Runner’s High: Working Out with Cannabis

Runner's high: working out with cannabis how to work out with weed

Can working out with cannabis elevate your fitness practice? Recent studies point to yes!

You don’t need to be a genius to realize that our sedentary modern lifestyles are producing higher rates of life-threatening diseases. Regular exercise is an integral part of our physical and mental wellbeing.

But, unfortunately, many people find it challenging to stick to a regular exercise program. Researchers have recently found something that may help—cannabis. Repeated studies have found that cannabis consumers have lower obesity rates and may even exercise more frequently.

Cannabinoids and the Runner's High

Traditionally, scientists thought that the euphoria athletes get after strenuous exercise was mainly due to endorphins activating opioid receptors in the brain. However, recent research has found that our endocannabinoid system also plays an integral role in producing the “runner’s high.”

A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Neuroreport found that exercise activates the endocannabinoid system to release a compound called anandamide. Anandamide is one of the two primary endocannabinoids found naturally in the human body. The researchers who discovered the compound named it after the Sanskrit word for “bliss.”

Anandamide may have even more influence on the runner’s high than endorphins. A 2021 study found that even when participants took opioid blocking drugs, they experienced the same euphoria after exercise.

How Cannabis Can Help with Exercise

So how can working out with cannabis help? Cannabinoids like CBD and THC increase anandamide levels. Many athletes state that cannabis helps produce a sense of wellbeing, motives them to exercise, and makes physical activities more enjoyable. A recent study conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder found that eight out of ten cannabis users in legal states enjoy marijuana during or after exercise.

Cannabis Can Increase Motivation

According to UC Boulder researcher Angela Bryan, “There is a stereotype that cannabis use leads people to be lazy and couch-locked and not physically active, but these data suggest that this is not the case.” Over half of the study’s participants stated that cannabis motivates them to exercise.

Cannabis Can Increase Mental Focus

Most athletes confirm that they perform better when they’re “in the zone,” and many attest that cannabis helps them concentrate and experience a higher level of mind-body awareness. Cannabis has long played a central cultural role among surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding enthusiasts.

The ability of cannabis to enhance mental focus may also help deepen meditative exercises like yoga and tai chi. Low doses of cannabis products pre-workout can also be beneficial for dancing, light weightlifting, and stretching exercises like pilates.

Cannabis Can Reduce Recovery Time

Long recovery times present a considerable barrier to exercise. Fortunately, cannabinoids are well-known for reducing inflammation and pain, which can help speed up post-workout recovery. Some studies have also concluded that cannabis may alleviate exercise-induced asthma.

Although researchers haven’t found a connection between marijuana and enhanced performance, they have concluded that cannabis can reduce joint pain while exercising and accelerate recovery from injuries. 78% of UC Boulder’s study subjects reported faster recovery times.

Cannabis Can Make Exercise More Fun

Working out with cannabis can make the fitness journey more fun! Evidence suggests that people who find exercise enjoyable are more likely to maintain their fitness routines. Unfortunately, many people have internalized the idea that exercise must be a difficult, boring, and time-consuming chore.

70% of the participants in the UC Boulder study stated that cannabis increases their enjoyment while exercising. Ultramarathon runner Heather Mashhoodi takes half of a cannabis-infused edible when she feels her energy wane mid-run. “When I run for a really long time, [the gummy] makes the colors brighter, makes my thoughts clearer, and makes me more emotionally in tune.”

Working out with cannabis not only makes repetitive exercise like cardio more fun, but toking could encourage you to try new forms of movement.

Best Cannabis Strains for Exercise

Pre-Workout Strains

Sativa-dominant strains are ideal for motivation and enjoyment during your workout. Sativa genetics typically come with energizing effects and provoke an upbeat attitude. Some of the best pre-workout strains include: 
  • Pineapple Express has a sweet tropical fruit flavor with THC levels reaching up to 25%.
  • Durban Poison is a pure landrace sativa with THC levels of around 20%.
  • Bruce Banner will make you feel like the Incredible Hulk with THC levels over 21%.

If you’re sensitive to THC or experience joint pain during workouts, you could choose a sativa-dominant hemp strain or a cannabis variety that combines both CBD and THC.

You can find some excellent choices online or in your local dispensary, such as:

  • Lifter has a refreshing lemon flavor and remains one of the most popular sativa-dominant hemp strains.
  • High-CBD Cannatonic evokes internal calm and pleasant tingling sensations to help you relax after your exercise session.
  • Harlequin contains both CBD and THC in a 1:1 ratio. 

Post-Workout Cannabis Strains

Indica-dominant strains work well for getting adequate rest and speeding up recovery. Indicas tend to produce more relaxing feelings, and MMJ doctors often recommend them for pain relief. Some indica-dominant strains you might try include:
  • Indica-leaning Girl Scout Cookies makes the perfect reward after a strenuous workout.
  • Sweet Gelato is the ideal strain to go from a gentle evening workout into a delightful dream state.
  • Ice Cream Cake has an initial buzz that works wonderfully for social forms of exercise like team sports, but after a while a comforting sense of sedation kicks in to lull you to sleep.
Indica-dominant, high-CBD hemp strains can be particularly helpful for relaxing after workouts and reducing inflammation. Here are a few varieties you may want to try:
  • Bubba Kush may have a delicious coffee-like flavor, but its effects are just the opposite, making the strain ideal for rest and recuperation.
  • The hemp version of iconic Northern Lights promotes relaxation in mind, body, and soul.
  • In addition to it’s delectable fruit flavor, Cherry Wine makes one of the best hemp varieties for post-workout relaxation.

Ways to Incorporate Cannabis into Your Workout

There are many ways you can embrace working out with cannabis. Here are some tips for beginners:
  • If you’ve never exercised while stoned before, it’s best to begin with a small quantity of cannabis. Higher doses can produce side effects that could make you feel dizzy or anxious.
  • Do your exercise in a familiar environment. Beginners will feel safer if they perform their first combined cannabis and workout sessions at home or in another place where they feel comfortable. 
  • Start with easier exercises than you usually would, such as walking, jogging, stretching, and light weightlifting. Some yoga studios incorporate weed into their sessions, which can be helpful for novices who want to combine their asana practice with cannabis.
  • Arrange for transportation if you’ll be performing your exercise session away from home. Never drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • Consult with a trusted physician before incorporating cannabis into your workouts.

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