The Bizarre Things That Happen to Your Body When You Exercise

You log 10 miles of running a week, have your respective leg and arm days, and the gym staff recognizes your face when you walk in. It’s a sign you’ve got a great fitness routine and are working to keep your body in tip-top shape. But even as you’re taking extra steps in your day to be healthy, your body can rebel in super odd ways.

For better and for worse, exercise takes its toll on your body. Your organs get jostled around when you run, your muscles tear (microscopically) every time you lift your max reps. Then there’s the expected side effects you have to combat, like dehydration and general soreness after a strenuous hour or two at the gym.

There’s a chance that some side effects mean you’re actually overdoing it. But in most of these cases, it means you’re totally normal. Unfortunately, many of the side effects are a bit unsightly, or at the very least slightly uncomfortable. If it’s any consolation, there’s probably a handful of other people at the gym who are dealing with the same issues — and at least it’s a signal you’re probably exercising like you should.

1. Your ears pop

Woman holds her hand near ear

Your ears may pop during exercise. |

While you might typically only experience ear popping when you’re in an airplane, that weird sensation in your middle ear can strike at the gym, too. This can happen when you’re running or when you’re lifting weights, says, because your body is bracing for impact and pressure builds up in your ear. The publication suggests running as fluidly as possible to avoid jarring impacts, and to keep an eye on your lifting form.

The ear popping might also be because you’re holding your breath during your weight sets. This is something to avoid anyway so your body is distributing oxygen appropriately. But when you trap air in your mouth, it needs to escape somewhere, Livestrong explains. The air escapes backward into your ears, and your ears pop to try to regulate the changing pressure. If you feel that pressure building up, make sure you exhale. Swallowing should also help to bring your pressurized head back to normal.

2. You have a runny nose

man with a cold

It’s common to have a runny nose while working out. |

Are you going through a pack of tissues every time you leave the gym? You’re probably not getting a cold, and it might not be allergies. Exercise constricts blood vessels in your sinuses, meaning your nose and eyes get watery and start dripping, Christopher Minson, a professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon, told Men’s Health.

Working out also stimulates secretions of your body’s glands, including the mucus glands in your nose, personal trainer Madeline Romeo explained in the post. If this is a problem for you, make sure you’re properly hydrated by drinking fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, Romeo advises.

3. You’ve got the runs

hand grabbing toilet paper

Frequent bathroom trips may happen. |

It’s called runner’s trots or runner’s runs for a reason — incontinence is normally only an issue for avid runners. But it’s a big one, especially if you’ve got to go 10 miles into your marathon training for the day. Though it’s awful to experience, it’s also something that Dr. Lewis Maharam, medical director for the ING New York City Marathon, says is somewhat common for long-distance runners.

The pounding of running isn’t just bad for your knees, it also forces waste to move through your digestive system faster, ABC News explains. On top of that, blood flow moves to the muscles that are using the most oxygen (your heart, legs, and arms), which leaves your stomach and kidneys without as much support.

To lessen the issue, “It’s as simple as what goes in goes out,” Maharam said. He advised not to eat fatty foods, avoid fiber the morning of a race, and forget about carbohydrate loading the night before unless that is part of a normal routine.

4. You don’t need midnight bathroom breaks

focus on a toilet in the bathroom

Running can keep you from midnight bathroom breaks. |

Though running is bad for your digestive system in the moment, exercise in general can stop the urge to head to the bathroom in the dead of night. According to Men’s Fitness, one study found that men who are more active are also less likely to suffer from “nocturia,” a fancy name for waking up in the middle of the night to pee.

In this case, you don’t even have to be an all-out gym rat to see the effects. The study analyzed more than 30,000 men with enlarged prostates — one of the common causes of nocturia — and found that those who were active at least one hour or more per week were 13% less likely to report instances of nocturia. See you later, 3 a.m. bathroom visits.

5. You get more cavities


Exercise can have an impact on your dental health. | Thinkstock

The next time your dentist finds a cavity, try blaming your workouts rather than your weakness for gummy bears. Your dentist might still tell you to lay off the candy, but when you work out, your saliva production decreases and the levels of alkaline in the remaining saliva increase. Both of these factors make your mouth more susceptible to cavities because your tooth enamel begins to erode, Men’s Fitness reports.

In fact, many elite athletes probably aren’t going to make the cut for a toothpaste commercial anytime soon. The dental health of many athletes is so bad that the International Olympic Committee has called for more research on athletes’ oral health to be done. The IOC thinks sugary sports drinks could be the culprit, but there’s scientific studies that suggest that the pH level of saliva could also play a part. In other words, it might be time to try that mouthwash and flossing routine a little more regularly.

6. Your muscles won’t stop twitching

man lifting weights

Lifting weights can cause your muscles to twitch. |

Muscle spasms and twitches can happen during or after workouts, and unfortunately they’re fairly normal — just annoying. Those twitches happen because of an electrolyte imbalance in your muscles as they get tired, Minson told Men’s Health. Hydrating well before a workout should help diminish these, and if you’re working out for 30 minutes or more, get some Gatorade or other sports drink designed to replenish those electrolytes.

If the twitches keep happening for days on end or you’re waking up with them, Michael Ryan, an associate professor of exercise science at Fairmont State University, said they could be a sign of a muscle tear or strain. Spasms that are painful and prolonged could be a sign of a more serious issue (there are several neuromuscular disorders), so see your doctor if it’s more than an occasional tic between reps.

Follow Nikelle on Twitter @Nikelle_CS