Matt Bottrill: Building back on the bike after having Covid-19

11 March 2022

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Giant Ambassador, Matt Bottrill, contracted Covid-19 just a few months ago after avoiding the virus for 2 years. The Leicestershire-based athlete Matt and his wife, Kate, tested positive after both of their daughters also tested positive.

Since recovering from Covid-19, the cycling pro has reflected on his experience and composed this blog post, as he hopes to help other athletes who have also been impacted by Covid-19.

Like many other athletes this winter, Matt built up some amazing fitness, and so he was, of course, frustrated when the virus got the better of him. However, knowing that there was nothing he could do about the situation at the time, Matt rested and created a plan to build back at a nice and steady pace.

The time-trial champion has huge goals for the year ahead, most of which will take place around the middle of the season, which gives him a decent amount of time to plan and train ready for all that is to come, with the knowledge that he will not be starting the season in the form he was initially hoping for.

While Matt was ill, he reflected and realised that he was burning the candle at both ends, “early mornings, training, full 10-12 hours of work most days, alongside neglected sleep, I really was burning the candle at both ends”, explained the Giant Ambassador. Moving forward, Matt will be conscious of all of this and will ensure that he has a healthy sleeping pattern in place.

“It’s never great getting sick, but having a good coach can really help when it comes to having an action plan - I always follow the advice from my Coach, Bob Tobin”, detailed Matt. “We went over an action plan to build back up over the next few months, which was really helpful as I need to have clear direction”, he added.

Below, Matt has noted down a short diary of his Covid-19 experience:

Day1: Tested positive. I experienced a lack of energy, a head cold and aching muscles.

Day 2,3&4: Still carrying a head cold. Sinuses flared up really bad, and I also encountered a toothache.

Day 5: Felt much better and tested negative when I did a lateral flow test. I still have a slight head cold, but my aches have gone.

Day 6: Tested negative again. I did some light stretching just to get the body moving.

Day 7: Feeling very tired still.

Day 8: Rested. My heart rate has started to come down. I have much more energy.

Day 9,10,11,12 &13: I began to train again. I started with 30 minutes of very light training. I literally just turned the pedals 80-100 watts. Then each day, I began to lift the duration by 10 mins. Comparing heart rate to power. I kept the heart rate below 130 for myself, and the watts gradually increased each day. I definitely noticed a slight shortness in breathing and could tell I did not have full lung function. It almost felt like I had 3/4 lung capacity.

Day 14: I was up to 1hr 30 mins and started to feel much stronger. My heart rate to power was much better, and I was recovering much better from each day's training.

From day 14 onwards - We started to progress training by doing some Level 3 blocks. What I’ve been seeing is once I start to climb, it’s a bit harder to recover, but I would expect that with the fitness loss. I’m building back each day and trying to do all the small things right with sleeping and recovery.

It was good after having had Covid and building back slowly to get away for a family break in Cornwall. Throughout this time, I was able to ride my bike and enjoy it. The first couple of days, I found it harder as these were 1.5 - 2 hour rides, so slightly longer, which isn't usually an issue, but I could feel it took more out of me. But, by the end of the week, though I felt so much better, it was like my body was adjusting to it again, and it felt really good.

It’s now been 5 weeks since I contracted Covid-19, and I finally feel like myself again on the bike, which is a great feeling to have, and I'm looking forward to my goals this season.

It’s very easy to underestimate how Covid-19 will make you feel. However, I didn’t personally have a bad case of if. My symptoms were mild compared to others, but it still took its toll on me, and I’m glad I took the time to rest, recover and build back slowly.

Having my coach's support and advice has been crucial through this time. So if you have a coach and have/ had Covid-19; and are looking to start training again, please do take their advice; build back slowly and don't do too much too soon, else you will be moving backwards and not forwards.

Be sure to follow @bottrillmathew on Instagram, as he shares great insight into his life as an athlete and coach. 

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