HAM Plan Releases Masked Up E-book to ‘Optimize Training While Wearing a Mask’

December 17, 2020 by
Credit: Courtesy of HAM Plan
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In response to COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates, The HAM Plan has released the Masked Up e-book, a resource containing 62 workouts designed to “optimize training while wearing a mask.”

Remind me: HAM Plan is a training platform run by Austin Malleolo, James Hobart, Spencer Hendel, and Travis Herbanek (between them, they have 35 years of coaching and 24 CrossFit Games appearances). Around 100 affiliates across the globe follow their programming, which includes plans for gyms, individuals, at home training, and lifting. 

Malleolo says their global reach has kept the HAM team in tune with coronavirus restrictions around the world, though masking up for workouts wasn’t a major factor in programming and strategy until New York added the restriction for gyms. 

  • “We started tweaking workouts in our lesson plans, we started creating logistical constraints like, are you outside, because a lot of gyms were open, but not inside,” Malleolo says. 
  • And then we started fielding questions like ‘How do you change the mindset of athletes that are in the mask?’” he continued. “I said, ‘What we really should do is create a resource.’ From there, it became a process of ‘OK, what does a masked workout look like?’”

The programming: On their website, The HAM Plan notes that Masked Up prioritizes a few things: “rest and intervals, stress loading more often, and focus on pacing strategy.” Malleolo looks at the 62 workout (two-month) plan as a “chance to refine,” rather than go. 

Testing workouts, Malleolo says, they learned that when exercising with a mask on, “you find yourself, when you need to catch your breath, stopping and almost lifting your mask up and breathing underneath it.”

  • “There was a lot of testing of doing workouts and being like, that was awful, I don’t want to do that with a mask on,” he says. 

The Masked Up programming includes built-in rests, interval-based workouts, and more lifting days – which have a higher rep range so there’s a cardio element, Malleolo explains – to keep the heart-rate down so that the mask doesn’t become a limiting factor.

  • “You can do Cindy, and your heart rate is at 150 for 20 minutes,” he says. “Or you could make a couple of tweaks and do strict movements and really slow it down, and still get wonderful stimulus.”

Changing mindset: The biggest takeaway from their testing, Malleolo says, is that exercising in a mask is more about mindset than the actual workout. 

  • Traditionally as CrossFitters, we love to go,” he explains. “What we learned is to write workouts that might make you start to raise an eyebrow and say, ‘Well, this is a little unique.’ Right away, you start to think about the workout more critically.”

Masked Up includes strategy notes, substitutions, and goals with the workouts. This, Malleolo hopes, will help change athletes’ mindset, so they don’t get two minutes in and realize “oh my god, this is awful.” 

  • “If you go on an assault bike go for 15 cals as hard as you can and then you gotta go bench press, you’re going to sit there on the bench trying to just breathe under your mask for a minute, which is not fun,” Malleolo says, noting that they’re trying to avoid a “big peak, big valley, big peak, big valley” pattern in heart rate. 

Malleolo gives another example of the mindset adaptation using their deadlift day:

  • On our deadlift day we say double overhand, no hook grip. Now you’re not going to be able to do 25 reps unbroken, you’re going to have to break, because your grip now becomes the limiting factor,” he says. 
  • We’re changing the limiting factor from fitness and heart rate to grip. We make the mask a little bit less of a variable of slowing you down. Now, the mindset changes, and hopefully you don’t have to think about it much. Now you’re like, “Oh, I can’t hold on to this bar!” It’s not, “I can’t breathe through this mask.” 

The details: The Masked Up e-book costs $15 and can be purchased online

  • Though it’s original purpose was to be a resource for gyms, Malleolo said the workouts can be adapted for any athlete, mask or no mask.

The bottom line: Malleolo says they targeted the book towards athletes in the Northeast, who, with winter on its way and new restrictions in many places, are headed towards a hard few months. Masked Up takes an optimistic approach to working out in a mask, using it as a chance to improve.

  • We never want the mask to be something that [people] can’t workout in,” he says.
  • “What’s the opportunity here?” he asks. “You’ve never gotten worse from working your weaknesses or moving better, or doing things that you’re not good at. It just so happens most of us have to work on quality of movement, or putting your body in the right positions at the right time, which requires more thinking and moving a little slower or a little lighter.”

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