Workout of the Day:
and then,
Seven rounds for time of:
3 Thrusters (use approximately 85% of your 3-RM)
6 L-Pull-Ups
9  Squats

Our friend Payton from Sitka, Alaska
Our friend Payton from Sitka, Alaska

Party ’til you Puke?
Written by Mark Riebel

I had a conversation/debate the other day with one of my office mates concerning work out intensity. I’ll have to set the stage a bit first, but I’d like to hear the community’s thoughts on this.

First of all, my colleague is a 30-year veteran of the SEAL teams, so he’s got a slightly different mindset and set of objectives than the rest of us typical CrossFitters. You can’t really consider his argument without taking those points into account, and here’s what we were discussing.

Kurt was telling me that it is of great benefit to work out to the point of vomiting while training. He believes this because of the mental fortitude required to push oneself that far is of utmost importance. SEALs and many other MIL/LEO guys and gals have to have rock solid psyches in order to reach some of the levels that are required not only in their training, but in the performance of their duties in the field as well.

My initial assessment was that it’s not of any benefit to work to this point, but I made that claim solely on a physical basis. I believe that the stress the body must undergo in order to result in vomiting from training (assuming you’re not sick, haven’t drank or eaten great quantities immediately before working out, etc.) is of such a degree that this training would not result in a positive physical adaptation unless significant recovery was taken afterwards. 

However, from a purely mental perspective, I believe Kurt is really on to something. I think if you are someone who requires exceptional abilities for your profession or chosen sport, or if you just are interested in really seeing how much suffering you can inflict upon yourself, then I think the ability to force oneself to a state of such physical exhaustion that vomiting is induced can be of great benefit. If you’ve already pushed to those levels of discomfort and beyond, when the situation is really on the line and calls for extreme feats of endurance and resilience, one could likely rise to the challenge much easier. 

This is not an endorsement of the mindset for your WOD today, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Please post them to comments.

(Editor’s Note – If you have an interest in testing your ability to push yourself to the point of vomiting, please let your coaches know. We will be happy to recommend a workout that can be done in your local park or beach – or any place other than the gym.)

  • M

    I have never puked from working out. I have felt the urge to vomit a couple times after a WOD but have never let loose. I credit my exceptional mental fortitude….however, ask anyone who used to sit next to me at the Clerk of the Course PRIOR to a race at a swim meet what can happen…Knox Blox…enough said…

  • AT

    So…without offending the sensitivities of our lurking Navy Seals (you guys are tough…but not because you vomit), my brother has a saying that he picked up while in the Marines and he has shared with me and I apply where appropriate…It is easy to be hard, hard to be smart. This topic of “toughness” is the aspect of CrossFit that gnaws at me to the core and can be categorized right alongside the celebration of torn and bloodied hands…while some see them as badges of toughness and are photographed to commemorate…I see injury and loss of the use of your hands to continue working out for a period of time without significant discomfort. Maybe I will write a post on why I train in the “crossfit” approach and what I get out of it, but not appropriate for this post. On a base level I think (opinion) “mental toughness” has zero to do with one’s ability to induce vomiting during exercise much less how bloody you can get your hands. Mental toughness has everything to do with one’s mind…nothing to do with the physical realm (vomitting included)…I do believe the physical realm can test the mental, but is vomitting the right approach?? I don’t think so. Exercising to vomit is the athletic equivalent of the shenanigans of “Jackass, The Movie”. I think Tiger Woods is pretty mentally tough to sink an 8 foot putt on the 18th hole in a sudden death match with millions of people watching…does he train to the point of vomitting. While I contend training to vomit has zero to do with someones toughness…I do think it has everything to do with their mental state…perhaps that little thing called ego. 🙂

    p.s. I was a little interested in this topic so I googled it and found this article.

  • Sean

    This has happened to me a few times while I was in the Navy. Once on a timed 3 mile run and another on a timed O-course run. I’ve felt the urge a few time at crossfit but have backed down not wanting to see my breakfast. I can’t say I found any benefit to the few times it has happened in the past, other than knowing I can puke and continue on with a workout. I guess it’s good knowing you’ve reached a limit where your body is really unhappy and being able to continue on, however I can’t believe it’s healthy to workout to that point on a regular basis

  • Jessica

    During my athletic endeavors throughout high school and college I often experienced the urge to throw up during intense workouts as well as competition. I believe most individuals hit a mental block far before true physical exhaustion, vomiting being one side effect. To reach the mental aptitude to throw up is an indicator the body has hit its superior level, at that specific time. With this being said I think if you can psychologically push to that point you have/will set yourself mental and physically apart from others. This cannot be healthy on a regular basis; however, setting a goal for specific workouts to close that gap will improve our overall performance.

  • Army Jon

    I wouldnt recommend to workout till you vomit, but sometimes you dont have a choice depending on the situation. I think what Mark coworker was talking about is sometimes during any type of military elite training an individual is pushed so hard that there is no way someone can hold pukie down. The training is designed to push an individual outside a normal comfort zone and it is soley up to the individual to push on. Do I believe someone can benefit from intensity that brings out pukie. I think its good to experience it so you can take it has a learning tool and to build on during intense events ahead of you. Everybody is different and I try and be open to everyone ideas and beliefs. Mark said his coworker is a 30 yr veteran so his coworker comes from the old school. This guy was in before i was even born. Any military person out there knows that the old school menatlity is totally different than todays military. The old school were some hardass dudes especially from the specwar community. Pukie was the mentality. The mind is a powerful tool and if someone really believes they will benefit from pukie than they will. But if your interested in pukie check out brassringsfitness and you defiently experience pukie but Not recommended though

  • Cynthia

    I got nauseous one time during an workout and it stayed with me for a few minutes after we were done. All it did was make me sad. I don’t like that feeling!!!

    I like happy fluffy puppy-kiss feelings ONLY.

    Seal Team 6

  • Carla Mac

    If we were scientifically testing the effects of working out to the max with the result of vomiting in a petri dish, the issue would be: Is vomiting the measuring stick of when someone has pushed him/herself to the ultimate physical limit? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d guess it varies for all people.

    When someone asks of the competitor: “Did you try your hardest?” If the competitor didn’t puke during or at the end does that mean they didn’t? I’m guessing the answer can be either/or.

    So…just push yourself as hard as you can and if you vomit as a result…so be it…people throw up all of the time.

    Smarter not harder doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive…sometimes you need both, and sometimes you need one or the other.

    Situation dependent.

  • courtland

    I have not yet made myself nauseated to the point of actually chundering post workout. Maybe a little gaggy or dizzy. I did get the heaves once after a Bikram yoga class, but the hangover and the fact that I was smoking tobacco during those days might have had just as much to do with it.

    I couldn’t disagree more with AT’s statement that mental toughness has nothing to do with the physical realm, and find the ensuing statment “the physical realm can test the mental” actually contradictory to the first. Physical discomfort clearly stresses the mind and its ability to focus, pay attention, follow directions etc. It is not so hard to do 20 overhead squats with the PVC and maintain relatively good form, but toss on a few plates and the sweat, agony, shaking, all combine to pulverize the coaching admonitions that were so easily followed when there was only a plastic stick overhead. Even Tiger Woods’s mental toughness while putting is presumably tested by the physical requirements of his sport, though not as power-output intensive or exhausting as a set of thrusters and pull ups.

    Ultimately, I think it is good to push oneself but probably not to the point of vomiting … it would be a tragic waste of valuable calories. So if you feel those chunks up chucking, swallow hard and knock out some BURPees.

  • AT

    Courtland thanks for the response. Clarification…puking, torn hands etc. in my mind are not “physical realm” indicators of toughness. I definitely think the “physical realm” weight, environment, etc. plays a role. I am going to just stick with my push ups and pull ups and back out of this gradually and quietly. 🙂

  • courtland

    AT, Agree 100% with that one.

  • Aush

    I think this is touching on what Josh Everett was talking about with that “other gear” for the mental side of the game, it’s fun to think about. I agree with most everyone that obviously the mental side is important, but that puking, specifically, is a weak correlate to determining if your mental game is strong…

    Performance, will let you know if your mental game is up to par (your par, not someone else’s), we (crossfitters) are performance based and everything else is moot. So you would measure your mental aptitude just like your fitness, is your Fran time decreasing? Are you lifting more in your Deadlift? Has your C&J technique improved? If so, I think it’s safe to say your mental game has improved along with everything else… You directly improve your mentality by directly improving your performance IMO.

    As a side note, if you really want to meet pukie, may I suggest “Barbara”.

  • Luke Roberts

    The Invictus blog is super swell! It reminds me of reading a book that provokes thoughts, questions and opinions that only I thought I had. Great entries.

  • Brent

    Well we all know which side of the fence I’m on. If you don’t believe me we can always do that sandbag hill run/ thruster thing anytime. Seriously though it depends on the person and the activity. Personally I can not eat for 2hrs prior to a metcon or run, but if I’m just doing heavy lifts then I can get away with snacking 30min prior. Most of the longer posts already touched on the mental/physical aspect.
    Josh E if you want Justin and I are gonna be in around 5 tomorrow for a workout.

  • Josh E.

    Sounds good Brent. I’ll be there.

  • ET


    Researched in two parts: Mental Toughness and Exercise Induced Emesis

    What is Mental Toughness and how to Develop It?

    David Yukelson, Ph.D., Coordinator of Sport Psychology Services
    Morgan Academic Support Center for Student-Athletes, Penn State University

    Definition: Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to:

    • Generally cope better than your opponents with the many demands (e.g., competition, training, lifestyle) that are placed on you as a performer

    • Specifically, to be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient, and in control under pressure (Jones et al, 2002)

    Key psychological characteristics associated with mentally tough elite athletes Jones et al (2002):

    1. Self-Belief:
    • Having an unshakable belief in your ability to achieve competition goals
    • Unique qualities that make you better than your opponents.
    2. Motivation:
    • Having an insatiable desire and internalized motivation to succeed (you really got to want it)
    • Ability to bounce back from performance setbacks with increased determination to succeed.
    3. Focus:
    • Remain fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions
    • Able to switch focus on and off as required
    • Not being adversely affected by others performance or your own internal distractions (worry, negative mind chatter)
    4. Composure/Handling Pressure:
    • Able to regain psychological control following unexpected events or distractions
    • Thriving on the pressure of competition (embracing pressure, stepping into the moment)
    • Accept that anxiety is inevitable in competition and know you can cope with it

    Developing Mental Toughness

    1. Starts with the right attitude and state of mind (know what your core confidence is all about):
    2. Confidence comes in knowing your are prepared and having an unshakable belief in your abilities to reach intended goals
    3. Also linked to mentality of being a “Competitive Warrior”
    • Jerry Lynch (2002): “Confidence is about who puts it on the line, who has the courage to compete like a warrior without fear of failure”
    • Courage to leave it all out on the athletic field, play with heart, determination, and full focus
    4. Program your mind for success ahead of time with positive affirmations and expectations
    • Expect the best from yourself; affirm what it is you are going to do to be successful
    5. Confident goal
    6. Focus on those things you want to occur, rather than things you’re afraid might go wrong
    • Script Success: Visualize yourself performing the way you want (confident, energized, full focus)
    7. Routinize Your Behaviors: Develop a systematic pre-performance routine that clicks on desired mental-emotional state of mind (practice, pre-game, competition)
    • Practice (once you walk through the gate, you commit yourself to giving it everything you have the entire practice – this includes making a commitment to listening, learning, executing skills/drills with precision and full focus)
    • Pre-game competition – develop a systematic routine for engineering the environment and getting yourself ready
    • During Competition (once you walk b/w the lines, you are committing yourself to being mentally tough and a great competitor throughout the entire game).
    8. Poise and Composure: learn how to let go of mistakes quickly if things do not go the way you want
    9. Key part of mental training is about compensating, adjusting, and trusting
    • If plan A does not work, go to plan B or C
    • Use of “Focal Points” are effective to help focus attention back onto task at hand
    • Be persistent, don’t allow frustration to undermine your confidence/focus
    10. Take control of Negative Self-Talk: Reframe “stinking thinking” into positive task oriented suggestions
    11. Starts with awareness of situations that cause you to get frustrated, rushed, intimidated, lose focus – then reframe the negativity into positive.
    12. Look at failure as a stepping stone for future achievement:
    13. Champions approach to overcoming adversity: Play to win as opposed to fear making mistakes

    He missed 9000 shots, missed 26 game winning shots, lost 300 games – Michael Jordan, NBA 6 time World Champion “I failed over and over, that is why I succeed”

    14. Focus on the process of competing well, winning will take care of itself
    15. Be a difference maker, step up and have a peak performance when it matters the most

    Causes of sports-related vomiting are diverse. It is well established that stomach emptying is markedly slowed during endurance exercise. Mental and emotional stress can also slow gastric emptying. However, there are three key factors that predispose athletes to vomiting. These include dehydration, drinking beverages with high sugar content, and high exercise intensity at more than 75% VO2 max. All of these factors tend to slow gastric or stomach emptying.

    The act of vomiting is produced by a series of coordinated changes in G-I activity and in respiratory movements: salivation; sharp and deep inspiration; increase in intra-abdominal pressure; contraction of abdominal muscles; closure of the epiglottis and raising of the soft palate; forceful contractions of the stomach pylorus; and relaxation of the fundus, cardiac sphincter and esophagus. Gastric contents are propelled into the mouth and are expelled, usually accompanied by pallor and cold sweat. If retroperistalsis of the small intestine occurs, a greenish vomitus is produced.
    An athlete’s ability to reach maximum performance is a direct result of physical and muscular performance, muscular and systemic stress tolerance, control and regulation of immune function, and adaptation to physical stress. In this complex sense, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is also part of the system that controls and regulates adaptation and regeneration of the athlete. A well-balanced GI immune system and an optimized immune competence may protect the athlete from harmful pathogens; it may also protect against dietary as well as inhaled antigens. However, under conditions of mechanical and biochemical stress, the integrity of the GI mucosal block, particularly the epithelial hood, can be damaged, leading to a pathological uptake of toxic or immunogenic substrates. This may occur in endurance athletes, since gut symptomatology, nausea, vomiting, pain, bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and bleeding can be observed in up to half of all participants in endurance events. In addition, composition of stool and fecal microflora in endurance athletes has shown that there may be a specific need for nutritional support for mucosal immunity in highly trained but chronically stressed athletes. Proper diet during training and competition is a significant factor in guarding against GI symptoms and exercise-induced gastrointestinal side effects that may compromise immune competence and physical performance. The present review presents some important suggestions on the possible role of the GI tract in human performance and stress tolerance, and offers new insights about the influence of food quality on the immune system of the gut.

    Vomiting is deleterious to the sensitive esophageal lining and frequent vomiting, causes inflammatory damage to the sphincter separating the stomach from the esophagus. Damage of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle leads to reflux and consistent irritation of the esophagus leads to inflammation which could progress to esophageal ulcers.

    Intense exercise causes decreased blood flow to the gastric mucosa. Without sufficient blood supply the GI tract does not function as designed it rejects its stomach contents, and in some cases the contents of the intestinal tract (diarrhea). The ischemia (decreased blood flow) achieved by athletes in long endurance events also compromises the intestinal barrier, contributing to and compounding the GI symptoms.
    The stomach and intestines are lined with a protective barrier formed by an intricate combination of membranes, junctions, mucus, and immunological factors. Different types of stress can breach this barrier, causing increased permeability of the gut lining and allowing entry of harmful bacterial toxins into the blood stream. This distressing concatenation of events may in turn cause inflammation and systemic complications as well as the nausea, vomiting, bloating, bloody diarrhea, and cramping seen in up to half of all participants in endurance events.

  • August

    I think it is important to know your limits… I have puked both from working out/ swimming, and from standing watch and roving watch in absolutely shitty seas. Both situations I moved on. I’ve stood 6 hour watches puking every 15-30 Minutes and stayed up and running with little down time. Puking isn’t the end of the world. I don’t think you should ever make it a point to puke, but I could swing either way on a WOD with a couple of exception(definately not frequenty, and like make said extensive recovery) If its a tough WOD and you really want to finish(or finish with a decent time) and that requires you to push yourself to the limit… and beyond, do what you need to. But if your coming back from 2 weeks off and feeling like your gonna puke on a WOD that you should be fine with; Well, I already know what I would probably do on the later scenario.