How To Start Running Again After COVID

It’s been around a month since I tested positive for COVID. Yesterday was only my second run since then. So why so long to get back to it?

I simply haven’t felt like it. And thanks to having the booster 10 days previous to exposure, I had a pretty mild dose. I put some of that down to post viral fatigue – I definitely was in need of a Nana nap or two early on in my recovery. Some of it I’m putting down to the weather – high humidity and heat, and some of it I’m putting down to pandemic fatigue. Like many, I’m a bit over it (and I really wish everyone would stop reminding us we are going into the 3rd year of the pandemic – like I just did!)

How Long Should It Take to Return back to pre-COVID fitness levels?

I have done a reasonable amount of walking since I have been out of isolation, and a bit of swimming. I ran a bit in a couple of walks, but for the most part, it has taken me a month to feel like running again. My energy levels have been really knocked about.

It’s going to be different for everyone, and it may not necessarily correlate with the severity of your symptoms. My son and husband have bounced back much more quickly than I have, and their symptoms seemed far worse than mine. Fair to say though, they did have a much worse strain – MOVID (Man-COVID).

If you’ve recently recovered from COVID, make sure you give yourself enough time to recover fully before you go at it hammer and tongs.

How Much Running is Too Much?

If you are not sensible about this, you run the risk of developing long COVID. Any virus should be treated with respect when it comes to post recovery resumption of exercise, to reduce the risk of long-lasting effects.

As a general rule, you should be feeling fully recovered within an hour of your exercise bout. If you have to take to the couch for the afternoon, you’ve done too much. The next day you should feel happy to do it again.

Post-COVID Running Plan

  • Start slowly. Before your first run, have a couple of walks and see how you are feeling. You might have been feeling fine sitting around your house not doing much, but a small amount of exertion after any virus can be pretty tough.
  • If walking or other light activities, such as gardening or housework (especially housework) fatigue you, stop. Try again tomorrow.
  • Build up to being able to complete a 30 minute walk whilst being able to hold a conversation without it taxing you too much. When you can do that, you are ready to try running.
  • Plan to include walking breaks in your runs. Don’t try to pick up where you left off. Even though you may have only had a week off, you have been sick with a virus about which we still don’t know a lot, so err on the side of caution.
  • If you are feeling tired whilst you’re running, take an unscheduled walking break. It’s quite ok to be walking more than you run.
  • Spend a few weeks doing low intensity exercise before you get back to anything more than a 3-4/10 effort.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated before, during and after your run, particularly on those high humidity days.

Things to Watch For When You Return to Running

Excessive breathlessness. You are likely to be a bit more breathless when you first start running, but if you are really struggling to breath and you are running slower than a snail, that is not good, and you should stop exercising.

Watch out for excessive fatigue in your day to day activities once you start exercising again. If you’re finding exercising is causing you not to be able to do your day to day stuff, then you should cut back on the exercise.

Be on the lookout for the return of symptoms you have previously had, or new symptoms. You probably don’t need a reminder, but we’re talking dizziness, excessive breathlessness, racing heart, a cough. These are all a sign you need to cut back.

If you experience chest pain, see your doctor.

And just a tip, if you have kids who have COVID, ask them specifically about symptoms. Don’t expect that they will be as hyper-aware of the clues to overdoing it as you might be.

Listen to your body and take it easy if you don’t feel up for a run. There is no shame in taking things slowly. You’ll get there eventually!