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Cannabis for Athletes

Cannabis for Athletes

A Guide to Using Cannabis Actively

Elevate Your Workouts and Improve Your Recovery

Bob Marley began each morning with a five-mile jog along the beach in Kingston. Kenyon Martin, who played 15 seasons as a power forward in the NBA, once estimated that about 85% of the league uses cannabis. And competitive ultrarunner Avery Collins, who’s become an advocate for cannabis in the world of sports, says that he almost always eats an edible, smokes a bowl or puffs a vape pen before going for a run—in addition to using CBD products for recovery.

Clearly there’s a connection between cannabis and sports. But the terrain is controversial. Many people associate cannabis with sloth and snacking, not peak performance. And at the highest levels of sport, where many cannabinoids are banned, athletes like Sha’Carri Richardson are still suffering consequences for consuming cannabis. But in between, there’s a huge population of amateur and pro-level athletes—runners, cyclists, swimmers, weight-lifters, hikers and more—who’ve improved their exercise by incorporating cannabis into their routines.

Exercise and the Endocannabinoid System

The blissful state of peace that comes at the end of a run, or the thrilling feeling of rhythm that arrives when you’re in your groove—these are the “runner’s high,” the state of euphoria that cardio workouts can elicit. Runner’s high is often attributed to endorphins, hormones released by your body as your heart pumps oxygenated blood to your muscles and brain. But according to Johns Hopkins, the endocannabinoid system may actually be the origin of the runner’s high. In addition to endorphins, exercise also produces endocannabinoids, natural neurotransmitters that interact with the brain. Endorphins can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier, but endocannabinoids can—meaning that they may cause the feelings of elation and calm that we associate with vigorous physical exercise.

The Runner’s High

Exercise and cannabis both interact with our endocannabinoid systems, which may explain why so many endurance athletes use the plant. Many people report that a mild THC buzz can dovetail with a natural runner’s high, encouraging a “flow state” and helping the hours on the road or trail pass easily. Ultrarunner and cannabis advocate Avery Collins describedthe first time he combined running and cannabis as a “lightbulb moment”: “I hate using the word euphoric, but it was. I was enjoying it so much; I felt so in tune; I almost forgot about the mileage and forgot where I was. It made the experience much more enjoyable.”

Collins isn’t the only one. In Runner’s High by Josiah Hesse, the author interviews dozens of athletes—from cross-continental bicycle tourists to jiu jitsu practitioners—who use cannabis almost every time they exercise. Most report that the combination of cannabis and working out brings on a feeling of elated, myopic focus, a kind of joyful tunnel vision that makes the time melt away. Some say that cannabis can improve their appetites and encourage them to eat more when they need to. Others rely on the plant to recover from tough workouts, ease inflammation and get better sleep.

Does Cannabis Make You Lazy?

We all know the stereotype of the couch-locked stoner, eating snacks and watching TV—but is it accurate? For a 2019 report, Angela Bryan, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, surveyed about 600 cannabis users about their daily routines. She suspected that consuming cannabis would make them less active, but what she discovered surprised her. Around half of the respondents said that cannabis actually inspired them to exercise. More than two-thirds of users said that they regularly consumed cannabis around the time of their workouts, that the drug made them enjoy their workouts more, and that it helped them recover.

Clearly, the relationship between cannabis and exercise is more complicated than we thought. But how is it possible that different people have such vastly different experiences with the plant, and what about cannabis makes it appeal to couch potatoes and ultramarathoners alike?

How to Exercise with Cannabis

Cannabis can improve your performance and make you have more fun while you’re out there. It can encourage healthy habits and make your exercise routine more joyful. It can speed up your recovery and ease post-workout aches and pains. It can help you sleep, eat, and immerse yourself in the simple pleasures of being outdoors and active.

Of course, nothing is one-size-fits-all. Some people may find that eating an edible before a jog or bike ride gives them energy, while for others it might be a one-way-ticket to a nap. Similarly, some athletes may enjoy puffing from a vape pen, while others may prefer gummies, tinctures or old-fashioned flower. Others may dislike the “high” of THC and prefer to stick with non-psychoactive CBD, which can improve recovery and ease inflammation on its own.

If you’re curious about incorporating cannabis into your exercise regimen, or seeing how cannabis can help you build a sustainable routine, set up a time to talk with our Health and Happiness Consultants today or stop by and visit us in Sebastopol or Santa Rosa.

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