Can I Exercise in a Mask? Here’s What a Barre Instructor Says

exercise w mask cat

As fitness studios and gyms around the country start to reopen, you might be curious about working out in a mask. Specifically, you might be wondering, How the hell can I work out—an already arduous task—with my mouth and nose completely covered? That’s why we checked in with Andrea Fornarola, founder and head trainer of the Hamptons-based barre and dance fusion studio, Elements Fitness Studio, for her tips on working out in a mask.

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1. Buy the Right Kind of Mask

According to Fornarola, the right kind of mask is one that’s loose-fitting and breathable. She tells us, “You definitely do not want anything that stifles your airflow.” For exercise, we’re fans of Under Armour’s Sportsmask, a reusable, water-resistant mask that’s designed for maximum breathability functions to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets. (It also features a moldable nose-bridge to help keep it in place and prevent glasses from fogging, plus it’s machine washable and dryer safe.) 

2. Be Smart About What Kinds of Workouts You’re Doing

As for the actual workout, Fornarola suggests avoiding hot rooms, long stretches of cardio and high-impact jumping. “I advise my clientele to do quick bursts of sprints or higher impact cardio exercises and then give themselves a break,” she tells us. “Give your body time to cool off and acclimate by grabbing some water and fresh air.” If you absolutely must have the intense, high-impact cardio, she recommends saving it for when you can work out at home without a mask on. As for the best workouts to do while wearing a mask? Unsurprisingly, Fornarola says barre and yoga, which are comprised of more sculpting and tone focused exercises, are the way to go. (You can find her studio’s daily virtual classes here, no mask required.)

3. Listen to Your Body

Pandemic or not, listening to your body is of the utmost importance. Fornarola says that this is especially crucial when you’re exercising while wearing a mask, since there are a number of things that could happen if you find yourself breathing too hard with a mask on. “For starters, you want to avoid the potential risk of hyperventilating,” she notes. “You also want to bring your attention to how your mask feels around your face. If it’s too tight or restrictive, this could severely limit your airflow, which is never a good thing when your body needs an extra boost of oxygen.” The bottom line is, if you’re working out while masked up, pay extra close attention to how you’re feeling. If you suspect you’re pushing too hard, stop. You’ll be better off in the long run—promise.

3 Tips for Easing Back into Exercise

Some of us have used quarantine to get into tip-top shape, while others of us have allowed our running shoes to acquire a not-so-thin layer of dust (guilty). If you’re looking to ease back into exercise without burning out too quickly—or hurting yourself—follow these suggestions courtesy of Jaclyn Fulop, Board Licensed Physical Therapist & Founder of Exchange Physical Therapy Group.

1. Try the 30-3-3 Method

Before you go from zero to 60 in one session, remember that fitness is a marathon, not a sprint (unless you’re sprinting, but you get the gist). “Don’t try and over perform, and set a goal to be persistent,” Fulop tells us. She advises against jumping back into the same workout regimen that you had before the quarantine started (since your body won’t be in the same shape if you stopped working out completely). Instead, she recommends starting with 30 minutes, three times week for three weeks, and then increasing the frequency and duration from there. Baby steps, people.

2. Make Sure to Warm Up

A proper warm up is important whenever you’re exercising, but even more so if your body isn’t used to intense physical activity. Fulop tells us, “A proper warm up and cool down are vital to the longevity of your fitness routine.” Before you work out, she recommends dynamic stretching, or stretching through movements that can improve your ability to react. Post-workout, try static stretches, which are done while standing or sitting in one place. (Psst: Here are eight cool down exercises to make your workout more effective.)

3. Stay Hydrated

“Drinking fluids not only energizes the body and fights off fatigue but it also regulates your body temperature and prevents your muscles from cramping,” Fulop says. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water regardless of any workouts you have planned, but especially if you’re going to be sweating a lot.

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...