Working out in the middle of a pandemic looks (and feels) entirely different from the pre-COVID days. Gyms were some of the first places to shut down to help stop the spread of the virus, and the last to start reopening. So, many people have taken to the streets, embracing a newfound love for running outdoors or socially distanced group workouts in parks. Others have had to get creative by investing in home gym equipment and/or joining online fitness programs.
And then there’s the issue of whether to wear a mask while going out for a run or exercising in a group. But not all masks are made equally, and when you’re working out, you want something that will stay in place and not hinder your performance in any way. Enter Under Armour’s new Sportsmask, a first-of-its-kind product specifically designed with fitness in mind.
“I live in an urban environment, so the second I step out my door, it’s difficult to socially distance,” Cara McDonough, vice president of accessories and licensing at Under Armour, tells Bustle. “In order to go for a run or work out in my neighborhood, wearing a mask is imperative, and this is the first mask I’ve tried that enables me to break a sweat while still breathing comfortably. I’ve also worn it on bike rides for hours and not felt the need to take it off.”
Back in March, the company began manufacturing masks for healthcare workers and organizations. At the same time, it also realized athletes would need a different kind of mask for the pandemic. As professional sports leagues began talks about resuming play weeks ago, the team fast-tracked 13 prototypes to arrive at this final product.
McDonough and her team sought guidance from medical experts along the way, and closely considered many elements during the design process. They picked apart everything — from fabric type, to individual fit (the mask is available in four different sizes), to creating structure so the mask sits off the mouth and nose. The mask will be under review for FDA certification this summer.
“It’s a mask specifically built for performance,” McDonough says. “The patent pending design and construction stays off your mouth so you can talk and breathe, while the next-to-skin fabric around the edges of the mask provides a firm, comfortable fit.”
Each of the mask’s three layers serves a purpose. The outer layer uses a breathable fabric treated with a water-resistant finish to repel moisture. The middle layer of foam traps respiratory moisture released by the wearer. The inner layer has Under Armour’s Iso-Chill material, which helps keep the face cool and is treated with an antimicrobial to inhibit growth of bacteria on the mask.
Another unique feature: a moldable nose-bridge to help secure the mask in place and mitigate airflow to the eyes, meaning fewer annoying instances of glasses fogging up.
“Our UA Sportsmask was designed for athletes, but we realize it won’t only be worn by people in an athletic setting,” McDonough says. “A couple wear testers told us that after working out, they wore the mask into a grocery store, and it wasn’t until they got home that they realized they forgot to take it off. It’s that comfortable.”
The first batch of masks sold out quickly, but the brand is already taking pre-orders for the next product run that will ship by August. Fitness enthusiasts can expect new color drops in the near future, too.
“You can imagine that wearing a mask to work out or run in will be a new feeling for anyone, so it’ll take some getting used to,” McDonough says. “This year has already presented everyone quite a few challenges, and if we can play a small part in enabling people to do what they love and do it safely, then it will be a success.”