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The highs and lows—but mostly highs—of exercise on pot. – By Sam Smith
[Ed. note: We do not condone or advocate working out or exercising while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.]
At the risk of stating the obvious, marijuana is a fun drug. It’s like alcohol—in the right circumstances, it can make mundane things interesting. It makes interesting things even more interesting. Like alcohol, however, it brings with it a few drawbacks. Chief among them is the fact that it tends to impair judgment and focus. Which means that while it’s generally harmless during relaxing and noncritical tasks, it tends to get in the way of anything that requires concentration. Like, say, working out. Given that the first weed gym just opened in California, we thought we should give this a try.
I live in Washington State, where pot is legal. It’s controlled and sold like any other legal, mind-altering substance—you can walk into stores and buy it the same way you would a bottle of whiskey or a box of cold medicine. When I moved here two years ago, after a lifetime in states where pot was illegal, or only available medically, I found this odd. Now I just find it interesting. The novelty has worn off, to the point where I walk into a pot store and hear myself thinking things like, Of course they sell this stuff, what are you supposed to do, buy it on the street like a criminal? And, Is that lab-built pot cookie going to be better than the other lab-built pot cookie, or just stronger?
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The old line holds that familiarity breeds contempt; with pot, it just seems to breed curiosity. You end up searching for new ways to make the drug useful in daily life. Not in the sense of disruption or irresponsibility—I wouldn’t think of going to work or taking care of my children while stoned—but you find yourself wondering if marijuana improves or reduces certain ordinary situations. And so I found myself at the gym one evening last week, more than a little high.
It started off slowly, in every sense of the phrase. Roughly 30 minutes before I arrived at the gym, I ate two 5-mg pieces of sour pot candy. (For the unexperienced, 5 mg is the standard pot-food “dosage.” Absorption, or “feel-it” time, with pot-laced food depends on the individual, but figure it generally takes between 30 minutes and two hours.) When I walked in the gym door, I felt sober and clear. I climbed onto a computer-aided treadmill and selected one of the moderately aggressive programs—a varying mix of loads and speeds.
One of the great joys of pot is how being stoned creeps up on you. After about five minutes, it got weird. It felt normal, just running, rhythmic breathing, the usual stuff. Then I noticed that the treadmill noise—the wheep wheep wheep of your shoes hitting the rubberised belt—was starting to sound like drums. Or maybe it was tiny birds. Or tiny birds with drums. I spent maybe two minutes thinking about this before deciding that it didn’t matter, it was amazing—all I wanted to do was go faster, to make the bird-drums more frantic. I punched up a faster speed on the treadmill’s control board. Then slower, because I was pretty quickly out of breath. Then faster again, then slower, then faster, until I found a speed that seemed both sustainable and fascinating.
I ran at this pace for about ten minutes. I felt unstoppable. Sweat ran off my forehead and into my mouth. It tasted amazing, like a gift. My chest began to feel warm, the way it does when you run. This also felt like a gift. Hell, everything felt like a gift. I found myself wondering if my shoes were my friends, because the wheep wheep felt so good on my ears. I became convinced they were. I decided that I needed to buy more shoes. I looked down at the screen. I had run another mile without even noticing.
At this point, it occurred to me that I was probably pretty stoned. (Weird side effect of being high: As with drinking, your capacity for personal evaluation goes to shit. It’s difficult to gauge exactly how intoxicated you are, so everything just gets sorted into binary: I am sober-ish. Or: I am THE HIGHEST PERSON WHO HAS EVER BEEN HIGH AND WOW LOOK AT THIS I CANNOT FEEEEEEEL MYYYYY NOSE.) Call it the equivalent of a few beers, right before you start to get unpleasantly drunk.
I shut the treadmill off and climbed down. And that’s when it got really interesting.
The gym suddenly seemed like a place of wonder. Everything was new and amazing, and even the carpet seemed fascinating. I wandered over to a rowing machine and sat down. I distinctly remember thinking, “I rowed crew in college. Actual boats. Shells. If I close my eyes, this will be like a boat.”
It wasn’t like a boat. It was nothing like a boat. It was a slider and a T-shaped bar attached to a fan where you could adjust the resistance. But I sat on that damn thing for 20 minutes, rowing 500 after 500, varying my pace with another automatic program on the machine’s controller, happy as a clam. It took me ten whole minutes to notice that the resistance was set on maximum. The pain in my arms became something I enjoyed. My whole body reverberated with it. I had never felt anything like it. It was incredible. Then I spent five minutes cooling off, just sliding back and forth on the machine’s seat, not rowing, giggling and thinking about how strange it felt to sweat.
People looked at me funny. I decided they were probably boring people who played games like pinochle while watching CBS sitcoms. I felt better. Two and a Half Men sucks.
I moved on to to the weights area. I did a round of pull-ups; that worked okay but seemed unnecessary and dull. I climbed on a stepmill; that was interesting in its own way, but it began to feel like I was pedalling an invisible bicycle, so I got off, because I grew convinced I was going to fall over. I found the free weights, touched a stack of kettle bells, and got genuinely scared I was going to hurt myself. So I walked away found the nearest water fountain, then put at least three oceans worth of fluid into my body.
An hour had gone by since I arrived. I felt oddly and weirdly alive, as if my whole body was vibrating. I decided it was time to stop, so I walked outside and caught an Uber home. The night air smelled like a steak tastes. I stood outside my door for at least two minutes looking for my house keys, then noticed that I was holding them in my left hand. I went inside. I fell asleep. I slept the best I have in years and woke up feeling a hundred times better than I had the previous morning.
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I should note that you don’t want to do this sort of thing without supervision. At least not the dangerous bits, like the weights. (I have to assume cardio is fine; you could drop a weight on your chest or overexert yourself dangerously, but no stoned person is going to run or climb stairs or row longer than is safe.)
I’m going back, though. Maybe a little less high. Maybe not. It was fun. The working out was fun. The exercise was fun. And most of all, the pot changed my approach to the gym—it made me want to be there.
People say drugs are bad for you. A great many of them are, though pot’s benefits are currently up for debate. But I need to exercise, and I’ve always had problems getting motivated. This fixes that. If you need me, I’ll be buried in cardio.
Originally published on menshealth.com