Pot and Sports Are Finally Coming Together – Rolling Stone
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Turn On, Tune In…Work Out?

Pot has a reputation for slowing people down — but some athletes use it to ‘activate’ performance

Runners take off in a 4.2-mile run, part of the 420 Games, an effort to stop the stigmatization of cannabis use through athletic events, at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco . Students, accountants, businessmen, housewives and many others in green T-shirts and all wearing the number 420 raced to change the stereotypical images of marijuana smokers as lazy and lethargic stoners who binge on junk foodMarijuana Games, San Francisco, USA

Runners take off in a 4.2-mile run, part of the 420 Games, an effort to stop the stigmatization of cannabis use through athletic events, at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Olga Rodriguez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

About a half hour before one of his mile swims near his Bay Area home, entrepreneur and gym rat Jim McAlpine does something seemingly counterproductive: He tosses down a hefty does of THC. “About 10 or 20 minutes in,” he says, “I start to feel it, and I get a second wind. I don’t like to use the word ‘high’ — I like ‘activated.’”

McAlpine is one of many athletes, pro and amateur, who’ve learned what weed can add to workouts. According to a 2016 study by the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, weed is now the “second most widely used drug” by athletes, after alcohol. Currently in its sixth year, the aptly named 420 Games, founded by McAlpine, has become the X Games for stoners: several days of mini-marathons, arm wrestling, and jujitsu for “cannathletes” designed to demonstrate that regular weed users can get off the couch. (The games are coming to Los Angeles and San Francisco this year.) While the effects can vary—“it makes some people less coordinated,” McAlpine admits — some physicians agree that weed can make it easier to focus, especially on repetitive exercises like running and pumping iron. “Cannabis raises dopamine levels in the brain,” says Dr. Joseph Rosado, medical director of a cannabis clinic in Florida. “But unlike other drugs, it doesn’t increase the risk of dopamine ‘burn-out’ over prolonged periods of use. So you can focus on what’s going on.”

CBD can also be an alternative to opiates when dealing with pain and inflammation, as former NFL running back and longtime weed advocate Ricky Williams learned during a long-ago practice when he was dealing with an injury and lit up with teammates. “I had an amazing practice,” he says. “I felt like I was a kid again on the playground, having fun.” Williams, now studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, took it the next step, adding canna-butter into his oatmeal before a yoga class. “I was more aware of the deeper layers of my muscles,” he says. “It was by far the best yoga class I’d ever had. It made me more in tune with my body.”

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