Disclaimer: This is not a promotion of cannabis as a solution for anything nor an invitation to partake, but rather a demonstration that a healthy optimal lifestyle can include smoking up. Characters in this piece may or may not have existed. Reader discretion is advised.
Humans love to devour drugs like candy.
Users populate all spheres of life, from doctors to homeless junkies, politicians, and middle-class functionaries; some are open about their habit, others invest money and energy in keeping it a secret. Athletes are no different. They are humans too, after all.
Yes, somebody aspiring to compete in the Tour de France will dabble in performance enhancers to gain the extra edge. Another might turn to opioids to ease the chronic pain of a critical injury or binge on antidepressants to deal with their sport's psychological pressures. Many love to party.
Nothing is new in the world of sports. Substance abuse by athletes is old as competition. Ancient Greek Olympic champions indulged in wine-potions and hallucinogens to prepare for games. Roman gladiators made their horses run faster with honey alcohol known as hydromel, while they used strychnine on themselves to stay awake and kill harder. Coaches fed athletes diverse mixtures of caffeine with cocaine and heroin throughout the first quarter of 20th century.
This darker side of athletics remains buried from the public eye because of society's idolization of an archetypal hero immune to vice and pain. Professional leagues impose a wide range of swift punishment ranging from fines to forced rehabs and suspensions for players tested positive to reinforce the myth.
The manufactured illusion forces athletes to suffer in silence. Nobody talks about the painkiller epidemic amongst retired NFL players, who are four times more likely to misuse opioids than the general population according to a University of Washington in St-Louis study, or that athletes often suffer severe depressions and chronic pain long after their careers are over.
Cannabis is a hot topic in sports these days. The widespread of legalization and professional player uprisings shake the foundations of an otherwise conservative professional sports establishment. This article follows the Active Stoner who explores the taboo world of weed in sports as he keeps himself healthy, despite partaking in the marvel of the plant, hoping to shatter the stigma one rep at a time.
The sun rises early today. The sky brightens up. Summer is a few weeks away, a refreshing shift after a long and weird springless winter.
I hop out of bed and immediately drink a tall glass of lemon water with a pinch of black salt. My morning routine takes twenty minutes to finish. I meditate ten minutes, then fill out a grateful log before a quick bout of reading and writing.
These habits help me connect to my mind early in the morning, especially if I decide to wake and bake. They keep me sharp for early morning meetings and spark my creativity for the day. Optimize the first hour upon awakening if you struggle to keep your shit together.
I have an appointment with an old high-school friend at a breakfast place this morning. He contacted me on Facebook to discuss several injuries left by a prolific football career. This guy could squat three and a half times my current body weight and run like a rhino back in the days when we were barely eighteen years old. I had not heard from him in years.
Colleges were desperate for his enrollment; some even fought amongst themselves with fists and all. Two recruiters from Notre Dame and Ohio State had shown up at his house simultaneously once and ended up brawling on his front porch. His career never panned out, though. Concussions and fractures cost him the draft and sank him into the vast underworld of forgotten prospects. Dreams fade, but injuries often leave their mark forever, long after the game ends.
The restaurant was a small joint in the west end of the city, a typical breakfast spot that offers the greasy goodness and sweetest delights enjoyed by all at dawn. A real clash of classes from hungover college kids to suit-wearing professionals and senior citizens compacted tight in the tiny diner. They were one of the only places in town with a decent steak and eggs, serving a solid 20 oz rib steak and eggs from the same farm. The coffee is excellent as well; whoever ran this gig understood the concept of quality.
My friend is already waiting for me, squished between two other tables. The 6'5 colossus stands out like a sore thumb in almost any crowd with traps up to the ears and forearms that could crush an infant's skull, Orion's incarnation. His happy smile greets me with open arms, almost knocking the next table down.
"Holy shit, you got jacked, bud!"
I train hard these days and welcome the compliment from such a tremendous athlete. I must've been twenty pounds lighter the last time we saw each other.
His voice conveyed the usual power and assurance of an army general, but something about him was different, and I couldn't figure out what.
We catch up an old times then run through all our crazy youth stories. He tells me about his post-draft depression and the short-list of football-induced injuries that plague him on a daily basis.
"I'm a broken man; two official concussions, three cervical fractures, torn ACL, dislocated shoulders, and a sprained ankle to name a few. Everything hurts. My sleep is shit, and I lost a big chunk of strength over the last year. I don't know what to do anymore."
I have never heard him open up about his weaknesses. This man is a different person than the kid I knew. He seems more human than his former self.
His next question shocks me:
"What kind of weed would you recommend?"
I need a few seconds to process what just happened. This guy used to be Captain Anti-Drugs. We had gotten in so many arguments over the matter. He used to call pot "clown tobacco" and often lectured me on its dangers. My friend was no saint, I have seen him down twenty-four beers in the span of a house party, but "drugs" were still a sensitive topic.
Confusion spreads across my face. I thought we were going to discuss exercise, but the conversation had taken a wild turn.
"Weird, right? Who would have thought I'd be asking you for weed advice, but all doctors do is feed me painkillers. I have five different prescriptions. They're potent as fuck, but I can't function on them. An old teammate of mine is hooked. I don't want to be addicted to that garbage."
He mentions how his college teammates convinced him to smoke for the first time after an injury.
"I felt alive, and way more coherent than with the pills."
I get why gladiators like him would avoid weed. Several professional organizations such as the NFL and NBA have strict substance policies, as does the NCAA and the Olympics. Any athlete aspiring to play in the big leagues better think twice before smoking a joint, even hanging around a lit joint could potentially end their careers.
"Officials tested me so often I didn't want to risk a suspension, but the pain became intolerable, and I was determined to stop taking the pills, so I said fuck it."
Many athletes blaze despite the rule, usually after training camp when the drug testing occurs. Eben Britton estimates more than half of the players in the NFL smoke weed. The 308-pound retired offensive lineman is vocal about his consumption, both during and after his career. He even used to smoke before games.
"I heard about Britton." He laughs, "I would never have imagined so many players got high."
A growing number of NFL players now speak up against the league's strict substance abuse policies. Twenty-seven-year-old running back Mike James became the first player to request a therapeutic use exemption for cannabis last week, tired of abusing the prescribed cocktail of opioids to treat his debilitating chronic pain. Weed eases the pain without numbing him incoherent.
The league declined, but James' effort foreshadow the incoming winds of change in professional sports.
We finish our steaks, then pay the check and head back to my place.
"I have just what you need, my friend."
I roll a king-sized canon of a potent strain called Early Skunk, which offered a pleasant body experience without being too heavy. Indicas are not my usual choice because they tend to lock me down, but my delivery shaman had made the recommendation based on my current weightlifting phase. I lift heavy these days, so rest is crucial for optimal recovery and injury prevention.
Early Skunk has a slight Sativa twist that makes it excellent for focus as well. The strain calms the body, yet stimulates the mind. I can even use it before my workouts to get in the zone without compromising my performance. I strengthened all my big lifts over the last few weeks despite being blazed to smithereens throughout the session.
We head down one of my favourite spots by the water, a small oasis surrounded by tall trees with a breathtaking view of the city. The sky is empty of clouds. I spark the joint, take a few tokes, then pass it to my friend. A gigantic smile lights up his face as he inhales his first drag.
"Thank you, this clown tobacco is incredible."
Everybody benefits from a stronger nervous system. All substances on life impact the brain, from sugar to alcohol, video games, or MDMA, and even the cleanest saint will not escape the burden of time. Pot is no different. Keep yourself sharp by activating your brain-muscle connection with heavy weightlifting.
Here is an overview of my current training phase designed to reap strength.
- The first ten sets alternate two compound exercises working opposing muscle groups, such as the deadlift with lying leg curls for legs or dumbbell chest presses with chin-ups for the upper body. The number of reps decreases as the weight gets heavier every two sets [5,5,4,4,3,3]. This segment is the primary component of the workout.
- The next six sets alternate two exercises of the same muscle group worked in the first segment, but in a higher repetition bracket [6-8]. These accessory exercises will complement the initial sets and offer a secondary adaptation. Six to eight reps fall in between strength and muscle mass building.
- The last two sets alternate two exercises of the same muscle group worked in the first two segments, one bout of 25 reps for each. This closing strategy is known as a back-off set and will tap into the remaining muscle-brain connections not yet activated by the workout.
This strategy is robust for the mental. I added chains to my deadlifts to reverse the strength curve, which means the motion gets heavier as I lift. My strength improved today, despite indulging in evil, brain-frying cannabis. I am pleased with these new personal records.
Trap-Bar Deadlifts / Lying Leg Curls
A stronger nervous system will help me achieve my goal of landing a 52' vertical jump by summer. Other benefits include excellent acuity and improved athleticism. Optimizing brain function is a vital component of the Active Stoner lifestyle. Stay sharp if you enjoy lifting yourself to the next level with beautiful buds.
A grand meme appears on my feed with Michael Phelps wearing all 28 medals and the headline, "Only losers smoke weed." Conservative cats in charge of professional sports better adjust their policies before their moneymakers revolt. Efforts by professional athletes such as Ebon Britton and Mike James are changing the conversation on cannabis. The time to update the paradigm is now for the sake of our athlete's mental health and your entertainment.
Done writing for the day. Enjoy yourselves, Stoners.
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First Times: Balancing Football and Cannabis with ex-NFL Lineman Eben Britton
NFL player makes medical marijuana history: 'I have a life to live'
Retired NFL players misuse painkillers more than general population