The concept of smoking marijuana before going on a run might sound misaligned to some, but many who engage in this popular form of exercise claim the herb allows them to be “more present,” and makes the miles of roadwork more enjoyable. Others say that cannabis products are essential in the recovery process. Some even argue that without them, it would be next to impossible to bounce back from difficult workouts and make strides in becoming a faster, stronger racer.
“You have two different reasons potentially for using cannabinoids,” Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, told The New York Times. “One is to enhance your ability to train. The other is recovery oriented.”
Although marijuana is now fully legal in a number of states for recreational use, the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant are still not appreciated by the majority of the nation. As it stands, the federal government considers weed to be one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, despite the fact that loads of anecdotal and scientific data exists proving otherwise. It is this snag with Uncle Sam that makes it difficult for athletes to use the herb for any reason. No professional sports leagues allow their players to smoking marijuana. If they do, they run the risk of being fined and suspended.
But it is not that strict across the board. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which is the organization responsible for doling out drug tests to Olympians, doesn’t automatically disqualify an athlete for submitting a positive test for marijuana. In 2013, the agency increased the threshold for THC-metabolites from 15 nanograms to 150. This is ten times higher than what is allowed by the National Basketball Association. Essentially, the agency has developed a policy that makes it difficult to eliminate athletes from competition.
There is not a lot of research available on marijuana and sports. What is known, however, is cannabinoids do not seem to provide athletes with a competitive edge. This is just one of the reasons the World Doping Agency has very little issue with runners and jumpers smoking weed. There is even some question about the claims of marijuana assisting in muscle recovery.
Yet cannabinoids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. More athletes have emerged over the years, including former NBA player Al Harrington, who claim that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, is a saving grace in terms of healing. Medical experts, like Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Health, say the claim is real. CBD “lowers the amount of many, many pro-inflammatory cytokines — things that our body makes naturally in response to any inflammation response,” he told the Times.
While it is up to the individual whether cannabis is consumed as part of a pre or post workout regimen, Dr. Bonn-Miller believes that cannabis and running were meant to go together.
“There’s a lot of overlap in terms of the pathways that are activated between what’s known as a runner’s high and the high that comes from THC,” he said. “Both of those involve activation of the endocannabinoid system, so it’s not too surprising that THC might be used to enhance the runner’s high that’s gained from endurance exercise.