Does Getting Stoned Help You Get Toned? Gym Rats Embrace Marijuana

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Pauline Nordin

is a trainer, model and licensed nutritionist. Earlier this year, she replaced the frozen peas in her freezer with 2,000 cookies.

The shortbread treats are laden with cannabis—the equivalent of about 1,500 joints. Ms. Nordin, 37 years old, says she can’t recover from her punishing workouts without them. She eats two each night before turning in.

“My lifestyle is a Ferrari and my body is a well-tuned machine,” she says. “I would never do something destructive.”

As marijuana moves into the mainstream, more athletes and fitness junkies are making weed a part of their workout routines. The burning question: Are they onto something—or just on something?

Workout aid?

Many workout fiends insist that a few drags add an extra hit to their workouts. They say it helps them ignore pain, stem off boredom and concentrate on small muscle groups that require repetitive movements.

Eleven states have legalized marijuana for adults, while twice as many allow it to treat certain medical conditions. Canada last year legalized it countrywide.

In May, a nonprofit representing more than 100 former professional athletes, including boxer

Mike Tyson

and cyclist

Floyd Landis,

petitioned the world antidoping authority to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances. Some ultramarathoners say it helps them through long races. The aroma of weed is common these days at San Francisco boot-camp fitness classes, Denver climbing walls and jiu jitsu tournaments.

“I’ll have a toke before the gym,” says

Peter Kloczko,

29, of London, Ontario, “and it’s like, damn, I’m on point today.”

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Los Angeleno

Artemus Dolgin,

35, at times smokes as many as 14 joints a day, many on the stoop of his gym or at home while bench pressing. Mr. Dolgin, who describes his profession as “hustler,” says it pumps up his biceps, and his self-confidence.

“You definitely feel the blood flow through each specific muscle,” he says. “The epitome of muscle building is the mind-muscle connection, which doesn’t come right away. Weed really enhances that.”

Keith Humphreys,

a professor of behavioral sciences at Stanford University who specializes in addiction, says: “There’s no evidence of that whatsoever. Sort of by definition, we are not good at observing our behavior when we are under the influence of a drug.”

Sam Moses says he switched from dietary supplements and even steroids to marijuana.


Photo:

Sam Moses

Harvard University researchers have found that smoking marijuana raises the resting heart rate and carries other health risks.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, based in Montreal, includes marijuana on its list of banned substances for athletes competing in the Olympics and other international competitions. “Cannabis can cause muscle relaxation and reduce pain during post-workout recovery. It can also decrease anxiety and tension, resulting in better sport performance under pressure,” the agency says on its website.

The other reason WADA is harsh on weed: It might contribute to injury. The drug, it says, “can increase focus and risk-taking behaviors, allowing athletes to forget bad falls or previous trauma in sport, and push themselves past those fears in competition.”

Sam Moses

of Daytona Beach, Fla., can relate. He says he was regularly using dietary supplements and even steroids when his deceased sister appeared to him in a dream. “She said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s just weed. It’s natural. You know your limits,’ ” says Mr. Moses, 26.

Mr. Moses, an emergency-medicine student and dedicated powerlifter, took that as a green light to switch to grass. One problem: He began getting confused about balancing weight evenly across a barbell. He recently was squatting 315 pounds of weight when he heard a crack and felt a whoosh of pain at his waist. “And that’s about when I went: F—- it, I’m getting more stoned,” he says.

Former athletes looking to reverse the ban argue that many stoners have it wrong: Weed doesn’t provide a sporting edge. While marijuana and other cannibanoids support wellness “by aiding in pain relief and rest,” the athletes wrote in a petition, “there is no evidence that they enhance sport performance.”

A series of Brazilian jiu jitsu tournaments, dubbed “High Rollerz BJJ,” aren’t waiting around for a reversal. The organization requires opponents to smoke a joint together before the start of each match. The tournament prize is a brick of pot. The audience is encouraged to light up, too.

Paul Roney says he works out right away after getting high so he doesn’t fall asleep.


Photo:

Paul Roney

Electrician

Paul Roney

discovered yet another risk to mixing weed and weights. A few weeks ago, the 45-year-old consumed a bit more than usual and then ran into a buddy at the gym. He wound up forgetting to exercise altogether.

“You have to go straightaway if you smoke a fattie,” he advises. “Wait an hour and you’re just going to be asleep on the floor.”

One thing he likes, though, is that it gives him the munchies when it’s time to load up on healthy fare such as egg whites, boiled chicken and oat bran. “You can eat all of your diet food,” he says.

Ms. Nordin, the nutritionist who emptied her freezer for the habit, estimates that 5% of her daily calorie intake is cannabis cookies, sold under the brand Dr. Norm’s.

The siblings who run the company say they named it after their late father, a dermatologist. They say they have no idea what he thought about the benefits of marijuana. He did believe, however, that laughter was the best medicine.

Write to Rob Copeland at rob.copeland@wsj.com

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