Remember: masks in gyms are mandatory

A bright yellow sign, “Per state regulations, face coverings are required,” blinds me as I walk through the doors of my local gym.

As I climb the stair stepper, I feel suffocated by the thin piece of fabric that protects me from COVID.

Doing cardio is difficult, but doing cardio while having your breathing restricted is a workout from hell. 

Although wearing a face mask hinders my workout, I still wear one to protect myself and others from contracting COVID.

Some folks in my gym do not think like me.

The CDC says, “Wearing a mask is most important when physical distancing is difficult.”

Gyms are enclosed facilities where people line up to utilize machines like hamsters on wheels – it is not the ideal setting for social distancing.

You need to wear a mask in the gym.

I have been attending a local gym since it reopened over the summer and unsurprisingly, some members do not wear masks.

You would think it is just young people, but I’ve seen people of all ages exercising without face coverings.

Scary! 

I wonder how they could have walked in and not be forced to wear one.

Then again, I have seen people walk past the front desk with masks on, only to take them off once they are past the cubbies.

I guess people don’t care.

One man who appears to be 100 years old sprints on the treadmill without a mask. I have a difficult time understanding how a high-risk individual can be so incautious.

The other night, I was using the hip abductor machine while I could hear heavy breathing behind me.

This breathing didn’t sound muffled.

Curious, I slyly turned around and saw a familiar face – unmasked. I was so disgusted and worried that I was exposed that I fled the gym. 

“Being exposed to air droplets with COVID-19 would be less problematic if you were, say, jogging past a place where droplets were, versus working hard for 45 minutes next to a person who may be carrying Covid-19 and is talking loudly, coughing or breathing hard during their workout next to you,” according to Suzanne Lukovics, a physical therapy director who was quoted in a CNN article. 

Essentially, working out in a gym and exerting yourself without a mask on while infected can spread the disease more quickly. 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information conducts research on the effects masks have on our breathing when exercising.

“It is plausible that an athlete who is exercising intensely for a prolonged period, especially if wearing an overly tight face covering, could be at risk of physiologically significant hypercapnia and hypoxia.”

However, the article follows that evidence with a conclusion that encourages people to wear masks when working out. They believe the benefit of limiting transmission when wearing one exercising outweighs the slight oxygen deprivation.

Lukovics agrees.

“Our amazing bodies will accommodate over time and we will seem less breathless with each encounter of using face masks while exercising. If we have the choice to prevent the spread, and ‘endure’ a bit of a harder workout for our lungs, we should do it for the long-term good.” 

Not wearing a mask while exercising can expose you to COVID. Even if everyone else around you is wearing one, the virus can still be lingering in the air from a previous crowd.

Or you can be infected and be asymptomatic. Not covering your face will spread the virus to others.

Do you want to be responsible for causing someone else’s illness?

Wearing a mask while working out is annoying and may leave you a bit winded, but will slow the spread of COVID.

Be respectful of your health and the health of others.

Wear a mask in the gym!