Exercising with a mask

Aug 2, 2020

runner in a mask

The reality is that exercising in a mask is never going to be as comfortable as exercising without one. However, given the global pandemic and the rapidly rising number of infections that we are seeing in the country, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow South Africans to be responsible and wear a mask.

In a recent video with Professor Ross Tucker, created by Virgin Active, he offers some considerations to help you make exercising more comfortable with a mask.

Choice of mask

There are a range of different masks on the market that offer differing levels of protection, from the N95 medical mask all the way down to a buff. You will need to experiment with which mask is most comfortable, consider the environment that you’re in, as well as your proximity to others.

The fit of the mask

Most runners seem to opt for a buff as their mask of choice when running. However, there are various masks on the market that are designed specifically for sport which allow for easier breathing. Look for a mask that has a wire frame around the nose as this allows you to shape the mark to your face and create a pocket for more air. You should also look for a mask that is made from a stiffer material or one that is more elastic as this will help to stop you sucking the material against your mouth when you breathe in. A standard cloth mask is not a good option for exercising.

Perception of effort

The reality is that when running with a mask, your perceived effort level on a run will feel slightly harder than it would without the mask. So you have 2 choices to counteract this:

  1. Change your expectation – You can choose to accept that your perception of this run will feel slightly more intense.
  2. Change your intensity – Reduce the intensity of your run until you are at the point where the perceived exercise intensity feels the same as it would without a mask.

Have a 2nd mask handy

As you exercise, the heat and humidity that you feel within the mask is going to increase. So you could consider taking a 2nd mask on a run with one and swap to the new mask halfway. This will offer you instant relief.

It’s interesting to note that Professor Tucker also assures that exercising with a mask is not dangerous in terms of either hypercapnia (inhaling too much carbon dioxide) or hypoxia (low oxygen levels). The reason for this is that a mask will not be airtight on your face and will allow carbon dioxide to escape and air to enter.

Watch the full video below.

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