“You can do a workout with a N95 mask?” asked my friend as we passed each other in front of the entrance to the large gym at the local YMCA. I am not sure if he was in awe or incredulous because his expression was hidden behind his surgical mask. “It’s not a N95 mask. It’s a KN95 mask and yeah, I can”, I replied.
Doing high impact aerobics with a mask is certainly a better alternative to what I had been doing since the beginning of the pandemic when the YMCA temporarily closed its doors. Attending my Thursday evening fitness class has been an important ritual for several years and it became even more essential in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result of the pandemic, class was now on my iPad with my instructor, dear friend, and library colleague, Kim, leading her students via Zoom. My classmates were dots on my screen. My workout space was now in the guest room in my house. The room nicknamed “the man cave,” is roomy enough for guests but a tad confined for a workout.
I am very grateful that Kim continued the class virtually. Her weekly workout helped me to cope with my day-to-day normal stress and elevated, pandemic related anxiety. Nonetheless, I missed her in-person positive energy, the camaraderie of the other members of class, and the spacious fitness room. Looking at a small iPad screen was becoming challenging. And after a long day of work-related Teams’ meetings, spending time on Zoom for exercise was less than ideal. Despite this, the alternative, not attending Zoom aerobics, was an unviable option.
Thankfully, aerobics and other fitness classes, with very strict protocols, resumed at the YMCA in the summer. I leapt at the opportunity to return to in-person aerobics. No more iPad! No more Zoom! No more dots! No more confined man cave! That being said, I was now required to adapt to the many rules associated with pandemic era, in-person fitness instruction: class size is limited, pre-registration is compulsory, social distancing is obligatory, and mask wearing is mandatory.
Wearing a mask during the workout is not without its challenges. The mask makes my face hot and irritates my skin. Breathing can be tricky. Nevertheless, these inconveniences are worthwhile because I can exercise in a spacious, well-ventilated facility with my instructor and fellow participants.
Recently, as I was about to enter the Y’s gym for class, I overheard another member expressing his fatigue with wearing a mask. He was so tired of it. I empathize with him; however, when the choice is between exercising virtually on Zoom without a mask or exercising in-person with a mask, I choose in-person with a mask.