Marijuana & Exercise: Trends, Science & Controversy

Marijuana & Exercise

Cannabis use may be stereotypically associated with a “couch potato”-style lethargic lifestyle, but in reality, there are plenty of marijuana fans out there who are highly fit, competitive, and active.

As legal recreational and medical cannabis gains prominence and becomes part of more and more individuals’ daily lives, those who love exercise just as much as they love weed are finding that the two go together quite well.

Weed & Running

Like football, competitive running is a sport where cannabis enthusiasts have influenced peers and fans to reconsider the stigma around marijuana use by athletes.

finding the right cannabis strain could be more important than finding the right shoes to pair with your exercise of choice.For long distance runners, cannabis use is thought to help with the following key aspects of the sport:
• Reducing aches and pains – Sore muscles and joints are an inherent part of competitive running, but cannabis can help reduce that pain and allow runners to keep moving at a faster clip.
• Increasing appetite – In extremely long runs and races, runners must keep eating for fuel, even when they are feeling nauseous or even having trouble keeping food down. In these situations, cannabis could help runners maintain appetite, and allow them to eat and drink enough for optimal performance.
• Settling an upset stomach – On the other side of that same coin, vomiting and diarrhea can be serious problems for the most hardcore runners, and, just as it does for medical users who deal with extreme nausea, cannabis can help calm things down.

Cannabis culture is also a natural fit with the laid back, free-thinking, outdoors-loving ethos of long-distance runners, so marijuana products have been able to gain a foothold (or at least find some open minds) in the running community.

Is Cannabis a PED?

Like most sports, professional running organizations and races tend to prohibit cannabis use directly before or during competitions. However, some of the unique effects of cannabis make it an especially tricky substance to regulate for sports governing bodies.

For one thing, scientific research suggests that consuming cannabis can provide some advantage to athletes, even long after use, as THC can be stored in fat and released during periods of high cardiovascular activity. This can lead to athletes who have enjoyed cannabis in previous weeks getting a small boost during competitions from the pain-killing, anti-inflammatory properties of the THC that is still stored in their bodies.

Whether it's your joints or your mood, cannabis has lots of effects that may help with an active lifestyle.So, cannabis can potentially offer advantages that aren’t addressed by simply banning or limiting use during competitions. This raises difficult questions about whether cannabis should be considered a PED, or should instead be more broadly tolerated in sports leagues and communities.

Some cannabis enthusiasts argue that the most significant advantages it offers athletes – acting as an anti-inflammatory, easing nausea, providing calm and focus – are also provided by other substances or tactics that aren’t banned. Athletes like ultrarunner Avery Collins who use cannabis and advocate for other athletes to do so as well feel that it is a safe way for athletes to maximize performance and avoid injury, whereas widely-known PEDs like steroids are destructive and involve fundamentally changing users’ body chemistry to an extent far beyond what even heavy cannabis use offers.

For athletes who love cannabis, it doesn’t seem to be a performance-enhancing drug in the negative sense of that term at all; instead, it’s a healthful, therapeutic tool that allows them to reach their full potential for both success and enjoyment in their sports. Research on marijuana’s influence on exercise and athletic performance is still limited, so only time will tell what kind of insights and breakthroughs might help support – or contradict – this perspective.

Could Cannabis Help Your Workout Routine?

If you’re already a responsible user of legal cannabis, incorporating it into your workouts or other exercise and activity could help elevate your experience.

While you will have to experiment with the method, strain, amount and timing involved, cannabis could lead to a less painful, more relaxed exercise experience. It may limit peak performance in some activities, but if you’ve found that cannabis is a positive element of other parts of your life, why not see how it can help your preparation, your recovery or your workouts themselves?

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