Tip #1: Find a mask you like!
Everyone’s always asking, which mask is the best mask, and it really is a personal thing. You’re putting this mask on your face, and your face isn’t shaped like anyone else’s face. We all have personal preferences on how things feel... some of us care about what they look like… there is no one-size-fits-all perfect mask for exercising in. You have to try different ones until you come across the one you like the best.
Funny thing is, I actually wear it upside down! I have a big nose, my nose comes far off my face, so by wearing it upside down, I don’t feel like there’s pressure on my nose. So it’s way more comfortable. This mask feels thick in my hands, but it’s not uncomfortable to breathe in, and it holds its shape, so when I speak, the cloth doesn’t get stuck in my mouth.
I personally prefer a cloth mask. I find that they hold up better, and I’m noticing that majority of my students who wear paper disposable masks are switching pretty quickly to a cloth mask.
If you prefer the paper masks, as many people with asthma do, you can wear a bracket under your mask to help keep it from disintegrating on your face while you sweat.
Tip #2: Bring multiple masks
Some people can tap dance in the same mask for 5 hours straight. I did it the other day, no problem. But others need to change their mask often. Bring multiple masks so you can swap out as needed. Even though I’m someone who can wear the same mask for an extended period of time, I was teaching one day, and I felt like there was a string or something in my mask that kept tickling my face. And every time I went into the back room to try and fix it, I couldn’t find it fast enough, and I was kicking myself for not having a second mask on hand.
Tip #3: Drink a LOT of Water
Bring a lot of water. You will get very thirsty, especially if you’re teaching Hybrid. I’m talking 3x the amount of water you’d normally drink on your regular teaching day. You will be SO thirsty from teaching in a mask. Trust me. Pack the water. I mentioned it to my Team and they were like that much water, really Hillary? And then the next day after they taught they were like, Hillary, you’re 100% right. I am SO thirsty.
Tip #4: Be Kind to Yourself
Be kind to yourself. For many tap dancers out there, maybe it’s been 6 months of quarantine since you’ve truly shuffled or exercised. Your cardio is not likely to be where it was pre-COVID, and then you’re wearing a mask on top of it, so be kind to yourself and the expectations you have for yourself. I see a lot of dancers who feel “out of shape” and upset that they can’t get through a whole tap class with a mask on without feeling a little bit winded. Give yourself some time to get back into the swing of things, and to build it up. I’ve been dancing through COVID, and when I put that mask on for the first time to teach, I was taken aback and surprised by how winded I was. Within a week, my body adjusted and I was good to go. Listen to your body and take it easy to start, and give your body the time to adjust. I’ve seen this with the kids too, the first couple days of dancing in a mask, we had to take it easy, but after that, they were ready to go hard.