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At this point, most people have gotten used to wearing a mask in public as a way to protect themselves and others. However, running is different than walking to the store or waiting in line, and some people find it harder to perform with a mask covering their faces. Learn the advantages and disadvantages of wearing a mask while doing this exercise, together with some recommendations.
Let's start by noting that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines indicate that wearing a mask that covers your nose, mouth, and chin is highly recommended in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It's imperative to wear one when you're in an environment where it's hard to stay 6 feet apart from others, especially if they're many people from different households. This applies to when you're running and you're still exposed to other people's respiratory droplets in the air.
You may have noticed how running makes you breathe heavier than walking. This causes you to spread your respiratory droplets to the air if you're not wearing a mask, which can cause big problems if you're unknowingly carrying the virus. The same goes for droplets from other runners, from which you can protect yourself with a mask. This means that wearing a mask while running is important when you're running in a group, in crowded areas, and in closed environments.
Another studied situation when wearing a mask is key is when you're running in the slipstream of another runner. If you can, avoid this altogether, as you're much more exposed to the droplets exhaled from the person in front of you, even if they're more than 6 feet away. Try to stay at least 1.5 meters away in staggered or increase your protection with a mask.
On the other hand, if you're able to maintain a healthy distance from others and there's a good airflow in the environment, the risks of transmission are much lower and the need for a mask isn't as imperative. However, wearing one will only increase your protection and shield you from dangerous droplets in the air.
Experts have also debunked the belief that cloth masks get in the way of proper breathing. As these accessories need to be breathable, they shouldn't be able to limit oxygen intake, as long as they're good-quality masks. Another misconception is that wearing masks can lead to a carbon dioxide buildup.
If you find it harder to breathe while running with a mask on, that's perfectly normal. It's a similar feeling to when you're exercising at a high altitude or running on an incline. As a result, you may become more exhausted in less time. On the bright side, it's been proven that the majority of healthy people can adapt their bodies to such situations, which means you'll stop feeling the difference after a while!
Aerobic activity demands more work from your body than other exercise types, which can be accentuated with a mask. This element can increase your heart rate and make you feel you've worked out much more than you actually did. If you experienced labored breathing, breath shortness, persisting breathing difficulty, and other unexpected symptoms, take off your mask and rest for a bit. If you can, choose a less crowded area to work out so you'll be able to take off your mask without risking a high exposure.
Additionally, wearing a mask while running means that you'll have to take care of it and eventually change it for another one during your workout. If you realize it's wet due to your saliva or sweat, replace it and sanitize your hands afterward. This will help you breathe better, as a wet mask can become a stronger barrier and make breathing harder.
If you want a mask fit for running, there are certain elements you should look for. First of all, it should have adjustable ear straps that you can regulate while running. Secondly, look for a material that's lightweight, not too thick, and potentially moisture-wicking. Last but not least, check that it's the right size: it should cover your chin and nose while fitting snug around your face.