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Returning to Endurance Training After COVID Means a Slow Start and Self-Monitoring

Adjusting endurance training after COVID is different for everyone and depends entirely on your symptoms, risk level, and previous fitness.

Three Things to Know for Endurance Training After COVID

  1. Returning to training after COVID takes patience and a lot of self-monitoring. 
  2. If you’re a high or medium risk, see a doctor for tests before returning to exercise. 
  3. Start training with short walks and yoga before progressing to more strenuous workouts.

Endurance training after COVID takes patience and a lot of self-monitoring. 

Two of my clients have recently come down with cases, and while their illnesses weren’t terribly bad, the after-effects have been challenging for them, most notably fatigue. 

Having had the Delta variant back in November, I can attest to the long-lasting effects of COVID. 

Adjusting endurance training after COVID is different for everyone and depends entirely on your symptoms, risk level, and previous fitness.

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Risk level determines response

Return to endurance training after COVID is determined entirely by risk factor. If you were hospitalized and/or have shortness in breath with daily activities, you are a high risk person and should consult with your medical team before resuming any activity. 

Medium risk people have symptoms for longer than seven days, or with prolonged shortness of breath or chest pain but did not require hospitalization. 

Both medium or high risk patients should get an EKG to rule out myocarditis (inflammation in the heart) as part of their recovery. 

General guidelines for low risk patients

Generally, athletes can return to endurance training after COVID three days after isolation – or seven days after ending of symptoms. 

Those are very general guidelines and every person is different. 

The main thing is to return to activity slowly. The experts recommend starting with walks and light exercise for maybe 15 minutes. 

Fatigue is primary issue for low-risk patients

Since fatigue is such a major factor in returning to endurance training after COVID, start with 50 percent of your recent activity. 

So if you’ve been running or riding for an hour, try an easy run or ride for maybe 30 minutes. 

Once you’ve managed the easy activities and yoga or other bodyweight work for two weeks, you can work on returning to running or riding and strength training.

Be sure to monitor your fatigue levels and HRV

Breathing capacity

I was paranoid about catching COVID because of my asthma, and, sure enough, when it hit me, I didn’t really get other symptoms except breathing difficulty and fatigue. 

Once you’ve resumed endurance training after COVID and you feel a tightness in your chest, unusual difficulty in breathing, or rapid heart rate or heart palpitations, those are red flags. You should see your primary doctor.

Strength training after COVID

One of the odd issues I had immediately after catching COVID was the inability to do pushups. 

I could maybe do one. I’ve gradually been able to build back up to 20 or 30, but that process has taken a long time. 

Strength training has been shown to be a good way to begin the return to fitness.

Keeping track of heart rate, activities, and feelings helps to guide your return to endurance training after COVID.

Just like any illness, if you rush your return to full-time training, you’ll likely just set yourself back. 

Detraining is likely after COVID

Assume a pretty solid detraining after getting COVID. 

You’ll have to treat your return like you would any absence from training. 

Since COVID is a more insidious bastard than other illnesses or even injuries, take care of yourself in your return. 

In other words, don’t do VO2 intervals the week after you start training again. 

Give yourself some grace to return slowly to endurance training after COVID.

Want to know more about what you can achieve? 

My purpose with Simple Endurance Coaching is to help cyclists and runners achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility. 

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Paul Warloski is a: 

  • USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer