I go to the gym almost every day—not because I’m training for a marathon or trying to lose weight but simply because I’m way more productive on days I work out. Exercise makes it easier for me to stay focused and think creatively. I love the feel-good endorphins, which, in turn, help me be a nicer, happier person. Plus, being in shape makes me feel great. The secret to my workout success? Marijuana.
I know, I know, you’re probably skeptical, but hear me out.
Before I started using marijuana for exercise, my relationship with the gym was complicated. From a very young age, I noticed my anxiety had a tendency to make me a little obsessive about exercising. I fixated on the numbers on the machines and measuring my process in very quantitative ways. I liked working out, but it wasn’t exactly a positive experience for me.
I smoked weed for the first time at the end of my senior year of high school. I stayed over at a friend’s house and had a few hours to kill before going home, so I went to the gym. It was the best workout of my life. When you exercise, studies show that THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for the high) stored in fat cells is released and you can experience a high again. For me, exercise went from something I obsessed over to something that felt euphoric. I didn’t even look at the numbers on the elliptical once; I was just experiencing the music and moving.
For me, cannabis makes working out easier, and I’m not alone. There’s a growing trend of Americans who use legal marijuana products to aid in exercise and recovery. And this goes beyond a small group of athletes getting high. A first-of-its-kind cannabis gym, Power Plant Fitness, recently opened in San Francisco, and there are weed-infused yoga classes popping up around the country in marijuana-legal states, encouraging yogis to puff a vape pen in between chaturangas.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of scientific research on the subject. The United States’s Schedule I classification of cannabis makes peer-reviewed studies pretty difficult to perform.
But in my experience, using a sativa strain of cannabis gives me a boost of energy to work out. Cannabis helps me focus and give my workout my undivided attention. Rather than stressing about what I have to do later in the day or counting down the seconds until the set is complete, I can clear my head and just live in the moment. I move my body and mindfully enjoy the way it feels—kind of like the way you dance to the beat of music without thinking about it.
And it may not be all in my head. A recent study linked the body’s own natural endocannabinoid system to the sensation of “runner’s high.” Meaning, the euphoric feeling endurance athletes report may not be caused by endorphins but rather is a result of the body’s own natural form of THC. Although more research is needed, I find that weed and exercise enhance one another to increase my own euphoric sensation, possibly because using the plant also increases the body’s pain threshold.