If someone had ever told you that you would have to learn how to train 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, park, work, gyms worldwide, 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. But, since the glass is also half-full, we want to present several pros and cons of training with a face mask. We will also go over some face mask models that might lead to a more pleasant training experience.
But first, 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 become more likely to find yourself exhausted much 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 benefits and drawbacks of training with a mask.
The Pros and Cons of training with a Face Mask
1. It is safer.
The most obvious benefit of wearing a face mask is that you get to keep yourself safe and minimize 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. Here is an illustration we found that makes it easy to understand:
1. Your performance will suffer to a degree.
The first drawback you are likely to 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’re out and about in the cold weather, but it won’t be so great while training in an air-conditioned gym and working up a sweat.
Training Masks that make the Workout Experience much better
Yes, it sounds a bit weird when you think about it. But, we have to train with masks on for the foreseeable future, so we might as well make the most of it. Our other option is to train at home or in the hotel room. The good news is that there are options for breathable, fitness-adjacent face masks. Plus, many of these models allow you to stay cool and comfortable while training.
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:
- Reebok Face Cover
- Asics Runners Face Cover
- Buff Filter Mask
- Under Armour Sportsmask
- Adidas Face Mask
- Koral Athletic Face Masks
- Masksup Reusable Face Mask
It never hurts to buy various masks and determine the best model for your face and workout type. Plus, it’s crucial to have a spare face mask with you after you complete your session.
Some Updates as of 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has been around for around two years. Researchers have learned a lot about the virus, how it gets transmitted, and more. As a result, we have seen some updates to the guidelines on protecting ourselves and staying healthy in these trying times. While certain sources suggest that face masks do not offer much protection, researchers disagree and urge everyone to protect themselves and others by covering their face. A good face mask is one that:
- Consists of two or more layers of breathable material;
- Fits snugly against your face and does not leave gaps, especially on your cheeks;
- Covers your entire nose, mouth, and chin.
A bad mask is one that:
- Is not a real mask but a face shield;
- Has an exhalation valve that allows virus particles to escape;
- Consists of heavy fabrics that make it difficult to breathe.
A paper from a few months back also had some excellent recommendations for masks as it relates to Covid-19. Experts suggest:
- Wearing masks during exercise is even more critical because of the increased rates of breathing, which elevates the risk of virus transmissions;
- Some research suggests that using surgical masks for training might offer decent protection without causing feelings of fatigue or panting;
- Keeping distance from others is still one of the best and most effective ways to limit the risk of getting Covid-19;
- When possible, exercising outside would be an excellent way to keep your distance and stay safe;
- It’s best to avoid group classes for the time being, especially if the people that organize them don’t account for physical distancing between the members.
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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, masks are not infallible, and transmissions can still occur, especially between people who breathe heavily during a workout. There is also another interesting paper about the minimal physical distance for walking and running during COVID-19 times.