Cannabis for Runners: What We Know
As more states in the US legalize cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational use, athletes and fitness enthusiasts who visit our LA dispensary are beginning to explore the potential benefits of incorporating cannabis into training and recovery routines. Among these athletes are runners who are discovering the potential benefits of cannabis to enhance their running performance and improve their overall wellbeing. In this article, we will delve deeper into the potential benefits and risks of cannabis use for runners, and provide some guidance on how to use cannabis safely and responsibly.
Cannabis for Running: About Cannabis’ Effects
Cannabis is a plant that contains over 100 different compounds called cannabinoids. The two most well-known and studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, responsible for the “high” associated with its use. CBD, on the other hand, does not produce a high and has been shown to have a range of potential therapeutic benefits, including pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, and anxiety reduction.
The effects of cannabis can vary depending on the strain, the dose, and the method of consumption. Cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways, including smoking, vaping, edibles, tinctures, and topicals. Smoking and vaping are the most common methods of consumption, but edibles and tinctures are also popular due to their longer-lasting effects and lack of respiratory irritation.
Potential Benefits of Cannabis for Runners
- Pain Relief: Cannabis has been shown to have pain-relieving properties, making it an attractive option for runners who experience pain and soreness after a run. THC has been shown to activate the body’s natural pain-relieving system, known as the endocannabinoid system, which can help reduce pain and discomfort. CBD has also been shown to have pain-relieving properties, particularly when combined with THC in a ratio of 1:1 or higher.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: In addition to pain relief, cannabis also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a common factor in many running injuries, including muscle strains, joint pain, and tendinitis. By reducing inflammation, cannabis may help runners recover more quickly from injuries and reduce their risk of future injuries.
- Mental Health Benefits: Running can be a stressful and mentally challenging activity, and cannabis has been shown to have a range of mental health benefits. For example, it can help reduce anxiety and depression, improve mood, and promote relaxation. This can be especially useful for runners who struggle with mental health issues or who find it difficult to relax and unwind after a long run.
- Increased Focus: Although cannabis is often associated with relaxation and couch-lock, it can also have stimulating effects that can help increase focus and concentration. This can be useful for runners who need to maintain their focus during long runs or races, or who struggle with mental distractions during their training.
Potential Risks of Cannabis for Runners
While there are many potential benefits to using cannabis for running, it is important to be aware of the potential risks as well. Some of the most common risks associated with cannabis use include:
- Impaired Coordination and Reaction Time: Cannabis can impair coordination and reaction time, which can be dangerous for runners. This can increase the risk of falls and other injuries, especially during technical trail runs or in crowded race environments.
- Impaired Cardiovascular Function: Cannabis can also impair cardiovascular function, including heart rate and blood pressure. This can be especially dangerous for runners with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions or who are pushing themselves to their limits during a race or intense training session.
- Negative Interactions with Other Medications: Cannabis can interact with other medications, including prescription drugs and over-the-counter supplements. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using cannabis, especially if you are taking any other medications or supplements.
How to Use Cannabis Safely and Responsibly
If you are a runner who is interested in using cannabis to enhance your running performance or improve your recovery, there are several important steps you can take to use cannabis safely and responsibly:
- Start Low and Go Slow: When trying cannabis for the first time or trying a new strain or method of consumption, it is important to start with a low dose and gradually increase over time. This can help you avoid any negative side effects or overconsumption.
- Choose the Right Strain: Different strains of cannabis can have different effects, so it is important to choose a strain that is well-suited to your needs. For example, a strain high in CBD may be better for pain relief, while a strain high in THC may be better for mental focus.
- Consider Timing: Timing is important when using cannabis for running. It is generally not recommended to use cannabis immediately before or during a run, as it can impair coordination and reaction time. Instead, consider using cannabis after a run to help with recovery and relaxation.
- Be Mindful of Consumption Method: Different methods of cannabis consumption can have different effects and risks. Smoking and vaping can irritate the respiratory system, while edibles and tinctures can take longer to take effect and may have a stronger, longer-lasting effect.
- Speak with a Healthcare Provider: Before using cannabis for running, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider who is familiar with cannabis use and can provide guidance on safe and effective use.
Cannabis has the potential to be a valuable tool for runners looking to enhance their running performance and improve their recovery. However, it is important to use cannabis safely and responsibly, and to be aware of the potential risks associated with cannabis use. By choosing the right strain, timing consumption appropriately, and speaking with a healthcare provider, runners can use cannabis to achieve their fitness goals while minimizing the risks of negative side effects. As with any new addition to your training or recovery routine, it is important to experiment carefully and make adjustments as needed to find what works best for your body and your running performance.