Smoking & Weightlifting: Part 2
by Thom Van Vleck
Ok, so if smoking is so bad for you why did so many lifters do it? And why were those lifters so successful while smoking. The quick answer might be that they would have been even better without cigarettes. This may surprise you, but I DISAGREE!
You may be thinking, “What! Thom is saying smoking will help your lifting”! Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Just like steroids, amphetamines, and the dozens of other drugs people use to increase their performance. But don’t confuse helping your lifting and helping your health. Also, there are better ways to achieve the same positive effects of smoking without the long term health problems that smoking brings.
First, how does smoking help. Nicotine is a stimulant. When you smoke, you are introducing a stimulant to your system. A stimulant can help you focus. By focusing, you can reduce anxiety (which is how cigarettes can calm you down when they stimulant you). Since it enters through the lungs, it is wickedly fast in how it does it and why it is so addictive. It has an incredibly fast stimulus-reward connection. But you have to remember, there’s a DIFFERENCE between short term and long term benefits.
When I used to work in substance abuse counseling patients would often have a “dual diagnosis”. They would come into treatment as a result of substance abuse, but the reason they would abuse substances had to do with an underlying problem. I’ll used Depression as an example. If you are depressed and you take methamphetamine you will no longer be depressed. As a matter of fact, I’ll guarantee INSTANT results. If you simply go on the instant results, then “meth” would be the greatest success story of all time in the treatment of depression. But we all know there are many consequences of using “meth”. The consequences of cigarettes are slow, but the benefits are quick.
I bring this up because when I was a teenager and I was faced with the opportunities to use alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, steroids, I would hear only that they were “bad” for you….but what I often saw conflicted with that and as a result, I would question just how “bad” they were! I even recall people saying that steroids didn’t work at all and that it was all psychological…..yeah, right!!! If we want to modify our behavior or the behavior of those around us for the better, we have to be honest
Now that we are being honest, let’s back up to the “dual diagnosis” example a little. So, if you take away the way a person is self medicating, you must find an alternative or they are doomed to go back to their self medication. With cigarettes, you must find some healthy alternative, or at least a relatively healthy alternative (when I did substance abuse counseling we often encouraged cigarette smoking to deal with withdrawal from hardcore drugs as it was the lessor evil).
As lifters, we are always looking for an edge. I don’t know how many supplements I’ve tried over the years. But if we are willing to work, and wait for results, we can find effective replacements for things like cigarettes that deliver short term but make us pay long term.