From Ashes to Ashes…Smoking Weed and Working Out
My new best friend, Sergio came to visit as I packed out my apartment under a balmy California twilight.
His head swiveled wildly.
My dozen empty boxes replaced three years of lived-in decorations and thirty thousand dollars of dutiful rent.
I paused and welcomed my friend inside..
Quickly, he unsheathed a long stick of brown “motivation.”
A menacing grin pushed his skinny cheekbones apart, as told me:
“You know you gotta hit this”
His bony fingertips shot out an offering: a smooth three inch cigar brimming with neon bud on one end, a wispy hot ember on the other.
I took the opening hit.
Weed smoke tinted my hollow apartment’s eggshell walls. And, its mushrooms clouded my opened boxes before rifling right out my red door into the cold air.
Ah – it had been years.
In high school, I was a veteran smoker and a daily user for many years after. But I quit in 2005.
This was my first hit in many years.
“That one hit didn’t get you high did it?”
I loved it – packing my apartment would now become, not laborious agony, but an introspective journey wherein I’d explore glowing memories of every useless shitty nick-knack I’d ever collected.
Serge and I exchanged hit after hit until we erased the cigar from existence.
A month before, I randomly bumped into the ripped boxer, Sergio at our old Boxing gym, and our friendship quickly picked-up where we’d left it.
Suddenly, our five year break never happened at all.
Over the next couple of months between watching PAL Boxing and Santa Clara U’s boxing teams compete, watching endless ESPN Friday Night Fights, I was becoming Sergio’s own Teddy Altas, calling knockdowns and analyzing fights like a man in-the-know.
Serge and I chopped up Floyd Mayweather’s run at Cotto- a display of fight supremacy), our old boxing coach – (Cus D’Amato incarnate), and began holding mitts for each other within days.
He even encouraged me to start running every Saturday again.
I had to keep up as I’d been promoted by Sergio to coach his comeback into amateur boxing.
Our boxing dreams converged on the grandiose – winning Golden Gloves,a quick professional turn around , an endorsement and sponsorship from Al Haymon – a timetable which we determined to be about nine to twelve months.
And this guy was a fucking workhorse.
His daily runs and minimalist nutrition habit yielded him the ripped physique of an Andre Berto in his prime, or a Tim Bradley.
At 5’11” Serge hit like a sawed-off heavyweight fighter but only weighed an awe-inspiring 147 lbs (I saw him weigh in a lot).
I noticed he/his:
We trained almost daily.
Sergio loved to smoke before and after we hit pads, sparred or he trained alone.
At 38 years old, Sergio was one of the most motivated athletes I’d been around in a long time and easily the most motivated amateur boxer/fighter I’d seen in years.
Motivation, Marijuana & Exercise
There was something different about our friendship. And, I now learned way more about Sergio than ever.
He is a black man who’s dabbled in ecstasy and molly (MDMA). He’d done shrooms and even a bit of H (he’d learn recovery tools to kick this habit.) Now, he’s a hard drinking (at times), daily-smoking weed aficionado.
He was becoming a father with a square job working the front door of Intel.
Yet, as a fighter, father and athlete, he puffed copious grams of ganja.
He constantly was working out while high, each day we trained for war.
Sergio was a hyper-motivated top-shelf athlete.
I’d trained athletes before and to this day still train ex-collegiate and pros, and D1 athletes. They are self-driven and have no chill – no OFF button – when they workout and train.
But Sergio working out and smoking weed made me think:
Does his weed really inspire and motivate him?
Athletes and some high level exercisers know: injury or life circumstances break the seamless routines of exercise and marijuana cannot help buoy them to success.
For every Nick and Nate Diaz, who handle this balance of smoking weed and working out, there are apocalyptic lines of athletes who’s marijuana and exercise synergy ends with diminishing returns.
De-motivation accelerates at incredible rates.
Yet, smoking weed invigorated Sergio and made him able to focus, to try, to tough out the real fact he was a 38 year old fighter looking to made a speedy and lucrative run into the pro ranks.
Weed Before Workouts
He’d take short stabbing hits from a expertly-crafted blunt or joint he’d rolled earlier, or extract the THC on one of two vaporizers he owned.
After that, he’d canter away, a carefree gazelle, shadowboxing along the way, often times lapping me and another training partner once on the steamy track.
He’d run about three miles in about 25 minutes, easily, week after week.
(1.) Weed helps dial-in to your exercise
This is because intense workouts, especially boxing and competition sports, demand second-to-second process.
As athletes/competitors, we practice moves, footwork, balance and technique and analyze it rep-by-rep inside your mind, while performing small corrections along the way.
Weed can make that process smooth.
Working out while high can make you gleefully aware of the moves of every tendon in your body. Every punch has meaning and direction. When you’re high, scooting your feet 2 inches away from each other during a back squat all of a sudden works juuuust a little better than you EVER imagined.
And those punches…when you’re high, you can make them land in the exact 3 inch radius every time.
Hooks and jabs become bulleyes!
And, with unconscionable focus, athletes working out while high stem those highs and lows associated with intense workouts.
These are benefits of working out while high.
Every mitt session with Sergio, he hit harder then the day before. His punches rattled my arms. His accuracy was amazing.
And, his recovery was shocking.
How the hell can someone with smoke in their lungs recover quicker than a Jamaican sprinter?
(2.) Weed can slow down your heart rate in between bouts of exercise
Recovery becomes way, way more important when you’re an expert exerciser or high level athlete than does the sets and reps you perform.
This is because your rep count or time under tension is optimized already through practice and repeating patterns.
And, you know how to push yourself to max – max heart rate, max effort.
Recovering is essential to give the same physically and mental effort the next time around. You eventually are training to recover.faster.
I love science.
Empiricism, methodology, facts…
But, the Internet is peppered with pro versus cons. science-based info looking into working out while high but the truth is they all say similarly: chronic and high use impairs technical exercise movement, smallish does help with the stress of intense workouts. Such as the 2016 study Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana by Renzkall ,MD, FACP, FACC, et al., versus 2012’s “Marijuana Smoking Does Not Harm Lungs, by O’Connor, Anahad.”There is a net neutrality about marijuana and exercise physiology –
We are talking anecdotal, we are talking motivation.
Stress during a workout is your body’s response to aggrandizing outer stimuli. And it necessary for growth and development (think: progressive overload).
But the better you are at working out, the better and more efficiently your motor units are moving your muscles (the lionized muscle memory) and so the stress of intense workouts is emotional and mental.
I saw it and felt it from Serge’s practice. I experienced it when smoking weed and working out high.
It was amazing especially during intense, detailed training.
(3.& 4.) The Biggest Picture
Never have I been filled with more potential energy regarding “the future” than when I would burn some great bud.
All our projections become meta. The grandeur made me feel like I stepped into a deep, vulnerable understanding of my capabilities with honest introspective insight into my weaknesses.
We sparred one afternoon and this time I got the better of my student as I hit him in the solar plexus with a lead left hand and dropped instantly.
A black tornado of blurred leather flurries, that morning, Serge tenderized my midsection with generous repeating salvos of 5 or 6 punch combinations – I had to do something.
Afterward, Serge revealed two vaporizers – one ornate wooden box with a small viewing window for vaping “flower” and the other with THC liquid. I took draws of the liquid and Sergio the flower.
There we sat the weed smoke (vapor) becoming part of the atmosphere of our small gym, vanishing moments later, and we recounted every series leading up to the final body blow.
Sergio, perspicaciously broke down every little movement pattern and I countered with things I thought he’d missed, without pretense or ego.
Sergio and I could map out the inchoate plans for boxing domination which all ended with logical and very real conclusions.
And man was he motivated to get there.
It spurred his training, it made him work harder, and made him sacrifice a little more every time, I felt.
For months we toiled away…
Contrary to popular belief, some people like looking at their weakness as a reality, because it is one.
Our egos separate us from dealing with weakness.
But rather than place thought and energy into defeatism, we can choose to be buoyed by our perceived shortcomings.
Every athlete knows this, and every one with a fitness goal has encountered such feelings.
(5…?) The Only Constant
Like breaking through your lactic acid threshold in the first build-up of a morning run, my and Sergio’s training hit a few walls.
Something stopped us from progressing at full speeds.
Maybe we over trained, maybe we underestimated or the idea of finding a fight was easier to talk about.
Ten weeks in, we paused for injury – a nagging turf toe which Sergio had to ice and desist running on.
After that, frustration welled up when other gym coaches ignored his need to spar younger fighters everyday. We slowed our training down about four months in again.
A week where Sergio was busy at work and unreachable deterred us.
We never made it to Golden Gloves, or local fights.
Yet, it’s too easy to draw conclusions about athletes like Sergio and their work out/marijuana habits influencing their motivation.
But, I will argue it’s always better to aim high (pun?) and come away with something positive than to never try. During the year we trained, I never saw an athlete in his age range work harder.
And, he did it day after day like every pro fighter I’ve ever met worked.
With better circumstances, we would have fought.
But Sergio’s a father now and weed is legal in California, so I imagine the dream will carry on in the future.
Please Share! Let me know your thoughts about weed an working out – does it help?
What sports are best with marijuana?
What kind of weed is best for a workout, a sativa or hybrid…?
What do you think????
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