Smoking & Weightlifting: Part 1
by Thom Van Vleck
When I was a kid and my Uncle’s were lifting on a regular basis I would often go the gym to watch them workout. During their workout, they would chain smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoke often filled the gym and the ash tray was next to the chalk box! I recall my Uncle Wayne, taking a drag off his cigarette, setting it on the edge of the platform (with the “cherry” end dangling off the edge) and hitting a set of Power Cleans. Then he would retrieve his cigarette and, while trying to catch his breath, take a drag off of it and then cough!
Those who are under 30 won’t understand how prevalent smoking was back then. It was normal for smoking to happen everywhere. Even at weightlifting meets. It was a smokers right to light up, not the other way around like it is now! I recall going to sporting events and people lighting up right next to you, attending classes and people smoking the the classroom in college, and the only reason you wouldn’t smoke at a hospital had nothing to do with health….it was so an open flame didn’t make contact with Oxygen! Same reason for no smoking in a theater….they were worried about a fire…not people’s health!
We are now taught how bad smoking is for you. We have a lot of older lifters who used to smoke and if they didn’t, they were like me growing up with it wherever they went. Both my parents chain smoked, I can’t recall my Dad not having a cigarette dangling from his mouth! We now know just how bad second hand smoke is for you!
Today, my Dad is gone. He passed away at age 65 and I’m certain the cigarettes cost him at least 10 years. My Uncle’s Wayne and Phil, are in their 60’s as well and smoking has taken a toll. They all told me they wished they had never started. It’s an addiction and a powerful one. My point is, these were the strongest men I knew growing up. And Smoking cost them dearly…..and it cost those of us who loved them dearly. My grandfather never smoked and he lived to be 85 and was in great shape. His death was the effects of a car accident….or he probably would have lived much longer! Sure, there’s lots of factors in that….but he removed the factor that cigarettes could have played in his health and it certainly would have been negative!
We all know smoking is bad for us, but did you younger guys realize not so many years ago that being tough and strong, often meant being a smoker and if you went to a lifting meet you could expect a wall of thick smoke. David Rigert, one of the greatest Oly lifters of all time lifted in the 70’s and he often chain smoked at meets (and drank vodka in the warm up room between lifts) and would put down his cigarette to go lift! Or if you joined a gym, people would be smoking….even while lifting! Things have changed, but in this case…..for the better!