Summer is officially here, and in many places, so is the summertime heat. We can be honest: wearing a mask in public spaces was already a mild annoyance, and the summer heat only makes it more burdensome—but we can’t stop now. The Center for Disease Control still recommends wearing a mask to avoid spreading COVID-19 through the air, and during exercise we release even more respiratory droplets than we normally would. This means that we should be wearing a mask in the parks, paths, sidewalks, and especially if we’re back at a shared indoor gym.
Here are some tips to make wearing a face mask during your workout as painless as possible:
Choose the right mask.
Surgical masks are not the best for exercise. Although their lightweight quality might seem appealing, these paper masks will get easily soaked with sweat and become less effective. Thin cotton cloth masks pose similar problems. A mask made from breathable synthetic materials is your best bet, but make sure it’s not too thick or bulky. Athletic companies like Athleta and Under Armour have already released masks designed to be worn while exercising, but you have to decide what works best for you.
Slow down your workout.
Exercising with a mask is simply more strenuous than exercising without one. No matter what kind of mask you wear, you are restricting air flow to some degree, which is going to make your workout more challenging. While we exercise, the body converts glucose into energy in order to keep us going, and it needs oxygen to do this. It is a good idea to go slower than you normally would, and pay attention to the signs your body sends you. If you feel dizzy or unusually fatigued, stop.
There’s no shame in slowing down, and you’re actually working just as hard. Fun fact: elite athletes have been using training masks for years to condition their bodies to perform more efficiently. Your body will eventually adapt and get even better at processing oxygen—but this takes time and patience.
Bring a spare.
If you’re going for a long run, or planning to exercise for more than 30 minutes, it’s not a bad idea to bring an extra mask with you. This is especially important if you are trying to get away with wearing a thin surgical or cloth mask, but almost any fabric can get sweaty in the heat. Once a mask is drenched in sweat, it’s not only gross, it’s ineffective too. Plus, who doesn’t love that fresh mask feeling? Just be sure to avoid touching the front of the used mask when you swap it out.
Wear the mask.
Wearing a mask is a total pain, but it is important to keep yourself and others safe. Keeping a mask on in public is a simple way to show you care about everyone around you. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but hey—it’s actually making you stronger.