6. Juli 2022

The Pandemic Wants Me, Too

Hit a roadblock 194 days into the training cycle, and 160 days after my previous post. Turns out the COVID-19 pandemic wants me, too. I am grateful, that so far, the pandemic does not seem to make me give as much as it makes others do. Nevertheless, time to reflect on the training so far. Time to poke a bit into available research on how to safely return to what all athletes want: get back out, and continue.

Given the tragedy inflicted by COVID-19, as told by media, as heard first-hand from friends and family, ranging from tales from long COVID-19 or passings of elderly family members, I hesitated at first about whether to write an article about such a “trite” subject as how an infection would affect me as an athlete. However, first, even with the tragedies going on around in the world, we need to do what we love. Plus, second, when I look back at this pandemic that rocked the world in a couple of decades, wouldn’t it possibly be of interest (at least to me!) to get a first-hand, subjective account of the time such a storm was sweeping across the world? Finally, third, I’m certainly only one among many (endurance) athletes facing the question on how to return to training, to one’s passion post COVID infection. Hopefully, if you are an athlete in a similar situation, some of my little “search for research” will thus help you, too.

What’s my goal? I’m training for a multi-day endurance trail-running event, which I prefer to call a foot race due to the extensive amounts of hiking involved. In my mind, training for that specific event started on December 24, 2021. That’s 194 days ago, about six months. The biggest risk I had actually listed when laying out my course training plan was a COVID infection; unfortunately, that risk has materialized.

For my previous race (Swiss Trail Tour 2021), I started to apply science to my training for pretty much the first time in my life (see posts Swiss Trail Tour, Training Differently, Swiss Trail Tour, Incorporating Objective Feedback, Swiss Trail Tour, Darth Vader on a Treadmill).

Applying science to the training is a journey I am continuing during my 2022 quest. I consuming broadly following the principles laid out in Jason Koop’s “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning” [1] or Philip Skiba’s “Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes” [2], in addition to all the literature I consumed in 2021. Occasionally, I dive into primary sources such as papers like John Kiely’s “Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth.” [3], and listen to Jason Koop’s freely available podcasts, aptly named the “KoopCast”, but rarely find the time or let’s say energy to read all of the primary resources referenced in these podcasts.

Specifically, among these resources I found the discussion between Jason Koop and Dr. Ben Levine in “How to Return to Running Safely Post COVID Infection with Dr. Ben Levine” [4] rather helpful. The podcast is from February 2021, therefore cannot profit from research (and more available data) during the additional year that has passed since then. The overall conclusion I took from discussion is that giving it some time post-infection before starting with low intensity exercise, but also that the risks involved in taking part in endurance sport post-COVID are not elevated to the point that I would be worried. It’s a topic full of nuances, so tune into that podcast and form your own opinion.

Given that I am aware of my own bias towards “wanting to be back early” (whether it’s work or sports), patience is thus the main take-away (and challenge) for myself. Since my overall training plan is to start with general fitness (which includes high-intensity stuff such as hill sprints), and then move towards more race-specific fitness (of which hiking is very specific; good news), I will simply need to accept that even the low-intensity specific training will be delayed by a couple of weeks, focusing on full recovery first.

Whether the roughly six weeks that remain are then sufficient to rebound from the setback and dent that the infection caused to my fitness; that’s written in the stars. Realistically, the infection must have carved a deeper dent into my fitness than pure rest for a couple of weeks would have done. On the flip-side, most of the training is already under my belt. Thus, in the six weeks, I will have to pay close attention to my body and see whether I have to re-evaluate my goals for the 2022 multi-day event. I have to take this step-by-step. Fortunately, my overall running goals are not focused or bound to that single event; I will give myself the slack to make the right call; tough as such a decision might be.

For those out there facing such choices, hang in there, continue doing what you love, but remember that patience and the long-term view might be your closest allies.


[1] Koop, Jason. 2016. Training Essentials for Ultrarunning: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance. VeloPress.

[2] Skiba, Philip. 2021. Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes. PhysFarm Training Systems.

[3] Kiely, John. 2018. “Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth.” Sports Medicine 48 (4): 753–64.

[4] Koop, Jason, and Ben Levine. 2021. How to Return to Running Safely Post COVID Infection with Dr. Ben Levine | Koopcast Episode 66. https://www.jasonkoop.com/podcast/how-to-return-to-running-safely-post-covid-infection-with-dr-ben-levine.