Here’s How to Run With a Mask – Advice From Runners

You probably never thought you’d be asking how to run with a mask.

But this is 2020, and for many of us running with a mask is the only way to safely continue to exercise.

Update Note: the latest advice from WHO (dated 16th July 2020) is that people should not wear masks while performing exercise, as it may prevent them from breathing comfortably.

However, some runners may still feel more comfortable – or be legally required by their local legislation, to wear a mask while running outdoors.

This situation is ever-changing, with different restrictions in different countries.

For the most up-to-date information, keep visiting:

The World Health Organisation

The CDC (Center For Disease Control) Masks Advice page

I’ve been adapting to running around town with a mask on (hint: curb the sprint sessions), and spending more time on the trails too as we adapt to the new normal.

In this post, we’re going to dive into what it’s like running with a mask, as well as:

  • The best types of mask for running (material, fit)
  • What it feels like to run with a mask
  • Exactly how to run with a mask – and how to adjust your workouts
  • When you should wear a mask if you’re a runner
  • Tips and advice from experienced runners who have been training with a mask.

But at the same time, life must go on. 

You still have your health to maintain, your marathon to train for, and your mental health to preserve. 

So asking how to run with a mask is a great question. 

Why to Wear a Mask While Running

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly advises everyone to wear masks when they are around anyone outside their family or roommates. A mask protects you from inhaling respiratory particles of the virus. 

What’s more, many regions, states and countries have made masks mandatory when out in public.

It also prevents others from breathing in your germs, in case you are a carrier. 

Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus, you could be unknowingly carrying the disease. The University of Oxford sponsored a study that found that 18-80% of positive Coronavirus cases were totally asymptomatic. 

That’s why it is of the utmost importance to wear a mask when out in public – if not for your own sake than for others. 

best masks for running

When to Wear a Mask

Different states and countries have different guidelines when it comes to wearing masks outdoors, so you should definitely check out those rules in your area. 

Here’s the main question to ask yourself when deciding if you should wear a mask while running: will it be possible for me to practice social distancing during my run?  

If you’re running in a remote area where you’re unlikely to come across many people, you may not need to wear the mask – depending on where you live.  

But if you’re on a popular trail or in a park buzzing with people, it will be impossible to stay 6 feet apart.

During the quarantine, it’s recommended to isolate as much as possible. But we still need human contact from time to time. 

That’s where social distance hangouts come in. A great way to connect with your friends during the quarantine is by walking, running, or cycling outside together. 

So if you decide to go running with a friend who is not your family or a roommate, you should both wear masks for optimum protection. 

There’s another group of people who have to be even more careful when it comes to masks: essential workers. 

Health professionals or grocery store employees should absolutely wear a mask any time they’re in public. 

If you live with someone who is older or at risk of the virus in some way, you should wear a mask when running for their sake. 

Does Running With a Mask Count as Hypoxic Training?

Not quite, unfortunately.

To be clear, hypoxic training is essentially what happens when you train at altitude – the air you inhale contains less oxygen, forcing changes in your body. Over time, your body can adapt to training in an oxygen-depleted environment, and you can take these performance gains back to regular environments with good results.

However, face coverings and masks – whether altitude training masks or the cloth masks we’ve all been sporting recently – work differently. They simply restrict air flow, meaning your lungs have to work harder. The air your lungs receive has the same oxygen content.

So, while running with a mask is not a form of hypoxic / altitude training, you are actually giving your lungs a boost by placing an extra stressor on them.

The Best Masks for Running

All masks are not created equal, especially when it comes to running.

Some are more breathable, while others practically suction to your face, causing it to fill up with moisture and sweat too quickly. 

Even though I live in a quiet neighborhood where it’s easy to run without coming across many people, I tested out a few different masks to see which one worked the best during my run. 

The Best Out of Three Choices

Here were the 3 masks I tried out:

1. A disposable surgical mask

2. A homemade cotton mask

3. A bandana

The 3-ply surgical mask filled up with unpleasant sweat and mucus right away. It was an especially hot day, so I wasn’t able to wear that mask for long at all. 

The cotton mask was a little better, since it is homemade and doesn’t fit my face so tightly. I still had to slow down my pace quite a bit, since breathing doesn’t come as easily with a thick piece of cloth in the way. 

Out of the three, the bandana was the most comfortable. 

Since it’s only folded in half one time, the fabric was much thinner than the cotton mask. The bottom of the bandana opened at my neck. 

It still blocked my breath from escaping to other people’s breathing space. But it allowed me some room to breathe more freely. 

I did have trouble keeping it up since it was tied with a simple knot in the back, but the breathing quality is more important to me than convenience. 

Moisture-Wicking Masks

While the bandana was the most efficient for breathing, there’s still room for improvement. Many athletic stores are selling moisture-wicking masks specifically for intense exercise. 

If you plan to run with a mask frequently, you may want to consider buying one made of moisture-wicking cloth that will eliminate more unwanted moisture. 

How to Run With a Mask: Tips for Success

running masks - how to run with a mask, the best mask for running

You might be able to get used to the extra dampness as you run, but there are some dangers involved in running with a mask. 

As you run more, you breathe more heavily, which means you could inhale the wetness and end up choking. 

But the most imminent potential danger is the interference with your breathing. 

Breathing is already a critical aspect of running; you should always focus on inhaling and exhaling steadily to avoid hyperventilating. 

So here are some tips on how to run with a mask in a safe and conscious way. 

Run Slower

Let’s face it. You won’t be able to break your personal record while wearing a mask. Just lower your pace to the point where you can take smooth, clear breaths. 

You shouldn’t run out of oxygen in the middle, and you shouldn’t bring the cloth into your mouth as you inhale. 

Regulate Your Breathing

Don’t panic when you first start running. It’s shocking at first to feel the discomfort at the beginning of the run. 

Many people actually give up right away, saying it’s just too uncomfortable and feels like they’re choking. 

But the first few moments are the hardest. Use them to establish a system that helps you manage the mask. 

Regulating your breathing is essential. Count the seconds you inhale, match them to the seconds you exhale. Short breaths are fine, as long as they’re even and steady. 

Bring Extra Water

Drinking more water will refresh you and keep your momentum going. Be sure to bring a little more than you would normally drink. 

If you don’t usually bring water on a short run, just grab a small bottle. You can even get a belt or vest that will hold it so you can run hands-free. 

Distract Yourself: Focus on Enjoying Your Environment

Once you’ve established your breathing system, try to divert your attention to the scenery around you, the music you’re listening to, or your wandering thoughts. 

The distraction will make the whole process enjoyable, instead of dwelling on the giant piece of cloth in front of your face. 

Don’t slip the mask under your nose. 

It’s tempting to shift the mask down to free your nose, but it really defeats the purpose of wearing the mask. 

You’re still putting your breath out into the air, making it possible for others to get infected. 

If you really need to catch your breath, stop running for a minute or two, find a quiet space where no-one else is around, and – if you feel it’s safe to do so – pull down your mask for a few seconds.

Alternative Tips for Running During Coronavirus

Choose routes as far away from people as possible. 

Now is a good time to do some trail running. You can also do some cross-training methods, like hill sprints or bodyweight workouts

These will all strengthen your running endurance while keeping that critical social distance from others. 

Run during ‘off times.’ 

Most run in the early evening from 5-9 PM, or in the morning from 7-10 AM. You’ll encounter way fewer people if you get up with the sunrise or exercise after 9 PM

Besides, the weather will be much cooler, making your run more comfortable. So adjust your routine a bit to beat the crowds and heat. 

Get Creative With Your Running Solutions

Running during Corona forces all of us into thinking outside the box. A man in New Hampshire ran a full marathon in his back yard. 

Many public races have been canceled, introducing virtual races as a new trend. 

People are leaving the cities and staying in the countryside now, to get away from the virus and allow them to keep up their exercise routines. 

If you’ve been training for a race and your plans were altered because of the Coronavirus, you may need to sit down and adjust your running schedule to fit the situation. 

Download one of our customizable marathon or half marathon training plans and don’t let this new situation stop you from reaching your goals.  

Running Masks You Can Buy Today

Bestseller No. 1
AstroAI Reusable Dust Face Mask with 7 Filters - Personal Protective Adjustable for Running, Cycling, Outdoor Activities(Black, 1 Mask + 7 Activated Carbon Filters +4 Breathing Valves)
  • COMPREHENSIVE PROTECTION: 4-layer filter can remove non-oil particles in air including dust, and other non-oil based particles. Ideal for Running, Cycling, and other Outdoor Activities
  • EASIER BREATHING: One-way discharge valves allow breathe out; The increased ventilation lets heat and moisture escape, preventing eyeglasses from fogging
  • SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION: This dustproof mask is made of premium Nylon, allowing breathe smoothly; Activated Carbon Filters protect you from dust pollution
  • COMFORTABLE DESIGN: Soft nose pad on filters and adjustable snap-on nose clip provide a better fit; Flexible ear loop reduces rubbing on ears; Replaceable filter increases ease of use
  • LONGER SERVICE LIFE: Included replacement filters sets (7 filters+7 nose pad+4 vent valves) extend service life for the dust mask; Mask is washable by hand to easily keep it clean; 1 Year Warranty provided by AstroAI
Bestseller No. 2
Neck Gaiter, Bandana Face Mask, Scraf Face Mask Face Cover for Sports Yoga Running Cycling Hiking
  • About Size - One size fit most, the headband scarf nature measures about 46 x 27cm, high stretchy, are suitable for men, women and children.
  • Material -- Made of ice silk. breathability, and combine the 4 most important features: Sun protection and UV protection, breathable and not stuffy. Ideal for everyday use and sports.
  • Stereoscopic Effect - feel comfortable in any position. Super insulation on the face and neck, sun, cold, rain or wind protection, also suitable as a sweatband, mosquito or dust protection, portable.
  • Versatile -- Can be worn in a variety of ways; a scarf, balaclava, bandana, hairband, wristband. Suitable for yoga, the gym, jogging, all sporting and outdoor activities.
  • Multiple Occasions Available -- The elastic tube scarf will be perfect for yoga, morning jogs, running, hiking, skiing, fitness, cycling, riding, fishing and trekking.
Bestseller No. 3
FDBRO Sports Mask Pro Workout Mask Fitness,Running,Resistance,Cardio,Endurance Mask for Fitness Training Sport Mask with Filter Cotton (L)
  • 【WHY YOU NEED THAT】Breathing is always the key for our workout. Whether you’re a veteran as a sports lover or you’re a rookie who recently begin to realize the benefits of exercise, you know by now that when it comes to sports, breathing is an essential part of your success. For taking your fitness, sport and match skills to the next level, it‘s a good choice to add the Training Mask into your workout plan from now on.
  • 【WITH FILTER COTTON IN IT】For better experience, this FDBRO Sports Mask Pro adds filter cotton to its interior, it can help to block the flavor from the air. Of course, the cotton can be removed freely, even though you take out the cotton, it can be used like the previous version.
  • 【DIFFERENT LEVELS OF AIR-FLOW RESISTANCE】The toggle switch still can be adjusted with 1 to 6 levels which simulates various altitude air conditions, but this time filter cotton is an influence factor too. If you use the mask with the filter cotton, all the resistances are stronger than without cotton, it’s not suitable for new users but suits for those veteran who love challenge. So, that's mean without adding filter cotton and adding filter cotton are total 12 breathing levels!
  • 【DURABLE & RELIABLE】This exercise mask is made from high quality ultra durable construction, the mask sleeve is also elastic and sturdy, in order to prevent the back of the sleeve sliding off, the sleeve adds some anti-slip bump to increase friction. Whole workout mask is easy to be clean, the front cover, the sleeve, the filter cotton and the toggle switch can be separated from the silicone part, helping users easier to wash off any residue/sweat on the mask after exercise.
  • 【BENEFITS】You can take deeper breaths during your workout which doesn't tire you as quickly and makes you feel more productive. Wearing this sports mask and doing moderate amount exercise, the increased growth hormone will help you burn more fat, build more muscle, and recover faster after an intense workout.
Bestseller No. 4
Training Mask 3.0 with Free Carry Case for Simulated Altitude Resistance Breathing, Performance Fitness, Workout Mask, Running Mask, Breathing Mask, Resistance Mask, Cardio Mask (3.0 SM + Case)
  • SIZING BY WEIGHT: Small: 100-145 lbs • Medium: 150 - 249 lbs • Large: 250-300 lbs
  • ✅ CUTTING EDGE TRAINING: Respiratory conditioning improves tolerance for high intensity workout
  • ✅ DIAL UP THE INTENSITY: TrainingMask 3.0 features 6 workout intensity levels at the turn of a dial
  • ✅ THE BEST GOT BETTER: TrainingMask 3.0 comes with an all-new Quad-Layer Reinforced Sleeve which has a 40% thicker breathable mesh, is lightweight, and features moisture wicking technology. But TrainingMask didn't stop there, the sleeve is also comes with a 1-year warranty with product registration (details for registration come inside your new TrainingMask 3.0 box).
  • ✅ PROS TRUST THE REAL TRAININGMASK: Marshawn Lynch, All Pro running back, relies on the TrainingMask to be a crucial piece to his pre-game and workout routine to get him ready to compete at the highest level. Even if you are not a pro, or do not consider yourself elite, the TrainingMask will take you to the next level no matter where you are at in your fitness program.
Bestseller No. 5
Training Mask 2.0 [Original Black] Elevation, Fitness Mask, Workout Mask, Running Mask, Breathing Mask, Resistance Mask, Elevation Mask, Cardio Mask (Black & White, Medium)
  • We are the Real Training Mask - We have pioneered and have become the leader in performance breathing devices. Genuine TrainingMask breathing exercise devices were engineered to apply variable levels of tension to the breathing muscles by controlling air flow which increases tension on your breathing muscles.
  • Burn the Fat - Build the Muscle - It’s not all about endurance and stamina – the Training Mask has been scientifically proven to increase your body’s growth hormone levels by up to 25% with exercise. Increased growth hormone will help you burn more fat, build more muscle, and recover faster after a tough workout.
  • Build Stamina for the Long Run - Using the Training Mask in your workouts will decrease the impact of fatigue in your training sessions by increasing your threshold potential, activity strength at exhaustion, and stamina. More stamina and endurance make the hard workouts EASIER.
  • How do our Training Mask's Work? Training Mask Original Series masks uses patented multi-level resistance which loads the respiratory muscles by adding friction to inhaled air. Increasing your breathing load while working out is like lifting weights for your breathing muscles. More breathing power will supercharge your stamina and endurance. The Training Mask Original Series include: 6 Resistance Caps, 3 Flux Valves, Head Strap, Manual, and a 3 YEAR WARRANTY with Product Authentication.
  • Training Mask 3.0 Is for Everyone! - The Training Mask benefits everyone from the weekend warrior to pro athletes. Take your fitness, sport and game to the next level by adding the Training Mask into your workout routine today.
Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon where she works as co-founder of Evoke.

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