In search of the Perfect Running Face Mask

Sports like running just got a little more technical, due to the requirement to use a face mask. I’m pretty sure people who can nonchalantly just say “you can run, but use a face mask” DO NOT REALLY RUN, or engage in activities that raises heart rate and produces labored breathing. But of course, the lure of the great outdoors beckoned from the moment GCQ allowed us to step foot outside our residences. Before I go deeper into my experience with a branded face mask, let me just, as a responsible runner and citizen, put into bullets some given:

  • The use of a N95 or medical grade mask gives one the highest protection against viral fomites (droplets). Even a cloth mask with a PM25 activated charcoal filter is just a notch lower in defense — but way better than all the beautifully-printed masks on display everywhere nowadays. Definitely, if you are the vulnerable type, you can’t be a runner, first and foremost. Otherwise you would have caught viral pneumonia many decades ago. Still, it has to be put on record that using non-medical grade masks FOR ANY ACTIVITY, is a calculated risk that people take, just to comply with the regulation.
  • The challenge on the use of a surgical mask is breathability. Although I must say “breathing” is so subjective that one may have difficulty while another won’t, face masks in general impede breathing, or only allow shallow breathing. Can one get used to just breathing shallowly, just to make it through the day? Rhetorically, yes, as front liners do. But I will still be a stretch for any one person to withstand an entire day with the same mask on.
  • The biggest issue for runners is the exchange of gases THROUGH THE NOSTRILS. So now you can see why we cheat a little bit and put the mask just below the nose HAHA. Seriously, runners practice good breathing techniques as part of training. “In through the nose and out through the mouth” helps us maximize oxygen consumption, to make us run faster and/or longer.
  • There is only a small risk of acquiring hypercapnia (carbon dioxide toxicity) or “hypoxia (low oxygen supply) in wearing face masks, unless you were susceptible to this in the first place (as in the case of smokers and asthmatics).
  • Design and material of any face mask must not compromise functionality. I truly doubt that the Nike masks being sold at e-bay are authentic Nike-grade ones, hence, now is not the the time to be brand conscious at all.

Having said these, let’s not proceed to my personal take on the Spyder Face Mask.

The “Spyder” logo does not appear on any part of the fabric so there are no bragging rights here. The functionality of the back garter attached to the earpieces is a unique “unpatented” feature. The premium of around P25 that you pay for 1 mask (SRP at P77 each) as compared to generic ones (SRP at P30 to P50) is the fine sewing on sturdy fabric.

And now, for the VERDICT.

  • Jogging and slow pacing for 30minutes permitted regular breathing. Definitely the combination of polyester and cotton made the difference in air-permeability. The mask still felt snug on the face, almost weightless and no bumpiness at the sides.
  • Ramping up speed and distance, I noticed I was already playing catch up with my breathing and sucking up the mask fabric at the mouth and nose area. Naturally when my breathing changed, the heart rate increase followed.
  • After testing this mask for 1 hour at slow-moderate pace, I knew I needed more time to adjust gradually into the new fit. But I was equally convinced it held a promise to sustain long runs, for as long as one monitors his vitals and slows down periodically to rest the heart and lungs.
  • Definitely, NOT YET for competition.

I feel that the best positive comment about this review is the comparative breathing upon going back to a surgical mask. I would likely use this Spyder Face Mask more often, even in non-running times, for that feeling of “oxygen” freedom!

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