Perhaps the most troubling thing about COVID-19 is its unpredictability. The severity of the illness ranges from nonexistent to fatal, with a myriad of levels in between. Symptoms are seemingly as unique to the individual as a fingerprint. Scientists are working overtime to understand the disease, but its confounding many experts.
The Hospital for Special Surgery declared in August 2020 that it created the first guidelines for returning to exercise after COVID (you can read it here). As one of the foremost sports medicine facilities in the world, they’re a credible and reliable source. However, it’s possible that these guidelines will change as we learn more about COVID.
For now, we’ll stick with what they published and summarize it here. We hope this is useful if you’ve had COVID or if you’re unlucky enough to catch it in the future. As such, it is always recommended to speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about returning to exercise.
Shortness of breath and coughing are two major symptoms of COVID. It’s a respiratory disease, but it’s also a cardiovascular disease. What’s more, there have been reports of tissue damage in the lungs and heart. There’s no doubt that COVID can affect your cardiovascular system, which can make it hard to exercise.
If you’re sick, wait until your symptoms go away before returning to exercise. Once they do, start at around 50% of what you used to do. While exercise can help you rehabilitate from damage caused by the disease, you need to start slow. It’s possible that you have elevated blood pressure or blood clotting that lingers. Pushing yourself too hard, in the beginning, could be dangerous.
Walking or light exercises are a great way to start, as well as light circuit training. Make sure you’re eating and drinking enough to give your body the resources it needs to recover. Sleep is also important. Think of it as rehabilitation from an injury, rather than bouncing back after a cold. Listen to your body and rest, rather than trying to jump back into your old routine.
-Coach Henry Halse