Cannabis is said to have both energizing and relaxing effects on the body, depending on the strain type. For these reasons, it’s become widely utilized by exercise buffs and athletes for both pre-workout boosts and post-workout recovery. Most of us would generalize cannabis use as being more prevalent amongst those doing yoga and more mellow, low-impact activities, but sports such as swimming and running are starting to see more participants reaching for the green to make the most of their stamina and focus, or to enhance pain relief.
Retired NFL defensive-end Ebenezer Ekuban highlights his daily exercise recovery sessions, some of which include cannabis use. He turned to cannabis as a natural alternative to pills and synthetic pain remedies. And Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, says NBA players should be able to use cannabis as a pain reliever.
It’s no question that exercise can be a strenuous activity; the physical impact it has on the body varies, but the recurring motion and pressure wears the body down over time – no matter the extent per session. One of the most notoriously strenuous activities for the body is running, especially urban running in now-ubiquitous run clubs.
Steven Artimew is a Tokyo Smoke collaborator, owner of Bond Running and co-founder of the Parkdale Roadrunners, a Toronto-based club known for their ‘I’d Rather Be Smoking’ running shirts. He is also an advocate for careful cannabis use and exercise.
“I am in no way involved in the science and research of how or when cannabis is safe to use as an athlete or individual,” Artimew admits. “I am, however, somebody who’s been successfully using cannabis and exercising for the majority of the last 22 years.”
“I’ve been using cannabis to assist me in my running and workout regimen,” he continues. “I use different types of cannabis, in different quantities, and via different ingestion methods based on the exercise I’m going to do.”
At this point in time, most claims for cannabis-related exercise improvements are anecdotal. Artimew, for example, is someone who firmly believes that combining cannabis and exercise leads to positive results – if done correctly. “For example, I like to smoke about half a gram of sativa before going for a run. But, if I’m going to [a] yoga [class] or the float tank, I may opt for a hybrid. After a run, I use a topical CBD-stick to aid in recovery.”
Artimew’s choosing of a strain is done carefully and is based on the strain’s effects on the body. Indica strains are said to be physically sedating and give that notoriously full, relaxed feel. Sativa strains are known to be more uplifting, energizing, and inspiring (so it makes sense Artimew chooses this one before a run). Hybrid strains, as the name implies, are a combination of two strain types, and therefore have varying effects on both the body and the mind.
While people like Artimew and those in high-stakes professional sports have touted the different benefits of using cannabis while exercising, there’s still little qualitative scientific evidence to make definitive claims of any such merits. And United States’ law – which makes cannabis use federally illegal – means clinical testing is still rather tricky and rare.
Dr. Michael C. Kennedy, a drug and sports specialist in residence at St. Vincent’s Hospital Medical School in the Caribbean, stated at the end of his most recent publication, “Cannabis: Exercise Performance and Sport: a Systematic Review” that, “THC does not enhance aerobic exercise or strength.” The review was published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website, and the study was done in Australia. Even though it was done outside the U.S., the study still had to be labeled as one on the relation between asthma and cardiovascular health; it just so happened to also keep track of the ups and downs of consuming cannabis and working out.
In no case did the study find any instance where subjects saw an improvement in aerobic performance, although it notes that “exercise-induced asthma was shown to be inhibited”.
As there’s still greatly-needed investigation to be done when it comes the benefits of using cannabis while working out, the soundest advice according to Artimew is, “find the right strains and ingestion methods for you” and to keep in mind that, “anytime you’re using medication there is potential for adverse reactions.”
Story by Evan Malachosky
Image by Elena Boils
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The preceding is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to condone the use or consumption of the term being defined. For more information, please refer to our disclaimer.