- As states legalize cannabis, more people are willing to share how the substance boosts their exercise.
- People told Insider they’re less anxious, more consistent, and in less pain while exercising high.
- Research has shown cannabis can tone down racing thoughts and reduce inflammation.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Growing up, Morgan English thought of workouts as punishment for eating too much.
English, 28, spent much of her childhood binge-eating, which caused her to become overweight. Eventually, she began to see exercise as a way to reprimand her body after bingeing.
Her exercise mentality transformed in college when a friend introduced her to cannabis as a way to diminish racing thoughts.
“I went to my college gym, I got on the elliptical, and everything changed. I wasn’t worried about what I looked like. I wasn’t worried about why I went to work out. It just took all of the stress away. All the obsessive thoughts that don’t ever stop with anxiety, all of that melted away,” she said.
Today, English, who lives in Southern California, is the owner of virtual boutique fitness studio Stoned and Toned, which pairs specific cannabis strains with workouts such as yoga, barre, and Pilates. The first 30 minutes of her
classes are dedicated to getting high while chatting and listening to curated music, and the other 30 minutes are for fitness.
Though the “lazy stoner” stereotype suggests marijuana users are nothing more than couch potatoes with the munchies, those who infuse the substance into their exercise routines have reported more consistent workouts, better mental health, and better body image. A meta-analysis published in April even found that cannabis users tend to work out more than their cannabis-free counterparts.
Taking exercise to new heights
Dr. Jordan Tishler, an internal medicine physician and the president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, said that cannabis can quiet parts of our brains that feed the ego, resulting in a go-with-the-flow mentality that makes working out less stressful.
For people such as English, who previously associated exercise with stress, anxiety, and the pressure to perform, cannabis could help.
That was the case for the 34-year-old cannabis journalist Andrew Ward.
In 2019, Ward started a gym regimen, but he had trouble enjoying the ritual because he couldn’t stop thinking about work and his to-do list.
On a whim, he decided to smoke marijuana before a workout.
“It helped me zone out while running on the treadmill, and allowed me to focus on the sets I was doing with weights and machines,” Ward said. He added that after smoking, he’s less hard on himself if he doesn’t hit a personal workout goal. Instead, he feels relaxed.
Alex, a New Yorker whose full name is being withheld for privacy reasons, also said using THC as a pre-workout helped him stay more present in his routine.
As an experienced athlete who works out five times a week and plays sports, Alex has been using cannabis before exercising for about 12 years. He prefers to smoke or vape, as the effects are quicker than an edible.
“It helps me focus on breathing and get to a more meditative or mindful state. It helps me get more in tune with my body and focus on specific muscle groups,” he said.
THC tricks your brain into thinking mundane activities are magical
Other marijuana users learned of cannabis’ workout-heightening effects by accident.
The comedian Dan LaMorte, 26, was visiting friends in Las Vegas years ago when he got high and went on a hike. At the time, he hated running and was struggling with serious health issues, including obesity, and his doctor had advised him to
, LaMorte said.
Despite the physical exertion, he was surprised to find that hiking while high felt fantastic — so much so that he tried getting high and going to the gym when he went home to California.
After smoking, LaMorte said the negative thoughts about getting tired and other physical discomfort that he had during a run or hike seemed to melt away.
When a person consumes cannabis, it “gently stimulates” brain receptors in charge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy, Tishler said. As a result, mundane activities such as cleaning your house, running errands, and exercising become adventures rather than chores.
Two years after LaMorte’s first stoned workout, he finished his first ultramarathon, 41 miles long, and is about 180 pounds lighter. For logistical reasons, he trains sober for longer runs, since it’s hard to stay high for that many miles. But stoned runs are still the hallmark of his routine.
LaMorte’s preference is to smoke a joint and head out the door as it starts to kick in. Then, as a cooldown, he’ll follow up with a bit more post-run.
“It was the thing that would get me out the door and a reward system when I got home to help relax my legs while I stretch,” he said.
He said that he lost weight because smoking not only improved his exercise experience but also made healthy eating easier. When the munchies hit, he just made sure to have fruits and veggies available instead of processed snacks.
“If it makes running interesting, it can make healthy food interesting,” LaMorte said. “Next thing I knew, I was actually enjoying salad.”
Weed may ease pain and anxiety around working out
Liz Whiting, 28, a menstrual health advocate and cannabis marketing consultant, had tried smoking cannabis in college, but it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with endometriosis years later that she realized what a game changer it could be for exercise.
Endometriosis can be extremely painful, making it difficult to stay active.
Whiting said cannabis products have allowed her to regularly do yoga and other exercises that stretch and strengthen her pelvic floor muscles, helping manage her condition.
Before a workout, she’ll use a tincture or suppository that can be used anally or vaginally to provide the physical sensations that come with being high, without the mental side effects. Whiting compared it to a stronger version of topical creams or balms.
“I have received amazing benefits from those. It makes things less intense, so I’m more comfortable,” she said. “While nothing is a cure-all, it’s a really great management tool for pain.”
Cannabis can also be helpful for reducing gym-related anxiety, said Leland Radovanovic, the CEO of Conscious Communications, a cannabis and psychedelic communications strategy firm.
Radovanovic said he takes a microdose (about two to three milligrams) of THC in the form of a small edible or hit of a vape pen before lifting weights. The mild effects help relieve anxiety and make him feel more positive and at ease.
“The mood change is subtle. Almost like a little weight off my shoulders,” he said. “When you are trying to lift more than twice your body weight, the last thing that you need going through your mind is, ‘There’s no way I can do this.'”
Too much THC can have side effects, so low doses may be better for exercise
Cannabis-and-exercise fans said overindulging before a workout can impair focus and performance, and in rare cases, might lead to injury.
LaMorte, the stoned runner, said he once injured his foot on a run after ingesting 100 milligrams’ worth of edibles, more than six times the effective dose for most people to feel high. As the massive dose kicked in, he tripped and fell.
Tishler said workouts that are built for zoning out — such as spinning, yoga, treadmill running, and light weightlifting — are better suited for stoner-cising than running or biking on the street.
Although he wasn’t seriously hurt, LaMorte now sticks to smaller amounts of THC for exercise. Since then, the only side effects have been occasional dry mouth and increased feelings of hunger on his runs.
Those, he said, are easily managed by staying hydrated and packing a few energy chews to keep the mid-run munchies under control.
But despite a few mishaps, stoner-cisers said they aren’t going back to sober workouts anytime soon.