Wearing a mask in public isn't the worst thing in the world - unless you happen to be on a treadmill.

Just like thousands of other gym rats in the Grand Valley, I was pretty happy when the day came when gyms reopened. However, if I am being honest, I did not go back right away because of concerns I felt related to COVID-19. Despite best efforts, the gym seemed like a prime breeding ground for the virus with a myriad of people all touching the same equipment, and people doing a cardio workout, spewing droplets out of their mouths into the shared air.

For me, the alternative was doing my daily run on the riverfront trail. I love running outside and the riverfront trail is scenic and feels like a safe place to exercise in the midst of a pandemic. However, once the daily high temperature began drifting into the 90s, I quickly realized that running in that heat was not a great idea. Not only is it difficult, but it's not the safest thing in the world. I go to work at 5:00 in the morning, so running in the morning before the heat of the day takes over is not an option.

So, hesitantly, but out of necessity, I made the decision to head to the gym and do my daily running indoors. Turns out, everything was just fine. Social distancing measures were in place, and it seemed like a lot fewer people were at the gym during a time when it typically would be extremely busy. I felt very comfortable at the gym and had no feelings of fear or apprehension.

Then came the mandatory mask order and everything changed. Immediately I imagined how difficult it might be to run and do a cardio workout while wearing a face covering. Turns out my imagination was absolutely correct.

I desperately wanted to run, not wanting to lose the cardio fitness I had gained over the past few months. And so, against my better judgment, I jumped on the treadmill with my face mask in place. To say it was not an enjoyable experience would be an understatement.

My goal was to do two miles, but I never even made it to one. Even before I got to the half-mile mark I was gasping for air. I continued on, however, determined to make it to one mile. Another quarter-mile and I started to feel a little panic. I knew I was not getting the oxygen I needed to perform a cardio workout at this level.

Finally, at the .85-mile mark, I succumbed to the common sense I had been fighting and stepped off the treadmill, gasping for air. Suddenly, I realized why I was the only person in the entire gym on a treadmill machine. Running and mask-wearing do not mix. I didn't think it did, but now I know you can't do both.

Apparently, my only recourse is to do early morning outside runs on the weekend and pare down my runs during the week. If we are going to be running outside, it's critical to have plenty of water available at all times, and to be extremely cautious not to overdo it. With any luck, the mask mandate will be short-lived and we can get back to cardio workouts at the gym as soon as possible.

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