A few months ago, the idea of going out to run with your nose and mouth completely covered wouldn’t have even crossed our minds. It would have actually have seemed a bit ridiculous. But since the government made it law that a person must wear a face mask which covers the nose and mouth when in a public space to help slow the spread of COVID-19, strapping on a mask after lacing up has become a reality.
Like so many aspects of life within the pandemic, masked running takes some getting used to. You may notice that your pace is slightly slower than usual, or you feel fatigued faster.
Compared with normal breathing, wearing any kind of protective mask decreases the flow of air into your lungs. Less oxygen in your lungs means less oxygen in your bloodstream and your working muscles, which is what makes training more difficult.
Anyone, even those who have a relatively high level of fitness, should expect to fatigue faster when exercising with a face mask. The good news is that over a few weeks, your body will adapt by becoming more efficient at metabolizing oxygen.
Should you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy and have shortness of breath while exercising with a mask on, stop and take a rest until the symptoms have past. Taking deeper, slower breaths will also help.
Face masks vary in their levels of airflow restriction, depending on the type and thickness of material. When exercising try use a mask made of thinner material, or one which fits slightly looser over your face and will give less resistance when breathing.
So, if you’re feeling discouraged by a tough masked run, there is reassurance knowing that it’ll probably pay off down the line. With races cancelled and postponed, now isn’t the time to try and smash your PR. Try on maintaining a running routine that feels manageable, supports your mental health, and allows you to adhere to social distancing rules.