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Getting Back to Your Workouts After Covid-19

Getting Back to Your Workouts After Covid-19

Jan 24, 2023

Eric Evans

Whether you are a student athlete or an active adult who has recovered from COVID-19, you’re probably itching to get back on the field or resume your workouts. Or, if you don’t have symptoms or if your illness is mild, you might be wondering what activities you can do while you wait out the infection.

Many long-term effects are still unknown, including how the virus affects overall fitness.  We certainly know more now than we did a year ago, but there is still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of COVID-19. We know that the virus can lead to damage of the heart, brain, lungs, and kidneys, but there’s no way to pinpoint or predict who will be affected. Some people might also experience lingering symptoms, including shortness of breath, muscle aches, loss of stamina and exhaustion - all of which are bad news, but particularly for athletes and active people.

The truth is the disease can affect everyone differently. Anyone could experience a severe case or have long term damage, which is why it’s so important to take this seriously. This is especially true with active individuals, as it can be difficult to tell what long-term effects someone is going to have after they recover from the virus.  Some people might fare just fine and will be able to jump back into their old training regimen, while others will find that their athletic / training performance just isn’t what it used to be.  For most athletes and active people, returning to training will likely be a slow process and will require patience.  You should work with a healthcare provider to make sure you’re progressing appropriately and monitoring your symptoms. 


If you were exposed to someone with covid-19, you will need to quarantine, but you can still train as long you can maintain restrictions (i.e., not going to the gym).  Just mix in some training at home.  If you start to feel sick, stop your workouts immediately!  If you are in isolation, you should not be training at all – period, unless you’ve been cleared by a healthcare provider to resume activity.

If I have been diagnosed, when can I get back to my workouts?

The timeline to return to your training hinges on how mild, moderate, or severe your case was.  If you test positive but do not have symptoms, your 10-day rest period would start the day of the positive test.  If you do have symptoms, it should be at least 10 days from when the symptoms first started.  Regardless of which category you fall in, you should not return to your workouts until you are completely symptom free.  If you have a moderate or severe case, it is highly recommended you get evaluated by a healthcare provider.  They may need to have additional tests (like an ECG, heart imaging or blood work) before they clear you to start progressing back into your training.


Myocarditis is an inflammatory response of the heart due to a viral infection, such as COVID-19.  It can cause swelling in the heart muscle, making rigorous activity more difficult and at times, even deadly.  It is more likely to be found in those who had a moderate or severe case but could be found in anyone who was infected.  Because of the risk of myocarditis, anyone exercising should follow a graduated return to physical activity over the course of at least a week to monitor for signs and symptoms of this serious complication.  Progressing back into your training should be very gradual.  While you are working back into your training routine, pay attention to these definitive red flags which should result in stopping your training immediately:

  • Chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Nauseous
  • Headache
  • High heart rate not proportional to the exertion level or prolonged heart rate recovery
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty catching breath or abnormal, rapid breathing
  • Excessive level of fatigue
  • Swelling in the extremities
  • Syncope (passing out)
  • Experiencing tunnel vision of loss of vision

Rest for 24 hours starting when you are symptom free.  if any symptoms continue beyond 24-48 hours or do not resolve after stopping your exercise, follow-up with your healthcare provider immediately regarding additional evaluation and possible testing!

It’s not a quick return to your workouts, be patient…you’ll get there! In the meantime, take care of yourself and the people around you. 

The established stages to get you back into training outlined below was provided by Cleveland Clinic.  Cleveland Clinic has been named the No. 2 hospital in the nation and the No. 1 hospital for heart care in U.S. News & World Report’s “2021-22 Best Hospitals” rankings.  Since 1999, Cleveland Clinic has ranked as a top 5 hospital and has also held the No. 1 ranking in Cardiology and Heart Surgery since 1995. 


Follow these 7 stages to safely return to exercise after COVID-19

Stage 1 – diagnosis, illness & recovery

10 days minimum from positive test or onset of symptoms

Must be cleared by healthcare provider

Must be symptom free except for loss of taste & smell


Stage 2 – light exercise

2 days minimum

Walk, light jog, stationary bike, NO LIFTING

< 70% maximum heart rate

Duration of exercise = < 15 min


Stage 3 – light to moderate exercise

1 day minimum

Movement exercises: light jogging, circuit training, body weight resistance exercises

<80% maximum heart rate

Duration of exercise = < 30 min


Stage 4 – moderate exercise

1 day minimum

More complex training: sport specific drills, running, resistance training

<80% maximum heart rate

Duration of exercise = < 45 min


Stage 5 – moderate to intense exercise

 2 days minimum

Normal sport & training activities, running, sport-specific drills

<80% maximum heart rate

Duration of exercise = < 60 min



1 day minimum

Complete a full day of your typical training routine