Accept the Challenge

To all my mask-wearing workout friends.

Today I did my first “in a gym” workout, and as required, I wore a mask. It was fascinating and inspired me to reach out. I have a recommendation.

Stay in nose breathing, even if, and especially if, wearing a mask.

If you’ve already tried this during cardio exercise, you may be giving the middle finger right about now, but hear me out.

There are two great things about staying in nose breathing with a mask on. In fact, you might even see the mask as a valuable training partner.

Great thing number one: You will breathe in more carbon dioxide (CO2) and will likely retain more CO2. This is a good thing, especially when you do it on purpose. It turns out that the chemical receptors that monitor CO2 (located in your hind brain) are plastic. In other words, you can change the sensitivity of these receptors. By intentionally allowing CO2 levels to rise, while telling yourself everything is fine (to calm your amygdala), you can reset the receptor sensibility to CO2. Carbon dioxide, in this context, has many health benefits. It will make you more resilient, more fit, and will make it easier for your brain to produce feel-good hormones.

Great thing number two: The mask will create resistance to breathing. This strengthens your diaphragm – especially if you are encouraging yourself to draw the breath into the lower belly. Making your diaphragm smarter and stronger improves spine stability, digestion, elimination, and blood return to the heart while decreasing any tendency toward gastric reflux.

Knowing that you are getting these two great benefits, feel free to decrease the intensity of your workout if needed to stay in nose breathing while wearing a mask. Do this with a clear conscience. You’re getting more benefit by doing less (nose breathing with a mask) than what you would if you did more and resorted to mouth breathing.

So, with wild abandon, accept the challenge! Exercise. Wear a Mask. Nose Breathe. Have fun.




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