Most mornings at 5 a.m., entrepreneur Jim McAlpine is in a pool honing his swimming technique. A tested triathlete, he often swims up to a mile in preparation for competitions. When he’s not training in a pool, McAlpine trains in open waters like Lake Tahoe or the stretch between Alcatraz and San Francisco. Because he has ADHD, he’s careful to always bring a pair of waterproof headphones to prevent boredom in the water. He also never skips on cannabis before a training session.
“When I started The 420 Games what I wanted to do was have it be the polar opposite of what the typical cannabis event is. What those events do is kind of propagate the stoner image. What I wanted to do is kill the stoner image.”
“I use cannabis before I jump in the water for swims, as a way to help my brain stay focused on what I’m doing,” McAlpine told CULTURE. “To engage in that eye of the tiger mode, if you will, and get really into that flow state.”
Historically, the idea of consuming cannabis to become active and focused is counterintuitive, but McAlpine recognized its benefits decades ago while lifting weights in high school. Although he’s been active his entire life, he admits he was somewhat of a stereotypical “stoner” until college. McAlpine is still a daily consumer, but he doesn’t allow habitual use to define him. Rather, he’s using athleticism to redefine the cannabis consumer.
“I think so many people consider themselves a stoner or they think they’re a stoner, and they’re not,” McAlpine said. “I believe the vast majority of cannabis users are not stoners. I think that’s a very small sect of the cannabis users that really just want to sit on the couch.”
So for the past three years, McAlpine has dedicated his business endeavors to building up the cannabis community and reshaping its narrative. In the summer of 2014, McAlpine founded The 420 Games, a series of multi-city athletic events developed to de-stigmatize responsible cannabis consumers. Hosting The 420 Games grants him and other cannabis consumers the opportunity to demonstrate that the cannabis community is much more than lazy smokers and couch lock.
“When I started The 420 Games, what I wanted to do was have it be the polar opposite of what the typical cannabis event is,” McAlpine said. “What those events do is kind of propagate the stoner image. What I wanted to do is kill the stoner image. The answer to me was to put an athletic event together that shows all of us marijuana users don’t just do that.”
The 420 Games’ mission is to change the way the public views cannabis consumption, so it is a family-friendly athletic event and consumption of cannabis is prohibited. The main event of The 420 Games is a 4.2-mile race—one mile longer than the 3.1-mile span of a typical 5K. In addition to the race there are over 100 active lifestyle companies with booths and samples, interacting with and educating participants.
Two points that McAlpine stressed were that you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from cannabis, and not all athletes do perform better on cannabis. However, incorporating cannabis into walks, hikes, bike rides and other physical activities can help make the experiences more immersive and inspire further activity. McAlpine doesn’t have a standard strain he swears by, but on average, sativa-dominant strains are associated with bursts of energy and uplifted thoughts.
“I don’t really necessarily look at a strain,” McAlpine said. “I look at the THC content and the makeup of the plant because it’s usually analyzed. I think when you get really medicinal then strains make a difference, but when it’s just being smoked, THC is what I choose. I look for a high THC content.”
No matter your tolerance, it’s best to start on the conservative side when incorporating cannabis into a workout or sport. And since cannabis interacts with everyone’s systems differently, it may take some experimenting with multiple strains to determine what works well with your body and biochemistry. Too much THC can induce anxiety and uneasiness resulting in an unpleasant experience. Too little may lead to disappointment. For peak physical performance, proper dosage is more important than strain, which varies grower to grower. Understanding exactly how much to consume is crucial to discovering true functionality on cannabis.
In addition to The 420 Games, Jim McAlpine is also the founder of New West Summit, a cannabis industry conference focusing on developments in technology, investment and media. As a part of his all-embracing mission to change the perception of cannabis, he hopes to launch an app that inspires cannabis consumers to be athletic. The app would track physical activity like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, but with the prospect of earning points toward free and discounted cannabis products.
“The more active you are, the better pricing and free products you’re going to get,” McAlpine said. “I think that’s just going to propagate more health in the long run.”