Okay, so most of us live somewhere where a mask is required in any indoor public place. Assuming your state hasn’t closed all gyms (hello, California!), many see this as a huge bummer while working out at the gym.
In fact, gyms have been the most difficult offenders regarding enforcement of indoor mask policies. People just don’t want to wear them while doing intense exercise (though many local governments have permitted mask removal when performing cardio exercise on a machine).
Instead of seeing the required use of a mask as a burden or shackles holding you prisoner to The Man… recognize the two key training benefits wearing a mask is providing you.
- Constricted breathing trains your breathing
The biggest complaint about masks in gyms is that you need to breathe harder to exercise, and the mask interferes with breathing. I’m not going to pull punches: Yes, masks by design constrict your breathing. The intent is to keep any germs you have out of the public airspace, but the flip side is that it makes taking air in more difficult. Your lungs themselves don’t have muscles, so the associated core muscles that keep them going have to do more work.
However, because your associated lung muscles are working harder per breath, this is actually a workout for those muscles. You are effectively making your breathing stronger, and once you can train and compete without a mask you will improve your overall oxygen intake.
Many people don’t breathe, take in oxygen during exercise, as effectively as they could. Wearing a mask will force your body to adapt your breathing patterns and muscle usage to maximize oxygen intake.
Even though it wasn’t the intent of the law, this policy is actually helping you get stronger and better.
- The mask is to some degree an air filter
So while the mask obviously won’t stop most viruses from getting into your windpipe, they do however filter out dust, allergen and dirt particles you otherwise would have breathed in.
Recall that people in heavily polluted Chinese and Indonesian cities walk around in public wearing these masks. The masks do filter out most if not all of the pollutants in your immediate airspace.
Most don’t realize that indoor air is generally far more polluted and dirty than outdoor air. The air is enclosed and very few people and businesses employ ground-level air filtration systems. Most don’t clean or replace their HVAC air filters more than once every few years, if ever. The air you breathe indoors is often rather unhealthy.
In fact, if you don’t own one already, I recommend you buy a cheap electric air filter for your home, at least for your bedroom if not other rooms you frequently use. Also, if you can keep them alive, get some house plants: They also help a bit with air quality. But I digress….
Your mask is actually cleaning the gym air you’re breathing in. By being forced to wear one, you have improved the quality of the air you breathe during gym workouts (and of course you breathe more heavily during these workouts, needing more oxygen) by a lot. Again, this was not an intent of the mask policy, but it is a useful and healthy side effect.
So instead of getting mad about having to wear a mask, recognize the unintended ways that it’s actually helping you train healthier and get better.