As a Tulsa resident, I’ve been wearing a face mask on the rare occasion I’ve gone to a store, but I was not wearing one for running outside. Instead, I would do my best to avoid runners and bikers by moving off of the trails when necessary to keep an appropriate distance.
Realizing the potential disaster I was inviting by running in gopher and mole infested drainage ditches, I decided I should start wearing a mask to reduce the fear and aggravation I experience when traffic on the trails leaves me unable to maintain a safe distance. I realize masks are not a 100% solution, but I’m trying to strike a balance between health, fitness, and peaceful coexistence with the chamois charioteers and other trail users.
On my first two masked runs, I wore a fairly average, multi-layered cloth mask. As long as it didn’t get too wet from sweat or rain, it wasn’t all that bad. I ran 6 miles in the Summer Oklahoma heat without any major problems, but I was definitely working hard to pull air through the mask in the last couple of miles. The next run, a quick 4 miler in extreme humidity and rain, I had to take the mask off at 2 miles. I just couldn’t move air through it anymore due to sweat and rain.
Enter the Zensah Performance Face Mask. My local running store has been promoting these since sometime in March, and I’ve been anxious to give them a shot to see how they work for running.
Let me preface this review by saying any negative issues I point out below are already addressed on Zensah’s web site. When you design a product, there are trade-offs, and Zensah did a good job of addressing the reasons behind the design choices they made.
Needless to say, a one size fits all mask is going to run into fit issues with some faces. Unfortunately, my face is one of those faces.
The elastic on both the upper and lower strap is a bit too loose for me. The upper strap allows the mask to ride uncomfortably low on my nose, and in the presence of some sweat, slip off of it entirely. The lower strap is loose by design as explained on Zensah’s site, but it doesn’t work for me.
I tied a knot in the lower strap to help secure the mask better to my chin, but I haven’t played with the upper strap yet. I think I can improve on it, but I would have rather had tighter elastic in the straps to hold the mask tighter to my slightly undersized cranium.
When it is dry or only mildly sweaty, breathing through the Zensah Performance Training Mask is a…oh dear, I’m sorry about this…a breeze. Compared to my various cloth masks, the Zensah mask presents very little resistance even while running.
Unfortunately, when it’s wet, the fun is over. There is little difference between a wet Zensah mask and a cheap, wet cotton mask.
For comparison purposes, inhaling through a sweaty Zensah mask is little different than the hardest setting on the Altitude Training Mask. So I guess what I’m saying is you’re buying a really inexpensive ladder workout for your diaphragm, assuming you can control your sweat rate properly.
I have no idea if the antimicrobial properties of the fabric help with covid-19, but I assume they help keep the mask clean of other microbes and bacteria. I haven’t washed it yet, and it doesn’t smell bad so it must be doing something because my shirt and shorts have not fared nearly as well in the same amount of time.
Wearing a face mask while running is not going to be fun if you’re pushing yourself in training, running in the rain, or sweating profusely. Since no mask you could run in will save you from covid-19, what we’re talking about is giving yourself some peace of mind while at the same time helping protect others if you happen to be an asymptomatic carrier.
If the Zensah Performance Training Mask fits your face well, it’s as good an option as any I’ve tried.