There’s a new pre-workout routine that’s apparently doing wonders for people’s exercise regimes: smoking weed. At one end of the scale, this seems more than a little farfetched. At the other, the notion that smoking marijuana before doing exercise sounds downright counter-productive. Are we talking about the same psychoactive herb that leaves your lungs burning and your eyes watering? The same pot that may leave you in a fit of giggles on the floor or staring vacantly at the wall?
Yes. But it turns out that marijuana as a pre-exercise routine is actually an increasingly popular, highly effective tool to get more from your workout. Karen Nuccio, a well-known fitness and spin instructor based in New York City, noted that “not every pot smoker sits on the couch and orders Domino’s. Some of them are dominating your spin class.” It’s possible that the guy with the rippling glutes at your gym has just lit up before nailing a set of 200-pound squats. And maybe the lady who tears it up on the treadmill every day is also a long-time weed smoker. You could be completely surrounded by avid, and successful, marijuana practitioners all around you at the gym and never have a clue.
So what’s all the hype about? Why does anyone from professional long distance runners to yoga instructors turn to pot to get that little bit extra out of their athletic performance? Unfortunately, science is only just starting to touch upon the subject, but what studies have been completed, along with plenty of positive anecdotal evidence, suggest that marijuana could have a lot of potential in the realm of physical performance. Here are several reasons why smoking marijuana before you work out might be a good idea.
1. Marijuana reduces pre-workout anxiety
We all encounter those days where we get home from work and simply cannot muster the enthusiasm to hit the gym or strap on a pair of running shoes. Often, it’s a pre-workout anxiety that’s stopping us from realizing our physical potential. We’re worried we might look silly pumping weights at the gym, don’t know where to go running or are scared to let the baseball team down due to a fumbled catch in the outfield. Whatever the reason, those pre-workout blues can be a real downer.
Surprisingly, marijuana is actually an excellent way to get pumped up before a workout or big game. After puffing back a joint, you apparently feel more amped up and ready to take on whatever it is that you’re so anxious about.
In an interview with Outside Magazine, Stanford Medical School professor Keith Humphreys stated that “we have cannabinoid receptors throughout our brains, and when the THC hits those receptors, it triggers a system that reduces anxiety. That you would feel more aggressive is a natural reaction to the drug.”
If you’re suffering from a serious bought of pre-exercise anxiety and lethargy, weed just might provide the solution.
2. Marijuana elevates metabolism
Looking to boost your metabolism and solidify all that hard work you’re doing at the gym? Marijuana can help with that as well.
That’s what British drug giant GW Pharmaceuticals maintains, anyway. According to GW, two of the main active constituents in marijuana — THC and cannabidiol — can help to raise metabolism, speed fat loss and lower cholesterol. The same company also conducted tests on animals and found that THC can also improve insulin sensitivity, thereby lowering your risk of developing diabetes and obesity.
Additionally, a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that “the prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.” A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine discovered similar results, finding that weed smokers have 16 percent lower levels of fasting insulin and 17 percent lower insulin resistance levels than non-smokers. The researchers also found “significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”
This means that smoking marijuana, either before or after your workout, may help to support balanced weight loss and a healthy metabolism. Together, with a healthy exercise regime, these may help you to achieve your goals faster.
3. Marijuana can improve your sports skills
Far from sending them into a listless stupor, many athletes swear by the skill-improving effects of consuming marijuana prior to sports. In an interview with Men’s Journal, veteran triathlete Clifford Drusinsky explained how he took the podium for nine major triathlons in 2013, at least in part due to his marijuana routine.
The 39-year-old athlete told reporters that he knocks back 20 milligrams of THC in a marijuana energy bar 30 minutes before he starts his training every morning. By the time it kicks in, he’s swimming for an hour, biking for three hours or pounding the pavement on a 13-mile run. “Marijuana relaxes me and allows me to go into a controlled, meditational place,” noted Drusinsky. “When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form.”
Other athletes have reported similar benefits from taking marijuana prior to training. Some find they can work out for longer. Others discover that they enter into just the right frame of mind for the exercise or training at hand.
4. Marijuana alleviates exercise-related pain
Pushing hard but getting distracted by a little bit of well-earned muscular pain? Give marijuana a try. In an interview with Shape Magazine, University of Colorado director of sports performance San Millan explained how many people may perform better under the influence of cannabis due to the way it can reduce pain-related distraction and feeling of fatigue.
“Obviously your mental state plays a role in how well you perform,” Millán said. “And in certain situations, when reducing anxiety or pain is beneficial, marijuana may be helpful despite its ergolytic properties.”
Research in this area seems to agree with the theory. A 2011 study published in the journal Advances in Psychosomatic Medicine found that “there is strong evidence for a moderate analgesic (pain-relieving) effect in peripheral neuropathic and central pain conditions.” Another study concluded that taking an oral tablet of THC (the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) made the experience of pain more bearable, rather than actually reducing the intensity of pain.
Either way, if pain is holding you back during your workouts, marijuana will probably help you deal with it. You also might want to determine why you’re experiencing pain in the first place, though. Just saying!
5. Marijuana gets you in the “workout zone”
If exercise just isn’t your thing but you have lofty body-sculpting goals, marijuana can provide a useful tool. This is particularly the case with repetitive movements like running, swimming or cycling. For example, many long distance runners use marijuana edibles or vaporizers before heading out for a run to promote a “steady rhythmic zone for keeping at a competitive running speed.”
The takeaway from this is that marijuana can help you achieve the right level of focus for the exercising task at hand. If you bore easily during a run, attaining that psychedelic high may help you to pound the pavement longer and faster. Who would’ve thought?
Smoking marijuana isn’t the only way to enjoy its benefits
While the health benefits of cannabis are many, smoking it can come with its own host of negative side effects. In an article I wrote last month, I discussed how many people make the mistake of thinking that smoking marijuana is the only way to get high and utilize this potent herb’s health benefits. Not only does this contribute to an unfair stigma against marijuana users, it’s also way off the mark. There are plenty of other ways in which you can enjoy weed.
The most viable alternative to smoking pot is to eat it. Sure, it might take longer to take effect, but edible weed highs last longer. I some ways, it can be even more therapeutic than smoked weed. The result is a “longer-lasting, more laid-back high that doesn’t send you diving for the nearest couch or bag of chips.” It’s this kind of high that may be just the ticket for those of you who are training for marathons or any sporting event that requires physical endurance.
Eating marijuana has many benefits
What’s more, eating marijuana can spread it’s therapeutic effects more thoroughly and evenly throughout the body. This means that if you’re suffering from a niggling pain in the ankle or hand, edible marijuana may be more likely to dull the pain. The other major upside is that by consuming pot rather than smoking it, you’re avoiding throat and mouth damage, including gum disease.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, take your time and do your research. Edible marijuana requires well-thought out planning. It’s harder to ascertain the right dosage and it takes longer to kick in. This same article has a few pointers on how to go about doing it the right way, without any drama.
Have you tried smoking weed prior to exercising? How was it and would you do it again? Tell us about your experience!
— Liivi Hess