How to Workout Safely and Effectively in a Mask

Mask wearing during exercise is a new experience. Give yourself some time to acclimate, and be sure to speak with our trained staff to learn a few tips to help you with the process.

If you are still struggling with wearing a mask while doing cardio or another high-intensity workout, we’re here to help. Please consider one of the options below to allow you to exercise effectively while wearing a mask:

  • Schedule a complimentary session with one of our Personal Trainers to develop a routine that is both effective and safe while exercising with a face mask or face covering.
  • Try one of our many Group Fitness classes. Our Group Fitness classes have gone through modifications to accommodate the challenges of wearing a mask while working out, and our Group Fitness instructors have the knowledge base to adjust the programming for a challenging workout – even while wearing a mask.
  • Try one of our Outdoor Group Fitness classes. These classes are outside the Center and set up to accommodate physical distancing of 6 feet or more, and masks are not required. Log-in to Empower M.E., our member service portal, to view and sign up for available classes.

To help you prepare for exercising while wearing a face mask or face covering, we’ve compiled a few tips to increase your comfort level. These simple tips are great for when you are exercising intensely and for daily mask-wearing.

1. Practice the Technique of Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragm, the dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs, plays a vital role in breathing (if you have taken a Pilates Reformer or mat class, you will probably be very familiar with this muscle.) When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward, creating more space in your chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand. When you exhale, the opposite happens—your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward in the chest cavity. Strong abdominal muscles aid the diaphragm in creating enough power to empty your lungs and increase oxygen exchange—the trading of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.

Diaphragmatic breathing (also called “belly breathing”) encourages full oxygen exchange and can slow your heartbeat. This technique is a useful tool to help you use your diaphragm correctly while breathing and has additional benefits such as strengthening the diaphragm, decreased oxygen demand, and less effort and energy to breathe.

Want to give it a try?

While sitting comfortably in a chair, with your knees bent, feet on the floor and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed:

  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage so you can feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, so you feel your stomach move out against your hand. The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. Again the hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.

In the beginning, you may notice an increased effort will be needed to use your diaphragm correctly. Don’t become discouraged, as the more you practice, the diaphragmatic breathing will become more comfortable and automatic, requiring less effort.

2. Choose the Right Mask

Choosing the right mask is essential in helping you get the most out of your time at the Center. Some face masks may prevent you from a beneficial workout, so here are some tips and suggestions to help you:

Consider one of the many athletic face masks or face shields available on the market. Although athletic face masks are relatively new technology, there is a lot of research and science behind their design and functionality.

Choose a mask that is snug around your face and made from a tightly woven, breathable fabric and comfortable, yet the material is solid enough to prevent droplets from exiting the mask.

Test out your mask before you bring it to the Center:

  • Open and close your mouth to see if it stays in place.
  • Breathe in deeply and exhale forcefully several times.
  • Move your head around in circles and up and down.
  • Do a mock-up of the exercise style you will be doing at the Center–jog in place, do a couple of squats, jumping jacks, or lateral skaters.
  • If any of these are difficult, adjust the mask or swap it out for another if needed.

Make sure your mask is clean and dry before you head to the Center.

Bring an extra, clean mask to change into if your mask becomes wet from sweat or heavy breathing. Damp masks can make it much more difficult to breathe.

3. Adjust Your Workout Routine

An important thing to remember is that masks may make exercise FEEL harder, especially during cardio exercise. This is not detrimental to your workout but worth being aware of going into a workout with a mask on and knowing your limitations. You can still get in a great workout, be it cardio, strength training, or Group Fitness classes, while wearing a mask. Here are some tips:

  • Begin at a lower level than what you’re used to and then increase exertion.
  • Shorten your workouts as you get used to exercising in a mask.
  • Adjust the intensity of your workout.
  • Increase periods of rest in between sets or intervals.
  • Try a different style of exercise.

Individuals with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions should make sure to monitor their heart rate while exercising with a mask.

If you’re still unsure of how to work out in a mask, we’re here to support you along the way. Our Personal Trainers are trained to help you get the most out of exercise in the safest manner. Stop by the Trainers Kiosk, call the Center at 201-843-4422 or click here complimentary appointment and let our certified trainers help you discover a workout routine that works for you.

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