In the past, few people would have associated cannabis consumption with athletes or endurance training, but times sure are changing. Jim McAlpine is the founder of the weed-friendly athletic event series called the 420 Games.
He also co-owns bud-friendly gym Power Plant Fitness with ex-NFL running back, Ricky Williams. “It’s become a social movement,” says McAlpine. “There are so many of us who are in the closet.”
McAlpine, Williams, and others like them are a new kind of cannabis user who lives a very physically active lifestyle but also smokes weed. Athletes use cannabis for various reasons.
“It activates your brain and gets you in The Zone,” says McAlpine. “I love to smoke before I ski or mountain bike or go surfing. It puts me in a place of higher focus, the Eye of the Tiger type thing.”
Former NFL offensive lineman says that smoking marijuana “connects me mentally and emotionally into my body, which allows me to get a more fulfilling workout.”
He says he smokes to loosen his muscles and scar tissue, as well as for his mind. “It’s very uplifting mentally. It allows me to push through that last couple reps,” he told MensHealth.com. “I might be fatiguing, but it gets me into a flow state and allows me to push through.”
Integrative cannabis physician Dr. June Chin suggests athletes use cannabis “during the training season to help recover, ease the pain, and push to the next level. The goal is that they don’t get bogged down by that stubborn knee or lower back pain. They can run a longer distance, be faster and more efficient. They can power through it.”
In both professional football and basketball, there are dozens of players who smoke marijuana. In an interview with Bleacher Report, former NBA player Kenyon Martin claimed that “85% of the league” were smoking marijuana during his career.
But you don’t find the same percentages with endurance athletes. At least, not yet you don’t. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) still ban cannabis, and a triathlete caught using faces a two-year ban.
Interestingly, the USADA has placed CBD on its approved list. So, how can cannabis help endurance athletes and is it worth trying endurance sports while high? Read on for the experiences of three crucial endurance athletes who also smoke cannabis, and what it does for them.
David Louvet is a triathlete who has competed in seven Ironmans. At the top of his game, he was working 70 hours a week and training for 14 to 18 hours for competitions.
This punishing regime eventually wore his body out so much that he had to take a break after collapsing in the 2015 World Championships. During his break, Louvet learned about the benefits of cannabis when CBD was recommended to treat his sick dogs.
Suddenly, his elderly dog gained renewed energy, so he thought he’d give it a try himself. Three years afterward, Louvet now uses CBD isolate and is training seven days a week for triathlons.
“CBD helps to reign in my anxiety, allowing me to accomplish more of what I want to do each day,” says Louvet. “It’s also valuable in my recovery efforts decreasing inflammation and helping me sleep better at night.
It’s by far one of the best recovery supplements available. From massages to compression socks, I think CBD will be the next tool to help all athletes perform and recover better.”
Recovery and Training
Antonio DeRose started endurance sports when the 420 Games introduced him to other athletes. He is a sponsored cannabis athlete and co-owns Marijuana Fitness Nutrition, which encourages healthy living and an active lifestyle, while at the same time promoting the benefits of cannabis.
He is the first male athlete to complete the whole 420 Games National Tour, and a Ragnar Trail team captain. He has over 15 years of cannabis experience and says that cannabis is made for endurance challenges.
“I consume cannabis as part of my training and recovery routine,” he says. “I consume flower or concentrates before training for a boost — the THC helps me and gives me a deeper connection between my mind and body, allowing for improved neuromuscular control.
And I use topical products, especially CBD, to help isolate sensitive areas, which allows me to recover faster. I attribute both of these to my improved performance this year.”
He is of the opinion that all endurance athletes would see similar benefits if they were to use cannabis. “For some, cannabis can provide a more profound sense of focus when training, allowing them to reach the flow state.
This is a sense of natural ease in both movements of the body and mind. As for the potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of cannabis, those can help endurance athletes deal with trauma the body endures from training, competition, and injuries.”
The Runner’s High
Nathan Giusti is a former ‘fat kid’ who now loves endurance running. He has run Spartan Races, 50-mile ultra-marathons, and has coached runners in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program.
He also enjoys cannabis. “The effect it had on me was an accentuation of some of the things I like about endurance running. It slows things down a bit. It ups the runners high.
I found that if I smoked before a run, I’d run a little slower, although not significantly. Still, I’d be able to do the same distances or more, but instead of having that runner’s grimace, I’d have a smile on my face.”
For Guisti, he was already running when a friend suggested he try running while high. He found that it added new physical and mental challenges, which he enjoyed.
“I often find that cannabis makes it easier or more enjoyable to run when I might not otherwise be in the mood. It’s also good for longer, slower run days as it generally keeps me at a more relaxed long-term pace while helping with minor aches and pains that come from a run.”
So, although cannabis isn’t as popular with endurance training yet, it’s here for the long haul. It could be vital for completing longer and harder endurance training.