up with max effort and cooling down for minutes 20-35 would be painful but after the 17 mins mark it is a rush! Min 35: in summer outdoors keep it brief! Head for a 2.5 mins jog home. If you were keeping up with my workout in Wash Square Park tonight you would have burned 616 calories in 37.5 mins. Tonight I will go through a recovery hormone re-balancing that will make me feel incredible for the next 24 hours, and I will have leptin and ghrelin levels that will suppress my urge to eat all of the time. NONE of that happens, in my experience, with a workout pace of below 800 calories per hour. Gretchen Reynolds talks about all this in her 1st 90 minutes book...

Aug. 07 2014 06:22 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from NYC

Hi, NYC is my gym. I walk and walk in NYC and I have never vomited. I must have a very strong constitution because I am very thin (about 93 pounds). I walk a lot because money is very tight with me and because my lower back hurts a lot. When I walk, it often feels better. I have walked from Brooklyn through the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan and back. Eugenia Renskoff

Aug. 07 2014 01:20 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

^^ Caption this photo:

Aug. 07 2014 11:51 AM
Ed from Larchmont

In Catholic thinking every appetite requires moderation, which is a wide range. To exercise to the point of throwing up would be abuse of the body, though.

Aug. 07 2014 11:46 AM
Emma from Manhattan

I tried P90X the video, but my brain gave up after so many bad jokes and the guy in saying silly things nonstop. Are there new videos without this feature?

Aug. 07 2014 11:22 AM
Frank Fourth from Harlem

"I am now injured and can no longer do intense sport."

There's a lesson in the Blair, see if you can figure it out.

Aug. 07 2014 11:20 AM
Mike from Tribeca

"Throw Back Thursday"? Shouldn't that be Throw Up Thursday?

Aug. 07 2014 11:19 AM
Bill from MPLS

Sad you feel need to emphasize puking. It is such a minor part of working hard to get in shape. You have to know your limits and not eat improperly before the workout. Athletes have struggled forever with early stages of training when resuming after an off-season. Like most things, balance is the key.

Aug. 07 2014 11:16 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Look at most major predators, like lions for example. The sleep and rest of the day but then when the hunt at night they must push themselves to the max to catch their fleeting prey. That is their exercise. If they don't catch prey often enough they lose weight and strength and starve.

Aug. 07 2014 11:16 AM

When I need a good workout - I work! Thirty feet of garden row chopped up with a mattock (no need for any machines or jogging) or 10 minutes with a stack of big rounds of maple or ash and a splitting mattock - so much fun! so much panting energy. Or if I'd like some household task - giving the floor a good hand wash - get's it really clean and lots more panting. Sometimes working out is boring but getting a heavy task accomplished is always rewarding. Try Real Work!

Aug. 07 2014 11:15 AM

Not sure why the show is focusing on this. It IS such a first world problem. As a fit person (weight training, ran a marathon, cycling, yoga), the problem I see with these things is safety. Why aren't you talking about the safety Brian? Someone said it right here, form is so important to safety. Most people doing these fitness craze things are in it for the fad and aren't really life long fitness people. It's all very dangerous and stupid. I'm not surprised that one of the commentator's friend had a heart attack.

Aug. 07 2014 11:15 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Could it be also a fear of death? No one has provided meaning to the person?

Aug. 07 2014 11:14 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Had to laugh out loud when the caller who talked about getting shocked after running was asked to explain why he replied "I don't know."

As John Prine says, "It's a big old goofy world."

Aug. 07 2014 11:13 AM
Ed from Larchmont

It can be overdone: is it a lack of availability of greater pursuits? In Catholic thought, unless you are training for a competition, etc., it would be a form of gluttony: too much attention to the body and food and it's needs. Moderation.

Aug. 07 2014 11:12 AM
Melissa from NJ

I've always been an athlete and have always driven to work out as hard as I can. I do it to improve compared to my last practice/workout. Possibly I also have a high tolerance for discomfort if I feel I am in control of that discomfort.

I once threw up after a workout. It was the first swim team practice of the season when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Never again. I know the edge and I am able to ride close to it, mostly in dance classes, but I back down before dizzy queasiness takes over. (I'm turning 40 this year.)

I also like obstacle course races, but no electricity or claustrophobia for me. I appreciate the fact that they ask for balance and upper body and core strength, not just running ability.

I really would not characterize my love of working out hard as superiority or narcissism. It's more a form of discipline and release of tension. I come from a family of choral singers, and I think what I get out of exercise is similar to what they get out of singing.

Aug. 07 2014 11:11 AM

I want to puke listening to this nonsense!!

Why cover this "story"?!?!

Aug. 07 2014 11:10 AM
Blair from Mount Vernon

I am way out of shape, but I love crossfit. I did it for the challenge and the social support at my box- they were great. I loved pushing myself hard, even though I finished last at every WOD. I am now injured and can no longer do intense sport. I miss it horribly and I want to go back every day, even after a year.

Aug. 07 2014 11:10 AM
mike from Brooklyn

puking is not the biggest problem. I have heard horror stories about muscle injury and and back injury that has caused permanent damage.

Aug. 07 2014 11:08 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Electric shock breaks during tough mudder?
People are NUTS. Masochists!

Aug. 07 2014 11:05 AM
Abbie from Manhattan

Does Pukey the Clown replace Uncle Rhabdo (also a clown)? Seems like CrossFit (and possibly other programs like it) might have some issues with limits.

(Article from last year on the issue of rhabdomyolysis in CrossFit: )

Aug. 07 2014 11:05 AM
kyle from nyc

What is the physiology of vomiting after intense physical exertion?

Aug. 07 2014 11:05 AM
Frank Fourth from Harlem

Water made the Grand Canyon, not puking.

Learn something from the Tao Te Ching.

Aug. 07 2014 11:04 AM
HB from NJ

Ted Talk with cardiologist James O'Keefe about the benefits of *not* working out to the extreme:

Aug. 07 2014 11:03 AM
Bradley Hall in Jersey from Short Hills, NJ

My good friend (name withheld) became very enthusiastic about Cross Fit but did not consult his physician before starting. He over-did it one day, and fortunately made it to an Emergency Room where he had a massive coronary that cut off 100% of the blood to his heart. Thanks to the good work of the hospital, he survived.

Now he does yoga at the YMCA.

Aug. 07 2014 11:03 AM
Francis from Greenpoint

I don't work out until I puke but I do push myself as hard as I can. Doing CrossFit, each workout feels like a small victory. It strengthens me mentally and physically, enabling me to try accomplish my goals outside the gym.

Aug. 07 2014 11:03 AM
Zach from brooklyn

As far as crossfit is concerned, they are doing full body olympic lifts for high reps or until failure. Most of the people who are doing these lifts have no idea about the kinesiology or the correct body movements that are required to do a complex olympic lift. I have been training olympic lifts for 10 years and form is still of paramount importance. When going to failure, form breaks down and people get injured, especially with the poor supervision at crossfit.

Aug. 07 2014 11:03 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Frankly, the very thought of working out makes me want to vomit.

Perhaps this topic should be renamed "Let's Talk About a Handful of Narcissists!"

Aug. 07 2014 11:01 AM


Who cares?!

Let idiots be idiots…just watch where you step!

Aug. 07 2014 11:00 AM
Angela from Brooklyn

This is such a first world problem. Trying to elevate your workout regime into some kind of higher meaning is a little offensive to me.

Aug. 07 2014 11:00 AM
The Truth from Rebekkah

This is gross and stupid.

Aug. 07 2014 10:57 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

A fit(ting) mascot for a buncha clowns.

Aug. 07 2014 10:57 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Unless you're an athlete or a bodybuilder, etc., most extreme exercise is totally stupid and wasted. It won't help you later in life. Most people should START exercising in their 40's and up. It's when you get older, into your 50's, 60's, 70's, that you really need a balanced program of not-too-stenuous but effective exercise regime. Young kids and old people need exercise. People in the middle years need very little unless they eat too much and have to work some calories off.

Aug. 07 2014 10:57 AM

Lactate build-up is absolute measure that your body has had as much as it can take. Macho bullsh*t as far as I am concerned. No wonder Paul Ryan likes P90X.

Aug. 07 2014 10:55 AM

Sometimes I think that these types of extreme workouts is due to some type of superiority complex over people to do, say, yoga vs actual health benefits.

But! You know what's funny? For me, yoga + any amount of food means nausea and/or puking. (Examples have included a banana and baby carrots.)

Aug. 07 2014 10:24 AM

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