Masked Workouts: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Face Masks | Blog
16Jan 2024
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Masked Workouts: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Face Masks

If someone had ever told you that you would have to learn how to work out with a mask on your face one day, you would have scoffed. But, sadly, with the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks have become the rule everywhere we go the mall, parks, work, gyms, and many other places.

If you have ever tried training with a mask on your face, you have probably noticed something: it is not the most pleasant experience.

The glass is also half-full; we want to present several pros (and cons) of training with a face mask. We will also review face mask models that might lead to a more pleasant training experience.

2024, and still in the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been around for around two years already and still counting. As a result, researchers have learned much about the virus, its transmission, and more. In addition, we have seen some updates to the guidelines on protecting ourselves and staying healthy in these trying times.

Luckily in the meantime, your gym or yoga studio likely does not require masks anymore. However, as we are still not out of the woods, you might still want to bring a breathable but protective face mask. So let us have a look at what we can do.

What happens when you have a Mask on?

The most apparent effect of wearing a mask is that breathing becomes more challenging. The airflow to your lungs decreases, which means less oxygen enters your body. Less oxygen means that your body's ability to produce energy in the form of ATP molecules goes down. This leads to impaired training performance, and you will likely be exhausted sooner.

In essence, training with a mask resembles altitude training to a degree because the result in both scenarios is identical: your body has less oxygen available. With that said, let us look at the pros and cons of training with a face mask.

The Pros

1. It is safer.

The most obvious benefit of wearing a face mask is keeping yourself safe and minimizing the risk of catching germs. Ensure you use new or cleaned face masks for every workout.

2. Your body will adapt.

While training with a mask might seem almost impossible at first, you will get used to it after a while. The human body is incredible and capable of adapting to many outside stressors.

3. You will not spread germs around.

Even if you are not worried about germs and viruses, wearing a mask is selfless because it reduces the risk of spreading germs that might get others sick. Think about it for a moment: How heavy and hard do you breathe while working out? The heavier you breathe, the higher the risk of spreading germs around you. 

The Cons

1. Your performance will suffer to a degree.

The first drawback you will likely experience is that you will not be able to train as hard and go as long as you usually would. One plausible explanation is the decreased airflow to your lungs.

2. You probably will not be able to do your regular workouts.

If you are used to a given type of training, you might have to reduce your intensity and volume for a while. For example, if you typically do around 20 working sets per workout, you might have to drop that to 12 or 15 and work your way back up to 20 over some weeks.

3. You might sweat more.

An unfortunate side effect of wearing a mask is that your facial area retains more heat. This can be good if you are out and about in the cold weather, but it will not be so great while training in an air-conditioned gym and working up a sweat.

Training Masks that make the Workout Experience much better

We may have to train again with face masks or want to protect ourselves when working out in a gym. The good news is that there are great options for breathable, fitness-adjacent face masks. Plus, many of these models allow you to stay "cool" and comfortable while training. So let us evaluate the options. 

Unsurprisingly, the top dogs like Adidas, Asics, and Under Armour have been leading the charge with coverings made for athletes and training enthusiasts. Still, they are not the only players on the field, as there are other good options. Here are seven great masks that can elevate your training experience and make it more pleasant:

Do not decide too quickly; buying various face masks never hurts, and determining the best model for your face and workout type. Plus, having a spare face mask with you after you complete your session is crucial.

Under Armour Sportsmask


According to Under Armour, their face mask is the perfect one for athletes. Its material prevents moisture build-up and has an anti-microbial treatment. In addition, this water-resistant mask has a bendable nose piece and puts enough space between it and your face for easier breathing during workouts. It has the airflow you need to feel "cool" and has the best fit for running or training. The face mask from Under Armour is very comfortable but might feel a bit heavier than others. 

  • Designed for: Running, exercise
  • Type: Non-medical
  • Water-repellent: Yes
  • Washable: Yes, hand wash recommended
  • Sizes: Available in five sizes
  • Amazon Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars (34k reviews)

Tip: You might also want to explore the face mask from "Project Rock," which is coming in a unique design.

Asics Runner Face Cover


This well-reviewed face mask by Asics had the runner in mind. It is made of quick-dry fabric, does not get too close to your face, and makes it very easy to breathe. What you will notice quickly, unlike most face masks, which use ear loops to secure the face mask, the Asics version has an adjustable cord that goes around the back of the head. However, this might be something to get used to and could feel uncomfortable initially. Overall, the face cover is a good quality mask for physical activity. 

  • Designed for: Running
  • Type: Non-medical
  • Water-repellent: Yes
  • Washable: Yes, hand wash recommended
  • Sizes: One size, adjustable fit
  • Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars (350 reviews)

Note: Asics also has a regular Face Mask which is not to be confused with the Runner Face Cover we reviewed above.

Adidas Face Mask


The face masks from Adidas are made with a soft, breathable fabric comprising 40% recycled content. Compared to the options from Asics and Under Armour, the Adidas Face Mask is a more traditional face cover and, therefore, cheaper. In addition, the Adidas face mask comes in packs of three. Like the others, this face mask is not medically graded but can still help prevent the spread of viruses and germs through droplet transmission.

  • Designed for: Running, exercise
  • Type: Non-medical
  • Water-repellent: Yes
  • Washable: Yes, recommended to wash hot.
  • Sizes: Two sizes
  • Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (10k reviews)

Rebook Face Cover


Rebook was not really quick to release their face mask, but they finally arrived. And their face cover looks like a sensible budget option for workouts. It offers a tight fit and keeps the mask in place when you focus on your workout. Also, the Rebook face mask comes in packs of three.

  • Designed for: Exercise
  • Type: Non-medical
  • Water-repellent: Yes
  • Washable: Yes, recommended to wash hot.
  • Sizes: Two sizes
  • Amazon Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars (166 reviews)

What to look for when buying a face mask?

In summary, a good face mask is one that:

  • It consists of two or more layers of breathable material;
  • It fits snugly against your face and does not leave gaps, especially on your cheeks;
  • It covers your entire nose, mouth, and chin.

Note: Some vented face masks, sometimes called elevation training masks, offer little protection against disease. These masks are designed for optimized breathing when working out.

However, these are not protected against COVID-19 as the vents allow virus particles to escape.

Stay Updated with COVID-19 Workout Guidelines

The latest CDC guidelines state that face masks are not mandatory during heavy workouts in well-ventilated areas or outdoors while maintaining social distance.

However, they recommend masks in crowded indoor settings. Stay informed by checking the CDC's official website.

Some Final Words

It has been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and we hope this year marks the end of it. But, there is still some way to go, and wearing a mask is vital for controlling the pandemic and keeping more people safe.

Maintaining our distance is still important because, while beneficial, face masks are not infallible, and transmissions can still occur, especially between people who breathe heavily during a workout. But keep some personal space when training in a public gym is anyway a good practice.

As always, you need to decide whether you want to train with a face mask or not. Some sources suggest that face masks do not offer much protection, and other researchers disagree and urge everyone to protect themselves and others by covering their face. However, we found an illustration that makes it easy to understand.


What qualifies as a good face mask?

If you want a face mask for your workout in the gym, you will want one that meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations.

The best face masks for working out do not cling to your nose or mouth and keep moisture to a minimum. The right mask will completely cover your nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of your face without gaps, and feature a nose wire for a custom fit around the bridge of the nose. Look for masks that have multiple layers of washable, breathable fabric.

Does wearing a face mask during a workout help against COVID-19?

A paper from a few months back had some excellent recommendations for face masks. Experts suggest that wearing a face mask during exercise is even more critical because of the increased breathing rates, which elevates the risk of virus transmissions.

However, keeping distance from others is still one of the best and most effective ways to limit the risk of COVID-19. Therefore, exercising outside would be an excellent way to keep your distance and stay safe.

What are N95 and FFP2 face masks?

Some face masks come with added protection, which theoretically should protect both the wearer and those around them. In the US, these are known as N95 respirator masks. However, N95 face masks are not officially certified in European countries where FFP2 face masks are used.

FFP2 and N95 are similar certifications for respiratory masks and have a filtration rate of 94%. In terms of protection efficiency, FFP2 and N95 masks are second only to FFP3 masks, considered the most protective of all PPEs today. Then there are surgical masks and, finally, fabric masks.

Are surgical masks good enough for working out?

Some research suggests that using surgical masks for training might offer decent protection without causing feelings of fatigue or panting.

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