Having come off a very heavy training block in the lead up to Christmas, I felt I was close to the strongest I had ever been. My ability to back up sessions was getting better, and my weights were getting heavier. For me, this is the most satisfying part of what I do. The week-by-week incremental improvements start to add up until you notice a change. So, to test positive with covid two days into the new year was a huge blow to my overall sense of wellbeing and fitness.
This was during a time when my socials were inundated with new year’s resolutions and fitness challenges. People were up at 5 am to “start their day right” while it took me until midday to even sit upright.
Day one was one of the worst. I woke up that morning with a few symptoms that I knew were Covid related. By mid-morning, I had aches all over my body and a throbbing in my head that made it difficult to move my eyes. Every time I moved or went to stand up it felt like my brain had turned to jelly and I was hit with waves of nausea.
While my boyfriend went out in search of the famously avoidant Rapid Antigen Tests (rats). I stayed home and convinced myself it was just the delayed onset of symptoms from my booster shot I had had 4 days prior. My boyfriend returned a few hours later clutching two of the gold-plated tests. We sat opposite each other at the kitchen table stifling giggles at the absurdity that Covid may have finally hit very close to home. The two red lines on my test were undeniable. The fact that his test reflected a single negative line only added to our confusion.
At this stage, I was dosed up on Panadol and was feeling okay. It wasn’t until we had gone out to get our PCR test and returned home that the ferocity of this virus hit me. I was having difficulty breathing and my head throbbed so badly I could barely keep my eyes open. Eventually, I decided to go downstairs to get more Panadol. I forced one down and then walked slowly back to the bottom of the stairs. I took one step and then another, clutching the banister and wondering helplessly how a body that could lift more than it weighed in the gym, could not walk up a flight of stairs. I made it to the third step before I had to sit down with my head against the wall, trying to breathe and not be sick.
The night improved for me once the Panadol kicked in, but this first day had frightened me. I hadn’t quite realised the gravity of this virus.
The remaining days changed drastically. While the aches began to subside, the cough took up residence in my chest. Violently reminding me every few minutes that I was still sick.
I had developed a new superpower to sleep on command and spent most days either unconscious or moving slowly through a haze of headaches and fogginess. The strangest thing about the whole experience was the apparent highs and drastic lows. One minute I was painting, reading, having animated conversations the next I was half asleep, my head, arms and legs weighed a ton. The process of hanging up washing felt like a Saturday lactic session, washing the dishes, something I could only recover from with an hour-long nap.
One of the scariest unknowns was having no idea how this illness would impact me long term or how much valuable training time I had missed. You are taught as an athlete that each day counts, consistency is key and it’s hard to feel like every missed session isn’t a step backwards. I hadn’t been to any festivals or large events, I hadn’t been notified as a 'close contact', I had had all three of my covid vaccinations and here I was with a positive result.
More than anything this reiterated to me how lucky I was. I was lucky enough to be in otherwise good health, lucky to be experiencing a watered-down version of Covid and lucky to have so many people taking care of me. I recognised that while we cannot control everything that happens to us, we can control how we respond to it. For me, I had to commit my time and energy to rest and recovery so that once I did come out the other side of this virus I would be capable and fortunate enough to regroup and return to training.