Effects of covid vaccination on training

On a recent call with one of my coaching clients, the topic of Covid vaccinations was discussed as well as its 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 making an informed decision about getting the Covid-19 vaccine is a good thing – and something that all people should consider – 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 site 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.

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 ATP Performance coaches can help make sure your training 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 training beyond the vaccination is set up to make sure you’re still on target to achieve your goals.

For Elite athletes:

A recent paper was published by Hull et al., (2021) on December 10th, looking at the effects of vaccinations on elite athletes in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics. The finding was that the effects on these athletes was minimal. This study was limited to just the Pfizer Biotech mRNA vaccine and, as has been highlighted previously, different effects are observed between vector and mRNA based vaccines. Additionally, it was done on elite athletes training for the Tokyo Olympics. Elite athletes often have a team analysing and monitoring their health and stats, they may be less likely to come into contact with people who have Covid-19 or other illnesses and, as a population, they are quite unique in comparison to the general population. Therefore non-elite individuals may have different experiences. The key finding from this though does support other literature: that having the vaccine results in potentially limited side effects which are usually much less severe and risky than contracting Covid-19 itself, as well as having a fairly minimal effect on training or long term fitness/performance.

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 Medicine9(5), 455-456.”

Hull, J. H., Wootten, M., & Ranson, C. (2021). Tolerability and impact of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in elite athletes. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

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