Working Out on Weed — Why Do It?

Here comes the holidays — and the parade of cookies, pies and sweet cocktails (eggnog, anybody?), the mountains of meats and gravies, the parties with platters of cheeses and passed-plates of bacon-wrapped shrimp and mini quiches.

For the next six weeks most of us indulge. And so we should indulge our bodies, too, with plenty of exercise — and marijuana, at least for the body-moving part of the indulgent equation.

The stoner stereotype suggests pot is great for noshing on chips and watching TV or playing video games, and little else. The reality — lots of people, including committed jocks, complement their athletic pursuits with marijuana.

Runner’s high? It is a real thing, and according to a recent study is connected to the same place that helps us get stoned — the endocannabinoid system, which is sort of like the body’s own cannabis factory. Some of the chemicals in the endocannabinoid system are related to cannabis.

Pairing a few hits with exercise might make perfect sense. But before you break out the energy bar along with the bowl, agree to experiment with dosing. Two puffs from a joint of Strawberry Cough might help fuel a long run, but it also might overwhelm the first time. Begin with a single drag and see how things go. If the experience rocks, take another hit, or three, during the run. Once the dose gets dialed-in with your own body, you just might have found your favorite exercise buddy.

Also, consider the sport. What works for a long Saturday trail run or a hot yoga class might wreck an afternoon pick-up game of basketball — hand-eye coordination and marijuana do not always complement each other in fruitful ways. And play with strains. Sativa-dominant strains will probably work best, as sativas tend to produce energy. But not all sativas are created equally, and not all work the same within your own cannabis machine — that endocannabinoid system. Finally, consider smoke alternatives, like edibles (see below).


1)     It Might Give you More Grit. Much of marijuana’s effects begin in the brain, and that includes the plant’s ability to in some cases help mitigate pain. Exercise often involves a fair bit of pleasure — few things beat carving a turn in powder. But it usually includes some pain, too; that 50th long carve on one run might leave your thighs screaming. People who mix marijuana and exercise say the combination often helps them forget about the pain and power through the tough stuff with more grace. This can be especially useful during athletic pursuits that take a long time, like marathons. The kind of pain that needs medical attention? Get thee to a doctor and stop exercising. But the kind that often lives more in the mind than in the body? Pot might help vanquish it.

2)     It Might Get You in the ZoneThe “zone” is really more a state of mind than a physical experience, although it involves coordination between body and mind. Many people who take a few puffs prior to exercise report that the pot is especially helpful for entering the zone. The zone could be the merging of body, mind and wave on a surfboard during a glassy morning session, a grin-filled flow of yoga poses or an epic tennis volley. Marijuana can help deliver focus on the task at hand (rather than thinking about the grocery list), which is another way of saying it can help you dwell in the moment — or achieve the elusive “zone.”

3)     It Might Make it More Fun. Pumping away on a stationary bike during a spin class doesn’t usually induce big laughs, and a little pre-bike hit might not make you chuckle. But smile? Enjoy the intense workout? It happens. Marijuana heightens senses, and as we discussed above also can help people forget about discomfort. While the tough parts of a workout get smoothed over (thank you, weed), the more enjoyable aspects are heightened (thanks again). The intense spin class, the long, tough paddle in the bay, the epic hike — all of them (and many more pursuits) have the potential to conjure fun when combined with marijuana. And adventures that tend to hinge on fun anyway, like surfing, can enjoy extra jolts of good times when cannabis is included.

4)     It Might Let You Bail on the OTC Painkillers. Athletes call it “Vitamin I,” and it gets used a lot for post-workout recoveries. “It” is ibuprofen, and studies show that too much ibuprofen can damage livers. But more and more athletes are treating their aches and pains with cannabis. In particular, jocks are combining CBD — both with and without THC — to help their bodies recover from grueling days on the trail, field or court. The cannabis isn’t going to heal a sprain or muscle pull, but for many it has the same effect as a handful of ibuprofen — it dulls the pain and lets full recovery happen more quickly. Marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties, and managing inflammation is a big part of recovering from physical stress.

5)     It Might Work Better with Edibles and Microdosing. The exercise-cannabis combination is not just about mixing sports and smoke or vapor — edibles can be valuable exercise partners as well. Edibles take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to take effect — it all depends on the kind of edible and the person eating them. Prior to experimenting with edibles and exercise, it is best to understand how long it takes for a given gummy bear or pill to turn into a buzz. Then, time the nibbling with the beginning of the athletic pursuit — you want to have the stonage kick-in when you begin the run or the weight-lifting sesh. One of the beauties of edibles is the duration of the high — it can last for hours. For people who train for long periods of time, an edibles high is ideal. Ultra-marathoners might take multiple edibles during the course of a competition or training session. In addition, edibles are made for microdosing; experimenting with small doses and sports can reap excellent benefits. Sometimes people seek a slight mind-expanding buzz rather than a psychedelic spectacle when pursuing athletics. Microdosing often fits the bill.

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