In my area (NYC) it is only safe and respectful to others to cover your mouth and nose while you’re running near others. Running with a mask is hard. You may feel some resistance to breathing, depending on the thickness of the mask material. When your nose and mouth are fully covered there may be some limitation to the intake of air. This can cause discomfort and attenuate your running performance.
But there is no time for complaining. If you can’t maintain social distancing while exercising outdoors (and obviously in NYC you really can’t) you should put a mask, bandana, or anything that covers your face from others
Do I need to wear a mask when I run?
If you have to wear a mask while you’re exercising outdoors depends on your state. The CDC guidelines recommend the use of cloth face coverings “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies,”. It is important to familiarize yourself with local guidelines.
While we all are in the same boat, here’s my insight on running with a mask and which running masks are actually okay to run with. And remember before you stop reading, wearing a mask, at the very least, a buff or bandanna, will protect people in your community. It’s you showing respect. It’s showing that you care. Simple as that.
Tips for running with a mask
A few things to consider while running outside (hopefully with a mask) are for instance to give people space. If there is room, move to the side, cross the street or give them a heads up that you’re coming. I had many awkward moments, where I ran into pedestrians who didn’t see or hear me coming. Some turned away, some reacted really mean. So to avoid this, even when running with a mask, just be even more mindful of your community.
If you can’t run with a mask for the entire time, that is okay. For me personally, I don’t necessarily wear the coverage on my face for the entire run either. I always run during off-peak hours anyways to avoid the crowds outside with minimal interaction, but when I see someone approaching, or if I am passing someone, I will pull the buff up to cover my nose and mouth.
Areas near the Hudson River on the West Side Highway here in NYC are always packed. In an area like that, it’s a matter of kindness to others to wear some sort of protection on your face. Also, even if you wear a mask while running, it’s still important to avoid people and keep your distance.
If our paces become slower while running with a mask remember that you have to work harder to get the same amount of air into your lungs. It is all normal. If you need to stop now that is okay as well. If you think about it literally anything that makes your workout more challenging for you will make you stronger long term.
Different running face masks: My preferred cloth face coverings
While there are many different running masks out there by now, these are the ones that I can highly recommend. I have both, a regular mask made of cotton and a buff. I see lots of runners running with a bandana as well. A bandana allows you to breathe a bit better because you’ll have more air coming in around your neck.
Is there a way to make running with a mask easier?
One of my friends who has been running with her mask since March. She is running just fine by now. One piece of advice she gave was to try nasal breathing. If you exhale through your nose you actually produce fewer water droplets that you do through mouth breathing. This takes some training if you’re not used to it but it is really worth the practice and your body will ultimately adapt to it.
Running at a slower pace that is less challenging will make running with a mask also easier for you. The less you have to breathe through your mouth, the better.
Another thing to keep in mind is also the fact that one day when you will take the mask off while running, your lungs will have the ability to intake and absorb more oxygen. This will most likely result in a performance increase. Right now our body adapts to the tougher condition while running with a mask on and will likely perform better once it returns to the easier condition.
Final thoughts on running with a mask
The world is different now than it was. Who would have thought we would ever have to run with a mask? If you’re feeling down about running with the mask, remember that you are not only protecting others but also it will pay off down the line.
Since all races and events are canceled now is not the time to run your fastest anyways. Focus on working on your running routine and base endurance instead. Work on your mental health while keeping up with your running but at the same time be more forgiving with yourself and understand that it won’t be like this forever.