By Jennifer Blakney
Chronic pain, inflammation, depression, nausea, and fatigue are all roadblocks that contribute to your body “not feeling it” when it comes to fitness. Cannabis has been long known to be effective for these symptoms, and when applied correctly, can also be a useful tool in your exercise routine.
Much like the tech world, athletes and fitness enthusiasts are no strangers to self-tinkering with their alternative products, with the hope of finding a formula that allows them to achieve both current and ongoing goals.
The first time I combined cannabis and fitness was an accident. Not knowing my own limits, I absentmindedly snacked on a few too many edibles prior to a ballet class. Just after our warm-up exercises were completed, I began to feel the effects kick in. My senses became heightened, as though I could feel a broader range of muscles and joint connections. There was also a pronounced feeling of physical warmth, which allowed me to both relax and push my endurance.
As the class progressed the effects did intensify past the point of comfort, and since then I have been chasing my personal “sweet spot”. Besides feeling motivated by these foreign sensations, through extensive research I’ve also realized the many ways using cannabis can incentivize both experienced fitness enthusiasts, and newcomers alike.
Before you attempt to incorporate cannabis into your routine, it’s important to understand the properties of both Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, and Cannabidiol which we shorten to CBD, and how they come into play when choosing cannabis for fitness.
THC is the most familiar compound found in cannabis, as it possesses many beneficial psychoactive effects including boosting energy and endurance, and providing that creative spark. It’s also an important part of the pain relieving benefits that cannabis provides and has been credited for speeding up muscle recovery for athletes of all abilities.
The countless strain combinations, or hybrids, that exist have provided us with a broad spectrum of characteristics that moves past the binary daytime/nighttime or Sativa/Indica designations. Sometimes high THC strains can be too stimulating, and trigger feelings of anxiety. If tempered by the presence of CBD, you can maintain alertness with a more pronounced physical relaxation. Better than combating jitters that make you wish you didn’t drink that 5th coffee.
Now, let’s talk about CBD. Because of CBD’s subtle non-psychoactive effects, it has been more quickly suggested for cannabis novices. Because of the way it reacts in our body compared to THC, it has more long-term accumulative benefits, rather than the instantaneous adjustments that THC provides. Think of it more like a vitamin or supplement that assists in reducing: inflammation, anxiety, nausea, and mental fog.
Note: there are both significant scientific and legal differences between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis-derived CBD. Both are beneficial and therapeutic, but may make a difference in personal efficacy.
Speaking of efficacy, for those wishing to experience a more pronounced experience, strains high in CBD and low in THC – also known as 1:1’s or 2:1’s – are a good way to intensify CBD’s abilities without interfering with performance.
However, it isn’t enough to rely solely on THC:CBD combinations when choosing your idea strains. Terpene potency and ratios play a much more important role in how your body responds.
What are terpenes? They are the molecules that comprise a strain’s unique aroma and abilities. Many of cannabis’ dominant terpenes are found in food and nature, and can be identified as follows:
There are more options than ever for consumption. Home and professional edible makers alike are finally moving beyond café pastry standards, instead getting creative with infused smoothies, protein bars, tinctures, and more. Vaporizers are also increasingly being designed to suit the growing sporty stoner niche. Before they were only discreet if strewn amongst other items in a gym bag, but now models are small enough to fit in that bizarrely small pocket located at the front of most gym pants.
When it comes to choosing a consumption method for your own needs, the two main factors to understand between vaporizing and consuming an edible product, before or after a workout, are onset and duration.
The effects of vaporizing can be felt anywhere from 5-15 minutes, but max out between 1-2 hours. When ingesting an edible product the onset is much longer, 30 minutes to 2 hours, and can last anywhere between 4-6 hours. This is dependent on both your metabolism and how much food is in your stomach – the fuller the better since cannabinoids are fat-soluble and are absorbed more effectively if you’ve eaten a nutritious snack prior.
With edibles there is also an increased chance of dose miscalculation, especially if procured from an unknown source. So whereas vaporizing allows for greater control, you may feel the need to repeat the process multiple times to maintain the desire effects.
If you decide edibles are the best course of action, never forget – start low and go slow. Successful micro-dosing amounts are in the range of 5mg-10mg. If you feel no perceivable effects after about an hour, take an additional half dose.
Fantastic for aiding in your recovery, topicals are great for localized pain and stiffness, and come in several delivery methods varying from creams and oils, to salves and bath bombs.
Whatever method you choose, it’s crucial to find the dose that complements your experiences and promotes feelings of well-being, focus and clarity, rather than paranoia and disorientation.
Looking for full service guidance on achieving the best lifted exercise experience is becoming more common in Toronto. Tokyo Smoke hosts educational discussions and Elevated Asana yoga classes that encourage attendees to consume prior to class for an enhanced experience. Ganja Yoga, offering both regular and cannabis-friendly classes, provides a more intimate experience where vaporizers are set up in studio for students to encourage a more open and spiritual appreciation of cannabis.
And every weeknight and Saturday mornings, Revenge Gym closes off the main gym area to create a cozy, living-room atmosphere. Guests are offered tea and devices to consume cannabis before an hour and a half of guided relaxation and myofascial release during their Pain Eraser class.
We’re a number of years away from having our own Power Plant Gym, here in Canada but we’re off to a hopeful start with the gentle normalization encouraged by these establishments.
And while the hard science of cannabis’ effect on fitness performance remains inconclusive, I still contribute the steady motivation and energy that it gives me to helping me get into the best shape. Getting into fitness was always difficult for me, and many sports and routines never really held my focus or interest for long. Cannabis allows me to remain present and focused, and having a consistent workout schedule is a key player in taking care of my mental health.
Give it a try before your next workout, adventure or yoga class. It may just provide a whole new perspective and experience you never knew you were missing.
Jennifer Blakney is a Cordon Bleu trained pastry chef and published writer, researching and discussing current cannabis issues and culture. Connect with her on social media @blakeknees