"We're wearing them to protect ourselves, to protect others, and quite simply following the rules."

By Arielle Tschinkel
November 13, 2020
Credit: Monica Schipper/Getty Images

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in several states, few things are certain except this: Wearing a face mask helps protect both yourself and others from COVID-19. And yet, the idea of wearing a mask — particularly during workouts — continues to be a point of contention for some people, especially on social media. Case in point: the comments section of celebrity trainer Kira Stokes' latest Instagram post.

Stokes shared a series of videos of her and longtime client and friend, Ashley Graham crushing a masked-up gym workout together — their "first in-person in-studio session since March," Stokes wrote in the caption of her post. "[It was] filled with all the feels, looks (eye rolls were not lost on me), laughs and realness a challenging workout should include."

Shortly after Stokes posted the videos, the comments section was flooded with people judging and questioning why she and Graham were working out in masks — to which Stokes responded with an update to her original post. "Please do not use the comment thread to debate working out in masks," she wrote. "In New York, it is a rule that you wear a mask when working out inside a gym/studio. We are following the rules." She went on to say that Body Space, the gym where she and Graham were working out, has done "an exceptional job adhering to all the safety requirements/precautions mandated by the state." (Related: Here's What You Can Expect As Gyms and Workout Studios Begin to Reopen)

Stokes also took to her Instagram Stories to further address the comments on her post. "No one said wearing a mask is easy while you're working out," she said. "I don't think anybody likes it, but we're wearing them to protect ourselves, to protect others, and quite simply following the rules. That's how we roll here in New York."

Stokes is right — regardless of what your personal opinions are on wearing a mask, New York state law requires that you do so in all public spaces, including gyms and studios (the same goes for roughly 30 other states in the U.S., BTW).

That's not to say people enjoy wearing a mask during their workouts. As Stokes admitted in one of her Instagram Stories, exercising in a mask isn't "easy," but it's also not impossible. While experts say wearing a mask while exercising can potentially make you feel short of breath, fatigued, or give you a headache, most people can do it without experiencing serious symptoms. (More here: How to Find the Best Face Mask for Workouts)

That said, even if your local gym or studio is open, it's completely understandable if you'd rather work out at home right now. "The optimal place to work out is at home," Stokes, who still frequently trains clients virtually over video chat (she also has a popular fitness app for home workouts), tells Shape. "I 100 percent encourage that." (Here's your comprehensive guide to at-home workouts to help you get into a routine.)

Bottom line: The decision to return to the gym comes down to your personal comfort level. "You have to think about your own level of risk you're willing to accept," Henry F. Raymond, Dr.PH, M.P.H., associate director for public health at the Rutgers School of Public Health, previously told Shape.

Regardless, though, the fact is that wearing a mask — along with social distancing, washing your hands, and using hand sanitizer — can help stop the spread of COVID-19. As Raymond said: "Don't forget that what you do influences whoever you come into contact with."

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it’s possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.


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