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How Cannabis Can Help You Elevate Your Fitness Routine

While putting on a nice, chill buzz before a big workout might seem somewhat counterintuitive, there are some ways to effectively integrate cannabis into your exercise routine. With marijuana becoming more widely accepted across the U.S. as more states legalize its recreational use, athletes and workout enthusiasts are realizing the benefits of a pre- or post-training high.  

Famous Athletes Who Use Cannabis

As the cannabis stigma begins to dissolve, professional athletes have started publicly advocating for the use of cannabis in sports. 

In 2016, Eugene Monroe became the first active NFL player to praise the plant for its ability to treat sports-related injuries and chronic pain. He called on the professional sports league and its commissioner to stop testing players for cannabis, citing it as a safer alternative to addictive alternates like opioids.

The first female champion snowboarder, Greta Gaines was the only woman to compete in the World Extreme Snowboarding Championship in 1992. Because cannabis is an integral part of extreme snowboarding culture, she used it mostly for recreation, and also to help ease anxiety before adventures – like jumping out of a helicopter onto the snowy slopes. Today, she uses cannabis to manage pain stemming from arthritis.   

Undefeated UFC Middleweight champion Frank Shamrock has been using cannabis throughout his 16-year competitive fighting career. He’s used it to treat injuries and protect his brain, from the very first day of fighting until the day he retired.  

The Benefits of Cannabis and Working Out

Cannabis isn’t just for professional and extreme sports athletes who are looking for powerful relief. Those who exercise a few times per week report that marijuana helps them enjoy their workout more, while helping their bodies recover afterward.  

To date, scientists still have much to learn about the effects of cannabis on exercise. A handful of studies were conducted decades ago, but since then, U.S. laboratories have run into issues with controlled studies due to federal restrictions. So, researchers have relied on surveys and anecdotal reports on the impact of cannabis on physical activity.

A 2019 study by the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder surveyed more than 600 cannabis users in states where it’s been legalized for recreational use. A majority – more than 81% of respondents – used some form of cannabis directly before or immediately following their exercise. Their self-reported data reveals that these cannabis consumers were exercising more than the average American, having more fun during their workouts, and were able to exercise for longer periods than when they didn’t use cannabis.

We know the benefits of regular exercise are far-reaching. From improved mood to cancer prevention, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise each week, says the American College of Sports Medicine.

The most common barriers for beginning or continuing an exercise routine include:  

  • Improper recovery after exercise
  • Lack of motivation to work out
  • Pain or discomfort during exercise
  • Low workout enjoyment

Since respondents in the CU-Boulder study indicated that cannabis helped with these obstacles, it’s possible that this plant medicine can inspire more people to work out and improve their overall health and well-being.

What Are the Risks?

While more studies are needed to determine whether marijuana can improve physical performance, some athletes have cut their endurance race times, saying cannabis has helped their minds go elsewhere rather than dwelling on the miles ahead.

But there are risks involved, too. Because cannabis can affect coordination and reaction time, experts warn that individuals need to consider their own safety and the safety of people around them if they choose to exercise while high.

Certain high-risk activities, such as rock climbing, lifting heavy objects, and physical activities like pole-vaulting are best to do with a clear head and full control of your motor skills.

Working Out with Cannabis: How to Do it Right

If you’re ready to integrate cannabis into your fitness routine, the best advice is to start small. Choose products that are uplifting and energizing rather than an indica-heavy flower, concentrate, edible or tincture. If it’s your first time, take a few puffs or microdose an edible and see how your workout goes. If you want a stronger buzz, you can always take more next time – but you can’t take less if you find the effects are not to your liking.

For those who don’t want the psychoactivity (that “high” feeling), look for CBD-dominant products and strains. These will help you reap the benefits of cannabis with a clear head – and just might help you stick to your New Year’s resolution well into spring.

For a full list of the best products to incorporate into your fitness routine, click here.