The mother you save may be your own
Governments can't cover every loophole when they are enacting novel rules in rapid time. They're doing a great job getting things done, and they rely on cooperation instead of exploitation by we public.
However, some people love loopholes more than they love their mother, even though exercising without a mask might kill their mother - or someone else's mother.
Compulsory mask order
We're in a Stage-4 lockdown with masks compulsory outside of the home (Melbourne, Australia - Covid Stage 4 Lockdown). The principle is to wear masks outdoors at all times.
That principle would seem to be simple enough for people to embrace, but many run for the loophole.
A mask is not compulsory when exercising. That's the loophole.
I run 5km every day, with a mask. It took me a week to get used to it, and I had to slow down. But it's no problem.
On the other hand, I see 40 year-old men taking to old bicycles to walk their dogs, wobbling along but free to escape the mask rule as they are apparently "exercising".
Runners can do better. There's an ethic to running, and we just need a little wake-up call.
You're misting those you pass
When running each day, I see 90% of other joggers and runners not wearing masks. Yet, of the ones running in pairs (we are only allowed to exercise alone or in a pair), 90% are having an easy conversation. Often a loud conversation. The same goes for bike riders.
Since we know that when we run, we are projecting massive volumes of microdroplets compared to walking, it's indefensible not to wear a mask.
Having a loud conversation and running without masks past walkers leaves a spray of microdroplets in your wake. That flies in the face of everything that the compulsory mask principle stands for i.e. protecting others from your coronavirus infection.
I admit, the best part of running with a mask is taking it off
If I put the loophole conspiracy theory aside then people no doubt genuinely believe that running with a mask is discomforting. The best part of running with a mask is indeed taking it off at the end. I experience that pleasure every day.
It certainly takes time to get used to a mask. There are specific techniques which make it easier, which I learnt over my week of trial and error.
But firstly let's have a look at the relationship between the intensity of effort and the intensity of breathing while running. Runners talking have plenty of breathing capacity left, as we'll see.
Ability to hold a conversation means you can cope with a mask
You will see that if you can hold a conversation that your level of intensity is not high. In this case, you are hardly going to notice a mask - once you get used to it.
There is an exertion system called METS which relates effort and breathing to oxygen consumption (and hence caloric consumption).
One metabolic equivalent (MET) is the amount of oxygen consumed while sitting at rest and is equal to 3.5 ml O2 per kg body weight per min. That is, METS relate to oxygen consumption over time.
Walking at 5 kilometres per hour (3 miles per hour) requires 3.3 METs of energy expenditure and is therefore considered a moderate-intensity activity. Vigorous-intensity activities are defined as 6.0 METs or more.
The level of effort in METS is often described in terms of the depth of breathing:
What this means is that if you are able to hold a conversation while exercising, then the intensity is moderate.
At this level of intensity, you have headroom to lift your level of breathing to cope with a mask. And you won't have to merely "cope" for too long - you'll adapt.
Focus on reducing your pace, and breathing rhythmically
In learning to run with a mask, I discovered these two key lessons:
Reducing your pace
When I ran 5km just twice a week, I would average 4:50/km.
When I started running every day, to remain injury-free, I slowed - averaging about 5:20/km.
As I run 5km with a mask, daily, I average about 5:45/km.
Effective breathing is essential. The mask, and the hot air from breathing out combined with the excess CO2 that you are breathing in, will disrupt your typical breathing pattern.
A disrupted breathing pattern will make your mind, lungs and legs feel the stress of that disruption. This point of confusion is when you will start to stagger a little, and breathe more heavily.
Unless you have a technique to bring all this back under control, in a systematic way, then you won't enjoy running with a mask. Read my post to learn the best breathing techniques:
"Is Running With A Mask Safe? Yes, If You Do These Two Things"
Bonus: the breathing techniques that you need to run with a mask will improve your running performance anyway - mask or no mask.
Embrace the spirit of wearing a mask
Use your ability to hold a conversation while running to transition to wearing a mask with confidence. Embrace the spirit of wearing a mask outdoors, and help us all get through the pandemic safely.
Give yourself seven or eight days to adjust, take it easy, and enjoy the freedom of taking the mask off at the end of your run.
Not only might you save someone else's mother, you may save their baby.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter