If you’re used to blasting away on the treadmill at a 5.0 speed and at least that much of an incline, you might need to rethink your workout when you return to the gym.
Veteran Respiratory Therapist Johnna Steller of OSF HealthCare says people who plan to exercise at an indoor facility need to realize they should be masked to protect others. That said, she warns even those who are extremely fit need to realize they will have to alter their intensity.
“When your muscles burn they create lactic acid and the lactic acid turns into CO2, so that CO2 is going to increase more if you’re doing a higher level of intensity of exercise,” Stellar said.
Taking in more CO2 can have some bad side effects.
“You could get light-headed,” Stellar said. “You could get dizzy. You could even become confused, if it’s for a long period of time.”
Steller equates it to the challenges posed by doing activities in higher altitudes. She warns gyms and fitness centers need to educate clients not to overreact when they’re having difficulty breathing.
“They could just want to pull the mask down and not recognize the fact they shouldn’t be doing that,” she said. “Instead, they should be slowing down, stopping, catching their breath, and then going on.”
The best advice from Steller — begin at a lower level than what you’re used to and then increase exertion. As you continue, keep an eye on your heart rate. Many gym regulars take pride in their fitness levels, so Steller says the staff will need to remind them it’s OK to work out at a lower level of intensity.
“They need to be reminded that this doesn’t mean they’re weaker. It doesn’t mean their fitness level is less. It just means that it’s different and as far as burning calories, usually when you are breathing heavier and your heart rate is going up — which will happen while with the mask — you’re probably going to burn more calories.”
Tips from the American Council on Exercise for working out in a mask
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.
The 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.
If you tend to sweat a lot when you work out (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).