On the 1st of January 2021, I tested positive for COVID-19. I have had a lot of questions on how this virus affected me, and how I recovered from it, so I decided to put it all in a blog post!
I travelled back to Ireland From Belgium in mid-December. I followed all necessary guidelines, had a negative test the day after I arrived, and another negative result 5 days later.
We were all doing fine in my house. One of my sisters didn’t have her usual appetite, which we were joking about – we are all big into our food, and usually we all get stuck into the treats around Christmas time. She was feeling a bit tired too, but we weren’t considering these things as symptoms of COVID at the time.
On the 26th of December, she tested positive for COVID-19. She immediately began to quarantine in her room but I guess at that stage the damage was already done. I was called for a test the following week, on the 1st of January, where I tested positive, along with my other sister and my mum. My dad was actually the only one out of us 5 who managed not to get it, which we found was due to the steroid medication he is on.
I was feeling totally fit and healthy in the week before my positive test. I had done some INSYCD testing just after Christmas with my coach, and was only a few watts away from beating my all-time power bests for 5 and 10 minutes. I was coming off a long period of endurance riding and looking forward to getting stuck into the build phase of my program. I had begun to enjoy the challenge of structured efforts on the turbo again after a lot of Z2 outdoor riding. So, that’s to say that, even while I had COVID, before I knew it, I didn’t feel sick AT ALL. That’s worrying, and strange.
The only inkling I had that something was wrong was that my data on my Whoop app was just a bit off. My HRV, or heart-rate variablility (the variance in time between the beats of your heart) is usually a pretty good indicator of my recovery levels. My HRV dropped a lot in the week before I got my positive result. I put it down to the fact that I was training a lot, having a bit more food (because it was Christmas), and that I had begun doing more intense intervals than I had done in a while. Looking back in hindsight, I can see that this change in my HRV was more than likely due to COVID. At the time, I didn’t think the changes were significant enough to note, but now looking back at it in my monthly Whoop assessment, I can definitely see trends.
Heart rate variability is literally the variance in time between the beats of your heart. The greater this variability is, the more “ready” your body is to work at a high level. I had COVID from somewhere around the 29th or 30th of December, and was through the worst of it by the 2nd of January. Your HRV might drop if you’re in a heavy training block, but when I was ill with COVID, I was literally just lying in bed. You can see that it went super low, all the way down to 38, even when I was doing NOTHING.
The chart above shows my respiratory rate, or the numbers of breaths I take per minute. Not a whole lot to see here, and nothing crazy, but there is a definite rise in my RR in the period where I had COVID. This is a bit hard to explain, but a rise in RR has been highlighted as a possible indicator of COVID. I read about it on the Whoop website, I’ll leave the link here.
It’s pretty cool to be able to see the downward trend in my resting heart rate. It had a big spike around the 2nd which was definitely the day when I was most ill.
Like I said above, I tested positive on the 1st of January and I felt totally fine. I had done my training as normal that morning before I got my positive result, a little over 4 hours including some standing starts. The next morning, I was a bit unsure about what I should do regarding training. I felt good but I was aware that it might do harm if I did train. I ummed and ahhed all day about whether I would train, and at about 6pm, I decided I would just hop on the turbo for an hour.
That turned out to be a BAD idea. As soon as I got on, I started to feel nauseous. I could barely pedal, my power output was so low and effort-wise I felt like I was trying to finish a marathon. I kept going for an hour – I’m not sure why. Am I stupid or stubborn,or both? I think both!
I got off the turbo after an hour and I was WEAK. I felt as weak as a baby, it took all of my energy to take a shower, and I crawled into bed at 7:30 and slept for 12 hours. I didn’t have any other symptoms but the weakness was unlike anything I had felt before.
I woke up the next morning feeling so much better. That was it for me – I was over the worst if it. I spent the next 9 days in my bedroom, and my quarantine ended on the 11th of January. During that time, I had some symptoms come and go: I lost my taste for a day, and I had a ringing in my ears for maybe 2 days. By the time I was able to get out of my room and back on the bike on the 11th, I felt fully recovered.
I have to admit that I was a bit scared to get back into training. Having heard horror stories of athletes suffering with myocarditis or long-COVID, I wanted to make sure that I eased myself back into training and kept a close eye on how my body was feeling.
I spent my first week back training just doing what I felt like doing, keeping it mostly in my Z2 heart rate and not going for too long. After that initial week, I touched base with my coach, Ronan McLaughlin, and we made a plan for getting back into training.
I have to say, compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard, my recovery has been brilliant. I’m 3 weeks back into my training regime and my fitness is back to where it was. The main difference between now and my first week back training is that I can hit the same powers at a much lower heart rate. When I first got back into training after COVID, I was probably very fresh, which might explain the elevated heart rate a bit too. The efforts are starting to feel a lot easier and I’m feeling strong again!
Data from my first interval session back after COVID. Hitting 228w at 180bpm.
Data from a session after nearly 3 weeks back at training. Hitting 234w at 162bpm.
There are definitely guidelines you should follow, so if you have had a bad dose of COVID-19, I would recommend getting in touch with a doctor or a healthcare professional to guide you in your return to sport. I have also linked a document here from Sport Ireland that I found very helpful.
I have also included my affiliate link to the Whoop website here. You can get a free band and one month free membership by clicking on that link.