This summer, I’ve been doing most of my resistance training in my home gym, and most of my cardio in the beautiful Montana outdoors, but last week, poor air quality from the western wildfires forced me inside and into my first treadmill run in a mask. I won’t say it was pleasant, but with a few adjustments, I got through it. As the weather turns, and depending on the rules of your gym, you soon may have to exercise with a face covering as well, or perhaps you’ve already been doing so. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently shared some helpful tips for exercising with a mask, and I thought I would pass them along.

But first, I mentioned making an adjustment for the mask during my run. Basically, I had to tone the intensity down to a level where I felt comfortable breathing in the mask. For cardiovascular training this is especially important, as breathing rates tend to be higher for cardio training versus resistance training. But whether you’re doing cardio or lifting, keeping the intensity of the exercise in the light to moderate range while wearing a face covering is likely a good idea. If you are lifting, give yourself a little extra rest and a chance to recover your breath fully between sets.

It is also important to note that if you have any underlying cardiopulmonary health conditions you should consult your physician about wearing a face covering while exercising, as you will not want to put any undue stress on your cardiovascular system that could be caused by wearing a mask during exercise.

If you have a clean bill of health, and your gym requires a face covering during exercise, please following these guidelines suggested by ACE:

  • Make sure your mask is big enough to cover your nose and face for proper protection.
  • The mask should feel comfortable and snug around your cheeks and nose. Try not to fidget with the mask while you are working out.
  • If the mask restricts your breathing prior to exercise, it will not be good to wear during exercise.
  • Wash your hands PRIOR to putting on your mask. Soap and water are fine or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Make sure you do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your mask. Wash your hands AFTER taking off your mask.
  • It is best to remove your mask by the ear loops because the front of the mask is where germs will collect.
  • A great advantage of a cloth mask is that it can be washed. Exercise enthusiasts who exercise regularly are encouraged to have a few masks so there is a clean, dry mask ready for each workout. Any laundry detergent will be fine for washing cloth face masks.
  • When you talk, keep your mask over your nose and mouth. Do not pull it down as this defeats the purpose of blocking respiratory droplets from being released in the air.
  • If you tend to sweat a lot when you workout (indoors or outdoors), perhaps bring a second mask with you and replace when it becomes damp. It is best to replace a damp mask (from workout sweat or outdoor humidity).
  • For people who wear glasses, sometimes they fog up if too much air is released near the nose of the face mask. Readjust the mask to be snug over the nose. Furthermore, it has been shown that washing glasses with soapy water, without rinsing, and letting them dry prior to wearing a face mask reduces fogging. Alas, folding a tissue and placing underneath your glasses may absorb any escaping moisture from your breath.

Wherever you are getting your exercise done, stay safe and keep moving!


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