Is my training mask better for exercise or Halloween?

Posted by Al Boyle
On November 19, 2023

“No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.”


The domestic terrorist Bane revealing his identity to CIA agents during a skyjacking
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Restricting air flow during workouts may not be most people’s idea of a good time. That’s what a training mask does, and I get a lot of grimaces when I explain it.

I like it because it makes my respiratory system work harder during a workout.  Okay, I also like it because I sound like Bane if I speak when wearing it.

A friend first told me about them. Could’ve been another intelligence test, now that I think about it.  He didn’t recommend it. He spoke about a friend using one. Another intelligence test victim? Maybe, but I know we’d have something to bond over.

After some research, I bought a contraption, and I was hooked.

This was during the pandemic, and wearing it outside drew some uncomfortable looks and stares from people. It’s easy to understand why since they look a bit like gas masks I think they were expecting me to start lobbing tear gas canisters.

They might also remind you of the face huggers from the Alien franchise, which is ironic since you can feel like your chest is going to burst during workouts.

How a training mask works

There’s much debate whether a training mask does what it’s supposed to do. I link to some resources at the bottom to help kickstart your research.

A training mask reduces airflow during training, making it harder to draw a breath. That may sound just like what you don’t want when you’re working out, but consider that elite athletes train at higher altitudes for advanced conditioning purposes.

Straps wrap around your head to secure the mask to your face. A lever on the front of the mask slides left and right to reduce or increase your airflow. I allow less airflow for power walking, more for martial arts, and still more for strength training.

Because I can.

What a training mask feels like

“Take off your mask.”


Serial child killer Errol Childress to Detective Rust Cole after he stabs Cole in the abdomen during their climactic fight
Form and Void
True Detective Season 1, Episode 8

For years, I’ve enjoyed high-intensity workouts whether I was martial arts training, weight training, or pushing my cardio limits with sprints and power walks. Now, I want the cardio intensity without so much strain on my frame.

Hello, training mask.

I suspect The Road Runner was an early adopter of this training, too, as it achieved incredible speeds at varying altitudes while leading Wile. E. Coyote off countless futile chases, some off of a cliff.

Now, let me ask you: Did you ever see the Road Runner gasp for air? Never.

The same can’t be said for me.

First several times I wore it, I was gassed on my first set. I resisted the urge to tear it off of my face, ship it back to the sadists who made it, and add it to the “What were you thinking?” column in my mental notebook.

Only, after a couple of months of humble pie and burning lungs, I realized I wasn’t feeling like a chain smoker trying out for the Olympics.

There were measurable signs of progress, too:

  • The rest I needed between sets decreased to what normal rest was without the mask.
  • My resting pulse rate dropped from the mid- to high-sixties to the low fifties, with some lows in the forties.
  • My blood pressure decreased about ten points.

Could my progress be a result of my training alone? I can’t rule out the possibility.

If I discover my training mask brings no benefit, I’ll stop using it. But it’s not harming me or anyone else, so if it does help, I’ll be glad I’ve incorporated it into my workout routine.

Ask before you mask

I followed the recommended practice to consult with my primary care doctor before buying and using the training mask.

Now, I’ll consult with you: If you’ve tried using a training mask, how did you fare?




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