Pages: Face mask

John Z. Pages

I WORE a face mask while biking last Friday. At first, while warming up and the pedaling was relaxed, it felt normal and good. No complaints. But after a few minutes and when the bike pointed upwards, my breathing turned heavy. It felt uncomfortable.

As the trajectory of the climb turned skyward, I had difficulty breathing. My washable cloth mask felt like a suction. As I exhaled, it pushed outward; when I inhaled, it stuck to my mouth.

Out-in, out-in. This is not good. I stopped.

I don’t know about you but I can’t exercise with the face mask on. Walking, yes. Leisurely cycling on a flat asphalt, yes. But anything that involves the heart pumping over 121 beats per minute, no.

Running with the mask on? I can’t imagine doing it. I’ve seen Chipi Borromeo running loops around Phase 8 in Maria Luisa Park and I’m amazed at how he’s able to keep his stride.

You’re panting and sweating and struggling to engulf oxygen; your lungs are expanding and compressing — on an unmasked 9-kph run. Now cover your nose and mouth and restrict the air flow into your lungs. I can’t do it.

“Wearing a face mask while exercising may be a risky affair,” wrote Jahnavi Sarma in “Covid-19: Wearing a face mask is important but avoid it while working out” from thehealthsite.com. “This is because, when you exercise, your lungs need more air. As a result, your heart pumps more blood, which is why your heart beat increases. But when you are wearing a mask, there is restriction in the flow of air to the lungs. This can make you feel light headed, breathless and tired. Your lungs may collapse if you really overdo it. You may also be in danger if you have any underlying health conditions like heart disease and hypertension.”

Here’s the point: Be careful. While there’s no denying that wearing of masks keeps you and those around you safe (and, I know, it’s mandatory everytime we go out), be careful when you wear one while exercising.

Listen to your body. With extreme workouts like sprints, 14K runs or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), for example, in case you feel lightheaded, stop. Sit down. Check the intensity of your effort and make sure it’s within the light-to-moderate range. Avoid symptoms like dizziness. Take your mask off and breathe normally.

There was a 26-year-old runner from Wuhan, China who was hospitalized after complaining of chest pain after a 6K run. Doctors concluded that his lungs collapsed — possibly because of his mask that limited his ventilation and impaired his oxygen levels while running.

To me, if you can exercise alone or be at a far distance from other people, this is best. Maybe there’s no need to wear that mask. Run at night or very early in the morning and in an area where there’s nobody around. Exercise in isolated or private areas. Workout at home.