As promised, I’ve decided to at least attempt to document some of the experimentation I’ve been doing with cannabis in terms of performance enhancement. In my particular case, I have been using it to enhance and improve my road cycling.
I enjoy endurance cycling, but will attempt in this series to avoid boastful mileage claims and all the competition-fueled ego fluff that too often accompanies social media updates and even friendly conversations with amateur athletes (we all know one; it’s why Facebook’s Unfollow feature was invented).
We also all indulge in particular hobbies, be they athletic in nature or not, because of passion and true interest. It’s our precious free time, so we better do something we damn well please, right? If your thing is chess, that’s cool. But you’re probably reading the wrong article….
However, I’ll attempt to spare selling you on my passion for cycling. It’s just something that works for me and many others, but it’s not a miracle for everybody. Nor do most sane humans want to spend this much on a pile of carbon fiber, snappy racing colors, and purpose-driven electronics.
I will, however, constantly encourage readers to exercise. An enlightened friend once turned me onto an interesting theory: 20 minutes of exercise, three times per week—if it raises your heart rate enough—will give you the majority of the health benefits of exercise.
You simply don’t need to head out for 16 miles of running or 50 miles of cycling. Efforts that are much more reasonable and practical in terms of time and effort can give you all the health you need.
Cannabis, I believe, can help. Even if it does nothing more than break a spell of anxiety or depression that had previously kept you away from the track, trail, or pool. However, cannabis is only part of a holistic approach to wellness and health. Exercise and a clean, science-based diet are just as important. I’m told meditation and yoga don’t hurt, either.
The few pro athletes I’ve spoken with have indicated that cannabis is very impressive in aiding their recovery from training and long endurance sessions. This is something I have noticed personally and will explore more in future articles in this series.
Breathing: Considering Bronchodilation
Any runner, cyclist, or swimmer is naturally concerned with the capacity of their respiratory system. The efficiency of their lungs and heart is critical to performance and reaching training goals.
Despite his controversy, a big part of Lance Armstrong’s success wasn’t just his venting of anger toward his father (his admission, not my observation), but also because of his significantly above average respiratory and cardiovascular capacity (his heart and lungs are simply larger and more efficient than many of his peers).
Personally, I have been using cannabis directly before a ride in combination with breathing exercises. I take very slow, long, deep tokes, getting the smoke or vapor as deep within my lungs as possible. If you’re using the good stuff and it was actually cured, this won’t be a problem (another reason to support legal, regulated dispensaries).
Because THC acts as a bronchodilator (read my asthma article for MassRoots for more info), it means that pulling smoke or vapor that is rich in this special psychoactive cannabinoid as deep as possible within the lungs serves to open passageways and increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of these critical organs.
I have been both medicating pre-ride by smoking flowers and mid-ride via use of my handy Puffco Pro vape pen. It handles only concentrates, which is perfect. I desire to stop for a relatively short period and arouse no suspicion of my true activities with the smell of burning flowers (I’m riding in Texas, after all).
The Psychology of Fear
It’s easy to get scared of training. There’s pain and a need for an almost constant push. It’s intense, and I can easily understand why some don’t want to participate in this game of racing the clock (or, for some, other humans).
I’ve found that this fear can be debilitating when it comes to good performance. The consumption of good cannabis, however—especially a top-shelf sativa variety—can reduce or almost eliminate this fear. At least for me.
After medicating with cannabis, I felt no trepidation whatsoever about my training. Now, this may be due to the sativa-dom strains that I prefer, which are naturally energizing (obviously good for endurance exercise). Cannabis caused my mind to calm to the point that I’m able to block any outside stress that might result in anxiety that would distract me from my ride. And, in the process, distract me from pushing as hard as possible and improving.
We all have too much drama in our lives. Crude bosses, ex lovers, children, pets, daily commutes, and finances can all suck away much of our best energy. This is energy that’s desperately needed during endurance exercise. Or any exercise, in my humble opinion.
I’ve always believed in the power of focus. Cannabis simply allows me to better focus on my ride. The anxiety of my next article deadline or the topic of my next book or how well my daughters are doing in school fades to issues with which I will deal after I get off the bike.
As one of my old corporate clients used to post in their conference rooms: Be Here Now. Cannabis helps many—including me—do exactly that.
Unless it’s a critical analysis or sorting things out in terms of strategy, what can I really do for the other areas of my life when I’m on the bike anyway? I ride to improve my career, health, and interpersonal relationships. Why would I want to allow these very things to, ironically, put a dent in the effort designed to improve them?
Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
This said, I do want to emphasize that the total elimination of fear during endurance exercise is not wise. I have no choice but to play in traffic when I go riding. I live in the suburbs, not the country. I often ride to the country, but I must pass thru some heavily congested traffic arteries to do it.
Also, a full elimination of fear may result in over-indulgence in strenuous exercise, which may produce injury, unnecessary fatigue, and a prolonged recovery period. Overtraining is one of the most common and harmful potential aspects of competitive exercise.
If I drop my alertness for one second in the middle of rush hour traffic, I could literally be wiped out by a 4,000 pound vehicle. Those furniture vans cruising down the state highway at 65 MPH aren’t exactly my idea of sexy bedmates.
Thus, a heavy indica, with a narcotic effect, would not be recommended for this type of activity. Also, getting extremely high is not on the recommended list. Know your limits; use intelligence. Don’t ever venture into uncharted territory with cannabis flowers or concentrates—in terms of potency—and then go out and indulge in endurance exercise.
Always be very familiar with the medicine you are consuming before or during exercise, especially if you are out and about in society and not just sitting at home on an exercise bike or a stair climber.
I realize that the majority of the cannabis consumers in the United States are in areas where the possession or consumption of pot is illegal. Relegated to black market bingo, sometimes a heavy indica is all you can get. If you’re lucky enough to get anything at all.
Thus, what I’m doing isn’t practical for all. You might not have Maui Waui or another nice sativa-dom to get your motor running before a long run or ride. You might not have access to concentrates like the BHO I’m putting in my Puffco Pro.
But if, just if, you can get decent cannabis, I believe you can improve your performance with mindful use with intent. That, plus a little knowledge of how THC works to expand your bronchial passages.
It works for asthmatics. Why not cyclists and runners?
I realize I’m going to attract plenty of glares and a few arrows from those in the cycling and running communities, especially cyclists in more conservative areas of North America. To those of you who think cycling is akin to golf in terms of physical exertion, um…no.
To those who are hardcore endurance athletes and are offended by the idea of even considering the use of cannabis for performance enhancement, I say wake up and smell the coffee. Drop some science on yourself. There just might be something to this.
In the next installment in this series, we’ll dig a little deeper….
Don’t forget to add your comments to this piece. I’m interested in how others are using cannabis for wellness, mental focus, and a healthy, fast recovery after a long ride or run.
For my thoughts leading up to this article, check out Cannabis for Performance Enhancement? from February.
All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2017 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.
Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANE, Emerald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.co, The Kind, Skunk, Cannabis Culture, Whaxy, Heads, Weed World, Green Flower Media, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.
He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.