by Maria Allegro
Marie has been competing for almost 25 years as an IFBB Pro League Fitness, Figure and Physique competitor. She earned her IFBB Pro Card in 1996 at the Team Universe and is now currently a group fitness manager for Plus One at one of their Fortune 500 clients in NYC and has a successful business, Stage Ready by Marie (coaching fitness/figure/bikini competitors). She is well-known in the tri-state area in the bodybuilding world and can be found at many of the NPC/IFBB shows throughout the year.
Marie was on schedule and excited to compete at Jim Manion’s IFBB Pittsburgh Pro contest on May 1-2, 2020 while working with her coach, Dominick Mutascio of Best Built Fitness. At 52 years old, she knew that she may need extra time to prepare for this contest, so started her preparation 20-weeks out. She was looking the best she had in a long timeand could not wait to get back on stage.
However, life took an unexpected turn … for Marie, and then her beloved father.
In early March, there was much talk about COVID-19 making its way across the world from China to the USA. On Sunday March 15, Marie received a message from her manager that their client decided to close down the facility and the building for a while until the pandemic rides over. She was informed that she did not have a date to return to work.
Monday, March 16• Marie finished up her workout at her local gym Governor Cuomo (NY Governor) states that all gyms and restaurants will be closed as of 8pm that evening. Instagram (IG) stated that the IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Show will bepostponed to a later date (which was eventually canceled until 2021). Marie looked to compete at the 2020 IFBB Baltimore Masters Pro (over 50 Figure Master’s division) Since the Baltimore contest was several months out, she decided to have a well-deserved cheat meal of pizza and wine. She went home and fell asleep for about an hour then awoke around 9:00pm and did not feel right at all as her throat felt hot and she was feverish so she told her husband, for safety and precaution, she was going to sleep it off on the couch.
Tuesday, March 17• Woke up around 9:00am feeling worse. Did not feel like the flu, but she knew something was wrong. The COVID-19 scare was running rampant she called City MD that morning to see if I can come in to be evaluated for the COVID-19 test (at the time it wasn’t given to everyone). After the evaluation, the doctor tested her for COVID-19 with that huge Q tip that went up her nostril almost touching herbrain… 4X. Twice for each nostril. Once for the flu virus and the other for COVID19. Marie stated, “I would never want to experience that again!” The flu virus was ruled out right away, but I had to wait about a week for her results for COVID-19. The doctor could not prescribe any medication because it was a virus. Was told to rest…drink lots of fluids, take Tylenol when needed (no Advil), eat plenty of fruits (vitamin C) and quarantine herself (including away from my husband). However, she could not send her husband away because he had nowhere else to go 😊• Eventually, her husband came down with a low-grade fever two days later for only two days and recovered.
Days 1-5 (March 18-22)• Illness was not too bado Fever fluctuated from normal to 100°Fo Abdominal and lower back acheso Worst of it was the dull ache from one ear running along the back of her head to the other earo She slept on the couch the whole entire time she was sick (14 Days). Tried reclining couch so her head could get comfortable, but no matter what she did she could not get comfortable. It became so unbearable that shecould not sleep through the night. She would finally fall asleep around 4:00am from exhaustion. She never lost her sense of smell or taste, but coffee and red wine (herfavorite beverages) tasted like metal. She did not lose her appetite, but had to remember to eat.
Days 6-9 (March 23-26)• Test results finally came in and she was positive with the COVID-19 virus• Just the very beginning of the pandemico When she received my results, NYC had 923 cases and 10 deaths. o By the time she recovered, it jumped to 38,087 cases and 914 deaths. o Marie stated, “Watching this data every day did not play a very positive image in my mind. This time frame was the worst for me, because of the dull headaches. I could not even hold my head up for 10 minutes without getting nauseous or tired. My temperature actually got worse as well and would fluctuate from normal -101.4°F. When I hit that high temperature I was beginning to get worried that I would need to be checked into a hospital. I was afraid that if I was checked into the hospital, there was a good chance that I would not come out alive. I was so worried that I made sure all my credit card bills were paid off for the month of April, so my husband would not have to worry. The strange thing is I did not mind having my fever go a little high because I would sweat so much I would feel so much better once I cooled off. I have to admit this time frame was my darkest time of my illness. I am usually a positive person, but I actually thought I might die because I truly felt like $hit. (No other word can describe it). I have to give props to all my friends who called and texted to check on me. I am usually very active on social media with daily exercise or motivational posts. A few of my close friends noticed I was not posting so they DM’ed , texted or called me to see what was up. That truly motivated me to get better. My brother and sister called me every day to make sure I was breathing okay. Funny thing, before this incident, my brother rarely called me. I would only hear from him once every few months. Until this day, we have been calling each other almost every day.”
Day 10-14 (March 27- March 31)• On her way back to feeling normal• Day 10o Craving for a burger (does not usually eat red meat) o Felt 25% better the following morning on Day 11• Day 11o Craving another burger and felt 75% better o Marie said “It was really like night and day. My headache and body aches were diminishing at this point. As I mentioned before my breathing was okay,but I did have a hard time catching my breath if my body was in a certain position. By day 14 my headache was completely gone and I was able to go outside to walk around the block.”o Marie needs to give props to Eda Greene and Layla Dionne who played a major role in Marie’s healing process. Eda Greene is a masters figure athlete andLayla Dionne, a professional singer by trait and a new bikini athlete. While Marie was sick, she felt so weak and depressed. Marie mentioned, “I wasn’t sure if I would recover because I felt really sick.” Eda motivated and inspired Marie with her 4:30am cardio sessions as it truly helped her to envision herself training again. Layla checked-in on her and DM’d several videos of herselfsinging a beautiful inspiring songs (Whitney Houston)which pushed Marie to get over the hump believing that she will get better. o All this time, Marie’s father was still locked down in a nursing home. Her siblings checked in with my Dad via Face Time from the beginning of the locked down. She did not Face Time him because she did not want to worry him.
Days 15- 21 (April 1-7)
• Able to walk about mile a few times this week
•Two body weight training sessions in the park.
• Day 17 Feeling almost like herself
▪ Back and legs at the school yard with my TRX and monkey bars
▪ 3 sets of pull ups, TRX rows, TRX lunges and side lunges
▪ Did not even dream about doing any cardio
• already had a hard time breathing from just simple body weight squats.
• Day 19 – Tragedy During this time frame, Marie’s father, under the care at his nursing home, suddenly became very ill for unknown reasons. In a matter of three days, her dad went from being completely coherent to nonresponsive. On April 5, her beloved father passed away. Once her sister told her that he did not look right and was unresponsive, Marieprepared herself for her Dad to move on to his next journey. The nursing home mentioned he passed away from natural causes, but when Marie contacted the funeral home, they mentioned that there had been COVID-19 fatalities at the same nursing home that her Dad was a resident. Although Marie’s family will never know the truth about her Dad’s passing, Marie feels fortunate that she was feeling much better and on her way to recovery, because if her Dad passed away while she was at my worst physically, she would not have taken his passing with logical thinking. It was still too much for her and her siblings to bear that her Dad was alone during his last days.
Day 22- 28 (April 8-14) – Quotes from Marie while almost recovered from COVID-19
•Marie mentioned. “This week I was feeling better and more like myself. However, my siblings were trying to plan my dad’s funeral services. With the COVID-19 virus almost at its peak in NYC, we could not send off my father with all the pomp and circumstances that he would have wanted and deserved. I could not even go to the viewing because I was just recovering from COVID. I was only able to go to his burial and had to fight this because of my COVID-19, but there was no question that I had to see my dad off. With all this happening, I still kept it to two days of body weight training but no cardio. I did add a few sets of plyos and I was okay. From this week on, I knew I was going to be okay. I added cardio and 2 more days of body weight training the following week. All this time I kept visualizing Eda doing her cardio, Layla’s angelic voice in my head,Mimi/Amy/Aaron/Tracie/my siblings/Linda checking in on me and Joe (the hubby) caring and nursing soul contributed to my recovery. It has been about 2.5 months since my recovery and many people are amazed at how I bounced back to my workouts. I truly do not know any other way except, if I can push/pull the weight….I will push/pull the weight. My husband and I were tested positive for antibodies and waiting for a hospital or blood center to contact us for donation of our plasma. If I was going to be knocked on my ass for two weeks, it better be for a good reason like to save a life. Still waiting to hear from someone. The only other situation I am experiencing is some hair loss that I have NEVER experienced. I am an Asian with extremely thick and long hair all my life. So to see clumps of hair falling out of my head is extremely humbling. I know many would see this as vain. How could I be so wrapped up about my hair when there is a major issue with current events happening? Please understand, I am 52 years old and my hair is a big part of me. I know no other way when it comes to my hair. I reached out to a survivor’s group on Facebook and 30 confirmed that they are experiencing the same hair loss situation. Their doctors said that our bodies went through some major stress so it would make sense that we would lose some hair but that COVID19 is too new for doctors to understand all of its side effects. So what we do know is loss of sense of smell or taste, breathing issues and blood clots are the few symptoms they are looking at. I encourage anyone who has had COVID19, if you are experiencing anything that is not the normal for you, you must let the doctors know so they have to make notes because you may not be the only one. My doctor ruled out my thyroid from my blood test. Next doctor I visit will be a dermatologist to see if it is stress that maybe causing this. Overall, I think I came out of this illness fairly okay. It wasn’t easy but I wasn’t hooked up to a ventilator either. I would NEVER wish this episode on anyone. It is the worst feeling I have ever felt. If you do go out, cover your face with a shield or mask, wash/sanitize your hands as soon as you can and social distance yourselves.
I know we all want to get back to our normal lives but we are in testing times. Depression did not settle in like some people I have heard. I did go through a dark period but was able to pull out of it with help of my friends and family.
Please seek help if you need assistance. You are not alone. Please feel free to reach to me on Facebook or Instagram if you have questions about my experience with COVID-19 or my coaching business. I look forward to when we have discovered a vaccine to prevent this illness to happen again. I miss seeing my friends/family from home and the bodybuilding world. I look forward to seeing my StageReadyByMarie posing and tanning clients again once the competitions start up again in my area. We must never take our lives for granted again. Just like that, our lives were put on hold for 3 months so far. This whole COVID-19 truly makes you think…. and appreciate life and my loved ones.
Thank you Shawn Ray and Digital Muscle for this opportunity for me to share my experience and recovery of this COVID-19 virus. Thank you Rob Wilkins for thinking of me to connect with Shawn. If I was able to shed some light or inspire anyone to keep moving forward, then it was worth it.”
“Be safe…Be smart…Love your family….”
IFBB Fitness/Figure Pro
Facebook –Marie Allegro
Editor and Chief.
12x Olympia Top 5 Finalist, Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame Inductee, International Master of Ceremonies, NPC Contest Promoter, Motivational Speaker, Social Media Influencer, Fitness Journalist