As it is for many of us, wearing masks in public has become the new norm for me. This includes sporting a face covering during my weekly runs outside. As someone who lives in a still-bustling urban space, it's difficult to ensure a totally crowd-free route. So, to keep safe and responsible, I've donned a face mask of some kind for every run I've been on since the spring: yep, even my 10 milers.
Although now I feel like reaching for my face mask is about as second nature as cuing up my favorite podcast, it took some time and some learning moments to get to feel this comfortable. If you're planning on enjoying a run outdoors and doing so masked, here are the five things I've learned after six months of training with a face covering.
Decide on the right mask
Because wearing a mask can be uncomfortable and make breathing a little bit more difficult for runners, it's key to look for a style that stays put, is breathable, and doesn't rub. The UA Sportsmask ($30) is a face mask that's actually designed to accommodate athletes. This style sits high on the nose, away from the lips and mouth, and loops around, so you don't have to worry about uncomfortable chafing or it accidentally falling down as you spring into action.
What's more, it's crafted with UA's cooling Iso-Chill fabric on the interior lining as well as polyurethane open-cell foam to let some air pass without letting larger particles like sweat or moisture get through. And my personal favorite feature: its interior liner features an antimicrobial treatment to keep you feeling fresh and clean.
Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice is finding the right fit and style for you, as this can transform your workout experience entirely.
Up your hydration
There's no way around it: it's going to get toasty under that mask. In fact, I've come to expect that while working out with a face mask, my body temperature feels a little above its norm, so to combat this, I always make sure I'm staying plenty hydrated. Although this can mean carrying a bottle like the Upstream MVP Dominate ($32) or water belt with me, which is essential for long runs as public fountains simply aren't an option at this point, it also means planning out hydration throughout the day.
Opting for 16 ounces of water about an hour or so prior to running is a great rule of thumb for staying properly and safely hydrated prerun. But, because I know my body and know I tend to feel extra parched while running, I set a goal of drinking two 24-ounce water bottles a day to make sure I'm setting myself up for the safest run possible.
Add in extra breaks
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: breaks are your friend. Because you will feel the heat more than usual while running in a face mask, allow yourself the luxury of slowing down and walking when need be. (Of course, you should still aim to stay more than six-feet away from others.) But the point is, these aren't normal circumstances, so training should be permitted to adapt and change as well.
Adjust your goals
With that comes learning to adjust your goals. For me, one of my biggest challenges when I was first navigating the world of masked running was learning to adjust my goals. Not only was I having to do so because the marathon I was scheduled to run was canceled but because I was seeing my body struggle in ways it had not before.
I was a tad slower than normal. I had to take water and walking breaks more. I was overheating a bit more than normal. Everything about it was off. And yet, once I learned to accept that my goal now wasn't to hit a certain speed goal or shatter any records, it was simply to let my body move and be as safe as possible while doing so, my whole outlook changed. I was able to enjoy my runs again and view the mask as a tool that allows me to be safe while doing what I love.
Allow for some self-care
This one is a big one for me. Never before has my running had anything but a positive effect on me. But sadly, I've fallen prey to maskne. And this is particularly exacerbated by wearing one while I run. Although it's a frustrating reality, I've learned to cope and manage it with a little postrun routine that involves always washing my face after wearing a face mask (a tip experts point to whether you're working out or not) and applying gentle yet effective acne-specific products.
For me, this comes in the form of Carbon Theory's Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Break-Out Control Facial Cleansing Bar ($10) and Facial Purifying Tonic ($20). The UK brand relies on bacteria-targeting and detoxifying tea tree oil and charcoal to cleanse and clarify skin, which has been a true lifesaver for me.
In addition to treating my face to a little R&R postrun, I make sure to give my face mask a rinse after each run and a solid washing at least once a week to reduce the likelihood of bacteria and dirt build-up.