By Lia Arntsen

Burning Calories: How Cannabis and Exercise Make a Great Pair
Health/Science

People are waking up to the idea that marijuana can be used for more than getting high, like the combination of cannabis and exercise for example. With over half of the states in the United States having legalized some form of marijuana, exploring how cannabis can help elevate other aspects of life is a no-brainer.

The stoner stereotype is being shattered by smart, healthy, active individuals who include cannabis as part of their lifestyle. More and more people are coming out and expressing their love for toking up before a run, bike ride, gym sesh or other physical activity. It’s no longer a secret, cannabis can boost your exercise routine, but in order to get the most out of that pre-workout blaze, let’s take a look at how and why weed can improve your physical and mental performance.

The Role of the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids and terpenes that are found in cannabis and other plants work with the body’s endocannabinoid system to enhance energy and focus, minimize pain and quicken recovery. The human endocannabinoid system keeps the body in balance and its interaction with cannabinoids can be explained with a pretty simple analogy. While there is much more to learn about the matter, this article seeks to provide an easy way to understand the basics.

Let's pretend our bodies are made up of two big puzzles. One makes up the brain and nervous system and the other, our immune system and the rest of our body. This is our endocannabinoid system. The puzzles are rarely 100% complete and often missing pieces. These empty spaces are called cannabinoid, or CB, receptors. The two CB receptors we are interested in are called CB1 (found mostly in the head and central nervous system) and CB2 (found throughout the body). The cannabinoids produced by mammalian brains are called endocannabinoids and they can fit in any of the empty spaces. Phyto-cannabinoids, found in cannabis and other plants, are missing puzzle pieces too and can also fill in the holes to complete the puzzle.

THC typically fills CB1 receptors, which is why THC has a psychoactive effect. CBD mostly fills CB2 receptors, explaining why CBD is so beneficial for joint pain, gastrointestinal issues and immune system support. When all of the pieces are there and in the proper spots, the puzzle is complete and our bodies are in balance. This is called homeostasis – when our bodies are properly maintained and run optimally with minimal disease and maximum efficacy.

Homeostasis allows humans to think, move and respond faster. In the past, this was crucial for our survival. This mindset is commonly referred to as ‘flow state’ by athletes and people who work in high intensity and demanding careers. In an interview with Seibo Shen, founder and CEO of California-based companies VapeXhale, CannAthlete and avid student of jujitsu, he explained that flow state is attained by a careful combination of caffeine and cannabis, where one substance, the caffeine, stimulates the body while the cannabis focuses and balances the mind to help the body perform optimally. Athletes and business executives can find this beneficial when they need to make quick decisions and be present, completely focused and “in the zone.”

Finding the Right Cannabis Products

Finding the right canna-product to compliment your workout can take some trial and error, but understanding what your body requires is the first step. If a little extra motivation is what you need, strains such as Super Lemon Haze, Tangie and Durban Poison are all mood enhancing and energizing sativas. This is because of their high amounts of limonene, a citrusy terpene that awakens the senses and stimulates the mind, perfect for pumping you up before the gym or getting you ready for a run.

If pain and soreness inhibit your workout, try CBD strains, including Harlequin, Critical Mass and Tsunami crosses (Harle-Tsu, Canna-Tsu, etc). These strains will have lower percentages of THC, therefore mitigating the risk of getting too high to function. For activities that require more focus on breath and movement like yoga and weight lifting, consider an indica-leaning hybrid. The calming mental effects, as well as the body high, will allow you to commit yourself fully to the workout.

Cannabis and Exercise Activities

Maybe the gym or treadmill isn’t your cup of tea, but you still want to put cannabis and exercise to the test, there are a plethora of fun ways to get your elevated workout in. Here are a few ideas to try the next time you have some extra energy to burn off. Remember, the best motivation is having a friend that holds you accountable, so recruit a buddy to join you for the fun.

Trail running:

Grab the dog, a running partner or a pair of headphones and hit the scenic route! Explore a bit of nature as you jog through the woods, up the foothills and over the streams. Be sure to watch for rocks though and be careful not to roll an ankle as you enjoy the gorgeous scenery of any of Boulder or Denver’s gorgeous hiking and running trails. Perfect strain: Panama Red, sativa leaning hybrid.

Rock climbing

Get a group together and head up the Flatirons, into the canyons, or check out one of the many climbing gyms in Boulder and Denver. Gyms with auto belays are great for people who want to climb by themselves, but it is not hard to find a fun group of people to climb with. Afraid of heights? Try bouldering instead! You are never more than 20 feet off of the ground, and like climbing is still an incredible upper body workout. Perfect strain: Harlequin, or other CBD strain with lower levels of THC.

Hike a 14er:

Be sure to toss some CBD into your bag for this hike and save the puffing for the summit because you’ll be doing plenty of huffing on the way up. This is a daylong adventure, so pack a picnic and make sure you don’t get too high on the hike because you are going to need a lot of stamina.Cannabis lotions are the perfect remedy for sore joints, so be sure to have some on hand when your knees start hurting on the trek down. Mount Bierstadt is a great beginner mountain, as it is relatively close to Denver and a nice, steady grade. Perfect strain: Skywalker OG for the peak puff or back at the car or campsite.

Dance:

Zumba, pole, samba or capoeira, hip hop or ballet. Whatever your style is, turn up the music and MOVE! Dancing comes naturally whether you look like you have 2 left feet or you rule the dance floor and is an exhilarating way to exercise without the planks and the weights. Dance classes often involve a lot of cardio and constant movement and are an excellent way to tone stubborn areas like the thighs and booty, not to mention a fun way to bring your sexy back. Perfect strain: Durban Poison or Flo, high energy sativa.

Tennis:

Pick up whatever old sport you used to play in high school, or try your hand at something new! Recruit some friends and start up a game, or even better, a league! We may not all be aces, but playing tennis high is incredibly fun and quite the cannabis and exercise regimen. Rackets cost a couple bucks at Goodwill, there are free courts everywhere and Colorado’s climate allows you to play throughout most of the year. Perfect strain: Headband and Trainwreck, sativa dominant hybrids.

Join an outdoor yoga or fitness class:

There are plenty of fabulous people working out in the local park that would love a work out buddy! Cannabis and exercise in a group setting is a great way to stay motivated and committed to your exercise goals as they are a lot of fun and an ideal opportunity to meet new people. Plus you can have more fun during a smoke sesh. Perfect strain: Sour Diesel, sativa, for a boot camp or try Gorilla Glue, hybrid, for yoga.

It's the start of a brand new year, and combining cannabis and exercise can help you make the most of it! Now get out there and burn some calories!

Photo Credit: You Canna Be Well



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