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World’s first marijuana gym is in (where else?) California

Power Plant Fitness encourages the use of edibles over vaping or smoking during workouts, but will allow clients to use marijuana how they wish in the gym. California currently prohibits public consumption. (Photo: jakubzak, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A San Francisco gym slated to open this fall will encourage clients to use cannabis as part of their fitness routine.

Power Plant Fitness clients will have the option to bring their own cannabis or order edibles, the gym’s preferred form of cannabis, while they are at the gym. A delivery service will bring desired edibles to the gym within 15 minutes after clients place orders, owner Jim McAlpine told USA TODAY. Adult-use, recreational marijuana is legal in California, but only dispensaries can sell it. Using marijuana in public is banned. The gym will have a designated space for those inhaling marijuana.

The gym, which advertises itself as the world’s first cannabis gym, touts using the drug for pain, focus and meditation.

McAlpine, who is already hosting Power Plant boot camps, wants people to know this isn’t going to be “a stoner gym.” While cannabis use is welcome, the focus is on fitness, he said.

“For the people that it affects the right way, cannabis can make working out fun,” McAlpine said. “If you make it more fun, people are going to do it more.”

McAlpine said personally, cannabis helps him control his weight and focus during workouts. But, he said this isn’t the case for everyone.

When clients join the gym, McAlpine said they will complete a cannabis performance assessment. That means staff will assess clients during a sober workout and a workout after using cannabis.

McAlpine, who also founded the 420 Games, said he anticipates at least half of the clients won’t be a good fit for cannabis-influenced workouts.

Jim McAlpine, left, will open Power Plant Fitness, advertised as the world’s first cannabis gym, this year. McAlpine is shown with cannabis activist Steve DeAngelo at a past 420 Games event. (Photo: Mike Rosati Photography, 420 Games)

“This isn’t something where we are telling someone to do this,” McAlpine said. “It’s an option to consider.”

Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, said the option is dangerous.

“I worry that the philosophy of the country is going towards health, happiness, smoke weed,” Krakower said. “You are glorifying weed and saying it’s this agent that’s going to cure everything. I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”

Jim McAlpine founded the 420 Games, a series of active lifestyle events, to change public perception about marijuana, he said. Shown is a 420 Games run in San Francisco. (Photo: Adam J Davies, 420 Games)

He said that message can be especially damaging to children and young adults.

“Ingesting compounds at a younger age …19 and 20 years old, brains are still forming,” he said. “I worry that they could be exposed to something that could be potentially negative to them.”

Dr. Marc J. Romano, director of medical services at Delphi Behavioral Health in Florida, said people could feel more relaxed when using and working out. The World Anti-Doping Agency actually cites research saying cannabis can give athletes an advantage by decreasing anxiety, allowing users to perform better under pressure. But, in the same vein, Romano said that feeling could impair users’ ability to lift weights and operate gym equipment.

“If your awareness cognition is in any way impaired, you could be a danger to those around you,” Romano said.

Cannabis in adolescence and young adulthood has been linked to developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia. Marijuana smoke can also cause respiratory problems, elevated heart rate and mental illness, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. But, cannabis research is hazy.

Dr. Sue Sisley, who has conducted FDA-approved clinical trails on cannabis and recently served on a panel at SXSW with McAlpine, said doctors have to be skeptical.

“We’ve never been exposed to the idea of cannabis as medicine,” Sisley said. “We have been systematically misled.”

While Sisley said she wouldn’t advise adolescent use of cannabis for fitness, she said trying cannabis later in life would pose little risk.

“Bottom line is the plant is very benign,” she said. “It has a very mild side effect profile. It’s far less toxic than many of the prescriptions I write every day.”

Giving new meaning to the term "runner's high."

Weed Workouts Are Coming To A Gym Near You

The fitness world is always looking for some shiny new trend to obsess over. And if Jim McAlpine has his way, it will be a smart dose of marijuana to help you crush those biceps curls and power through Pilates. But first things first. Right now, the obsession is with weed’s more legal side.

CBD is having a moment in fitness. Despite the lack of definitive science, its reputation as a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever has led it to become a popular ingredient for recovery from the wear and tear of hard workouts. It hasn’t hurt that the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned substances in 2017, suggesting CBD’s safety for competitive athletes. The high-profile fitness brand Equinox now uses CBD products for massages, promotes them in its online publication, Furthermore, and has equipped its first treadmill-only gym in Manhattan with a water bar that serves CBD-infused H20. Not to be outdone, this spring another iconic workout brand, SoulCycle, started selling Lord Jones CBD oil and body lotion online and in its studios.

As CBD fitness products proliferate and show up in more and more workout spaces, a handful of cannabis pioneers say it’s a sign of things to come. They believe the plant in all its glory, including CBD’s psychoactive cousin THC, belongs in the gym. The choice may seem odd, given the prevalent stereotype of the couch-bound stoner and ample research on how weed slows down many users’ reaction times and lowers their motor skills. However, some exercisers claim that a little pot can help them zone into a long run on a treadmill, push through harder workouts, or boost their endorphin highs.

“When I work out with cannabis,” says Darrin Zeer, a Colorado-based yoga teacher and author of High Yoga, “gosh, I’m really more present and just loving it.”

Not surprisingly, the yoga world is the furthest along in adopting marijuana-enhanced workouts. Dee Dussault started Ganja Yoga in Toronto 10 years ago and was the first to advertise cannabis use with her classes. (She lets students show up 30 minutes early and start in with their own product, and encourages them to stay a half hour after class to sober up.) By her own account, she has worked with thousands of people and trained 24 teachers in North America to teach Ganja Yoga.

“When people are high on cannabis, you really have to slow down and make sure the comprehension, opportunities to modify, and just the safety are all there,” Dussault says.

But if Ganja Yoga isn’t terribly taxing, there’s also a call to mix pot with more hard-core sweat. One of the loudest voices belongs to McAlpine, an entrepreneur who has his own line of cannabis sports products, Cannathlete. Back in 2014, he founded the 420 Games to showcase serious athletes doing serious things on cannabis and offer education on weed-enabled sport. Since then the games have attracted some 20,000 athletes. Along with 420’s success, a number of former professional athletes like the NBA’s Matt Barnes and the NFL’s Shaun Smith and Ricky Williams have started speaking openly about their cannabis use.

Williams ended up partnering with McAlpine to take that experience to the masses. In 2016, the duo announced plans for Power Plant Fitness in San Francisco, America’s first gym dedicated to cannabis-empowered workouts. Members would be able to consume weed while working out. The club planned to make its own line of athletic edibles for pre-workout focus and post-workout recovery. McAlpine and Williams did press, which covered the upcoming opening. But before that even happened, they had to shelve the idea because of regulatory hurdles. And they weren’t the only ones. When a marijuana-friendly gym actually did open in Wheat Ridge, Colo., in 2017, offering classes from Pilates to kickboxing, it was shut down less than a year later by city ordinances.

McAlpine acknowledges that the new trend is not ready for prime time. There’s little reliable science on using marijuana in general, much less for intensive workouts, and cannabis has been shown to raise heart rate and blood pressure, not to mention cause balance and coordination problems. So McAlpine is now trying to lay the groundwork. He says he’s partnering with doctors “to compile data from actual people who use cannabis while working out.” If and when he does get Power Plant up and running, he says every new member will be required to start working out sober with a specially certified trainer. Then together the two will slowly experiment with dosages of cannabis to figure out how it’s helping or hurting.

For now, McAlpine says, “CBD is really the safe place” in the fitness world. Its presence in gyms and classes will likely grow for a few more years, slowly opening people up to the potential of slipping cannabis products into their exercise routines. And he hopes that by the time nationwide recreational legalization rolls around, those same people will be primed for the next wave of THC-infused products, classes, and gyms. He gives it five years, but if it’s longer, he’ll wait. “In my life, this is the one thing I want to accomplish more than anything,” he says. “As a businessman, it will be my swan song.”

Ganja at the gym? Not exactly, but CBD has hit the workout circuit, and some entrepreneurs say that's just the beginning.