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How to Modify Your Effort with a Mask While Training

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How to Modify Your Effort with a Mask While Training

Is this how you are feeling training with a mask on??

I’m sure at some point you have all seen someone training with a super expensive, odd sounding altitude mask on. At first this seemed really cool for the hardcore gym crowd. It showed willingness to condition as hard as possible with limited breathing capabilities that only the tough could handle.

Many trainers came to the quick realization that purchasing such an expensive piece of equipment just to struggle with breathing didn’t really make a ton of sense.

“Just hold your breathe” and “only breathe through your nose” became $0 alternatives to the altitude mask. A great way to save some money, but not look nearly as tough in the gym.

Now that we are all training through Covid-19 with mandatory masks, we need to understand that our breathing capabilities are limited. We are breathing a little faster, a little louder, and getting tired quicker than we are used to. We need to understand that our training performance will drop off because of this, and accept that we must appropriately pace ourselves during a training session.

If we were to experience a very challenging workout outdoors in perfect 70 degree condition, and then try to replicate that same workout in 110 degree desert heat, we would all intuitively know that we would have a drop off in performance in the desert scenario.

Let’s take Coach Kyle for example, fresh off a vegan taco, Kyle runs 10 miles.

Condition 1- 70 Degrees Fahrenheit- Kyle runs 10 miles in exactly 1 hour and categorizes it as a 8/10 perceived difficulty.

Condition 2- 110 Degrees Fahrenheit- Kyle tries to keep the same 6min/mile pace, and has to stop at 3 miles. He categorizes this as a 10/10 difficulty and couldn’t finish.

The workout was the same, but the conditions altered his performance. There’s a strong likelihood that if Kyle continues to appropriately challenge himself in 110 Degree climate he will be setting personal records when he returns to training in 70 degrees.

In our current scenario, the mask is the condition that is making our training session more challenging.

This doesn’t make the workout less effective. We must accept our new training condition and then try to progress from there.

Ultimately, even if we are not accomplishing as much work, we are still accomplishing comparable heart rate levels and perceived difficulty of a session.

Even if Kyle finished his desert run 10 minutes longer than he does in the 70 degree run, if he perceives the session to be a 9/10 as compared to 70 degree run which was an 8/10. He is progressing in perceived difficulty within a training session.

Do not hold yourself to the standard you set for yourself when you weren’t training with a mask. Understand that the mask has created a new training variable that has increased the difficulty of a session. Some would debate that this is a beneficial change considering less work could elicit a greater heart rate.

Take breaks. Move a bit slower than you used to when the world was mask free. Go outside and take some deep breaths. Do not be disappointed in struggling to catch your breath. Appreciate that you can still train hard even when the circumstances aren’t perfect.

One day all of these difficulties will make us better trainees, trainers, and people!

Hope this was helpful!

James Pratt


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