I was beginning to think that I was one of those people that was never going to get COVID.  All three of our kids had gotten it, but I had always been extremely careful, wearing the N95 at every outing, and I ALWAYS wore it when training my clients in my basement gym. In mid August I attended a fitness conference to further educate myself on some training techniques.  I attended three workshops and was the only individual wearing a mask.  Two days later I went for a 10K run and when I returned, I knew something wasn’t right.  The following day I tested positive for COVID.  The 18 days that ensued until I finally tested negative was an ordeal that consisted of a sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath, chills, and lots of fatigue.  During that time and even after, as much as I wanted to believe it was over, and wanted to get back to training, it clearly wasn’t, and certainly the impact it was having on my body was far from over. 

So as someone who works out and trains clients, here are some key takeaways from my experience that I’d like to share with those coming back from COVID:

  1. Don’t underestimate the virus.  For some, COVID may appear to be cold-like, but it’s not a cold.  You can often exercise through a cold.  You can’t exercise through COVID.  It bites you, especially if you’re laid up for a considerable amount of time.  Be prepared for a long recovery.
  2. The moment you feel you’re ready to return to working out, take an extra day.  You’re chomping at the bit to return to exercising, but the extra day of rest is invaluable for your body.  Besides, it will make your return that much better, and in the grand scheme of things, the day missed will be a moot point.
  3. Begin your return at fifty percent of where you left off. This is key.  Don’t set yourself up for disappointment (see #1) or put yourself in a position where you can suffer a setback.  If you’re doing bodyweight exercises start with half the reps; if you were running 8k, start with 4k and bring your pace down; if you were cycling 70k, start with 35 or 40k and don’t worry about your speed as much, and so on. Then, increase your intensity by 10 to 20 percent per week. Moving forward, this investment in time will be well worth it. 
  4. Listen To Your Body.  If something doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t right.  I’ve heard too many stories of people who have tried to “work through” or “run through” something.  The result has often been an injury and/or more time on the sidelines.  If you feel tired, it’s because you need the rest. Don’t push it.  That’s when you’re most vulnerable and things happen. 

It’s human nature to want to return quickly and have things to be as they were before COVID gripped us.  Unfortunately, that’s simply not realistic.  We must not only manage expectations but take the proper steps on the road back for the longer, bigger picture.