Runner’s high? World’s first marijuana gym set to open
In 1998, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati won an Olympic gold medal after smoking marijuana.
The medal was temporarily revoked after blood tests revealed Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the active ingredient in cannabis) in his system, however his medal was returned because marijuana was not on the International Olympic Committee’s list of banned substances (it now is, at a much higher dose than what Rebagliati had taken).
After all it wasn’t thought weed did much. As Robin Williams later joked, “the only way it’s a performance-enhancing drug is if there’s a big f*cking Hershey bar at the end of the run”.
But, contrary to the stereotype that stoners are lazy and lie around covered in Doritos crumbs, some argue that marijuana can heighten your athletic performance.
In fact, the world’s first stoner’s gym, Power Plant Fitness, opens in San Francisco in November.
“Members will be able to consume cannabis in the gym while working out,” a press release for the gym states. “Power Plant also produces a line of ‘athletic edibles’ made for pre-workout focus and post-workout recovery.”
The “fitness first, cannabis second” model is the brainchild of entrepreneur Jim McAlpine and former NFL running back and star player, Ricky Williams.
“The mission of my first venture [was] to show the world that cannabis is not bad and it does not make people lazy nor stupid,” McAlpine told Complex. “And that it can be a healthy and productive part of an athlete’s life and training regiment.”
Cannibis may be a part of more athletes’ lives than we realise.
The most decorated Olympian of all time Michael Phelps, who has won 22 medals, was famously photographed smoking a bong in 2009, while former NBA All-Star player, Charles Oakley has claimed that over half of NBA players smoke pot before each game.
Elite triathlete, Clifford Drusinsky has also revealed that his runner’s high is induced.
“Marijuana relaxes me and allows me to go into a controlled, meditational place,” Drusinsky told Men’s Journal. “When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form.”
“I personally know boxers, body builders, cyclists, runners and athletes from all walks of life that train and compete with the assistance of marijuana,” WWE wrestler Rob Van Dam wrote in a separate article, “but they might not feel comfortable sharing this information.”
Research has shown that marijuana can provide pain relief, has an anti-inflammatory effect and reduces anxiety, however there have been few studies on the effect it has on sporting performance.
The World Anti-Doping Agency‘s decision to ban it was based on studies that suggested it may help athletes to stay calm and it acts as a bronchiodilator, increasing airflow to the lungs.
“It may help some athletes get into a zone and put their bodies through very tough physical activity,” Mark Ware, a McGill University professor and executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, told Men’s Journal. “It may enable them to focus on those repetitive tasks.”
It is the heightened focus that appeals to McAlpine.
“Cannabis really activates my mind in a way where I become focused and engaged in the athletic activity,” he tells Pricenomics. “If I wasn’t using cannabis, I’d be like, ‘This is boring. Let’s turn it in and do something else.’”
While he admits that it affects people differently, and may not benefit everyone (one journalist passed out after trying to work out stoned while another went mountain biking and rode “straight off the trail”), McAlpine hopes to destigmatise “stoners” and reframe the runner’s high.
“Whether its franchising or licensing, I want to see these [gyms] across the United States,” McAlpine says, adding that he’s already looking at locations in Los Angeles and San Diego. “I want create a new paradigm of working out that people can subscribe to, just like PRX and CrossFit. I think we can be the next big thing.”
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