Working out and consuming cannabis may seem like a contradiction, but the stereotype of the couch-locked stoner is being replaced by the fit, wellness-conscious individual who incorporates cannabis and CBD into a healthy lifestyle.
The prominent chemical compounds in cannabis — cannabinoids and terpenes — can offer benefits for workouts and post-workout recovery as well as overall health and wellness.
The cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can reduce anxiety, reduce pain, reduce inflammation, increase relaxation, and get you “in the zone” during a workout. The cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) can both reduce inflammation. Terpenes like linalool and myrcene can also enhance relaxation.
Sam Moffet is a certified personal trainer, fitness instructor and licensed massage therapist in Anchorage running her own business, Bare Paws Yoga and Massage. Personally, Sam engages in a number of different types of fitness practices with cannabis but focuses mainly on yoga and weight training, and like most Alaskans, hiking.
“I enjoy smoking a little sativa before weight training on occasion because of the benefits of focus that it can bring or even after a savasana to extend the sensation of bliss that meditation brings beyond just the mat time,” Sam said. “I have been an athlete for the majority of my life, and like many, I started using cannabis in my teens both socially and, at times, for anxiety. So it just seemed to make sense to try combining the two.”
Jalene, a mom in Anchorage, uses cannabis to manage her depression and anxiety.
“Any weight loss that happens is just a side effect,” she says. The cannabinoid THCv, a variant of THC, has been found to suppress appetite versus THC that increases appetite.
Caring for her elderly father and the pandemic has prevented Jalene from going to the gym, but before those changes, she was at the gym two to three times a week. Before her workouts, she would vape cannabis using a PAX vape pen and says it helped her stay at the gym and commit to her workouts.
“I can’t count how many times I got into that sweet spot “comfy zone” of sitting after being on my feet all day before I even start to feel high,” says Jalene. “I’ve thought about maybe going home, but stayed (at the gym) because I had already started consuming. It was kind of like an accountability partner and kept me working out.”
Jalene also says she noticed that cannabis reduced muscle pain post-workout.
“I can push myself harder – lifting more weight and more reps – if I’m using cannabis. After experimenting with that for a while, I decided I wouldn’t work out without cannabis again.”
Sam dabs a small amount of cannabis concentrate a few minutes prior to a warm-up and often uses CBD/THC topicals on joints and muscles to relieve aches or inflammation.
Sam adds that consuming cannabis prior to exercise can improve performance function and form as well as break training plateaus. She also recommends adding CBD to pre-workout regimen.
Many of Sam’s clients are seniors or people recovering from injuries, so she speaks to them about cannabis in relation to pain relief and regaining strength, mobility, and stability.
“In my experience it seems to make a difference in regulating overheating although that may be strictly anecdotal,” Sam admits.
Working out with THC requires some careful consideration for safety reasons. Sam says to first get to know your body and your practice.
“If you are someone who always experiences exercise-induced asthma, then obviously smoking beforehand may not sound like the best idea,” she said. “However, there are strains that can act as bronchodilators and some people have had positive results with this. Similarly, if you’re looking for a relaxing experience, I would recommend looking towards a strain that is well known for those effects.”
The amount, type, and effects of cannabis can be unique to each individual. Finding your “right dose” and strain or product takes time. Keep a cannabis journal documenting all the particulars around your cannabis use and workout routines including time of day, what you consumed, how much you take in, how you felt before and how you feel after.
And always remember to “Start low and go slow,” particularly if you are combining cannabis with a workout for the first time.
Aliza Sherman lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been involved in the cannabis industry since early 2016. She is the co-founder of Ellementa, an international network for women interested in cannabis for wellness. She is the author of The Essential Guide to Cannabis and CBD: Optimizing Your Health With Nature’s Medicine (Ten Speed Press, 2019).