How to return to activity post Covid-19
In life, take small steps to get moving in the right direction. The thing is to not stop, no matter how slow it may feel.
Our lives are shaped by this pandemic in more ways than we could ever have imagined. So, what does recovery and return to activity look like post-Covid? My husband, Neil, and I had COVID-19 over December 2020 and into the new year, and now Neil has it for the second time! This virus is unpredictable, and it got me thinking…what does a healthy return to activity look like?
Many of you know I enjoy running. It’s my happy space, my therapy-space, my thinking and prayer space, and I really enjoy it! Whether I run alone, with my trusty Ridgeback Nola, or with family and friends, running is always a joy.
And so, to my horror, I discovered that COVID-19 affects many aspects of one’s body, primarily it seems to affect the heart. When attempting to return to exercise, I discovered that my heart rate spiked after 300m of slow jogging. Weird right? But I wasn’t alone. Athletes have posted similar responses, from seasoned runners and cyclist to those who enjoy an active lifestyle.
Taking to social media, Zola Budd said she and her daughter had both recently been diagnosed with Covid. Fortunately, both came through the illness without any severe symptoms but that was not the end of their coronavirus experience.
“It has been four weeks now since our positive test and three weeks since I experienced any symptoms,” she wrote. “I decided to start training again and am experiencing the following symptoms: elevated heart rate. My heart rate, even doing easy runs of not more than 30 minutes is about 20 beats per minute faster than normal.
“Usually, after an easy run, it takes about 1 minute for my HR to go below 120bpm. Now, it takes almost four minutes. This shows me that even after three weeks of no symptoms, my heart is still under strain,” she concluded.
Go slower than you expect. If you are tired and listless or notice an unusually elevated heart rate when you exercise, the best place to advance your return to activity may be on the couch (or if need be, see your doctor). But, the message is clear. Take it slow.
In an article on Returning to Exercise after. recovering from COVID-19, Dr Jordan Metzl says that there’s a caveat now with the pandemic. “If you had COVID-19 and experienced any of these symptoms, that really flips the script on you, and you have to be much more careful about how you go back to activity. As sports medicine doctors, we want all of our patients to get out there and move, but this is one of the few times in our career where I’m really having to tell people to pump the breaks and pursue really gentle activity,”
Again, the message from Dr Metzl is this: “I want to make sure they have a very slow, gradual resumption of activity.”
And so, for those who want to know how to recover, I thought I’d share some tips. Please bear in mind that I love being active, but am not a doctor. If you are worried about any of your symptoms, please seek medical help.
What you need to know (and possibly never thought about before)
In an insightful article on Women’s Running, Dr. Kim notes, “According to the CDC, scientists have learned “that many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19 and there are many ways the infection can affect someone’s health.” In particular, they are watching how the virus interacts and causes damage to the heart. The inflammation and damage they are worried about is called myocarditis.”
The article goes on to report, “To avoid putting stress on the heart before it’s ready, runners shouldn’t plan to pick up where they left off in their training. In the guidelines for competitive and highly active recreational athletes from the ACC, I recommend a minimum of 10 days of full recovery with a slow return to activity and evaluation by a medical professional if your symptoms are moderate or lingering.”
You know your body best, listen to what it is telling you
“If you have a body system that’s been infected, it’s important to gradually tax that system to see where you are,” says Dr. Metzl. This makes such sense. Gradual is the key. Now if you’re prone to an all-or-nothing attitude, then this is going to be difficult. But it is super important.
Take care of yourself by treating yourself like you would your best friend. Be considerate, kind, and extra gentle. Gentle on your expectations, gentle on your body and gentle on your life rhythms.
You cannot just start where you stopped before COVID-19. In fact, this applies to flu or other serious illnesses too. Take a calculated approach to your return to activity.
Keep on taking those supplements
It’s so easy to stop taking your supplements when you feel better. But, don’t stop. I’ll be transparent here. This is is what we’ve been taking: Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin B, Omegas, some aspirin and probiotics. We’ve also bought a Herbalife Shake for when our energy levels drop in the middle of the day. And I am still diffusing the dōTERRA oils in my home. We also continue to take Life Matrix MCT Oil (they dub it ‘super fuel’ for your cells and it helps decrease cardiovascular disease). We are still following our doctor’s recommendations.
Our family is also paying attention to what we eat. Our vegetable garden has started producing some wonderful veggies and we make sure that we get loads of good nutrients in through our diet.
Have a sober, calculated approach to exercise
Be aware of your resting heart rate and blood pressure levels. If your resting heart rate is elevated, then don’t exercise. Consider your approach to return to exercise. Depending on your COVID-19 symptoms, and if you need to consult your doctor, take it slower than you normally would.
This is my plan…slow and steady. I started with Pilates, a gentle surf and a very, very slow run/walk of 4km (I kept my heart rate below 140 bpm). I found that when I started running, my heart rate would jump up to over 180bpm and so I would walk and focus on my breathing to get it down.
Take note of how long it takes for your heart rate to come down and your energy levels after exercise. Friends, I was running up to 21km just before I got COVID-19 and it’s hard to take it slow, but I believe it is so very necessary. This all comes with a mindset shift. When you adjust your thought processes, then your words and actions follow.
Rest when you need to rest
Fortunately, my working hours are flexible, but I still find that I need to rest around 2 pm for 20 minutes or so. If you feel you need to rest, do it. Sleep brings healing to one’s body and mind. Seriously friends, don’t underestimate the power of sleep in your life. It builds resilience and is like a golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
Sometimes, we need to go slow so we can go long. And like Terri Guillemets said: ”A day without a nap is like a cupcake without frosting.”
Pay attention to your symptoms. Stop exercising if they return.
Don’t fool around, friends. If you develop symptoms after exercising, including chest pain, fever, palpitations or shortness of breath, see a doctor.
Cultivate joy and thankfulness
Every time you move, do some activity and find yourself smiling, be thankful. This year, I’m part of the global team as a Balega Impi Ambassador. Impi is a Zulu word that means warrior. A few years back, I struggled with blisters when I went running and then I discovered Balega socks. What a difference…why do I share this? Well, every time I don a pair of these socks, I smile. My feet feel hugged and best of all, I haven’t had one blister since I bought my first pair of Balegas.
It’s sometimes the small things that bring us joy. Be it a cup of coffee, a hug from someone you love, a cool pair of socks or affection from your dog. There is so much to be thankful for. Life is a gift to treasure.
I’d love to hear from you. What would you add to my tips on returning to activity after COVID-19?