Returning to Exercise: Coronavirus Recovery
The pandemic we are experiencing around the world has challenged us in ways we never could have imagined. When it hit in the winter of 2019/20, many thought that their health, youth, or fitness level might protect them. At this point it has become clear that we are all vulnerable and no one knows how a Covid-19 infection will affect their body.
New research is focusing on better understanding the long-term effects of the virus, often called Long Covid or Long-Haul Covid. This often appears with symptoms including fatigue, loss of the sense of smell/taste, dizziness, cognitive impairment, headaches, shortness of breath and can last months. (1)
We talked to two of our users about their experience with Coronavirus recovery and they shared their fitness journey with us. Both are healthy women in their 30s, recreational athletes based in Europe, who had mild-to-moderate cases.
What was your fitness level before COVID-19?
Amélie: I used to run at least twice a week, 5 to 10 km, and also worked out at home with the adidas Training app twice a week.
Barbara: I was finally getting back on track with my running after problems with my knee. I wasn’t at my best, but getting there again.
What were your preferred sports/types of exercise?
Amélie: I really like running. It is always hard for me to get motivated, especially when it’s cold and grey outside but once I manage and run with the right music, it gives me a great sense of freedom and helps me cope with the stress of daily life.
Barbara: Running and yoga were my favorites, but I also did strength training & biking.
How did you feel physically while you were infected?
Amélie: It started with a light headache and serious fatigue for a few days. Then I started to have this strange feeling in my lungs like someone was pressing on my chest. One day I was cooking breakfast for my son and I realized that I couldn’t smell or taste my coffee anymore, then I knew it was Covid.
Barbara: My energy level was very low. I had muscle pain, headaches, fever, and lost my sense of smell & taste.
How long did you experience symptoms?
Amélie: The first 4 days of quarantine were not easy. I was out of breath just from talking on the phone and was very scared it would get worse and I would end up in the hospital. After 5 days the breathing got better but I was very very tired and couldn’t do much.
Barbara: I was sick for around 2 weeks, but it took me way longer to get my energy and ability to focus back – for sure a few months. The first days back at work, I worked fewer hours and needed lots of breaks.
How long did it take you to start working out again?
Amélie: I tried to go running around a month later, I managed to do 5 km but I was completely out of breath during the run and my lungs hurt. I switched to walking and did some short home strength workouts but without cardio.
Barbara: I went for a walk again right after quarantine ended, which was roughly a week after my sick leave. I did my first slow & easy yoga session about 2 weeks after my sick leave. My first run after being sick was around 1 month later, and it felt like the first run of my life.
How did you restart your exercise program?
Amélie: I started running and training again but after 5 months, I still have this strange feeling in my lungs from time to time. I had them checked and the doctor said everything looks good. Nevertheless, I am still tired, my motivation is low, and I get out of breath very fast. I ran 5 km recently and it felt a bit better.
Barbara: Slowly. Super, super slowly. With lots of gratitude that I can move again. Just leaving the apartment and being outdoors was a true highlight. Walking felt like a workout.
Did you know?
An otherwise healthy patient recovering from Covid-19 without treatment who has been asymptomatic for 7 days may begin resuming physical activity at 50% the intensity and volume. (2)
Did your performance change?
Amélie: Before having Covid, I could run 10 km without any difficulties. Now, the most I’ve done so far is 5 km. My lungs hurt and I have trouble finding a regular breathing rhythm. I used to run at a pace from 5:40 min/km, now I run 6:45.
Barbara: Yes, and that was very hard to accept for me. It felt like starting over at zero.
Did your goals change after your Coronavirus recovery?
Amélie: Definitely. Now my goal is to manage to find the motivation to go running. I just have to listen to my body and not push it too much.
Barbara: Definitely. My goal right now is to stay healthy and support my body and mind with whatever type of exercise it needs at the moment.
Do you have any words of advice for other people who are infected with COVID-19?
Amélie: Be patient and don’t panic. I try to see the positive side of it: I am most probably immune for a little while and I was lucky to have a relatively mild version of it. (3)
Barbara: Talk to someone about how you are feeling and what you’re going through, also emotionally – be it your partner, a friend, a family member, or a therapist.
Recovering and Moving On
As much as we’d like to think we are invincible, there are a lot of things that can knock us down for a while. If you’ve had to deal with Coronavirus, illness, or injuries, it can be hard to get back on track and motivate yourself to continue your fitness journey. It’s important to listen to your body. Make sure you take care of your body by building rest days into your training routine. At times like this, it’s always a good idea to boost your immune system and try to manage your stress with regular exercise.
Remember, if you are experiencing any symptoms or are recovering from an illness and are concerned about how long it’s taking, talk to your doctor about it.