With the longterm effects of COVID-19 still fairly unknown, one writer reflects on her worries about losing fitness after contracting the virus.
When I tested positive for Coronavirus earlier this week, so many thoughts ran through my mind. I was scared about getting ill, disappointed at having to cancel so many plans and frustrated that I’d managed to catch it. But one of things that worried me the most was how much the virus would affect my fitness.
This is the second time I’ve had COVID-19 this year and the first time I caught the virus, my symptoms were fairly mild. Still, ten days of not leaving the house and moving minimally other than a little bit of stretching took a toll on my fitness levels. After my isolation period was over, I found that I couldn’t lift as heavy or run as far as I could before I had caught the virus.
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This time, the effects of Coronavirus have been more severe for me, with days spent in bed feeling dizzy and nauseous. I have the typical breathlessness too – carrying a grocery delivery up the stairs a few days after my symptoms kicked in left me gasping for breath for nearly 10 minutes. This is quite a scary experience, especially because I pride myself on my fitness, always getting my 10,000 steps per day in and working out most days. How could I go from lifting 100KG of weight to being unable to carry shopping bags up a flight of stairs within 10 days?
Of course, there are so many other things to worry about now I have Coronavirus but I can’t stop thinking about how it will affect my fitness. In the grand scheme of things, I know it doesn’t matter so long as I recover but I can’t help but feel annoyed that it might have undone months and months of progress and goals I worked so hard to achieve.
The uncertainty of whether or not my fitness will be affected is one of the most difficult parts of my current situation. Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and online doctor for Prescription Doctor, tells Stylist that, “Everyone is different, and some may recover quicker than others and fitness levels may return to normal, however some people may find that their fitness levels remain compromised.”
Right now, it doesn’t feel like my symptoms are going to magically disappear as soon as my isolation period is over in a few days and I find it hard to imagine that I could enjoy a brisk walk in the park, never mind my usual CrossFit sessions at the gym. But with experts still struggling to completely understand how Coronavirus works, it’s totally possible that this could be the case.
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Equally, there is a chance I could develop long Covid. Long Covid affects people in different ways but many people have found they haven’t been able to get back to their usual exercise routine at all while suffering from it. This thought feels very scary to me – working out is a big part of how I look after my mental health and going to the gym is the most regular part of my routine. Not being able to do that because of the effects of Coronavirus would be devastating.
“We are seeing some people who had Covid over a year ago still finding that their fitness levels are affected. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially if the person affected would class themselves as fit and healthy and keeps a healthy balanced lifestyle,” Dr Aragona says.
Although I feel concerned, I also know that I’m going to feel more grateful than ever to be able to exercise when I feel better and my isolation period is over, whether it’s a lunchtime walk, a yoga class or (hopefully) a workout at the gym. Dr Aragona emphasises the importance of starting small when exercising after having Covid and this is definitely some advice I’m going to follow. Having Coronavirus has made me realise how important rest is and just how much our bodies can benefit from it, which will hopefully be a useful lesson as I return to the gym.
The pandemic has taught us that progress isn’t linear – even with vaccines and new technology to deal with the virus, it hasn’t been a straightforward road to tackling it. I’m trying to have the same approach to fitness. Losing progress doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve gone backwards. In fact, it gives me a new opportunity to reach those health and fitness milestones again, an opportunity I will cherish when I regain full health and am able to do so.
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