Marijuana as a Performance-Enhancer
Four to six times a week, elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky wakes up at 3 AM to train. But before he sets out, he opts not for a sports drink but for 20 milligrams of THC in a marijuana energy bar. By the time it kicks in, 30 minutes later, he’s started an hour in the pool, a three-hour bike ride, or a 13-mile run. “Marijuana relaxes me and allows me to go into a controlled, meditational place,” says Drusinsky. “When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form.”
Drusinsky’s weed-fueled regimen seems to be working. The 39-year-old athlete took the podium for his age group in nine major triathlons in 2013, including a first-place finish at the South Beach Triathlon in Miami (although he’s careful to note he wasn’t high during any of the races — taking marijuana from one state to another, after all, is still illegal). And with weed now legal in his home state of Colorado, Drusinsky spreads the gospel of marijuana-infused fitness at the Denver gym he owns, F.I.T.S. Conditioning, inviting his two dozen clients to indulge via edibles before guiding them through dynamic stretches and TRX drills. “I work out longer high,” says one client, John Hunt, an entrepreneur. Adds product developer Chad White: “If I take a little bit before heavy training, I am totally dialed in.”
Jocks like Drusinsky who publicly proclaim their cannabis use are rare. (Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati and mixed martial artist Nick Diaz are among the few who have sung the praises of weed as a training tool.) But with a steady creep to legalization shaking off the stigma of marijuana — decriminalization initiatives have passed or are under way in some 20 states — you can expect more athletes to come out of the cannabis closet.
Medical marijuana’s benefits for alleviating pain, decreasing nausea, and improving mood are well known. So it’s not hard to see why those same qualities would appeal to endurance athletes, who must cope with high levels of pain, stress, and boredom during grueling hours-long events. “It may help some athletes get into a zone and put their bodies through very tough physical activity,” says Mark Ware, a McGill University professor and executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids. “It may enable them to focus on those repetitive tasks.”
JUST AS ENDORPHINS HELP YOU PUSH THROUGH AN INTENSE WORKOUT, THESE ENDOCANNABINOIDS COULD INCREASE YOUR PAIN THRESHOLD TO DO THE SAME.