In July, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that masks must be worn at all times, even while exercising. She made it clear that there were no exceptions to this rule by (threatening) a $100 fine to any New Mexican who breaks it. While I’m thankful to live under a governor who is doing everything she can to keep people safe, this mandate in particular has been difficult for me to adapt to, both mentally and physically.
As a remote graduate student during this pandemic, I no longer have access to certain outlets I took for granted in undergrad, like hanging out with friends, to take my mind off of my studies. Now, I spend my days inside on my computer, working on schoolwork from the time I wake up until I go to sleep.
Prior to this regulation, I relieved my anxieties by going to the gym or running outside, mask-free. It was the one part of the day where I didn’t have to think about COVID-19 or the work that I needed to get done, but could escape from it all. The news of this mandate made me feel like Ross Geller in “Friends” when someone at work ate his Thanksgiving sandwich. At the time, my workouts were “the only good thing in my life.”
Therefore, I became determined to find ways to keep exercising effectively while wearing a mask. Hesitantly, I wondered, is it healthy to sweat and breathe heavily with a mask on? Should I run as hard as I did before, or will I run out of breath too quickly? All I could do to answer these questions swirling around in my head was research the topic online, ask people how they’re adapting to this new norm, and get out there and try it for myself.
A phone call with a woman from the New Mexico Department of Health assured me that not only is it OK for most people to work out in masks, but it is “crucial.” As she emphasized how effective masks are in safeguarding us from COVID-19, I began to think of our governor’s mandate as a protection rather than a burden. A solid portion of other sources I read online agree that wearing a mask while working out is a healthy, necessary defense to the spread of the virus.
It has taken time for me to adapt my mindset and my body to this mandate. Indeed, many people that I talked to felt defeated about this in July but have since found ways to maintain their workout regime.
One of my mom’s coworkers, for example, found it too difficult to walk in the heat of the Albuquerque foothills while wearing a blue surgical facemask. Thankfully, once her friend bought her a face shield, she could continue her morning walks with no problems.
Surprisingly, unlike her, I’ve found it easiest to breathe during exercise while wearing a surgical mask. Finding what works best for my own workouts has led me to come to terms with this mandate. After I got used to wearing one and got a positive attitude, it’s become second nature.
That being said, I haven’t yet gotten to where I can run in a mask because I get too out of breath. However, I’ve reframed my mindset to be proud of myself just for moving my body each day, even if it’s just a walk around the park. Also, I’ve found new at-home workouts, like yoga, which I absolutely love.
Although this mask mandate was a tough pill to swallow at first, it’s now something that I am thankful for because it has encouraged me to be kinder to my body and has pushed me to try new workouts. Masked-workouts can still be good if you set realistic goals, stay hydrated, and, of course, find a mask that works best for you.