Cannabis use has long been synonymous with being more horizontally integrated into life: Eating pizza, binge-watching TV, being amazed at the fact there are three different e’s in Mercedes, and they’re all pronounced differently.
But it may be time to reconsider the lazy stoner stereotype. In recent years, 420-friendly athletes have shown that pot and exercise can have quite the involved relationship, and sparking up before bulking up has become increasingly popular—ganja enthusiasts migrate in droves to participate in the 420 Games, for example, a series of athletic events (including a 4.20-mile run) that promote the healthy and responsible use of cannabis.
But 420-friendly fitness can be daunting for the average consumer, who more traditionally considers a steep set of stairs to be an insurmountable object when high. As such, we turned to leading medical cannabis expert Dustin Sulak and cannabis-enhanced yoga teacher Dee Dussault for advice on gettin’ swole after smokin’ a bowl.
So, my dudes, are cannabis and exercise, like, compatible, y’know?
Sulak: Cannabis—when used appropriately—and exercise mix very well for a number of reasons:
- Improved focus and body awareness.
- Decreased pain: You can get deeper into a stretch, or work through normal muscle pain to finish that last repetition.
- Improved flexibility and skeletal muscle relaxation.
- Improved enjoyment of exercise: Our bodies perceive forced exercise as stressful, but voluntary exercise as stress-reducing.
- Faster recovery after muscle and bone injury.
- Neuroprotection in case of accidental head injury.
Dussault: I hate to say this, but it does depend on the person. There are a lot of athletes who are currently claiming cannabis helps both their performance and their athletic experience. But cannabis can also increase your heart rate, so it depends on the person and the type of exercise they’re doing. For my yoga practice, cannabis helps me stay in tune with my body and the movements that it’s performing.
When I’m high, myself and the couch are one. How do I convince my brain that working out is a better idea than, like, wondering if I can fit a whole loaf of bread in my mouth?
Sulak: I recommend getting everything ready first—put your running shoes on, or lay out your yoga mat—to avoid getting sidetracked. From there, inhale a small amount of cannabis (one or two puffs) using a vaporizer. It can be helpful to make an intention during the vapor session, such as having a great workout or a healing self-care session.
Next, meditate or do a gentle warm-up for five minutes while the cannabis takes effect. Then, proceed to more vigorous exercise. FYI, there’s more and more evidence that cannabis doesn’t decrease motivation or make people lazy!
Dussault: Certain sativa-based strains can provide lots of energy and motivation—they can also make exercise more enjoyable, which provides motivation.
Which strains are good for exercise?
Sulak: Preferred strains should be based on individual needs. Some people like to use cannabis before exercise because it decreases anxiety, which allows them to focus and perform better. In that case, it would be best to use a strain known to decrease anxiety [like Jack Herer]. Others might need an energizing and motivating strain of cannabis to inspire them to exercise [like Durban Poison]. These stimulating strains, however, might be the wrong choice for the anxious person, because they can sometimes make that symptom worse.
Many people do well with a strain that contains both CBD and THC at a one-to-one ratio [like the appropriately named One to One]. These strains convey many of the benefits desired by fitness enthusiasts and are less likely to cause impairment in the event that someone accidentally consumes too much. CBD also conveys additional benefits that speed healing and reduce inflammation. All in all, the dosage of cannabis used before exercising is more important than the strain choice: In many cases, a lower dosage is more effective than a high dosage.
Dussault: Sativa-dominant strains with a lemon smell [like Super Lemon Haze] can be extra uplifting!
What kind of exercise is best when I’m high? Can I, like, do anything?
Sulak: People that are new to cannabis may experience side effects like psychomotor impairment or clumsiness, which usually resolve after regular use. Because of that, new users should obviously avoid activities that could cause a serious injury—like cycling in busy traffic or rock climbing.
Dussault: Because cannabis can cause a heightened heart rate, cardio might be worth avoiding depending on your age and heart health. The type of yoga we do at Ganja Yoga is very slow compared to lots of yoga on the market—we intentionally slow down the pace to make our program much more about mindfulness.
Are edibles chill while working out?
Sulak: Edibles aren’t ideal for working out, because it can be challenging to get the right dosage (and the onset of the effect caused by an edible can be quite variable depending on your digestive activity that day). Smoking also isn’t ideal, because it irritates the respiratory tract. Vaporizing herbal cannabis is my top recommendation, and many also do well with a tincture or spray that can be absorbed through the blood vessels in the mouth (these have a quicker onset and are more reliable for dosing than edibles).
Dussault: I strongly recommend a low dose of edibles, especially if the exercise you’re doing is cardio-leaning. If you’re not a regular smoker, smoking and vaporizing may irritate your lungs if you’re not used to it. Edibles provide you with the psychoactive or pain-reliever effects of cannabis without burning your lungs.
What do I do if I’m still feeling super-stoned after my workout and I have to go to work?
Sulak: If you’re feeling the THC effect too strongly after a workout, an additional dose of CBD-dominant cannabis can help dampen the psychoactivity while speeding recovery. That said, users should be aware that the combination of cannabis and their own endocannabinoids and endorphins will induce euphoria, but this euphoria isn’t necessarily impairing and may simply result in more of everything people appreciate most about exercise—feeling energized, happy, focussed and resilient for the rest of the day.
Ehh…I kinda already skipped work. Can the bud soothe my bod after a workout?
Sulak: Animal studies have revealed the cannabinoids provide protection against tissue damage and quicker healing. It’s important to remember that our bodies are already producing cannabinoid compounds that respond to stress, injury and illness—that’s why adding additional cannabinoids straight from the plant can speed up this process.
Dussault: As a post-workout or recovery, both THC and CBD are anti-inflammatories, so I recommend using a product that has a little bit of both.