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Re-conditioning After Pneumonia?

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Hey, y'all -- I could use a few pointers, and can't think of a better place to ask :)

Last week, I was diagnosed with pneumonia in my left lung, as well as a nasty sinus/nasopharyngeal infection (thanks for both to a resistant strep infection I've apparently been nursing since January).  I'm now receiving aggressive treatment (levofloxacin via little orangish pills, albuterol via nebulizer, and some or another inhaled corticosteroid whose name I forget, in addition to my usual assortment of asthma meds) and I think (hope, at least) I'm beginning to improve a little.  At the moment, exercise is on a back burner by necessity.

Prior to this, I was training in Muay Thai about six hours a week, cycling, and generally in the midst of an extremely-demanding physical training regimen.  Obviously, that's going to be out of the question for a while -- I'm just trying to plan ahead (which is, btw, my greatest weakness: I'm going at doing; terrible at planning).

I plan to ask my doctor about this as well, but I figured I would see if my fellow CCers have any suggestions for easing back into the world of exercise.  I'm assuming it will take, at least, several weeks to get back to my prior training regimen.  I'm no good at the 'easing in' part.

Any suggestions as to an asthmatic recovering from a bout with pneumonia should begin?  If you've been through this sort of thing, and found your way back into aggressive exercise, how long did it take, and what steps did you take along the way?

Thanks :)

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I am sorry to hear that you have pneumonia! I have had it before, and it is truly crappy. One thing that surprised me was how long it took to get my strength and lung capacity back. It literally took months until I felt 100% (though you could have a completely different experience). The best piece of advice I could give you about getting back into your demanding regimen is start slow and start soon. Even if you are the type of person who has a hard time "easing in," it will be worth it. When your doctor gives you the ok, start incorporating easy exercises like walking, yoga/stretching, and some light strength training on a regular basis. It helped with my mood and energy level, and I suspect it helped me preserve at least a small level of physical fitness. Be careful of cold and dry air, though. I found it could trigger asthma attacks for me, especially while I was recovering.

Hallo!  Thanks for the input.  You have a good point about cold and dry air -- I have trouble with them as well..

I've had pneumonia a couple of times before (I have a history of not taking care of my lungs too well, though this time it was less a question of not taking care of myself than simply of having a resistant bug -- ick!), so I concur about it taking months before you're back to 100%.

I think the start slow/start soon advice is good.  When you started back, how often were you walking, or did you start at one or two days and then build up?  There's a class at a gym near my work called 'gentle yoga,' so I think I'm going to start doing that once I get the go-ahead, maybe once a week to start, then building up.  Likewise, they've got every kind of strength training equipment in the book -- do you recommend any specific exercises?

I guess it'll be different for everyone, but I definitely want to avoid pushing too hard :)

Thanks again!

Resistant bugs are the worst! I should clarify that when I was recovering from pneumonia I didn't have very concrete fitness goals. I had kept in reasonable shape (up to then) by playing recreational sports and generally being active, and just wanted to get back to my usual activities, so in terms of a specific post-pneumonia training regimen I won't be too helpful!

Walking is really the kind of exercise you can do every day - our bodies are built for it! When you are recovering from a nasty illness, I think the key is to start slow and listen to your body, and not get too crazy over the specifics. I started by just going outside for a gentle walk for 10 - 40 minutes when the weather was nice, depending on how I felt. So, if I felt exhausted or out of breath after 10 minutes I would go back inside and have some tea, or if I felt fine I would go for another loop, and so on. As time went on and I got better, I tended to feel like staying out longer and was able to up the pace as well. However, I don't think it was a conditioning thing so much as a "not having pneumonia anymore" thing.

In my opinion, the toughest part is psychological. It is hard to go from being fit and active to barely being able to walk a mile. It is easy to push yourself too hard to try to compensate. Just remember that recovery is the first priority, and once your respiratory system is fully functioning again it will be much easier to get back to kicking arse.

"In my opinion, the toughest part is psychological. It is hard to go from being fit and active to barely being able to walk a mile."

You're not kidding, there.  I definitely have a history of pushing myself too hard :D  This has come back to bite me in the behind more than once.

It sounds like the key is mindfulness -- paying close attention to breathing and energy level -- especially at the outset.  I hear you about the 'not so much conditioning as not having pneumonia anymore' angle -- I think that's going to have to be my goal for the near future: first, recover from the actual illness.  Remain in the present (as opposed to the indefinite future, which will always result in thinking, "But I wanna be kicking butt NAO!" in my case). 

LOL, OTOH, I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to kicking arse (literally, since that's pretty much what Muay Thai is all about :D) -- but I'm trying to tell myself that pushing to hard now will only result in setbacks down the line and possibly permanent damage.

In a way, I think I can be grateful for this experience -- I think it's probably a good time in my life to learn to listen to my body, and know when to back down a little bit.  Learning to rest, recover, and sense my limits (even though the eventual goal is to transcend them) is definitely a good idea.

Oh, and thanks again, btw!

I don't work out, but I have had pneumonia.  The thing that helped most was (and still is) daily breathing exercises.  Ask to be referred to a respiratory therapist and learn how to do this effectively.  It's increased my lung capacity to the point that I no longer require supplemental oxygen.

Claire -- thanks for the great suggestion!  You always give great, constructive advice, and I'm honored to be the recipient this time :)

I should theoretically be going to see a pulmonologist some time this week -- would they be the ones to ask about a respiratory therapist?  I've heard good things about specific breathing techniques, both for asthma and for recovering from pneumonia and stuff.  I wonder if my best friend's Mom, who has struggled with some respiratory illness over the past couple of years, might benefit as well.  I'll mention it to her next time I talk to her.

Thanks again!


I was in the hospital for nearly 2 weeks with pneumonia 2 summers ago.  It took me a solid year to feel 100%.  But, obviously, I was very very ill and not in as good as shape as you probably are.

Still, expect healing to take time.  Do not skip any steps.  If the doc says do breathing excercises for an hour a day - do it.  Even if they feel silly. 

As for advice to "take it easy", for me, I found this good advice also.  But to always challenge myself too.  Don't lay low - but do pay attention to fatigue and plan on doing 1/4 what you hope to do any day.



I've done this a few times...I have exercise induced asthma and also illness triggers it too.

Once you're fully recovered from the pneumonia or otherwise cleared by your doctor for exercise, I'd start the first week with very light exercise.  Just enough so that you can feel it, but not enough to overdo it.  For me that's no more than 1 hour of cardio about every other day, only 10-30 minutes if I start feeling drained from it.  Add in just a bit of strength training such as push ups situps and squats, but take your time doing them and stop whenever you feel tired maybe 5-10 at a time and work your way up.   The second week you should be able to get a bit more intense and probably add in some light martial arts again stopping whenever you feel tired.  I'd alternate one day martial arts and one day light cardio.  By the third week you should be ready to start training every day and for longer periods and by the fourth week you should be back almost to speed if you haven't overdone it and relapsed.

The key for me is to actually pay attention to my body and if I'm feeling too tired to back off.  Also make sure that you're eating enough and timing it well for your activities and get enough fluids and enough sleep.


MadamQ -- Yeah, I've been lucky this time.  I was in bed for only about five days total (probably should've been longer, LOL, but I was being stupid); I'm still being treated now, and I still technically have pneumonia, but I'm in decent enough shape that I can go to work (my job is profoundly sedentary, and probably less demanding than staying home, since there are no stairs involved, though I do wish I could lie down).

The last time I had it, I was on strict bed rest for two weeks, then allowed very, very minimul excursions for a while ... I think I've done better this time because of the conditioning I've been putting in in my Muay Thai class and on my bike.  Last time, I was way out of shape.  I guess that makes me feel a little better :)

I will definitely take it easy!  That's the hardest thing for me, so I'm looking at this as an opportunity to learn.  Right now, it's self-reinforcing, LOL.  I have to sit down if I walk a block.  

Also, the 'plan on doing 1/4 of what you hope to' is good to know -- I had been feeling discouraged this weekend, because there was stuff I wanted to do and couldn't, but I believe I accomplished around 1/4 of what I wanted to, so I'm glad to know that's par for the course :)

Smwhipple -- thanks for all the specific input!  It seems like asthma and pneumonia kind of go hand in hand, doesn't it?

It gives me a good baseline to start from -- 5 push-ups, work up from there, etc.  I think that will help me keep from overdoing it.

The eating enough part seems to be a challenge right now -- I've dropped 9 pounds in the past 2 weeks, mainly because I just don't feel like eating.  I think that will resolve as my health improves, though. 

Sleep, on the other hand, I'm all over :D  I haven't slept this much, or this well, in years.

Do you think it would be a good idea to talk to my trainer at the gym about a program for working back into Muay Thai training?

Our classes are intense enough that I'm pretty sure it'll be at least three or four weeks before I'm up to handling a full class even once a week (though I might be able to do the conditioning class in a couple of weeks, if I keep the intensity low on the bag work and rope-jumping), but maybe he could let me do a modified class without impacting my fellow students' class time.  Maybe I'll give him a call or, better yet, drop him an email.  I know I can email Trey, who runs the conditioning class, at any rate.

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