By Morgon Latimore
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. If you have questions about your medical needs or the vaccine’s potential impact on your health, please consult your medical provider.
Triathlons are back on the calendar for 2021! After a year of training and doing virtual races, I know you are probably as excited as I am to get back to some sort of normalcy when it comes to racing.
However, with races opening back up and as COVID vaccines become more widely available, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the vaccine as it relates to athletes and training regiments.
First, I want to say that we all have our own concerns and personal thoughts about the vaccines, their effectiveness, etc. I’m not here to talk about any of that—everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I certainly don’t want anyone to do anything they don’t want to with their own body. What I do want is to help you understand how to fit your vaccine into your training plan if you do intend to get vaccinated.
How will the vaccine affect my training?
Everyone will have their own experience with the vaccine. We’re all different and will have different side effects, so no one can tell you for sure what yours will be. However, there are likely to be some effects, and you’re going to have to account for that and allow time for your body to recover.
My recommendation to my athletes—and what I have done myself—is to train the day I receive the vaccination, but take the next day off for recovery time. From what I have seen, most people who experience side effects are going to do so the day after receiving the vaccination.
Planning to have that next day off gives you some time to let your body recover without throwing you off your schedule. You definitely want to make sure you aren’t overdoing it while your body is adjusting after the vaccine.
On the day of the shot, I still recommend my athletes train, but I do have them keep the volume and intensity low. You don’t want to overexert yourself and do intense endurance exercises because your body is already working to build antibodies.
Overall, you should take the week of your vaccination as a recovery week for your training. Work hard the week before and ramp up after, but don’t overdo it while your body is adjusting.
What are some of the common symptoms athletes are having?
Some of the more common symptoms athletes have told me they’ve experienced are fever, diarrhea, vomiting, body aches, low appetite, and sleepiness. If you’re concerned about what side effects you might experience, talk to your doctor.
Personally, I felt pretty sick the day after getting my second dose of the vaccine, but I know others who felt just fine. There are so many individual factors based on your own body chemistry as well as the particular vaccine you receive that it’s difficult to make any predictions on what symptoms you may or may not have afterwards.
However, you won’t know what your symptoms will be until they happen. That’s the point of taking the next day off to give your immune system time to do its work.
Do I have to get a vaccine to race?
One concern I’ve heard often is whether athletes will have to get a COVID vaccine to race. While I can’t speak for every race and every venue, I’ve done quite a bit of research. I haven’t come across any races yet that require a vaccine, though most have requirements to practice the social distancing guidelines issued by the CDC and the particular race venue.
I have seen, however, that quarantine may be required by some race organizers if you are traveling to a race from out of state or from a different country or region. Definitely do your research on any travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, or other regulations because those may affect you.
Some places are loosening COVID restrictions, and others are keeping restrictions in place or even tightening them. This is going to depend heavily on where you are, because some places are seeing case numbers fall and others are seeing spikes in new cases and COVID variants.
Should I see my doctor before getting a vaccine?
While I can give you some tips and insight on how to train pre- and post-vaccination, I’m not a medical professional and can’t answer medical questions. If you have questions that are specific to your personal needs, or if you have a preexisting condition or illness that you are concerned about, go see a trained medical provider who can inform you if it is time for you to receive the vaccine.
I personally know some athletes who haven’t gotten shots because their doctor has advised them to wait due to underlying conditions. You definitely don’t want to do something that is going to cause problems for you or your family.
Education is everything. The more you learn about the vaccine, what it does, how it works, and what the effects may be, the better equipped you are to make an informed decision that is right for you.
Morgon Latimore has been a personal trainer/endurance sports coach for more than 20 years, helping athletes meet their goals for triathlons, adventure races, Ultraman, ultramarathons, and even 5ks and 10ks. His commitment to creating a strong athlete-coach relationship and strengthening those he works with both physically and mentally has earned him the moniker “The Peoples Coach.”
Morgon has been certified as a personal trainer, nutritionist, spinning instructor, IRONMAN certified coach, USMS Level 3 Coach, and USMS Adult Learn to Swim Lead Instructor. He has also spent time training and developing U.S. Marines, Navy Sailors, Air Force Airmen, and Army Soldiers.
You can contact Morgon at firstname.lastname@example.org.