4 Reasons for Warm Up Snots

Warm Up Snots

Do you find your nose pouring snot and mucus like water from a tap as soon as you begin a warm up? If this doesn’t happen you, I bet you know someone that it does happen to. Just look to your team mates, between blowing their nose and spitting constantly, the pitch turns into a bath of phlegm and snot, then you have to go running on it or even worse – you may end up falling on it! If this has ever happened you, please know that warm up snots are not the problem, the way you warm up is…

Having Snot (otherwise known as buggers or mucus) pouring out of your nose as you train may not be a medical problem but:

  • It happens when you change environment.
  • It is an indicator that you’ve warmed up too fast.
  • You’ll feel like you’ve a straight jacket on your lungs for the first 15 minutes of competition and
  • You’re at greater risk of exercise induced asthma!

If this sounds familiar to you, then read on; find out why it happens and how to reverse it (without the need to blow your nose all over the park!)

Environmental Reasons for Snot

Your nose is sensitive to a change in environment.
Most sports people’s day looks like some version of this day:
You get up in the morning, commute to work. Work for 8 hours. Drive straight to training. Change in the dressing rooms then go out to play. In all of these aspects of life there is one common theme from the time you rise until the time you go out to play – you’re indoors.

weather blow noseYou sleep – inside
You drive – inside
You work – inside
You drive – inside
You go outside to play!

“So why does this matter?”, you may ask.
Well, your nose is really sensitive to a change in environment. Temperature and humidity has an affect on your nose which will encourage it to work harder or less so. Working harder for your nose means warming / cooling the air and preparing it for the body. That is partially why your nose runs faster than you when you’re a few minutes into a warm up.

Snot Filters Pollution

inhaling pollutants

Going back to our last point – we live indoors most of our lives, then we go out to play.
The change in environment also means a change in air quality. If your nose is used to breathing stuffy, air conditioned rooms all day, then it needs to adapt to fresh air, it will need to work harder. As the nose adapts, it will begin to pour runny snot faster than niagra falls.
Let’s say your adapted to your environment but still have warm up snots, what then can we do?

Snot Saves You From The Scary Warm Up.

Remember, your body doesn’t know your playing sport. It is still hard-wired to the stone age brain. When you exercise, it thinks you are running away from a lion or hunting down prey.

lion roaring

I found most people involved in sports at every level warm up two ways.

  1. they set out like a hare in their warm ups just like they’re running away from a lion.
  2. they do not warm up enough to ‘race pace’.

Either way, your lungs aren’t warmed up to the event and so your brain wants you to react as fast as possible (it doesn’t know your playing sport rather it thinks you’re running away from a lion, like in the good old days!). In response to your poor warm up, your body opens the nose fast and allows all the mucus to pour out because if you don’t get away from that Lion – you’re dead! Let’s break this down a little more…

Starting off too quickly.

Jumping straight into a jog or run will inevitably lead to a snotty nose within a minute or two of warming up. First you’ll clear the thick snot (this is the environmental adaptation above). Then it will run clear in an effort to open the nose, allow more air in and enable you to get away from that scary lion! Eventually, your nose has adapted after 10 minutes or so. The simple reason for the snotty nose is that you frightened your body by warming up too fast. You didn’t adequately prepare your lungs for a session and prepare your respiratory system for the event.

On the other side of the coin is…

Not Warming Up to Race Pace.

Snot pouring from your nose is also an indicator you will inevitably need  a second wind.
You may have taken plenty of time in your warm up, but you didn’t progressively increase the intensity of the warm up to race pace. This also results in breathlessness, snotty nose syndrome and a feeling of struggle for the first 10-20 minutes of your sport.
Eventually your lungs adapt and you get ‘a second wind’. Then, voilà, all your snotty problems disappear!


Warm Up Snots Save CO2…and your life!

Besides adapting to environmental stimuli, the physiological reason why this happens in your body is because the nose helps to control CO2 levels in your body. And a rise in CO2 triggers your body’s first response to breathe. (if you want to learn more about the benefits of CO2, check out this article here).

When you start exercising you generate CO2.

The faster pace you begin training, then quicker the rise in CO2.

And what goes up must come down. As a response to the sharp rise in CO2, your body will auto-magically breathe quicker and bigger.
Just like your blood’s response to a soft drink. A sharp rise in Co2 will lead to a sharp drop afterwards.

The nose dilates quickly, you may mouth breathe and you dump a ton of CO2 – too much in fact. And just like the sugar crash after a soft drink, your body suffers a CO2 crash after dumping too much of it. It will take your body time to adapt and find an appropriate CO2 level for your workout.

Once it finds this level, then you feel like that straight jacket has been removed. You feel like your lungs have opened up, you can breathe once more and you can run for your life. You’ve now got your second wind.

Leo Daniel Ryan

For 10 years I have dedicated my professional life to coaching clients and personal trainers to achieve their goals. I have worked at the highest levels of industry in both Ireland and Canada.