My first COVID: the fever is gone but so is my fitness

After dodging it for more than three years, I caught COVID late last week. I have all the vaccines I’m allowed to have and I don’t get out much. But you can’t live in a house with a 17 year old who has a social life without knowing it would happen eventually.

I ran a fever for four days with coughing, congestion and a total loss of my sense of smell. I also got a fairly impressive case of COVID fog. But no shortness of breath, diarrhea or vomiting.

It’s Monday, almost a week since my fever broke. I am still coughing a bit, though it’s comfortable and ‘productive’. I am a bit congested. My sense of smell is returning. It’s not entirely back yet. It’s present, but very dull.

The latter symptom is getting into unsettling territory but what has got me terrified is my impression that I’ve lost years and years of fitness on the bike. I’ve been doing some very light weight trainer sessions — outside is done for me for a bit — and the numbers are terrifying.

I lasted 30 minutes in my first session and I felt horrible. Just getting the pedals to turn was a victory. Getting into the blue (aka Zone 2, aka all-day-pace) was a chore and felt unsustainable after a few minutes. Over the next few days I was able to extend the time on the trainer and get into the red for the shortest bits. Everything hurt, but I got the impression that I was getting better.

Yesterday I did a ride sort of comparable to what I might do on a short, light ‘throwaway’ ride. It’s Zwift, so there’s a ‘speed’ bonus, and you can’t pay attention to the kilometres and the time. They seem pretty good. But power and heart rate — those are real. And scary. My average heart rate for the 1h37min ride was 157 bpm, while my normalized power was 193 watts. And that was all I could do. Compare and contrast with a September jaunt around Greely Edwards where NP was 181 watts, but average heart rate was 134 bpm. At the time I rated that one ‘easy’.

Admittedly the outside ride has some built-in rest bits (intersections, mainly), whereas on the trainer you never stop. So my move ratio outside was 0.95 where on the trainer it’s a straight 1.00. That also translates to higher overall power numbers. (193w inside vs 181w outside). The power and heart rate measurement devices are also different.

I do not feel like that accounts for the 23 bpm difference in heart rate. This is huge. I have worked pretty hard to build the fitness I have (had). Does it get better? How long does it take? I really don’t like the idea of all those intervals, all those efforts, just being wiped away in a week.

One comment

  1. I, of course, can’t help with your fitness training but wanted to say I hope it all gets better. COVID can take many different paths in healing. So try to be patient with yourself and not push to hard. ??

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