Hi all, I’ve been battling a virus (not Covid) for the last 10 days. While I had symptoms of fatigue, nasal congestion and productive cough at the start of the virus, these have all cleared. For the last 2-3 days all I’ve had is a dry cough in the morning and evening. I use an Apple Watch, and it shows that my resting heart rate and heart rate variability have been at normal to great levels for the last 3-4 days.
Anecdotally and from experience, these post viral coughs can last weeks, even though you have recovered from all other symptoms of the virus (most likely due to some lingering inflammation in the lungs).
My question is, should I begin working out again while I still have this cough? Or do I need to wait until it has completely gone. What are your experiences in this scenario?
The careful approach is to wait a few days without symptoms.
What I have done (not carefully, do it on your own risk, with out evidence… But, you asked for our experiences also) is when I feel alright I begin with an extremely easy workout, like 15 min easy and monitor my heart rate and RPE. If everything it’s fine the next day I go for a longer but still easy (like really easy) workout and if everything it’s fine then I try something like Pettit and see. If everything it’s still fine then I restart training. If at any point I find something odd (like unexpectedly high heart rate or RPE) I stop training and rest for a few more days and try again.
When the cough has lasted weeks have you been working out during those periods? The only time I’ve had symptoms linger for weeks was when I didn’t rest and it sunk into my chest. I learnt my lesson and have rested up now any time I get a respiratory illness, symptoms always clear up within a fortnight.
Thanks for replying. No I haven’t been working out during these periods - have chosen to rest to make sure that my recovery from symptoms is as quick as possible. The reason I’m considering starting to work out now is that I feel generally well and have energy, just a lingering cough.
I’ve been going through a similar situation. I developed a nasty non-covid cough and congestion that lasted about a week and has slowly dissipated since. I’m 17 days from onset now and I’m still occasionally hacking stuff up and generally feeling “something” in my chest, but it comes and goes.
I’ve ridden 3 times in the past 8 days. First ride was very short and easy (30 min). Felt good.
Second ride was on a good day. I felt good so I did a hour of semi-test to see how I felt. Kept it conservatively hard (~85% pre-sick ftp) for 30 minutes thinking I’d based the last 30 on how I felt. Well, I limped in the last 30 minutes. I ended up averaging about 75% of my pre-sick ftp and was pretty wrecked.
Most recent ride was an easy 90 minutes with a friend. Again, I was feeling good so I felt fairly confident I could do it without it being a risk. I was correct this time. Ended up going the full 90 at around 65-70% pre-sick ftp, and didn’t feel worse for wear afterward.
We did have to punch up a few very small hills that required some power, and I could tell the lungs weren’t ready to go full assault, but I was able to keep it under control so all was well.
Long story short, I feel your pain. This is the worst illness I’ve had for duration, and it doesn’t appear to be over. It’s going to be a slow return, but I’m not rushing back. My recommendation is to get out there when you feel good, and go slower than you think you should. It’s better to feel like you left a lot in the tank than to set yourself back.
Edit: For reference, pre illness I was around 300ftp, and the last 4 weeks had been around 600tss.
I’ve had this a lot over the past year or so - seems that a couple of years of Covid lockdown has reduced immunity and I pick up a lot of small colds. I’ve learned to take a long term view and just take a few days off the bike when I feel lousy, and then ease myself back in with some lighter workouts starting at 30 mins recovery ride or similar and working up, seeing how I feel. Better to sacrifice three or four days now than try to struggle through and prolong it for weeks. Most recent incidence was a chest infection I picked up immediately after the Etape so I was in a recovery week anyway but just skipped a few days until I felt like getting on the bike again. I’d say I feel back at about 80% now so am riding accordingly. Cough has eased considerably but you still feel a bit sluggish for a while whilst it leaves your system. Also, I’ll usually take some zinc and vit C and maca as that seems to help.
Thanks all for your replies.
Contrary to at @JoeX’s theory, it sounds like there is a chance that you can have a cough but not be “sick”. What I mean by that is the virus has left your body, but you have residual inflammation in your lungs that causes you to cough.
Thanks for sharing all of your experiences. Sounds like it’s an OK idea to ride easy during this stage - could probably be beneficial as you’ll be raising your immune system with light exercise.
As an update, I tried 30mins at Z1 today and my HR and power were pretty normal. Will see how I recover in the morning!
I have had twice in the past a long-lasting dry cough in the throat following a cold/flu bug. Both times lasting circa 12 weeks. One was years ago way before covid, the other was late 2019 so officially before covid was a known thing, but looking back potentially it may have been covid.
I always followed the above/below neck rule before and in the past never exercised with a cough of any sort. But the second time around of having a post-viral cough I didn’t fancy 12 weeks of inactivity and so cautiously returned to exercise. Honestly, it seemed fine other than I occasionally coughed during exercise but again it cleared up in 10-12 weeks.
I also asked my clubmates and others the same as you have and several people reported similar experiences and did not consider dry, tickly coughs above the throat really a massive problem.
So, probably not good advice in the strict medical sense and obviously proceed with caution but if it happens to me again I will take a practical view and won’t necessarily adopt a blanket policy of downing-tools for an indefinite period.