Will Industry-First “Marijuana Gym” Set a Trend?

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By now, you may have heard about Power Plant Fitness, the so-called "marijuana gym." As states around the country adopt a more relaxed stance on recreational marijuana use, entire cottage industries have sprouted around its newfound legality — but Power Plant Fitness represents new territory. Scheduled to open this November in San Francisco, Power Plant claims to be the world's first gym to directly encourage members to partake of marijuana right on location, either before or after a workout.

"As the recreational use of cannabis is now legal in some states and on the ballot in others, including California, perceptions are changing quickly," reads the gym's Facebook page. "Old stereotypes are being tossed out the window as the world realizes they have long been misled about the 'evils' of marijuana. It is very likely cannabis will become ingrained into American society like Budweiser, apple pie and baseball."

The concept offers a whole new perspective on the phrase "going green." But what does pot have to do with fitness? That may depend on who you ask.

According to Power Plant owner Jim McAlpine, who also founded the 420 Games and has been hosting Power Plant boot camps ahead of the gym's official opening, marijuana and fitness belong together.

In an interview with Outside magazine, McAlpine said he believes that fitness could become a larger part of the expanding cannabis industry. He sees Power Plant Fitness as an opportunity to combat the "stoner" stereotype. "If you use it right, cannabis takes the things you love and lets you love them more," he told Outside. "With fitness, that can help get you into the zone, into 'Eye of the Tiger' mode."

McAlpine's vision for the gym includes providing members with "weed-assisted fitness plans" and "cannabis performance assessments." Current California law limits the sale of recreational marijuana to licensed dispensaries, but McAlpine hopes to sell cannabis edibles — "made for pre-workout focus and post-workout recovery" — on site.

That said, McAlpine understands that the focus of any gym should be fitness. He told USA TODAY in March that staff will evaluate clients while sober and while under the influence to determine the best candidates for working out while high — expecting that at least half of the people who join Power Plant Fitness won't wind up being a good fit.

According to Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, marijuana may help athletes in some ways and hurt in others. He says marijuana can help manage pain, and in some instances, help athletes focus.

" 'Mind over matter' is a mantra for many endurance athletes, and marijuana use may help facilitate that mindset," Bryant says. "The ability to block out the monotony of a long-duration event may be just as important as physical ability in some cases. The part of the brain that responds with a pleasant buzz when exposed to the THC in marijuana is that same part that fires when athletes feel a 'runner's high.' "

However, Bryant warns that athletes who choose to use marijuana also expose themselves to certain risks, including reduced energy levels, compromised motor skills and other negative impacts on the brain.

"Marijuana causes changes in visual perception, coordination and reaction time, all of which will negatively impact the ability to exercise, particularly if the activity requires complex movements and high levels of agility," Bryant says. "This may be one reason why the proponents of marijuana use prior to exercise typically discuss simple, repetitive activities, like long-distance running."

Overall, Bryant recommends against using pot to enhance exercise performance. "There are simply too many risks and unknowns associated with regular use," he says, "not the least of which is the building up of a tolerance that requires heavier usage to achieve the same results."

Whether Power Plant Fitness will set a trend or go up in smoke remains to be seen, but much like the plant that sets it apart, McAlpine has plans for growth. Power Plant Fitness is eying expansion into additional markets, including Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, Denver and Portland, Ore.

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Does the first 'marijuana gym' signal a budding trend?" Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.


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