2020 was a great year for me – fitness-wise. Due to the restrictions on travel and social interaction, I was not able to travel as much as usual for my job which meant that I could invest more time in myself and I decided to take the time to get fit. Then in November of 2020, Covid struck and I had to take it slow. This is my account of my post-positive C-19 journey back to fitness.
I won’t spend too much time on how and where I got Covid, and I think enough has been written about Covid guilt and the mental health issues surrounding this entire sordid affair. For an account of how it all played out and what the consequences were, head to Marie’s article on the matter.
The very first thing the doctor said after my positive diagnosis was to rest. No running, no walks, no yoga, no exercise whatsoever. It was not a time to take chances, it was a time to stick to the rules. My symptoms were very mild and I kept on working from home as, physically, I didn’t feel too bad.
I had just adopted a Staffy puppy, Bennie, and if you’ve ever had a terrier, you’d know that they require loads of exercise. On the third day of my symptoms, I took him for a walk seeing that he was becoming unmanageable. We are fortunate enough to stay on farmland, so I could walk with him and not see anyone.
Together, we walked no more than 300m and I was out of breath, with a huge onset of tiredness as soon as we got home, and it finally sunk in; I was super fit, healthy and active, but Covid was bigger than all of that. For the remainder of my 14-day quarantine, I rested, sticking to playing fetch only with poor Bennie, who was probably quite sick of me at this point.
With two weeks of quarantine done and dusted, the doctor ordered another week of rest. The holidays were starting so I wasn’t too bummed, but I really wanted to enjoy runs along the beach and more, so I was eager to ease back into it. Bennie, who at this point was chewing on everything he could get his paws on, stole one of my shoes and raced outside. Out of sheer frustration, I sprinted after him. My lungs ached and burned, it felt like the childhood asthma I used to suffer from.
It seemed like with every exertion, my recovery would take a step back. It would kick off with aching lungs and then the headaches would also come back, as well as the exhaustion. My aunt dropped her sunglasses in the lagoon and I tried to dive it out but I wasn’t able to spend more than a few seconds underwater. So, I took another few days off – to my frustration.
What I then realized, and what I probably should have realized ages ago, is that it will be a slow start. I could feel that my body has lost some of its endurance and I most definitely was trying too much too fast. I then did what any sane person in my position would do – I started Googling. And what I found was an array of articles on post-Covid fitness horror stories.
I’m lucky enough to be friends with a fantastic biokineticist in Constantia, Cape Town, Shannon von Moorst. I asked her how some of her clients were coping and if she had any advice for me, as I was embarking on this new journey. She went on to explain the super-compensation cycle to me. When you train, you drop your body’s baseline equilibrium of function, below normal. So when you consider a healthy person who is well, a good night’s rest will return your baseline level back to normal, or even a little better “increased fitness”.
When you are ill, and especially with an illness such as Covid-19, your body’s level of function is often not restored to normal levels, and often if you are someone that regularly trains, it will take a longer recovery to get you back to normal functioning. The moral of the story is that after an illness, your return to fitness and exercise should be gradual and definitely not an immediate jump back into your program.
So there I was three weeks into my walking program. Bennie was certainly enjoying it the most and I got to see some great places. Walking is such a great way to clear the head as well, and living in Stellenbosch we are spoiled for choice when it comes to walking and hiking trails. Once I reached the 10km mark, I felt ready to jump back into things.
Currently, I am on week 3 of a 4-week cycle with Rudy from Prime Built in Stellenbosch. The exercises focus on HIIT from Monday to Thursday for 45 minutes daily. We do a fair amount of cardio and the rest is bodyweight exercises, targeting different areas of the body daily. Although I do feel more tired at night than I used to, I am once again starting to feel strong and fit, which is great.