Does It Help to Get High Before You Work Out?

Marijuana may be the next frontier of fitness

Jon Marcus
Elemental
Published in
7 min readMay 22, 2019

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Photo: Matthew Roharik/Getty Images

AAbout halfway through a 50-mile ultramarathon is when Herb Green says he starts to feel achy and tired. It’s no wonder; at 60, he’s completed more than two dozen extreme endurance events, and he’s a competitive distance swimmer on the side.

When the pain starts at this halfway point, Green says he sometimes deals with it by listening to music or popping some ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But music alone doesn’t always cut it for him, and the pills wear off in about an hour and could damage his liver and kidneys if he takes them too often.

So Green does what a surprising number of athletes have quietly been doing for some time now, according to an eye-opening new survey: He takes a hit of marijuana.

“I kind of hold out till I need the distraction,” says Green, who says he frequently downs marijuana edibles during ultra runs. “Pair it with music and it’s even better, and it’s much longer lasting than ibuprofen. You stop thinking about how sore everything is.”

(Green is not using his real name since cannabis has not been legalized for recreational use in his state.)

A new survey conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder exposes the extent of the long-covert connection between marijuana and exercise. It found that 82% of marijuana consumers in states where cannabis is legal use it within one hour before or four hours after working out.

Athletes say the drug and its various offshoots can suppress nausea, ease anxiety, enhance mood, diminish pain and inflammation, and reduce boredom. Nearly 80% of the 600 marijuana users who responded to the CU Boulder survey said they believe it speeds recovery, 70% said it makes their workouts more enjoyable, and more than half shared that it improves their motivation.

“When you see cannabis in movies, it’s a 22-year-old kid on the couch playing video games. With the diversity of users that comes with legalization, that’s a stereotype that isn’t accurate anymore, if it ever was.”

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Jon Marcus
Elemental

Jon Marcus writes for The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other U.S. and U.K. media outlets.