Getting Back to Running after Covid- What to Expect.

If you’re reading this, it’s written in NZ in June 2022, from my Run Coaching perspective of what I’ve seen with all our Runners that we Coach here at Custom Made Fitness. I feel it’s important to mention that as what we are largely seeing now 2 years later, is seemingly a weakened version of the virus now that it’s been around for a while. Still, the lingering nature of the respiratory side of it, the coughing, and the getting back to Training can take a wee bit- and it’s from this standpoint that I wanted to put this article together. I hope that what I’ve seen as a Coach plus these tips can provide you with what it might be realistically looking like getting back to the full-on running or training that you’re used to.

Disclaimer alert, I’m not a doctor. What I’ve seen is in otherwise healthy individuals and not in folks that may have underlying health conditions where Covid (or a cold or flu) can wreak havoc. So, like anything health-related- seek professional help if you feel that’s what you need to do.

What we’re Seeing with our Runners we Coach:

Most of our runners we Coach have now have Covid! All very recently too, its really in the community now and has for sure made its ways to the Runners here in NZ. Myself (Chris) and Charlotte have also had it within the past 2 weeks so our own personal experiences tie together with what we’ve seen with our Crew we Coach.

Firstly, it seems to come on really fast! From initial typical symptoms that you feel cold & flu like to half a day later being totally whacked, feverish and in bed! Then it seems to be about 1.5-2 days of feeling unwell, you know- just being sick. Again, to reiterate- I’m talking current strain in NZ in June 2022. Some folks longer than that initial couple of days but generally speaking a couple of days of being pretty unwell.

But then what we’re seeing a lot of is our Runners start to feel better in terms of those heavy symptoms quite quickly, which is great. But what we all seem to have been left with after that is a tight chest, shortened breathing, and a bit of a cough. On top of that some are experiencing quite a lot of tiredness and fatigue for quite some time after from initially getting Covid. Some longer with the fatigue, but most, around that 2 weeks.

A runner not being able to run for a couple of weeks- what! That’s pretty bleak!

It’s not just the physical- It’s Mental too:

Go easy on yourself my friends, and lower the bar of expectation of what to expect from yourself in terms of your running. This can be applied to all things that sometimes prevent us from being able to run, such as injury or other crazy life stuff that comes along. A great thing to be able to do is lower the bar, take it easy and be kind to yourself. Engage in other relaxing things that are fulfilling to you, such as yoga, meditation, reading, walking, just whatever! You can apply this thinking to any taper period too- avoid taper tantrums!

We have seen runners get into a bit of a funk mentally from the Covid stuff, as it does take a while to fully come back. You’ve got that initial couple of weeks of being out, then you kinda have that 2-3 week (+-) period from starting to ‘test run’ to then being back to where you were. So just be aware that you will feel more unfit than you were prior to getting covid, you’ll be feeling slower, and you just won’t have that pop that you might usually have. This is normal, I mean you would’ve lost a slight bit of conditioning just from being out anyway, but just with the breathing and fatigue symptoms that linger around that will lead to runs just ‘feeling heavy’ and elevated heart rates for slow efforts. It’s not because you’re a bad runner or you’ve lost tons of fitness ok! It’s just because you’ve had Covid, and you’ve got lingering symptoms.

So GO EASY on yourself and try not to give yourself a hard time mentally. Obviously, if you need help on this front then reach out to us for a chat. The mental side of Training so is a part of Training… Or jump into our Facebook Training Group.

Test Run Tips- Starting to Run Again

After that initial 1.5 – 2 weeks with the Crew that we Coach, once the individual confirms that they are feeling up to a run, we start to schedule in ‘test runs.’ These are just shortened ‘easy runs’ just so the runner can go out and see how it feels, and how they respond to it the next day tiredness-wise, I.e. Does the run make you feel better or worse!? If a 20-minute easy run makes you feel worse then take another week off, and repeat this step next week. We aren’t typically seeing that though which is great.

Week 1:

If your first 20-minute test run is a success, then look to do another one 2 days after your first (so 1 day’s rest in between) then have 2 days off running before the next one. Then, if you’re feeling good do a 30–45-minute easy run. Plug those 3 runs in and you’ve completed week 1 of coming back! If you’re a more advanced athlete who regularly runs 5-6 times per week then you can most likely add-in that 4th run of around 30-60 minutes in that first week.

Week 2:

In week 2 providing everything went well in week 1, then just look to build some easy volume on top of week 1. If your being Coached by us, then we’ll be able to prescribe this for you based on what we’re seeing on your Training Peaks data, and by what feedback we’re hearing from you. If your self-coaching then just look to build on week 1, but not too much volume, and keep it easy intensity!

Week 3, Getting Back to your Normal Running Routine or Training:

Week 3 of returning to running (4th-5th week after getting Covid on average) we’re typically seeing most runners being able to resume structured training again. Sometimes there’s another week of building the easy runs before trying anything such as longer or harder sessions but for the most part it’s in that week 3 of returning to running that things are starting to flow again, and that cough, chesty, tiredness stuff has largely moved on.

If everything has gone great so far then in week 3 you can look to try a reduced interval session, something that’s very short and punchy. Not an all-out hard session, just something at a higher intensity that’s also short that you are comfortable testing the waters with. Then on the weekend, you might try a slightly reduced long run or reduced version of a weekend workout that you are typically used to.

Example: If you’re normally a 4 times per week runner then it would look something like this:

  • Tuesday- Easy Run
  • Thursday- Shortened Interval Session
  • Saturday- Reduced Weekend Session
  • Sunday- Easy Run

Get through week 3 well, then in week 4, you’ll be smashing it!

The Takeaways

It might sound that what I’m talking about above seems too conservative or you might be saying ‘but I don’t have that much time to build,’ or ‘But I’ve got a race coming up,’ just consider this: While you’re having this down time because of Covid you are giving your body a rest from your regular schedule, the body LOVES rest from regular training. Maybe you’ve had a pesky niggle for a while- well now’s your chance to work on it! While you’re building back that running it might allow you that extra time you need to see the physio, get those maintenance and strength routines in (as long as the intensity is easy!) or whatever you feel you need to come back stronger. If you’re being 1:1 Coached by us, then the great thing is that if need be we’ll be able to set some different goals to work through this period that are unique to you.

The other cool thing about coming back and doing slow runs as you build is you’ll inherently be building your aerobic fitness and endurance. This is the hallmark of any base building work. So, all is not lost my friends and you can work a purpose and goal into any aspect of training. Running isn’t just about always running it seems!

If you need help with your recovery plan, then reach out to us. Also, our Auckland Marathon Training Group is going gangbusters- now’s the time to jump in!

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