Exercising Indoors: The Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing a Workout Mask in the Gym

Feb 5, 2021

As the curve flattens, we have the chance to flatten some of our own curves. In some states, gyms and fitness centers have begun to re-open. Whether they open in a limited capacity or are back full-bore, almost every gym is requiring that users workout with a mask.

Over the past year, many of us saw just how quickly we can lose the opportunity to go to the gym. If we want to keep them open, it’s important to follow the right protocols that keep the community safe and prevent gyms from being shut down. In large part, this will fall to proper COVID workout mask usage.

In this post, we will look at the safety do’s and don’ts that must be followed when wearing a sports face mask in the gym. 

DO: Cover Your Faceholes

While everybody loves to see your smile, you’re going to have to keep it hidden for a while. Your nose and mouth should be covered at all times while you’re in the fitness center. If you wear the mask below the nostrils, you’re still exposing yourself and others to potential infection.

The worst offenders of this are the “chin diaper” wearers. If your exercise mask doesn’t cover your mouth AND nostrils, you may as well not be wearing one.


DON’T: Drop The Mask During Sets

Drop sets are good, but dropping your mask during sets is bad. In the early stages of the pandemic, many fitness clubs required gym-goers to wear masks when moving from one area to the next, but not during their sets. Now, however, it is recognized that this was an unsafe practice.

During physical activity is when we are breathing the hardest, and there is a greater chance of spittle coming out to carry germs even further. During your sets, or well on a treadmill, you are far more likely to spread germs. As well, you are breathing in deeper and more often, risking greater exposure for yourself.

You should keep your nose and mouth covered at all times, except when drinking water. When your workout mask is down for a water break, try not to ensure you aren’t breathing on surfaces or equipment.

DO: Find the Right Fit

Although adult masks are generally viewed as one-size-fits-all, that’s not necessarily the case. A properly fitting mask should go up over your nose and under your chin, with a snug fit on the sides of your face.

To determine the mask size you need, measure from the bridge of your nose to the base of your chin. Here is a basic chart of how that lays out in mask sizes:

  • Kids: <3.75”
  • Youth: 3.75” - 4.5”
  • Large: 4.5”-5.75”
  • X-Large: >5.75”

If you have a beard, you may need to try a size up if the mask isn’t fitting under your chin. As well, if you’re on the verge of moving up a size and you use a mask bracket, you may require a size larger. As well, make sure that the mask stays in place, even when you open your mouth. This is especially important for gym use, as you may be breathing heavily.

DON’T: Constantly Adjust

If you find yourself constantly adjusting your mask it may not be the right fit for you. In addition to an ill-fitting COVID mask being uncomfortable, it can also increase your risk. Not only may it not cover your mouth or nose properly but constantly touching it with your hands risks spreading the infection from surfaces you touch.

Any time you are taking your mask on or off you should be sanitizing your hands first. If you’re always pulling it up, odds are you’re introducing germs and bacteria every time you touch it.

DO: Use a Breathable Mask Insert

Mask inserts for the gym are a great solution for gym-goers who find their mask too hot, stuffy, or hard to breathe in. The breathable insert creates a comfortable space inside of your workout mask, allowing air to flow out and fresh air to circulate. 

The insert keeps the mask from getting into your mouth, reducing breathability, getting wet, and affecting your performance and comfort. A good gym mask insert should attach effectively to your mask and be adjustable to fit your nose. This fit not only ensures protection but also prevents glasses from fogging and maximizes airflow.

DON’T: Use Vented Masks

A mask with a vent or valve may seem like an obvious way to keep your breathing air fresh. Every time you exhale, the carbon dioxide escapes through the vent. Unfortunately, the CDC warns against this use. The easy access of the vents means that they compromise the mask’s ability to prevent the virus from getting in or out. 

While a vented mask is better than nothing, they offer significantly less protection than an approved mask and are still not as breathable as using a mask insert. 

DO: Ramp Up Slowly

Let your body get used to wearing the mask. While the difference is not as significant as wearing the oxygen-deprivation masks that seem to be favored by toeshoe-wearers, many people do find their performance somewhat reduced while wearing a mask.

It’s best to start off slower and lower than you did when you didn’t wear a mask. The reduced oxygen could affect your ability to handle the heavy weights or intense cardio levels you used to use. This extra stress puts you at risk of gassing out early or injuring yourself.

Start lower and build-up according to what your body feels. The good news is, even going at a slower pace, you can get the same cardio or fat-burning results so long as you’re hitting the same heart rate as before. So the extra strain from the mask can allow you to still achieve the same results, even at a slower pace.

DON’T: Go All Out Right Away

Dialing back goes against the common credos of the gym, “push it to the limit,” “no pain no gain.” But if you get injured, that pain is going to eat away all your gains.

As you return to the gym, especially if you’ve taken time off from exercise during lockdowns, don’t start off at the same level you were at before. Ease your way back and you’ll be back to your old PRs in no time.

If you ease your way back in, not only can you prevent injury but you also will be able to adapt to wearing a mask much faster. Masks in the gym are likely going to be a staple in most states, for the next few months to years.

Stay smart with safe workout mask routines and you can help keep yourself safe and gyms open as we all push on through this pandemic. To ease your comfort and reduce fatigue, wear the proper fitting masks, wear them properly, and take advantage of breathable mask inserts, like the PowerAir.

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