As total COVID cases in Australia near the three million mark, many Aussies who have contracted the virus are experiencing challenges returning to their pre-COVID health and fitness levels.

Some of Australia’s top fitness trainers and insiders from the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) have shared insights into their own Post-COVID workout struggles, as well various challenges that post-COVID gym-goers are commonly experiencing – plus some helpful tips for easing back into exercise and physical activity.

Common post-COVID workout challenges:

Holly Gniadek – AIF Scout, said:

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed affecting people after Covid is the brain-fog sticking around, making even writing an email impossible! This loss of focus can affect all areas of life, including safely following a training program.”

Vanessa Friscia – AIF Scout, added: 

“Getting back into training, I experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, increase in rest periods, loss of strength and endurance, and longer recovery time. My PT altered my training routine with more weight and lower reps as I was absolutely gassed doing anything over eight reps. It has been just under one month since having COVID, and only now am I starting to feel better and can attempt higher rep ranges.I have avoided all HIIT classes and any type of endurance training.”

Mia Haynes – AIF Scout, said:

“I definitely had low energy post-COVID. Trying to get back into the same routine of 5.30am wake ups and 1.5 hour training sessions didn’t quite go as seamlessly as I’d planned. By 2pm-3pm, I would be completely zapped of energy! Speaking to other fitness professionals, it was amazing to hear from directors, facility managers and PTs that they also needed afternoon naps to make it through the day! Generally, everyone has felt pretty zapped of energy, quite unmotivated and lethargic.

“Breathlessness was another killer. This is still slightly prevalent and I am six weeks since leaving isolation. Walking up a flight of stairs would leave me puffed, and I consider myself to be a fairly fit person. As such, it was important to listen to my body, and slow things down, which was frustrating. The healing process definitely lasted longer and was harder than expected.

“For people trying to get back into workouts out post-COVID, I’d suggest starting slow. Avoid HIIT or anything that will accelerate the heart rate for the first week or two post-isolation. Walking is a great start, and some low impact training styles like yoga, Pilates or very lightweight/bodyweight strength sessions. It’s important to try to get back into a fitness routine at your own pace; set some small achievable goals and move the body. This will aid in the healing process.”

Molly Fabri – AIF Communications & Partnerships Coordinator, said:

“Exercise is a really integral part of my life; I train at the gym six days a week, run a few times a week and play tennis with friends on the weekends. I never really find myself getting sick so when I got COVID I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Throughout my week of isolation I did home workouts as much as I could but there were days when I just felt so lacking in energy that I couldn’t help but spend all day on the couch. 

Obviously, as soon as I was cleared to go back to the gym, I did – but for at least the next week I found that my energy was quite low and my muscles felt much more sore than usual. I pushed through regardless and, after a while, my energy came back and, with that, came back my motivation. I don’t have any ongoing difficulties due to COVID and I feel like my workouts are now back to normal.”

Tips for getting back into exercise

Head of Compliance and Training, Kate Kraschnefski, has provided the following advice for returning to exercise following a COVID infection:

  • “Start off slow with some gentle cardio, mobility and stretching.”
  • “Tune into your body and particularly take note of how the respiratory system is while doing your light cardio, like walking or cycling. Only increase intensity when it feels welcome.”
  • “Avoid any high intensity exercise (like HIIT) or resistance training for the first few weeks after symptoms have subsided as it’s likely your body will still be healing.” 
  • “Don’t be too disheartened if you have lost fitness when you first get back into the swing of things.”
  • “Prioritise healing and use training to support that process.”
  • “Drink lots of water and nourish your body with healthy, whole foods to put yourself in the best position to recover as quickly as possible.”