Fighting The COVID-19 Pounds With Elias Theodorou

It’s safe to say 2020 hasn’t gone as planned—not just for myself, but for all of you reading this as well. I don’t think a global pandemic was first on everyone’s “office football pool,” unless your name is Bill Gates, I suppose. Yet we’ve all had to drastically course-correct for this nearly complete worldwide shutdown. I’m sure, like me, you’ll always remember when you realized this “corona thing” was here to stay. Those first mandated retractions from society we all had to make will never be forgotten—whether it was one’s social life (closing of bars), not going to work (possibly also at a bar), or maybe it was when we noticed how important it was to hashtag #stayathome on Instagram and share our first quarantine moments. Binge-watching Tiger King and Ozark was fun, but that didn’t last; the endless memes definitely helped to describe our collective disarray of the “new normal,” and hopefully you had a few laughs along the way at least. The most important thing is that I hope you and your loved ones are healthy, safe and employed.
Increasingly, as days turned to weeks and eventually months, more and more plans for 2020 went by the wayside—postponed until later this year, pushed until 2021 or even outright canceled, like the 2020 summer concert and festival season. Other events that were years in the making, like the 2020 summer Olympics now pushed to next year in Tokyo. Or, for the cannabis fans, the case of 4/20/20, a whole decade of waiting, disappeared!
I had a totally different 4/20 plan before the shutdown—we all did—but now with huge crowds and shared giant blunts out of the question in the COVID-19 era, most of us made the switch to virtual sessions, with social distanced hot-boxes and sharing the historic cannabis moment with friends and other cannabis connoisseurs via the many different platforms offering online good vibes. I myself took part in a 24-hour 4/20 session viewed globally. Yet, once the smoke cleared, more and more of 2020 seemed to continue to slip away.
For many, the cancelling of sporting events was another huge indication to both fans and athletes alike that this pandemic was here to stay and so too were the very real repercussions. The NBA, MLB, NHL and even the UFC (despite their best efforts) were forced to close up shop to ensure safety of the fans and athletes. Even if professional sports do come back for a modified season, we’re all likely watching the new 2020 season from home instead of in the crowd at an arena. The UFC, however, is already back up and running shows with 7+ UFC events since reopening and the highly anticipated Fight Island in Abu Dhabi now three events deep by the time you read this article. Still, there is still so much unknown about the state of professional and amateur sports.
There is going to be huge swaths of athletes sitting a whole year out of activity as we figure out life during this time. Fight Island itself is an attempt to keep their international talent active during the pandemic as flying to the US is either very hard or out of the question, depending what country you come from. It could always get harder moving forward with continued virus “hot spots” in the US.
As a professional mixed martial artist—one who recently became the first ever sanctioned medical cannabis athlete in professional sports via a governing body (British Athletic Commission)—the plan was to validate it soon after it was approved in February and written about in the last issue of kind magazine. Instead, the planned April event I had was cancelled, much like most things in 2020. Not only that, but all gyms closed too in the height of the shutdown. Even now with Phase 2 starting in most areas of Canada, the gym is still one of the most hard-hit locations. By now, many of us have now gone months without working out.
Much like toilet paper, gym equipment has a real hot commodity and very hard to find.
The “COVID-19(lbs)” is definitely REAL, even for this pro athlete. I found myself needing to course-correct my behaviour when my office (the gym) was closed. It’s hard to stay motivated and work out in the condo I live in, especially with limited weights and equipment and no coaches for daily direction. Furthermore, it’s even harder to train when your job requires constant human contact with your team and training partners, with endless drilling, sweating and beathing heavily in the confined spaces we call a gym. Especially with human contact essentially becoming illegal, or at least a severe fine when caught doing so outside your approved social circle. I know quite a few fighters that have moved in together during COVID in order to work around that “no touching” rule to keep training under quarantine rules.
I did not move in with a training partner, so I did have to get creative working out at home and outside during the first months of quarantine. Much like toilet paper, gym equipment was a real hot commodity and very hard to find. I would see 30-lbs dumbbells for hundreds of dollars on Amazon, the most expensive one I saw was for 80lbs dumbbells at $900 (plus tax) and a three-plus long month wait time even with that ridiculous mark-up. Needless to say, securing a home gym took time, but as I waited, I was able to get back into one of my favourite things to do: run.
Running has always been an important part of my MMA career. When I first started to take my training seriously ten years ago, my gym was only open in the evenings, so for someone like myself who was looking to make this a full-time job, running, sprints and shadowboxing provided a crucial avenue for me to get in “two-a-days” of cardio to keep up my work rate during the day.
My early running became a vital tool helping me develop my “will to win” a fight. This mentality allowed me to focus on my body and mind all while pushing a ferocious pace down the path I was running. My will came from overcoming the countless kilometres I would run, sometimes sporadically adding 10’s of kilometres on a dime with a burst of “can-do” energy. I would often turn my planned 10km run into a “just because” half-marathon, or longer. The fastest time wasn’t necessarily the point as I would constantly run with a skipping rope, busting it out every red light I was stopped at, most of the time missing the light change with a good song in my ear to skip for another “just because” few minutes only to sprint away the next time my mood changed.
I would run with a skipping rope, busting it out every red light I was stopped at, most of the time missing the light change with a good song in my ear, only to sprint away the next time my mood changed.
Unlike when I first started running ten years ago, I now medicate with cannabis daily to manage the pain associated with my medically-diagnosed bilateral neuropathy in my upper extremities. This nerve damage and the need to use cannabis is the reason for my therapeutic use exemption in athletics. It is an alternative to the first-line medicines that either outright don’t work for me, or worse yet have debilitating side-effects that compromise my ability to perform as an athlete and even my quality of life as a patient. Beyond my own experience, cannabis is already prominent in the running world. Many marathon and ultra-marathon (50+ miles) runners heavily use edibles chalked up with doses of THC and THCAA (when cooked) to minimize pain and inflammation during and after long period running.
This time under home and gym lockdown allowed me re-examine my cannabis protocol as well with this “new normal” affecting my training schedule. First off, I can certainly medicate before running easier than before training. As much of my prior cannabis use was for post-training recovery, with a focus on pain management and my condition. Alternatively, medicating just before a run has those same anti-inflammatory properties, but layered into the “runner’s high” one already feels when running for a long period of time. This all comes from the same use of the cannabinoid system, as both a “runner’s high” and the release of endorphins and naturally occurring chemicals. A daily double-dose of each is a reoccurring state as I look to run long, fast, and hard and keep myself not only active, but actively bettering my own knowledge and understanding of my own cannabis use and journey.