Headache During or After Workouts? 4 Common Causes

Headache During or After Workouts? 4 Common Causes

Piercing pain at your temples, a throbbing ache in your forehead – we’ve all suffered the agony of headaches, and there are plenty of causes. Some of us are more likely to get them during or after exercise. 

Good to know:

Headaches are divided into two types: primary and secondary.

  • Primary headaches are triggered by exertion, tension, or not enough sleep.
  • Secondary headaches, however, are a symptom of another more serious underlying condition like high blood pressure, an infection, substance withdrawal, or a stroke. 

In this article, we’ll identify four common causes of headaches that can occur during and after exercise and give you tips for treating and preventing them. We’ll also uncover the truth about whether or not exercise can trigger migraines.


If you experience headaches that last for days, or if there are more days in a month that you suffer from headaches than without, you should consult a specialist. A medical professional can check to see if you are suffering from primary or secondary headaches, both of which can come from underlying conditions.

Table of contents: 

4 Reasons Why You’re Suffering From Headaches During Or After Workouts

Reason #1: Sustained, Strenuous Exercise

Primary headaches caused by strenuous physical activity are called exertional exercise or exercise headaches. These are described as throbbing, migraine-like pain across the whole head (bilateral headaches) and last between five minutes and 48 hours.(1,2) An extreme exercise headache can also cause vomiting and vision problems. It’s important to take exercise-induced headaches seriously.

Headache prevention

Exertion headaches often develop if you skip your warm-up, your workout is too strenuous, or your body overheats. That can encompass high temperature indoors or outdoors, or when you are at high altitudes, like on a tough hike in the mountains.

One way to prevent exertion headaches is to reduce the intensity of your workouts. These tips for running in the summer can help you cope with the heat and avoid dehydration.

Reason #2: Poor posture

Bad posture, stress, and poor form when you work out can cause tension, which can lead to headaches during or after exercise. Tension headaches are described as a constant ache that is usually felt on both sides of the head.(3)

Headache Prevention

Check your form during workouts and your posture throughout the day. Review these tips on proper running form and be aware of the most common mistakes are made during bodyweight exercises

Try using heat, massage, or doing exercises to relieve neck pain to relax your muscles if you get a headache after workouts.

Reason #3: Dehydration

Whether it’s from exercise or just not drinking enough fluids, dehydration is one of the most common causes of post-exercise headaches.

Avoid dehydration by calculating how much water you should drink each day with our liquid requirement calculator:

Headache prevention

Make sure you are drinking enough throughout the day. To add variety, you can include special sports drinks that keep you hydrated and provide your body with important micronutrients. 

Reason #4: Low blood sugar

Headaches after exercise are bad enough, but if you also feel weak, shaky, dizzy, or even nauseous, you may be experiencing the symptoms of low blood sugar and depleted energy stores. Always ensure that your body has enough energy to work out.

Headache prevention

If you notice the symptoms listed above when you’re exercising, you should take a break. You can refill your energy and increase your blood sugar by eating more carbohydrates

There are also a few foods that can trigger headaches and migraines or make them worse – usually in combination with other causes. Avoid these potential headache triggers(4)

  • alcohol (especially wine or beer) 
  • chocolate
  • caffeine
  • aged cheese
  • foods high in
    • monosodium glutamate
    • artificial sweeteners
    • and preservatives like nitrates or nitrites 

Can exercise trigger migraines?

Research on the connection between migraines and exercise is not very extensive. However, there are studies that show that migraineurs (people who frequently suffer from migraines) can experience exercise-triggered migraines. It is believed that the exertional headaches and tension headaches mentioned above are more likely to lead to a migraine.(5) If you are at risk of migraines, it is even more important that you prevent the four causes of headaches after exercise. 

The good news:

Studies also show that regular exercise can help prevent migraines or at least reduce the intensity of the pain. This is thanks to the endorphins produced during sports.(6,7)


Before you start working out, make sure you are hydrated and that your energy stores are full. Pay attention to your form and practice good posture while exercising. If you have a bad headache combined with dizziness, nausea, shakiness, and/or vomiting, stop your workout immediately and consult your physician. The same applies if you experience headaches that last several days.



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HIIT Workout Plus Strength Training and Running

HIIT Workout Plus Strength Training and Running

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is hugely popular and undoubtedly effective. But what if there was an even better way to work out? Read how HIIT, strength training, and running combine for the ultimate workout plan.

What is a HIIT workout?

As the name suggests, HIIT workouts involve short (typically no more than 1 minute) but high-intensity (>80% max. heart rate) bouts of exercise, followed by active recovery (∼60% max. heart rate). The interval-recovery cycle is repeated several times for a total workout of approximately 20 minutes. The typical interval to recovery ratio is 1:1 or 1:2, meaning that for every 30-second interval, active recovery is between 30 and 60 seconds long, but of course, there are exceptions.

HIIT has become a global phenomenon. It was listed as the number one fitness trend between 2014 and 2018 and remains in the top 10 in 2022 [1]. But its increased popularity, especially extreme variations of HIIT, has led to concern over increased injury rates[2]

Although HIIT workouts are a time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, if you want to focus on improving bone density and flexibility, other kinds of workouts would be more effective than HIIT.  

Lifelong health and fitness are built on more than high-intensity intervals. In this article, we explain the benefits of HIIT, strength training, and running and how to combine them for maximum effect.  

What are the benefits of HIIT?

  1. Heart and lung health – HIIT is a proven and effective way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness.[3] [4]
  2. Body composition – The excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that follows a HIIT workout results in more calories burned – the so-called afterburn effect. HIIT also improves insulin sensitivity and body composition, maintaining muscle while reducing fat.[5] [6]
  3. Performance – HIIT increases maximal aerobic capacity (V̇O₂ max) and lactate threshold (the point at which lactic acid production exceeds removal).[7] [8] Both V̇O₂ max and lactate threshold are key determinants of athletic performance.
  4. Time – HIIT improves fitness in less time than conventional steady-state workouts.[9] A single 4-minute interval completed three times a week for ten weeks was shown to boost V̇O₂ max by 10%.[10] Even 1-minute workouts can be as effective as 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.[11]

HIIT for beginners?

Balancing interval and recovery duration is essential. Extended intervals with insufficient recovery lead to fatigue and demotivation and increase the risk of illness and injury, which is why it’s important to start with the basics to build a strong foundation as your body adjusts. 

Recovery is always a vital part of working out. Listen to your body; if you need to stop during a workout to catch your breath, do it. As you progress, you will build endurance and be able to push through the discomfort.  

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Training with Heart Rate

Heart rate monitors are increasingly accessible – in your gym equipment, as a chest strap, or built into your watch. Heart rate is an accurate and easy way to monitor the intensity of your workout. Keep HIIT intervals within 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate (HRmax), and active recovery within 60 to 70% HRmax. Not sure how that feels? The Talk Test is an easy way to measure your exertion. Find out how it works by watching the Talk Test video in our HIIT Journey in the adidas Training app. 

Strength Training

Strength training uses resistance in the form of free weights, bodyweight, resistance bands, or machines to strengthen muscle, joints, and connective tissue.

Inactive adults lose around 5% muscle mass every decade. This is usually matched by an increase in body fat, bone loss, and a lower metabolic rate.  A well-balanced workout plan should include strength training to build muscle and increase bone density.

What are the benefits of strength training?

  1. Metabolism – Strength training increases metabolic rate due to the energy demands of building, repairing, and maintaining muscle. This elevation in resting metabolic rate keeps the body burning calories even after you’ve finished your workout.[12]
  2. Bone Density – Strength training increases bone mineralization and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, which affects 4% of men and 20% of women over 50.[13] [14]
  3. Range of motion – Strength training increases range of motion and flexibility as much as conventional stretching techniques.[15] [16]
  4. Injury prevention – Strength training reduces injury through fat loss and by strengthening joints and connective tissue.[17] 


Running adds versatility and variety to your training. In contrast to HIIT workouts, running doesn’t have to feel intense and sweaty. Here are four reasons to include running in your workout plan.

What are the benefits of running?

  1. Heart health – running increases life expectancy and improves cardiovascular health.[18]
  2. Versatility – running can build cardiorespiratory fitness, anaerobic power, and muscular endurance.
  3. Simplicity – running allows you to work out anywhere, anytime with no equipment – even barefoot!
  4. Feel good factor – The “runner’s high” is a real phenomenon thought to be caused by the release of endocannabinoids.[19]  Running outside can also improve mood through natural sunlight and vitamin D.[20]

A balanced workout plan goes beyond simple gains. Combining high intensity interval training with strength training and running targets all five fitness components using all three energy systems. Looking for a place to start? Try the workout plan below.

7-Day Workout Plan

This weekly plan includes three simple workouts with plenty of rest and recovery. Remember to start each workout with a warm-up and end with a cool down.

Day 1: HIIT workout

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Strength Training

Day 4: Rest:

Day 5: Running

Day 6 and 7: Rest

Day 1: 12-minute HIIT Workout

Complete each of the four exercises below for 30 seconds at 80-90%HRmax. Follow each one with 60 seconds of active recovery at 60-70%HRmax. For active recovery, use Walking High Knees or Jog in Place. Repeat the round of four exercises. Total: 8 intervals in 12 minutes 

1. Plié Jump Squats

The plié jump squat variation is excellent for elevating the heart rate. 

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2. Mountain Climbers

This all-body exercise stimulates most major muscle groups.

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3. Lateral Jump Touchdown

Lateral jumps add plyometric power to your glutes, calf, quads, and hamstrings.

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4. Knee Tuck Crunches

Also known as seated knee tucks, these crunches engage your triceps, shoulders, and abdominals.

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For other great HIIT workouts, explore the HIIT Journey in the adidas Training app. 

Day 3: Strength Training Workout

For an effective strength workout, follow these guidelines:

  1. Perform 8 to 10 exercises that stress the major muscle groups of the arms, chest, back, abdominals, and legs. 
  2. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise.
  3. Lift and lower in a controlled manner – 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down.
  4. Each exercise has one direction that is harder and one that is easier. When you do a push-up, it’s harder to push up than to lower yourself back down to the ground. Time your breathing to exhale when you’re working harder and inhale during the “easier” part.
  5. Adjust the weight for each exercise so that the last repetition is hard to complete.

Day 5: Fartlek Running workout

Enjoy the freedom and creativity of fartlek running. Fartlek, meaning “speed play,” involves a low-moderate intensity distance run interspersed with periods of fast-paced running. 

Traditional Fartlek running is continuous and unstructured. Run fast or slow according to your mood and surroundings. Use hills and landmarks as inspiration—for example, sprint for five lampposts.

Playing with speed is a fun way to develop both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Try the workout below to get started:

  1. Raise heart rate and body temperature with a 5-minute warm-up at low intensity
  2. Run continuously for at least 10 minutes at low-moderate intensity
  3. Allow your mood and the landscape to inspire your pace
  4. Include at least 30 seconds at a fast pace three times
  5. Follow each speed interval with 30 minutes at low intensity – jog or walk if necessary
  6. Cool down with a 5-minute walk at low intensity


Different types of workouts have different benefits for your health. HIIT workouts boost your metabolism and improve cardiovascular health. Strength training supports your joints and bone density while preventing injuries. Running is excellent for your heart and simple cardio you can do almost anywhere. Combine all three of these for maximum health benefits. Remember to listen to your body and adjust the intensity to your level and goals. Make sure to start our HIIT Journey in adidas Training for a complete introduction to high intensity interval training and how it can get you on track to holistic health.

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