Suffered a recent COVID infection and want to know when it’s safe to start running again?
Despite the worst of the epidemic seemingly already having passed, the Coronavirus is still a topic that should be taken seriously. After all, despite the increasing availability of the vaccine, many people still contract the virus and feel its impact.
The long-term health defects are numerous and complex. Not only has COVID affected the physical well-being of people worldwide, but in many cases, it’s also negatively impacted their quality of life overall. It’s far more difficult to stop and smell the roses when your sense of smell has vanished completely.
Fortunately, if you’ve suffered from COVID in the past, there are still ways in which you can improve your lifestyle and get back to the things you enjoy doing, like running. It may take a little adjusting, but with our guidance, you won’t be navigating the process alone.
Let’s look at what you need to know about running if you’ve had COVID.
When Can You Start Running After COVID?
Writing this article is tricky for several reasons. Besides trying to navigate the intricate issues involved with COVID, the question at the center of this post simply doesn’t have a single, definitive answer.
Basically, the effects of COVID are multifaceted and complex. Different people experience different symptoms and suffer varying long-term effects as a result. And although a significant amount of research has been dedicated to figuring out all the complexities of the virus, it’s still impossible to predict how COVID will affect an individual in the long run.
With all this in mind, we think the best way to tackle this issue is first to examine the symptoms you may have to deal with and how they can impact your running performance.
Symptoms Of COVID That May Affect Your Running
It goes without saying that a nasty Coronavirus infection is a bit more intense than the common flu. Although the two share symptoms, the effects of COVID may prove to be more severe depending on the person.
You may have to deal with several respiratory issues, such as difficulty breathing and constant coughing. Naturally, these two symptoms alone can put even the hardiest of runners out of commission for as long as they persist. After all, you can’t run if you can’t breathe.
Unfortunately, the symptoms don’t end there. While difficulty breathing and a cough are enough to bench you for a few days or weeks, other symptoms like headaches and fever can put you straight to bed.
Being bedridden has a way of stopping you from doing any physical activity whatsoever, not just running. And if all of that wasn’t enough already, many people also experience muscle pain and fatigue, both of which are known to persist long after you’re virus-free.
The other listed symptoms of COVID, while obviously uncomfortable, shouldn’t get in the way of your running. Unfortunately, there’s no way to account for the mental toll it may also take on you. Survivors of COVID may experience a period of depression, anxiety, and a generally low mood. These can quickly sap your motivation for running and can leave you reeling for a long time after the virus has passed.
Of course, it’s a frustrating dilemma when so many of us rely on running for our endorphins fix, and wider mental health.
Running After COVID: When Is It Safe?
The healing and recovery processes are highly individualized. Some athletes and runners may feel healthy enough to resume physical activity after as little as a week. Others may only feel up to it after a month or longer.
A good rule of thumb here is to wait until all symptoms have passed, particularly regarding respiratory issues. As we like to say – Above the neck, you’re good to go; below the neck, it’s a no-no.
Remember that COVID can affect every organ in your body. It’s important to take the time to evaluate how you’re feeling and listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel any discomfort, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor.
Another general rule you can follow is to track how long you’ve been sick. The longer you’ve been sick, the more time you should allow your body to recover. An exception to this rule is the loss of taste and smell. If these are the only symptoms you’ve had to deal with, you should be able to safely resume easy running after about a week.
Finally, if up until now you haven’t developed any symptoms, wait three days to see if there are any changes to your condition.
Should You See A Doctor Before Running?
While the effects of COVID tend to subside naturally over the course of a couple of weeks, patients who experience cardiopulmonary issues should visit their physician before resuming any physical activity.
Shortness of breath, coughing, and general tightness of the chest are among the most serious issues associated with COVID. For those who were never too keen on exercise, this shouldn’t pose too much risk, assuming the symptoms ease. However, runners should ask their doctors for a full physical evaluation.
A physical evaluation should include an ECG, an echo diagram, and blood tests for heart damage. This is because runners who experience cardiopulmonary issues are at a higher risk of developing myocarditis. This heart disease can severely affect your health in the long term if it isn’t treated early. Research shows that there is an elevated risk of myocarditis in the weeks immediately following a COVID infection.
The tests your physician performs will alert you to any issues that could affect your physical performance. Fortunately, most symptoms are treatable, so long as you follow your doctor’s advice.
Again, however, not every runner will have to see their doctor before running again. Those who did not experience cardiopulmonary or respiratory issues should feel fine to run again after a week or two of recovery. Listen to what your body is telling you and make a judgment based on that.
How Do You Know It’s OK To Start Running Again?
After a few days or weeks, your symptoms should gradually subside until you feel healthy again. Once you stop experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, and general difficulty breathing, you should be fine to resume exercising.
Even then, we recommend that you ease back into your routine. Start by walking for 15 to 20 minutes every day and monitor your body. If any symptoms persist, get back to resting and wait for them to go away. Afterward, you can slowly start running for a few minutes each day. After a month, you should be back up to speed and ready to tackle your normal training plan.
It’s not uncommon to see a dip in your VO2 Max after suffering from COVID. This is to be expected and should recover in time.
What To Expect When Running After COVID
The effects of COVID are impossible to stress enough. People who were as fit and strong as bulls before COVID may find themselves significantly weaker than before.
Rest assured that this is perfectly natural, and in most cases, the weakness you experience immediately after COVID is not permanent. That being said, you could potentially prolong your weakness if you push your body too hard too fast.
The thing to remember is that life after COVID requires a gradual return to form. Although your symptoms may have only lasted for two weeks, you may need to give yourself at least double that time to recover fully. To this end, you may find the recovery period disproportionate to the length of your sickness – again, this is perfectly normal.
The best advice we can provide in this case is to listen to your body. A little bit of fatigue and trouble breathing is to be expected (which is why we recommend you ease back into running). However, if you feel lightheaded or experience an abnormally high heart rate, you should get back home and rest up for a bit longer.
Our Verdict: Play It Safe and Patient!
There’s no doubt that the effects of COVID will be felt for a long time. Even though many people have largely dismissed its severity, we can say with absolute certainty that it’s still an incredibly dangerous illness.
This may sound like the end of the world for the athletic community, but we promise it’s not. Although runners and other athletes may find themselves underperforming for a while after COVID, with enough time, patience, and dedication, there’s no reason you won’t be able to return to form.
It’s important that you be kind to yourself during the recovery period. Listen to your body and visit your doctor if you need to. We guarantee you that you’ll thank yourself for it.