If someone were to tell you a year ago that you’d be Googling “best mask for running” or “best mask for working out” in the summer of 2020, you likely would’ve looked at them sideways. And yet here we are: face masks have become an essential part of everyday wear for anyone leaving the house. Many states require you to wear a mask in public if you can’t practice social distancing and the CDC recommends it. While it’s not strictly necessary for outdoor activity if you’re able to stay well-distanced from other people the entire time you’re out, lots of times—say, a run somewhere that is even a little bit crowded—that’s not possible.
But here’s nothing fun about covering your face while you’re working out. Breathing while you’re pushing your limits was already hard enough—going hard while breathing through a barrier feels downright impossible. And it’s only getting worse as summer temperatures heat up.
So GQ rang up five guys who know a thing or two about working out to see how they’re navigating pandemic fitness, and got their recommendations for the best mask for running and working out.
“I haven’t taken off a mask in 14 weeks.”
Dan Giordano, DPT, co-founder Bespoke Treatments
I always wear a mask, nearly 100 percent of the time when I’m either working out outside or inside with clients. To be honest, they’re all terrible. I’ve gone through about seven different kinds, and found three that I stick with. If you’ve ever heard of Sp02—oxygen saturation—it’s a measure of the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood, relative to the amount of hemoglobin not carrying oxygen. Basically, a healthy person should have an Sp02 level between 95 and 100 percent or so. When wearing a mask and working out, mine dropped from 99 to 93. If you’re an athlete, you’ll understand that sort of difference, and you’ll feel like you can’t breathe as efficiently.
Still, we want to be protected. All of the masks I use are either polyester or cotton with the filters in them. I do the candle test to check that mine are efficient—if you can blow out a candle while wearing your mask, that’s not a good thing. I’ll wash mine at least once a week, and since the ones I use require filters, I’m changing those regularly as well.
Sport Tech Fashion Mouth Mask, (4 Pack)
“I’d rather avoid folks entirely than run with the mask.”
Knox Robinson, writer and runner
I’ve been in Mexico City for quarantine, and I’ve carried a mask and worn my dreads in a buff just in case. I made some buffs with my friend’s brand in Mexico called Migo, I love the way it looks. But to be honest, I’d rather avoid folks entirely than run with the mask.
Biker Black Bandana
$6.5.00, Migo Headwear
“You can’t infect yourself with your own breath.”
Joe Holder, GQ’s wellness columnist
I run in secluded places and work out on my own, so I rarely wear one. The open air will disperse the particles, and if you’re running by yourself in a secluded area? You can’t infect yourself with your own breath. Still, I carry a standard KN95 in my pocket or on my wrist, just in case it becomes unexpectedly crowded.
If I’m wearing a mask but the route gets a bit crowded for a second, one thing to remember is that social distancing measures need to be a bit larger when you’re running. So I make sure I’m not running directly behind or in front of someone so the path of exhalation and inhalation doesn’t completely line up.
KN95 Face Mask (10 Pack)
$60.00, Source Ortho
“These make you look like you’re in Mortal Kombat.”
Ariel Foxie, Nike trainer and wellness consultant
I try to wear a bandana or mask when running to put others at ease and protected. There are moments where I come to an intersection with almost no one wearing a mask and there’s little space to distance, so I’ll put mine on to make sure I’m taking care of myself. I typically choose routes that have less foot traffic, too.
Lately I’ve been using a “sports mask” randomly found online. I kid you not, that’s what the packaging says. It’s nice because it doesn’t sit on my face or get inhaled when I try to take a breath in.
Dukars Sports Mask
“I’ve been taking so many other precautions, I can’t mess this up by not wearing a mask in crowded places.”
Michael Chernow, restaurateur and bodybuilder
My family and I headed upstate at the beginning of all of this. Up there, I don’t need a mask when I’m out running, as there aren’t any other people around on the roads. But I recently went back to the city and decided to go to the track to do a workout, including some pull-ups and other stuff. There was no shortage of people, and few of them were social distancing, and very few wearing masks.
I’ve been taking so many other precautions, I can’t mess this up by not wearing a mask in crowded places. If I’m in the city, I’m going to wear a mask when I’m working out. It was definitely hard and it got sweaty and slimy. Nothing about it was great. But I wore it because I want to be responsible for myself and others, and I’m not trying to get sick.
Thankfully, I like the way this one looks at fits my face. If you’re out on the street running and you’re being mindful, that’s one thing. But if you’re at the track and using the bodyweight calisthenics set-up, you should be wearing a mask.
Antimicrobial Face Mask
$18.00, Jack Henry
The New Rules of Running During Coronavirus
It’s the ideal way to get some exercise and sunshine during coronavirus quarantine—but there are some things you should know before you lace up and head out.
Originally Appeared on GQ