Why do Some Athletes Perform Better When They are Stoned?
It was time again. Time for an adventure. I meticulously planned my route; knew the elevation gain; knew the areas where I would have to push harder; knew the potential resupply points; knew where I would be hitting snow in areas of higher elevation. The aim was 135 miles in under 72 hours that would end atop the summit of a twisted finger of earth breaking up Southern Oregon’s skyline like Lucifer’s angry finger continually cursing the heavens. I had my nutrition planned, knew how fast I needed to keep moving in order to hit my target within my time frame, linking up with friends after the summit in order to catch a ride home rather than hike the 135 return.
I wound up crushing that little jaunt. Day 1: 56 miles. Day 2: 40 miles Day 3: 39 miles plus the summit bid. All went according to plan too; well, aside from taking a wrong turn on the last day, a bungle that cost me a further 6 miles and a rather unpleasant journey through mosquito infested bogs rather than a lovely Crater Lake Rim section. It wasn’t easy. My feet were blistered, knees sore and ankles swollen. I hadn’t showered in almost three days and had been averaging 5 hours sleep a day. After the wrong turn I had to push through the night and into the early hours of the morning. By the time I arrived at the trailhead I had hit 130 miles in 61 hours, with my last day being 24 hours of continuous movement.
Type two fun is a strange hobby. I won’t lie- there were definitely times out there during which I questioned my own motives for undertaking such a journey and times when I flat out wanted to quit. There were many tools I used to push through the mental and physical demands that such an event imposes onto your body, but one of my greatest weapons was weed.
Yup, you read that right.
I stayed blazed for a solid majority of those 135 miles, throwing smoke stacks all the way to the gnarly summit of Mt. Thielsen, an extinct shield volcano that last erupted 250,000 years ago, leaving a peak that calls adventurers and climbers from all walks of life and all corners of the globe.
Being Oregon, my secret weapon isn’t really much of a secret. The West Coast is a stoners delight, but it’s not just the West Coast where seasoned tokers use the herb to boost their physical performance.
As the legal climate of medicinal and recreational cannabis begins to change, so are the days of athletes who need to wring their hands in contrition and seek penance after failing a piss test for smoking the “devil’s lettuce.” Cannabis culture in sports has long carried within it the old school stigma of reefer madness and athletes throwing their careers away, but to be blunt, the reality of it all is this: lots of athletes use cannabis, and these days professional athletes across the country are speaking out in favor of the discredited herb.
Matt Barnes, who won the NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 has this to say, “All of my best games I was medicated. It wasn’t every single game but, in 15 years, it was a lot.”
The seasoned Small-forward isn’t the only one who has chosen to use cannabis, nor is he the only one who has chosen to take a stand for using plant medicine as opposed to the pharmaceutical concoctions that are on the list of approved drugs for athletes these days.
A few of the athletes who have chosen to use cannabis are…
What? Arnie? You got it. Even if you haven’t watched the famous ‘77 bodybuilding doco Pumping Iron, you may have perhaps seen the famous photo of a jubilant Shwarznegger celebrating his 6th Mr. Olympia trophy with a joint and fried chicken.
The bodybuilder/actor/governor/all-around-legend’s relationship with cannabis didn’t end there either. When Ah-nold became governor of Cali, he completely changed the game in 2011 by reducing the charge for carrying an ounce or less of bud to an infraction and small fine rather than hefty court costs and a misdemeanor.
In the words of the man himself, “That’s not a drug, it’s a leaf.”
The golden boy of the 2008 Olympic games wowed the world by winning a record-setting 8 gold medals in Beijing. Phelps was regarded as an American hero until a photo surfaced of him taking a bong rip at a University party, after which he received a three month suspension from USA swimming, also losing a couple of sponsors in the process. Most of these sponsors, however, jumped back on board for the 2012 Summer Games, after which Phelps earned the title of “Most Decorated Olympian of all Time.”
Phelps vehemently apologized for his “bad judgement,” and it may very well be agreed amongst many cannabis activists that he should have taken more of a firm stance, it’s easy to understand why he opted for this route.
If he had been closer to the end of his career maybe he would have been a little bit more outspoken.
Six-time NBA MVP. Six-time NBA Champion. Nineteen-time NBA All-Star. NBA All-time Scoring Leader. Jabar has been busted on several occasions for possessing cannabis, the NBA legend also admitting to using it for the clearing up of migraines from which he suffered.
“I don’t really care who’s doing drugs in the NBA as long as the scene isn’t adversely affecting my team and teammates. I’ve known enough drug users going as far back as grade school and the streets of New York not to view them as pariahs or lost souls. I’ve certainly smoked my fair share of weed.”
Can we thank cannabis for Jabar’s unstoppable skyhook?
This NFL running back endured a controversial career that included an early retirement after testing positive for marijuana and facing a 650,000$ dollar fine from the NFL. Three years later Ricky was reinstated back into the league and has been a strong marijuana advocate ever since, stating that he believes cannabis would be beneficial for a plethora of the NFL players suffering from painful injuries.
At the 2016 Medicinal Cannabis Cup in SoCal, he had this to say, “One of the ways that I took care of myself was by using cannabis. I’d go see the doctor, he’d wiggle my knee around and say, ‘here’, and give me some anti-inflammatories, some pain pills and say, ‘Just try to rest.’ That’s it…but I think there’s a better way.”
“It activates your brain and gets you into the zone,” said Tim Mcalpine, founder of the reefer-friendly athletic event series, the 420 Games, as well as San Fran-based pot-friendly gym, Power Plant Fitness, (which he co-owns with Ricky Williams,) in one Men’s Health article. “I love to smoke before I ski or mountain bike or go surfing. It puts me in a place of higher focus, Eye of the Tiger type thing. It’s not for everyone, but for some people who are more athletic and coordinated, it works.”
People like Williams and Mcalpine aren’t the only ones swearing by the role cannabis can serve for athletic performance either.
Dr. June Chin, an integrative cannabis physician and frequent keynote speaker on the science and medicine of cannabis all over the world says that athletes should consume 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.”
It would seem, by many different accounts, that weed can play a vital role in athletic performance. I’ll definitely continue using it during my long distance events, but what do you think? Have you ever used herb to push yourself further? To create more focus?
If not, maybe you should…