Sports Cannabis Interviews

Nate Stark

Sports Cannabis caught up with Pro MMA Fighter, Blessed Edibles Athlete and Athlete for Care Athlete Ambassador, Nate Stark. Today, Nate is fighting to break the stigma on a number of platforms, pushing for education, awareness and advocating for real tangible gains for policy change.

He’s also teamed up with Blessed Edibles as an Athlete Ambassador, pushing for the brand and emphasizing CBD/Cannabis acceptance within Sports.

Episode 07//

Jay : 

Today we have the absolute pleasure of speaking with Nate Stark, a Toronto MMA fighter that is also a blessed edibles athlete. What’s good, Nate, thank you for joining sports. What’s good? 

Nate : 

Thanks for having me. Yeah, I truly appreciate 

Jay : 

How you are doing today. Where are you joining us from? 

Nate : 

I’m joining from Toronto, man, I just got home from a training session. It’s been interesting lately, right with the world turned upside down. 

Jay : 

You know, for athletes, it’s become incredibly hard. It was devastating when facilities closed up. What did you do to really cope with that lockdown? How did you keep, you know, mentally and physically active during the pandemic?

Nate : 

I tried to run for a bit. I’m not a big fan of running,  I hate running. But if it’s not sprinting, I don’t want anything to do with it. But I did a few runs. And then as things started to slowly normalize, like, Coach reached out to my coach striking concepts reached out to me and he was like, yo, like, what’s the word? What are we doing? And I was like, I was just waiting on your word. And we just got back to business like nothing.  

Jay : 

So that transition, was it hard to get back going, now that life is resumed? Or were you just so amped up and excited that it was more just released?

Nate :

A little bit of both, it was hard to get started just because I was not as active as I should be. I just kind of it’s that conditioning aspect. You know, it’s like not what am I doing and eating? Like, there was nothing there. So, conditioning wise, when I got back, I was like, This is no good.

Jay : 

Yeah, feel you on that. You know, but before we really take this conversation further, we start talking about cannabis, you know, in the waves that it’s made in the sporting world, you know, every athlete really has a journey, a moment that they, they took and they decided that hey, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go on this career path of being a professional athlete, you know, and that for you was to be an MMA fighter. You know, can you walk us through that journey? And when you really decided this is what I want to do.

Nate : 

Yeah, I played football, my whole life prescriber thunder. So it was crazy. Like, people always ask you, but What school did you play for I played for scar, but I never really played high school football for one year at Central tech. And high school football wasn’t fun for me. So I just continued to play for the city. My last season with the city as a varsity player, just the coach and I, the coach we had at the time, we just didn’t see eye to eye. I sat for a whole first half of the semifinal game. And that’s when I was just like, okay, football’s not doing it. And a week later, I was at the movies, and I saw it on On Bak and I was like Oh, I’m going to do that. And everybody said that’s crazy. And what we’ll say is, 15 years later, I’m still training – Yeah, no. So after all this about 2012, I got approached by this guy named Aaron, who was doing a documentary called fight exchange. And that was where I broke and got the opportunity of being able to have my first pro fight. I got to go to Brazil and fight and that’s where I was like, this is what I wanted to do.

Jay : 

What was that first experience like?  When you were in Brazil? How was that for you to be in that setting? You know,  what was that moment like for you? 

Nate :

Honestly, very different. I, we’ve always trained hard, everybody, I trained with his start hard trainers, everybody trains hard, but it is going out there and seeing how these guys I guess, because of what life is like, or at the time out there, I was like, holy shit, like, you guys are for real for real. Like they got to do this. So I was like, well, I got to take the training the same way.

Jay : 

So we’re talking about that training, right? And you’ve gone to Brazil, you’re seeing the way that they’re training across the world. And it’s obviously motivated you, it’s inspired you it’s lit a fire under you and you’ve come back to Canada. You know, today you’re talking about, Hey, your coach reached out to you and said, When are we starting? What’s going on? Right? What is your training look like today? What does that regiment look like -walk us through because I know for some athletes it is two days they know, depending on what they’re dealing with, and what the outcome they’re looking for. It really varies. 

Nate :

So right now, I have a crazy work schedule, because I still have family responsibilities. I got to take your kids and stuff. So I’m still working while pursuing this. Right now. We’re at one session in the morning but we just had a big discussion about changing my work schedule and just being able to free up my training time a bit more. So we will have the two days going again by next week. 

Jay :

How hard is it for you to find a balance you know, maintain that where you’re able to concentrate on sports every day. Make sure that you’re focused in that area. But then you’re also, you know, going to work. How difficult is that?

Nate :

I’m not going to be the guy to say, Oh, no, you know, it’s easy. It’s not easy. It is difficult. But honestly, if this is something I want. So I just, I gotta push through and do what I got to do to make it happen, you know?

Jay : 

So if we get back to that training that you were talking about, right, you know, right now, it’s at one a day, what does that training look like? Walk us through like what? You know, today you went through? What is that? You know, a couple hours session?

Nate :

We go through about a 30 minute dynamic warm up, get my hips moving just because it’s going to be a lot of kicking, a lot of punching, sometimes we’re just drilling takedown stuff, not hard, but your hips still got to be loose for moving and getting low, you know. So there’s the dynamics. After the dynamic, we’ll do a couple of kicking drills, knee drills, anything elbow related. And then we get the gloves on and get my hands naked. And then from there, we start like, it’s usually three boxer rounds to start and then we’ll get the legs the other half. So we’ll go about three rounds. We go with our hands. The next three rounds we do. We’re going kickboxing, or Muay Thai.  There were times where the way my schedule was set, it was easier for me to have specific set days. Okay, your sparring hard on this day or this day is going to be a max effort day. Now we’re tapering and are nice and say tapering. But things are getting a little bit back to normal. So it’s easier to bring it together.

Jay :

And for me, right? I’m a cyclist, I’m training, you know, we train in different thresholds, right, we learn how to train our breathing patterns, our heart rate, all those types of things that are going to help us endure a long boat, right. And with you, you guys have to go through round after round and make sure that you’re physically able to be there from round one all the way through the last round, right? And make sure that you still have that, that ability and that energy to keep pushing. What do you do to make sure like, Are there specific tactics that you guys train with?

Nate : 

I would say, probably right before a fight that you know you don’t use during the year,

it’s more just, I find that for my sparring based on the silver spring days and things that he hasn’t worked on sprint days are hard pads. So I’ll be hitting really hard for maybe 30 seconds. Okay, you guys, me hitting a specific problem really hard for 30 seconds after that combo, I have to either hit a spot on the grass or on the track, I have to sprint or do the whole track with a sprint and then I get a quick rest after that. And then it’s back to the same thing. So it’s more about the explosiveness for us is just that first, aid it for a run, slowly come back without stopping. So it’s more of an active rest and anything like our rest periods are just taste, sit down and take a breather, if you’re still moving and doing something during that rush

Plus, we start paying attention to the nutrition and the diet, and kind of slow things down as far as I feel like the heavy sparring slows down. Harder pad sessions don’t come as often, things like that.

Jay : 

Now, you know, for a lot of athletes that have come onto our show, right? They’ve talked about these intense training schedules that have really created a ton of stress on their body, right. One thing that they’ve noticed as huge improvements was something that you alluded to, which is you know, changing up nutrition, right, incorporating something like meditation or yoga. You know, we had a couple athletes allude to using float pods to really help them mentally balance and get back into that a couple times.

Nate :

I enjoy it. Yeah. 

Jay :

What do you find is the best for you that really gets you back to that calming balance – Is it the float pod or is the yoga or.

Nate : 

When I do get the chance, the floats are great. I recently met with one of my close friends. He’s pushed me into breathing. He’s got me into the breathing thing and that’s worth it. Caught me a day like the other day we did ice baths and I realized like, Okay, this really does make a difference when you’re controlling breathing and doing the proper things to through breathing.

Jay : 

When did you ultimately start to decide that I’m going to start using cannabis for recovery relief for sports?

Nate :

I would have to say it would add to be in the past four to three years where I took it more seriously as far as recovery,, because I’ve always been a smoker like we’ve always been there in my life. So it’s more as far as an athlete now is the past three, four years where I’m like, oh, like there are, it’s not just bullshit. Like there are actual benefits to recovery, unhealthy through stress or just pain relief.

Jay : 

Yeah, like when you first took it, right, like when you’ve been using it for X amount of years, recreationally, let’s say right, and then, you know, you’re training quite hard. And you know, you meet other athletes or you read articles that are advocating for cannabis use, and the way it could really help you. When you first used it, specifically for recovery and relief. Was there an immediate impact, like you felt it the next day and you realize, this is like a lightbulb moment, I need to keep doing this?

Nate :

I wouldn’t say it was the next day but it was two days after where I was like, it was CBD. I tried. And I was like, Oh shit. Like, I’m not as achy as I was. Two days ago, my body was like, I couldn’t get back to training. I was moving normally. I wasn’t limping around like, Oh, man.

One thing that we find with a lot of athletes is that they’re very particular about what they put into their body and what they consume. 

Jay : 

When you started taking on your MMA career, was there ever a mental barrier or any hurdle that you had to cross where you were kind of finding it hard to wrap your mind around, you know, vaping CBD specifically for relief?

Nate :

I did it like -it was the norm for me. I never thought it seemed out of place. It just made sense. Because over the years, just some of the people I grew up around as far as people my mom knew shift where I don’t want to say medicine men, but there are us those who always talked about like Herbes and whatnot. Like weed was always there as far as a medicinal aspect. So it was when I heard people opening up about it, I was like, okay, like the world is getting in the know of what’s really going on with this plant.

Jay : 

It’s crazy to think but it’s legal in Canada, and retail shops are popping up like beer stores, you know, edibles are hitting the market. And we’ve got a major movement going through the sporting world. What are your thoughts on the slow adoption of cannabis within the sporting world?

Nate ; 

I’m with it. Like, because as I said, I’ve been smoking for so long and not like recreationally I’ve been smoking for so long. And it was always one of those things where outside of sports, like everybody who knows me knows Nate’s but as far as being an athlete, anybody I ever trained with. It was always really harsh, harsh for me. Yeah. But it was hard at the same time, because I always felt like for a week, so I was like, well, I’ve always felt like, there was no explanation for it. So it was clearly like, Oh, he’s smoking and so now that it’s being adopted into this world, I’m like, Okay, well, you know, everybody’s smoking. 

Jay : 

Yeah, it’s kind of like coming full circle, right? 

Nate :

It’s, you know, like, I know people that would train Muay Thai and smoke cigarettes and they worried about, like, a little bit of weed.

Jay :

It’s really unreal to see the perception just change almost like a flick of a switch. Five years ago, you could have talked about I’m gonna go smoke some weed and then I’m going to go run a ballgame or something like that, and people wouldn’t do it and now you can tell them that they’re like, Oh, yeah, for sure. ”I’m gonna go smoke a blunt and go for a golf session”. And now having retail and having companies come into the space that really know the area and can really provide you know, invaluable information, but also get you the right products is just timely and really helpful to athletes like yourself and myself, you know, and one thing that we did break very lightly talk about is edibles. Right, and they’re on the market.

I don’t think that we can really mention edibles without thinking of blessed edibles, right, which has recently joined to form gallery brands right. And you know, Angelina, better than any of us. How were you introduced to her?

Nate : 

Angelina, we have the same coach, at Striking, like I’ve known him for years. So we were at a session one day. And I guess he was holding pads for her. I showed up to do or actually work there at a time. So I showed up to work and train at the same time, and I jumped in on a session with him, and I was like, Oh, nice to meet you. She would look good on the path. So they looked at our tray with this girl, and she hit pretty hard. So I was like, okay, that’s where you’d like to trade with someone like her more often. But then I was told that she has cookies, 

And the first time I tried whatever cookies, I was, like, shit. The next day, I was like, it hasn’t been a while since I’ve had an edible that actually kind of pulled me out my hash and made me feel okay. Since then we have just been kicking it.

Jay :

Beyond that, like you said, she has Blessed Edibles, which has recently joined to form Gallery Brands, which you can go on their website right now http://www.gallerybrands.com. And you can go to Blessed Edibles and see the wonderful products that they have available for everyone to choose from, from water from chocolate to vapes, you know, it’s really incredible what she has created for everyone.

Nate :

Yeah, it’s awesome. 

Jay : 

What’s your favorite product? – You know, because for me, I was looking at I’m like, there’s some sparkly wire there. It looks super rich, and CBD looks like something I could use right after a long ride. What’s your favorite product that the Blessed Edibles is offering? 

Nate : 

I’m loyal. So I’ll be that cookie guy to the core. 

Jay : 

I see. I see. And what can we expect? You know, now that you are officially a Blessed Athlete, what does that mean? What can we expect from that? 

Nate : 

Honestly, I see a lot in the future as far as competition wise and representing Blessed with the best that I can.

Jay : 

Definitely man. And beyond representing brand – Something you are as well is an athlete ambassador for athletes for care, which is an amazing nonprofit organization, helping athletes across the world, get their message out there.  You’ve joined as an athlete, Ambassador, congratulations. What does that mean? And why was it important for you to join a platform like that?

Nate : 

Honestly, it’s just, it’s great. Because from what I’ve been seeing what they’ve been doing through the community, I don’t see a lot of people out there giving the education that people need on cannabis. So I like to be a part of something like that, and it feels good.

Jay : 

And so we’re talking about cannabis. You’ve been using it for a while. You’ve been using it lately, as you know, via vape, which has been said to help you quite a bit as a healing modality. You know, what is your favorite way to consume cannabis? Is it vaping? Is it consuming it through the dry flour format that you know we’re traditionally used to as edibles? What is it for you?

Nate : 

When we’re in training mode, I’m vaping until it’s time to cut it off completely and just taper off and get ready to compete. When I’m just chillin in a relaxed suit.

Jay : 

We just asked you, you know, you told us that you’d like to vape and that specifically for when you’re training but overall your favorite motor consumption. You know, if you’re chilling, if you’re watching a ballgame, if you’re just kicking it with the homies then it’s going to be rolling a blunt and smoking it that way. You know, there is an opportunity for a lot of people to follow your path, right- And that is to start advocating for cannabis and start talking about it.  If you could offer a piece of advice to other athletes following in your footsteps. What would that be?

Nate : 

Listen to yourself and stay true to yourself, man.

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