The tooth fairy’s evil sister, the puke fairy

In over a year of taekwondo, if I’m famous for anything, it’s probably for having to throw up during any and every belt test and morning class.




Every belt test, and a morning sparring seminar.


Evening classes every week? Nope, nada. Zilch. Zippo.


I hate throwing up. Pregnancy was awful because I was nauseous about 14 hours a day.


At a belt test a few months ago, I was told to work on my endurance and conditioning. The workout nausea makes it seem like I can’t handle the workout. But I feel like that’s not the complete answer.


Let’s unwrap this…


  1. I’m not the only one with workout nausea and it seems to vary, happening during or after a workout.
  2. Altering the timing and kind of food helps some but not everyone.
  3. Acclimating or continuing the workouts that cause nausea will eventually “get you used to it”. Workout nausea is seen by many as a lack of endurance and conditioning, so keeping up the workouts would “fix” that.


For me, it doesn’t vary–it is always during the workout and stops soon after I stop moving. I’ve altered the timing of and what I eat, never eating immediately before a workout and even trying to work out having not eaten breakfast. I’ve tried changing what I eat but that also has made no difference.


As for acclimating, it doesn’t seem to be getting better with continuing the morning workouts.


After my orange belt test, and hearing for a second time that I needed to work on conditioning and endurance (I sort of read the subtext to that as “lose weight and stop throwing up during the workout”), I thought my regular workouts weren’t enough and I should challenge myself.


So I signed up for what I thought would be a challenge: kickboxing.


I got a 15 class package at I Love Kickboxing, so I could do one on the weekends when I don’t have taekwondo class. A neat part of ILoveKB:  heart rate monitors that track my info and emails me stats at the end of class.


The heart rate monitor confirmed that my nausea is NOT solely related to being out of shape. During a morning workout with nausea I barely got out of the orange zone, having to periodically stop so I didn’t vomit. But an evening class the same weekend had ZERO nausea which meant I spent 18 minutes of my hour workout in the red zone, having fun, kicking and punching harder because there was no need to rest to settle the nausea.


I’ve been doing taekwondo and additional workouts like Figure 8 and kickboxing for 15 months now, so my endurance and conditioning have improved with no change in morning workout nausea. I’m not the only one:


There’s a misconception that getting queasy during or after exercise is an indication of your overall athleticism. But that’s not true. “From beginner exercisers to Olympians or endurance athletes, exercise-induced nausea can affect anyone,” Brian Babka, MD, sports medicine specialist and team doctor for Northern Illinois University Athletics. Gabrielle Kassel “It’s Totally Normal to Feel Nausous After a workout. Health.com.


The most common suggestions found online and in workout circles have done nothing to help.


I am continuing to unwrap this problem because my goal is to NOT puke at my green belt test. I’m not sure exactly when it will be, but I want to prove that I can handle it.


The short-term solution: Dramomine. I ordered the “less-drowsy” and “non-drowsy” formulas to check it out. I haven’t tried the less-drowsy version because reviews show some people still feel fairly strong effects. Upon reading the label on the non-drowsy, I rediscovered something I already knew but hadn’t considered in the context of workout nausea. GINGER is known for its anti-nausea properties. So gentle it can be used during pregnancy, I figured it couldn’t hurt.


I took the two capsules a half hour before a morning kickboxing workout. It worked! Not 100% but I had about 75% less nausea and no urge to vomit. I didn’t feel quite as good as I do during a morning workout, but still nowhere NEAR as bad as a morning workout without it.


For a long-term solution, I put on my hat as a practitioner of complementary medicine and researched what could be leading to morning workout nausea.

Some considerations:

  1. Morning workouts occur during the Earth element’s time of 6-10 am, and nausea is a sign of imbalance in the Earth element. Supporting the Earth element can be an herbal formula as well as moxibustion on earth points and on a salt-filled belly button.
  2. Blood deficiency, which leads to not enough blood reaching the stomach because the legs are asking for it to supply the movement happening in the workout. I’ve already made a blood-building syrup (coincidentally included in my book Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Herbal Medicine coming out in April!) to add to my daily smoothie.


Blood-building syrup, moxibustion, extra workouts, Ginger-based Dramomine… Here’s to no vomiting during morning workouts.


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