Effects of Covid vaccination on training

On a recent midway call with one of my SUFCoaching clients, the topic Covid vaccinations was discussed as well as it’s impacts on training. I took some time to go and research this in more detail, and wanted to share my results with you all.

First of all, it’s important to note that getting the Covid-19 vaccine is a good thing - and something that all people should get - as it appears that the effects of the vaccine are minimal when compared to those of getting Covid-19 itself. However, as with many medications, there can be varying side effects that affect different people in different ways. For those following a training plan, it is useful to be aware of what these side effects could be and how best to plan around them. So, how might you expect the vaccine to affect you and what changes should you make to your training in order to accommodate this?

Impacts of the vaccine:

In a study by Meyer et al., (2021), it was found that the type of vaccine had an impact on the possible side effects. The Vector-based ones (Astra-Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson) had more of an effect after the first dose, whereas mRNA-based (Pfizer and Moderna) had more of an effect after the second dose. Additionally, mRNA-based vaccines seemed to result in more localised pain at the sight of the injection, along with headaches and fatigue. Vector-based vaccines resulted in more fever and ‘chill’ symptoms, with some people also experiencing itching.

Based on self-reported effects of the vaccine in a sample size of around 150 people, a common side effect after the vaccine was a sore arm at the sight of the injection, followed by a sensation of being tired for several days to a week or, in the worst cases, flu-like symptoms followed by fatigue for more than a week. Out of those who had previously experienced contracting Covid-19, the reported effects of the vaccine were nowhere near as bad or unpleasant as those of Covid-19 itself.

In a study by Hull et al., (2021), the risk profile of the vaccine in athletes was determined as ‘very low’ but it also concluded that key training sessions should not be done within 2 days before or after the vaccination so as not to suppress the immune system. Pain killers were suggested if symptoms were severe, but not to be taken within 6 hours of the vaccination so as to maintain effectiveness of the vaccine.

How to adjust your training plan:

Reducing the volume and intensity of your riding for the weeks around your vaccinations would be recommended. Although symptoms in most people don’t appear to last for more than a few days, for some it can take longer. If this is the case for you, have a look at this link:

Even the Badass Have Bad Days: What to Do When You Can't Do – The Sufferfest.

Some time off the bike, or reducing the volume or intensity, will be better in the long run for your continued progression in training. Don’t worry, you’ll be back to smashing your goals and hurting your legs in no time. If you would like some extra guidance for your training, our team of SUFCoaches can help make sure your plan can be appropriately adjusted to reduce volume and intensity, both in the lead up to the vaccination and after you’ve received it, whilst making sure that the rest of your plan beyond the vaccination is set up to make sure you’re still on target to achieve your goals.

Additional Reading:

Meyer, T., Wolfarth, B., & Gärtner, B. (2021). Recommendations for Athletes to Vaccinate against SARS-CoV-2.

Hull, J. H., Schwellnus, M. P., Pyne, D. B., & Shah, A. (2021). COVID-19 vaccination in athletes: ready, set, go…. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine , 9 (5), 455-456."

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I was feeling weak for about 5 weeks after the 2nd Pfizer jab, a couple of weeks followed where strength started coming back. I can now do full volume but have to dial down quite a few sessions. My actual numbers are obviously lower than the tested ones, but if another FF is taken while ability is coming back, then the new test will be out of date in a week or so

Sorry to hear you weren’t feeling good after the jab, but glad to hear things are improving. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing and listening to your body. Hope you’re back to 100% soon

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Hi Andy what about training for people recovering from covid ? I recently contracted it (had 1st jab) after dodging the Rona for 18months and being a key worker it’s knocked me sideways .
Luckily I haven’t had the chest issues like so many others but I have developed fatigue bouts very similar to when I developed CFS(chronic fatigue)the only difference is seems to be a different kind of fatigue nothing at all in the legs no strength what so ever ,although I’m listening to my body amd doing small rides (15-20miles) I was wondering if there is anything you recommend in suff to help assist with my recovery any advice gratefully appreciated

Jon

Hey Jon,

Firstly I’m sorry to hear that, I hope you’re feeling back to your normal self soon. It’s a difficult one, of course I’m not a qualified medical professional so couldn’t say what would be best from that point of view. I think what you are doing with listening to your body and keeping intensity and volume low is the best course of action currently. It might be worth incorporating some yoga and strength training to improve those aspects of your physiology. That way, when you return to riding proper, your body will be in as fit a state as it can.

Although a different situation, I’ve used times when injured or unwell to target other aspects that I could focus on, such as strength and stretching. It’s frustrating when you can’t train the way you’d like to, but there are things you can do to stay fit and even improve your riding when you can do that again properly.

Hope that helps a bit and that you feel well again soon,

Andy