Wednesday, January 9

Outdoor Research Facemask review

I knew there would come a day when I would need to face the elements and learn to run outside in the winter. When I first started running, I built my endurance during the winter on a treadmill at the gym I joined, happily logging miles to my favorite tunes in a climate-controlled environment. My lungs were happy too.

My racing experiences taught me that my lungs needed to be exposed to a variety of different air types in order for me to do well in races that, well, weren't on a treadmill. (And unless you're doing a virtual race, it's likely that you're not racing on a treadmill.)

My asthma actually got so much worse in the summer's humidity (hallmark of western Pennsylvanian summers) that my race times suffered significantly. I even had to not attend a one-miler because the humidity was so bad and my asthma was bothering me so much... So I knew that the cold weather, the opposite extreme, would be a challenge. I just wasn't sure how to handle it.

Cue running coach: he recommended that I buy a face mask. I had been using a neck cowl, pulling it up over my nose and mouth when I felt like I needed to, but its fleeciness--albeit warm--got damp with my breath and the inconsistent temperatures for my breathing actually seemed to make things worse...

The local running store didn't have what I was looking for, so I had to look somewhere hardcore. I went to the outdoor enthusiast's store and--behold!--I found the Outdoor Research face mask for $26.

I ran a 5k for this trial. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of 7 degrees in St. Louis, Missouri, on New Year's Day. This was the coldest weather I ever attempted to run in... but I did it!

$26 might seem like a steep price for such a dainty thing, but when you first wear this, if you struggled to breathe before, you will thank your lucky stars to have found it and you will feel like you stole the thing for the price that you paid...

The technical composition is stellar--Windstopper fabric pulled gently across your face, shaped to cup your chin and nose without rubbing, secured at the nape of your neck with Velcro. Awesome.

It does not:
  • Restrict your movement
  • Feel like a turtleneck two sizes too small or grandma squeezing her shoulder into your throat as she hugs you.
  • Allow you to suck in cold air. (Clutch for asthmatics with cold air-induced bronchospasms!)
  • Restrict your breathing*.
  • Increase your likelihood to be scoped out for a fashion magazine. It's functional, but you're not going to be mistaken for Kate Middleton in it.
 It does:
  • Have a thin inner fleece lining that will brush against your face as you bounce along in your run. 
  • Collect a little bit of moisture inside the front near where your nostrils or mouth are. 
  • Move a bit if you dip your head towards your chest (like you're looking down).
  • Wash well! I put it in a gentles bag with my running socks and sports undergarments. It goes in the dryer on low, too. Easy wash, easy dry.
  • Help manage breathing by providing consistent air temperature.
  • Come in different sizes. (I wear a small.)
All that being said, I would definitely recommend the Outdoor Research face mask to my fellow asthmatics! I think you'll be satisfied with the relief. For others struggling with cold air intake during the winter, this might be a good bet for you too if you find that you're frequently breathing out of your mouth.

*I did not have an asthma attack during this run, so I was breathing as I would normally during a run. That is what I mean when I say that it did not restrict my breathing.

1 comment:

  1. That's great that you can run in cold weather now. I should check that out the Outdoor Research face mask! I have allergies and asthma to.


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