Cannabis is becoming more mainstream, but old stereotypes die hard. Perhaps none more so than that of the “lazy stoner” who doesn’t leave the couch for days at a time, and is allergic to the gym or breaking a sweat. These days, that stereotype is looking especially outdated, as more and more people recognize the ways that weed can enhance working out, and can be a valued component of any wellness.
How working out while high can benefit your practice
While research has shown that cannabis should not exactly be considered a performance enhancing drug, it can assist in exercise.
During the workout, THC can act as a bronchodilator and cause vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels), potentially boosting air flow to the lungs and oxygenation to the muscles.
For many people, the stress-relieving qualities of cannabis can help them tune out the background noise of their daily life and focus entirely on the workout - even if just for a little while. This can help you get into “the zone” while doing monotonous tasks at the gym, like reps on free weights. And since being high can make you lose track of time here and there, it could also help you stop clock-watching at the gym, and instead focus on the motions, the reps, the sweat, and the rhythm of your feet pounding the treadmill, or your gloves popping against the heavy bag.
This might be why in a recent study by researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, 67% of respondents said that they had used cannabis both before and after their workouts. And those who get high an hour before or within four hours afterwards reported that they exercise 43 more minutes per week than cannabis users who don’t mix it with their workout.
And it’s clear that more than a few cannabis fans have gotten the memo. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has opened chapters of “NORML Athletics'' across the country, for cannabis fans who lead active lifestyles and would like to incorporate weed into their exercise regime. In California and elsewhere, gyms that encourage the use of cannabis have opened in recent years, and are geared towards people who have found that cannabis makes working out more enjoyable for them.
This is also part of the rationale behind “Stoned + Toned,” an online workout platform that offers 30 minute “smoke + sweat” sessions. According to Stoned + Toned, the founders noticed that people liked to get high before working out but found they had no weed-friendly fitness community to turn to. Stoned + Toned instructors smoke in the videos like they would at home - before, during, and after, but typically only 2-3 puffs in order to get a nice micro-dose.
The company states that people don’t need to get high beforehand if they don’t want to, but that they “like to get high before we workout to get our minds to forget about the high physicality our bodies are enduring and help us push through. It also allows us to temporarily block out the stress in life and to help us focus on fitness goals and deepening our athletic routine.”
Ok, but what about stoned yoga?
Considering that so many people use cannabis to help boost their mindfulness, it should perhaps be no surprise that cannabis has been used during yoga sessions for centuries, in the form of hashish or the drinkable “bhang” beverage.
In legal cannabis states (and non-legal states), stoned yoga classes incorporate cannabis as a way of helping people relax, feel less pain, and just be in the moment.
Stoned yoga does have its critics though. They argue that it detracts from the “body purifying” aspects of yoga, and that its (at times) reality bending effects can detract from your ability to focus on the here and now, at this very moment. In addition, people who find that cannabis makes them anxious or paranoid may find that it makes yoga and meditation harder, not easier.
Weed can help in recovery from workouts
The pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and relaxing qualities of cannabis can make it truly beneficial for recovery from workouts, and can help ease the discomforts that can make some people less likely to want to get off the couch and get moving.
This was reflected in the University of Colorado-Boulder study, in which 78% of respondents stated that cannabis helps them recover after workouts.
For people who tend to get aches and pains after working out, the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD in particular can potentially be a lot of help.
It can make working out more fun - and get you off the couch
This one isn’t all that complicated - cannabis is fun, and makes other things more fun than usual. The same goes for exercise. A couple pulls on the vape while you lace up can make that late afternoon jog on the hike and bike trail that much more fun and could help you focus on the beauty of your surroundings a little more than the email inbox that awaits you post workout, or the soreness you might feel in the morning.
And while there are countless people who love working out at any time, anywhere, most of us are wired a little differently. Working out can be tiring or intimidating at times, and can even just feel like nothing more than an obligation, another chore that you simply do not have the energy or time for.
Smoking weed before working out can make exercising seem less like a chore, and more like a fun thing to do. Cannabis can also work as a sort of incentive reward - finish this workout, give it 20 more minutes, and you can treat yourself to a perfectly-packed bowl when you get home.
How working out stoned might interfere with your practice
While cannabis can increase motivation and help in recovery, it can also have its drawbacks for exercise.
High-THC cannabis can cause impairment, decreased coordination, and possibly increase the risk of injury, especially with high impact or high risk activities. And outdoor activities that require the use of equipment like hang gliding or kitesurfing might be too risky if you’re totally zonked.
But while cannabis can increase motivation to get out and do stuff outdoors (or in the gym), it can also famously have the opposite effect (see: lazy stoner stereotype).
Also, there’s the fact that smoking cannabis can irritate the lungs and make it harder to carry out cardiovascular workouts. This is why many people prefer using edibles with their workout.
Less could be more, but really it’s all about you
With working out and cannabis, it could be that less is more. During your workout, consider cannabis as an appetizer, not the main event, or as a little tweak to help make things a little more fun. This is why, if you’re mixing weed and exercise you might want to try microdosing, or using less potent weed.
And like many things with weed, it really is very individual. You know your tolerance and how you respond to being high. If you get too high too easily, then try a really small dose to start out, and take it from there. And if it doesn’t go right, there’s always another workout tomorrow, which you can put off to the next day if needed.