It seems like there’s nothing cannabis can’t do. As more funding is devoted to cannabis research, more studies are identifying benefits of using marijuana: healthier BMI, increased sex drive, stronger neuroplasticity, regulated mental disorders and more. Athletes, in particular, are gravitating toward both THC and CBD — compounds unique to cannabis responsible for many of the drug’s effects — as tools for aiding in recovery after workouts.
But what about before and during exercise — is weed a help or a hindrance? It seems that the best answer is: It depends. Here are a few workouts good for getting some exercise while utterly toasted.
Perhaps the most vocal supporters of cannabis use during athletic training are endurance athletes, who often participate in long, grueling and notably boring training sessions. Activities like running or biking for miles on end don’t require incredible coordination or creativity, but they do benefit from enhanced focus, the reduction of pain and inflammation and an almost unwavering sense of pleasure and fun. Marathoners and cyclists can attest that mental state plays a significant role in athletic performance during endurance training sessions; if an athlete’s heart isn’t in the run or ride, or if their thoughts keep drifting to other issues, they aren’t likely to make good time.
This is why weed is so popular amongst endurance athletes. A combination of cannabinoids allows athletes to enjoy the repetition of their training without becoming distracted, bored or bogged down in their bodies. THC allows athletes to heighten their senses while CBD dulls the experience of pain or discomfort; thus, the hours of training become more interesting and less punishing, allowing athletes to improve their performance without becoming mentally or emotionally exhausted. Though endurance athletes should never use cannabinoids on competition days, some training sessions can be vastly improved with a little weed.
Of course, an athlete doesn’t have to be participating in serious endurance trainings to gain the benefit of cannabis during cardio. Amateur athletes — particularly those exercising for basic health and wellness or in pursuit of aesthetic changes — often participate in cardio workouts using machines like treadmills, stepmills and stationary bikes. Some cardio workouts take the form of guided classes, like spin classes; others are self-guided, requiring athletes to stay focused and motivated on their own.
As with endurance training, cardio training is largely a mind game. Athletes need to stay engaged with their bodies and the activities at hand, albeit for smaller chunks of time. Small doses of marijuana can again play an important role in providing focus and pleasure throughout the workout, making the experience more enjoyable and thus more effective.
It is worth noting that some research suggests that marijuana is ergolytic, meaning it can impact athletic performance by limiting work capacity and cardiac output — essentially, muscles, including one’s heart, don’t work as hard when exposed to cannabis. Still, many athletes believe that the benefits of THC and CBD outweigh the detriments in certain exercises, like mindless cardio.
Perhaps the original athletic endeavor associated with getting high, yoga allows for rhythmic patterns that mesh almost perfectly with marijuana’s effects. Yoga is a mix of meditation and different forms of training, and when performed properly, yoga can provide benefits to strength, flexibility, endurance, respiration and more.
Admittedly, not all yoga is equally appropriate for marijuana use. Slower, more contemplative styles tend to be more enjoyable for those practicing with pot — styles like yin, kundalini, hatha, restorative, ashtanga or any practice with the term “mindful” in front of it. While it is possible to participate in more intensive yoga sessions, most stoned yogis won’t take much pleasure from the heat and exertion experienced during styles like Bikram and power yoga unless they are accustomed to that high level of practice.
Never: Dangerous Sport
Athletes of various types might consider experimenting with different doses of marijuana before, during and after their workout to determine for themselves whether the drug is beneficial to their own training. However, there is a class of athletes who should never dabble in doja — those who participate in potentially dangerous sport. Any sport that puts an athlete’s body at severe risk, like climbing, gymnastics, diving, surfing and others, should keep their mind and bodies clear when they participate in their sport of choice. It is much wiser for skiers to visit Durango dispensaries after they are done with the mountain for the day; otherwise, they could become injured or killed as a result of drug-related impairment.
Whether marijuana helps or hinders athletic performance will depend almost entirely on the individual athlete. Generally, it isn’t wise to use cannabis in competition, which, aside from being against the rules of most athletic organizations, will likely decrease the likelihood of success. Still, using weed while training can sometimes be fun, and athletes at every level should consider trying it themselves.