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Exercising Effectively in a Mask

Jul. 29, 2020 / Julia Price
Exercising Effectively in a Mask

How to Exercise Effectively in a Mask


Over the last several weeks, many state and local government officials have issued mask mandates for indoor public spaces. By now, you may be used to wearing a mask to the grocery store, however, you may have some concerns about wearing a mask at the gym. So, we put together some FAQs regarding wearing masks during a workout to help you navigate and adjust to the newest addition to your gym bag.


Is it safe to exercise with a face mask on?


For most people, yes, it’s safe to exercise while wearing a face mask. It’s important to listen to your body as you exercise. If you experience lightheadedness, dizziness, or shortness of breath (beyond what you’re used to), slow down or pause your workout and take a break. If you need to remove your mask temporarily, please try to do so in a place where you are socially distanced from other members, catch your breath, and put it back on.

That said, if you have underlying heart or breathing conditions, you should consult a doctor to be sure that it’s safe for you to exercise while wearing a mask.


What can I expect when exercising with a mask on? 


Regardless of your level of fitness, wearing a mask is something that can cause fatigue faster than if you weren’t wearing one at all. However, contrary to popular belief, you actually are inhaling the same amount of oxygen as you would without a mask, you just work a little harder than normal. You will also feel warmer faster, so be sure to hydrate well for lost fluids due to increased perceived rate of exertion & sweat rate. Different masks will allow for more or less airflow, so we recommend you try several and see which one works best for you and your workout. Over time, your body will adapt and could actually become more efficient at metabolizing oxygen.


Should I modify my workouts when I start exercising with a mask?


When you start wearing a mask during your workouts, you may need to reduce the intensity, especially if you’re doing cardio, or HIIT workouts. In addition to lowering intensity, you can also increase the number or duration of rest periods to give your body a bit more time to recover from strenuous exercise.


What’s the best way to breathe with a mask on?


Breathing into your diaphragm through your nose and out of your mouth is the ideal way to breathe when exercising with or without a mask on. Try to make your exhales last as long as your inhales, as that is how COis expelled. Nasal breathing increases the release of Nitrous Oxide, which helps your arteries expand for more blood flow and delivers more Oxygen to the working muscles. This will help offset increased breathing rates and lower volumes of Oxygen being inhaled. You can also keep an eye on your midsection. It should expand and contract as you breathe. If you notice that your shoulders and chest are rising as you inhale, you are probably not breathing deep enough into your diaphragm. This takes practice, so try at home before heading to the gym so you know what it should look and feel like. To practice, simply place your hands on your waist, just above your hips, and think about expanding the belly all the way around into your hands as you inhale. Then, as you exhale, your mid-section should pull away from your hands.


Other Tips for Exercising with a Mask


  • We all react differently to wearing masks, so there is no “perfect” mask for working out. Don’t be afraid to try lots of different styles until you find the one that is right for you.
  • Sweat happens, and when it does, the mask can absorb that sweat and make it heavier and more difficult to breathe. To avoid this ruining your daily burn, bring 2-3 masks at a time and swap them out at various points during your workout.
  • Don’t focus on the mask, focus on your goals. Our thoughts affect not only our minds, but our bodies, too. Rather than focusing on how difficult it may be to wear a mask while you exercise, keep your focus on the next rep, step, or crunch. This will keep your mind focused on the good things you’re doing for yourself and your body.

While we can all agree, this is a less than ideal situation, know that we are doing the right thing to keep our VASA community safe and the gyms open. Trust us when we tell you that the more you exercise with a face mask on, the easier it will become. Just think how much stronger you will be when the masks can finally come off!