Sunday, July 15, 2018

Getting There: Recovery from post-viral syndrome

I haven't provided an update on my running (or lack thereof) in a few weeks, so here it is.

I came down with a virus on May 31st, so it's now been 6.5 weeks since the onset of this whole thing. A few days after getting sick, I realized that it could take me a long time to recover, because I had a similar illness in 2012 and 2016. Both occurred in the summertime. Both were the likely result of too much physical exertion in the heat. Being the planner that I am, I made a comeback strategy, which I outlined in a previous blog. Below is the same plan, with actual dates:
  • Return to about 90% of my healthy energy level: June 25
  • Ease my way back into work by going in for half-days: June 28
  • If I tolerate the half-days and feel 100%, start working full days: July 2nd
  • If I tolerate full days and feel 100%, wait a few days and then start taking walks around the neighborhood: I started walking sooner, on June 21st, because my doctor advised to. 
  • If I tolerate the walks around the neighborhood, wait a few days and then run: July 4th
All of this worked out fine, but I think I made a mistake by increasing my running volume by too much too soon. For my first run back, I ran 11 minutes non stop. Two days later, I ran 25 minutes nonstop. And the next day, I ran 27 minutes, plus a 2-mile walk. Apparently this was too much too soon, because by Sunday July 8th, I felt tired most of the day and didn't do any running or walking.

This frustrated me greatly because I had thought the illness was completely behind me. But then I chose to look on the positive side, remembering that my doctor quoted a 6-8 week recovery time, and I wasn't quite yet at 6 weeks. I also remembered that recovery is not linear, and just because I felt bad last Sunday, didn't mean I wasn't progressing overall.

On Monday, I did a short walk (1.5 miles) with two 3-minute jogs thrown in, and decided that run/walking would be a better way to get back into it instead of trying to run for 15-20 minutes at a time. I still didn't feel all that great, but I remembered how walking in the earlier stages of my illness made me feel better. I went to work, but came home feeling so exhausted that I got into bed at 7:00, immediately following dinner.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling totally wiped out, even though I had slept for 9 straight hours. I did not run or walk. I debated going to work. It was a difficult morning for me emotionally because it was a reminder that I was not done with this illness yet. But, after taking a shower and getting dressed for work, I felt better. And by noon, I was feeling almost back to normal. What a relief!

Saturday, July 14th: Run/Walk
Because of this setback, I decided that I needed to stop running and return to walking only. I did that and felt energized for the next few days, so on Friday, I did 4 x (4 minutes walk, 4 minutes jog). I took the jogs very easy, all at a 10:00 pace or slower. By contrast, when I had tried to run initially the week prior, I was running in the low 9's, and not taking walk breaks. This 32-minute "workout" left me feeling good, so I repeated it yesterday, and again today. There's no need to increase the distance/time every day. It's better to find something that works, stick with it for a short while, and then make a very small increase. It's all about finding the right balance between giving the body enough stimulation to continue to recover, but not so much that it causes a strain.

If I continue to feel good, I plan to run-walk for another week, with slight increases in the run time. I'm registered for a 5K one week from now, and it would be nice to jog the whole thing without taking walk breaks, but I am not going to do that if it's too hot or I don't feel ready. At the very least, I would like to run/walk it with Greg. Hopefully one week from now I will be blogging about how well the 5K went and how great it felt, regardless of the run/walk proportions!

Even though I've felt like my normal, healthy self for the past five days, I don't think I'm out of the danger zone. There's a small part of me that worries I will never be out of the danger zone and that running for an extended period of time will always cause extreme fatigue. My running career could be over. I don't believe this will happen, and I don't worry about it happening, but I realize it's a possibility, called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The difference between Chronic Fatigue and Post-viral Fatigue, is that Post-viral fatigue goes away.

In any event, I'm still very grateful that I'm healthy enough to go to the work and do the "everyday" things that I couldn't do during the first four weeks of illness. I have my life back now, all except for the running piece of it. 

Weekly mileage: Week of July 9th


  1. Hang in there Zebra...patience is a virtue you will have to find to get your way back to the running like you want to do it! Elated to hear you going with the run-walk approach. It will help you get back to your running like you want to do it. Try to cue-in on whatever really slow pace you can sustain for 4-8 min or so...then a brief walk break and back to slow running, then when you get to about 20-min total duration...maybe will feel easier to go longer intervals of running at the easy pace...say to 10-12 min, before a walk break. Do 1/2 mile walk as cool down. You know the ropes in training...just have to start with low intensity and fairly short running duration intervals, then very gradually progress in faster pace and longer run intervals. Do it all by "feel" if need be and don't try to run to fast or at higher intensity until you get a really good based of very low aerobic run-walk and to point you can do very low-aerobic run intensity continuously. May have to resort to HR monitor to make sure you running in the low aerobic zone(s).

  2. I'm glad you are feeling better and easing back into it! All in all, it really seems like you've been smart and are doing a good job of listening to your body and what it needs. I remember when you had this in 2016 and it definitely seemed to linger a lot longer. Sending you lots of healing vibes and well wishes :)

  3. Ahh I hope you feel better soon. It sounds like you're returning to running in a very controlled and manageable way. Fingers crossed you continue to get better!

  4. I think you're harboring a virus that has a reservoir somewhere in your body. When your immune system is weak, it can't keep it contained, and you become sick again. I wish you could find out what it was! And treat it!

  5. I'm sorry to hear that you're going through a rough patch. Your comeback after 2016 was so amazing - just remember that fortunate rewards those who proceed cautiously (as hard as that can be). Hang in there!