Cannabis and exercise: does the plant help or hurt your workout?

Cannabis and exercise: Close up photo of running shoes on a path.

When I was a college athlete, I started experimenting with cannabis casually with friends. Back then, there wasn’t a lot of information on how smoking a joint would assist in my athletic pursuits. Combining cannabis and exercise was somewhat unheard of.

Through trial and error, I found that it helped me unwind after highly-competitive practices and relieved some of the physical stress caused by the sport. But even though I’ve learned a lot about cannabis and exercise in the decade or so since then, I would never show up to the pitch stoned– and I still wouldn’t. However, I would consider a toke before a long run, workout class, gym sesh, or hike.

People are experimenting with how to use the plant before, during, and after a workout in everything from yoga classes where you can consume cannabis to Stoned+Toned online workout groups. In my jock, gym rat, and yoga teacher eras, I have learned a lot about setting the right stage for successfully working out stoned. The plant has a place in a workout plan, but I’ve still found that some exercise experiences are better sober.

The effects of mixing cannabis and exercise

In a former GreenState interview, Dr. Kenneth Weinberg broke down the benefits of cannabis as pre-workout. He confirmed that consuming cannabis before working out has been shown to increase focus, reduce pain, relax muscles, and possibly open airways. And, of course, it can promote a positive attitude in the face of adversity– like approaching a steep hill in the second half of a long run.

There are things to be aware of before infusing a workout, however. Cannabis and exercise raise a person’s heart rate, which can cause fainting, fatigue, and shortness of breath, among other side effects. It’s wise to consult a physician before adding cannabis to a workout regimen to avoid these complications– and even then, start slowly, consuming about 2.5mg at a time until finding the right amount for you.

Finding the right dose can often come down to finding the preferred method of consumption. It can be tricky to measure flower in milligrams, though Perfect Blends has a great one hitter that measures out 75 mg of inhalable herbs. As for edibles, some can take a moment to kick in– which could benefit those who prefer the high to kick in later, which could help keep up the momentum during a long workout.

Many health-conscious people choose vapes over smoking, but it’s wise to know the dangers of choosing the vape pen before picking one out. Finding a preferred method comes down to ease of dose and personal preference– this process may take some trial and error.

Once you’ve found the optimal amount and method of consumption, it’s time to figure out the appropriate arena for a lifted workout.

The time and place for a lifted workout

There’s a time and a place to mix cannabis into a workout regimen. For example, getting high before doing a pre-filmed virtual class at home has never worked for me. It’s too easy to slide over to the couch when things get tough. But a microdose can be a great motivator while doing the same type of workout in a public setting like a gym class.

And like I mentioned before, I wouldn’t mix soccer and cannabis because of the fine motor skill involved– but a nice long run can be excellent when accompanied by a smooth stone. Much like doing a workout at home, though, if I consume cannabis before getting my running clothes and shoes on, I often stay right where I am. Instead, I opt for an outdoor toke before walking straight into my run.

When it comes to yoga, I have mixed feelings about using cannabis. In my opinion, cannabis should be a tool of the practice and teachings, and never appropriative. Including the Yoga Sutras and other ancient yoga philosophies in classes and honoring the ancient lineages that passed down the asana are two ways to remain appreciative over appropriative.

I have been a student of Ashtanga for a few years after a decade of unfocused practice. Ashtanga is designed to burn accumulated stresses of daily life, leaving the mind clear– for me, that led to building resilience in my physical and emotional body. In this practice, arriving at Mysore or retreats stoned hasn’t led to the best effort possible. It has, however, been valuable after rigorous classes to soothe aching muscles and guide me through some emotionally exhausting periods.

Cannabis can be helpful for all kinds of things– and exercise is on the list. The benefits are ideal for recovering muscles, and a properly executed high has helped me maintain stamina, stay focused, and play through the pain when I’m getting tired. As cannabis normalization soaks into the culture, and even professional athletes are getting access to the plant– a more accurate understanding of how the plant and working out mix. Until then, use this advice to pinpoint what works for your exercise schedule.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.