What’s your workout routine? Lighting it up on Strava, spandex and all? Aligning your chakras and getting ultimately zen on a yoga mat? Perhaps you’re pumping iron six days a week with a cheat day that would make your inner fat kid proud. Or maybe your speed is more of a jog to the bus stop or a daily dog walk. Regardless of your preference, fitness and cannabis are no strangers to each other. Existing in the world of fitness – either as a practitioner, purveyor, or begrudging guest – puts you in the company of others that often share a relatively open mind in terms of science-based innovations and biology. It also exposes you to a wealth of information and research into human health and various ways of maintaining or improving it, if you’re so inclined. While the world of cannabis may not directly overlap venn-diagram style with the fitness world they have plenty of similarities and complementary factors. Just as the use of cannabis has evolved over the millennia, so has the form and function of physical fitness practices.
Many competitive sports have a history (usually restrictions) of performance enhancing drugs. Often these drugs can have not-so-pleasant side effects, not to mention they are almost exclusively manufactured by humans rather than being naturally occurring. So the enhancement aspect is solely on their sports performance, rather than say, the quality of daily life or actual well-being. Enter cannabis as a “performance enhancing drug” – the practice of mixing cannabis and fitness is not new, although post-legalization we are able to take a more public exploration of how that might look.
Proper Dosing for Your Sweat Style
First off, we need to consider the benefits of the various formats: edibles, inhalation via vaporization or smoke, topical, tincture, etc. As well as the benefits of the strain: CBD for its anti-inflammatory and non-psychoactive properties, uplifting sativa for focus, or the mellowness of an indica to connect deeper with your body. A little help to tune out distractions and dial in your focus can enhance many things, but everybody reacts differently so it’s most important to find a strain and format that is right for you. Some pairings can be quite nice when you find the right combination – a low-dose THC gummy can make a not-so-exciting yoga class into an expansive experience, a long run where your thoughts wander and your legs start to burn can become much more enjoyable with the help of a balanced CBD:THC strain either in tincture or edible.
Whether it's the professional, recreational, or armchair athletes, the weekend warriors, the green juice loving yogis, the endurance evangelists, or the devout WODers, there can be a cannabis product to enhance their physical fitness routines. Not to say everyone who is active should incorporate cannabis, but know that the option exists if the interest is there. More importantly, before anyone does anything, you need to understand how cannabis affects you. Then it’s safe to proceed with testing the waters (start low go slow, as they say) just as you would with any new substance. There are some obvious activities that require a sober mind. We hope you wouldn’t ride a dirt bike or operate heavy machinery under the influence of alcohol, so it’s an easy call not to try with cannabis.
When we think about a typical gym-based workout like lifting weights we must first consider safety. Keeping a clear mind for heavier, more intense workouts (think: heavy squats, dead lifts, or other complex full body maneuvers) makes sense, but your recovery post-workout could be levelled up with a nice topical, tincture, or even a celebratory pre-roll to go along with a good, healthy meal or shake. For the days you’re focusing on smaller muscle groups or more refined movements, though, there’s plenty of gym-buffs who sing the praises of a little bit of THC to get them dialed in. Many who train with Mary Jane find that it helps them get into the zone and enjoy their training, often allowing them to push through the last few reps or keeping them engaged in an otherwise not-so-exciting task. And while we’re talking about muscle building and maintaining, for those who are looking to make gains (or are in a cutting phase, even) the benefits of cannabis are ideal – getting enough good calories can be a struggle so increased appetite is a plus, and when eliminating empty calories (like booze) it can be a silver lining to have an evening unwind that’s not wine or beer. Plus, there’s the added bonus of reducing perceived stress with the help of CBD, because cortisol is not your friend when you’re trying to get shredded.
Let’s take a quick moment to dig into the science of cortisol. It can be a bit murky to link cannabis to a noticeable increase or change, but there have been studies conducted and findings found on the effect of chronic cannabis consumption on hormones. A recent study found that cortisol levels increased in both non-users and frequent users, frequent users showed less of a cortisol surge. But this is also a tough call to make when so many factors can have an impact on cortisol. So we are going to leave it at the simple assumption that CBD can help reduce stress which is the more direct link to raised cortisol.
Back to the sports and fitness worlds at large. Professional athletes have dabbled for years now, pre-legalization, from using it as a training enhancer to part of their daily life or recovery routine. Elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky, snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, and mixed martial artist Nick Diaz are among the few who have sung the praises of weed as a training tool. And we can’t forget Arnold Schwarzenegger famously lighting up and saying, “Marijuana is not a drug … it’s a leaf” in his bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. Michael Phelps was infamously photographed using cannabis recreationally (at a party, not the pool). It should also be noted that Ross Rebagliati lost his Olympic gold medal after traces of marijuana were found in his system– but he did get it back unceremoniously 36 hours later.
While everyone’s experience is unique it can be great to ask around to find out if your fitness community is already cannabis friendly, you may be surprised. While testing the waters with cannabis and being active – or using cannabis in any way in your life, really – a great rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Is this enhancing my experience?” Many who observe a California sober type of lifestyle do so in part because of the drawbacks the alcohol can have: hangovers, empty calories, the booze blues, and other negative health issues. Much like in your everyday life, it’s wise to check in (and take a pass) regularly to ensure it’s still enhancing your experience and not having any adverse impacts. And of course, as with any cannabis use, consider how you’ll be getting around before, during, and post-activity – arrive alive, practice educated cannabis consumption, and stay safe.