How to Use Cannabis to Improve Your Workouts

Morgan English was working at her local fitness club when she realized many people enjoyed getting high before exercising — but there weren’t any 420-friendly fitness communities for them to turn to. 

So she started her own business — Stoned+Toned, an on-demand fitness platform that combines weed with working out — three years ago. “I decided it was time to build something for myself — and to build a community that really welcomes everyone,” says English, who’s also a cannabis photographer. 

It turns out English was onto something: Recent research shows cannabis could very well be the key to enhancing your workouts. If you’re canna-curious, we’ve put together a guide to the benefits of using weed during your workouts and how to do it safely. 

person rolling cannabis

The benefits of using weed while working out

“Overall, cannabis has both physical and mental benefits when used before and after working out,” says Pejman Bady, DO, co-owner of The Sanctuary, a popular cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. “For example, cannabis has been shown to help runners find their groove, activate a ‘runner’s high,’ keep a steady pace, and help them focus less on pain or boredom caused by running long distances.”

Bady points to a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Public Health, which focused specifically on cannabis and that so-called “runner’s high.” The study authors found weed helped mitigate common barriers associated with exercising, including recovery, pain, and motivation. 

Most of the participants who used cannabis shortly before and after exercise noted they enjoyed their workouts better, felt more motivated to exercise, and experienced less pain and inflammation than participants who didn’t incorporate weed into their fitness routines. 

English adds that cannabis can also help enhance the mind-body connection while exercising — something that’s especially useful right now as we all continue to deal with pandemic-related stresses.

“Instead of working out and thinking about the floors that need to be vacuumed or the dishes that need to be done, cannabis allows you to turn that part of your brain off and be really present in the moment and present in your body,” she says. 

Cannabis is also something that could potentially help people with chronic pain have an easier time exercising. “Cannabis has really amazing medicinal properties, such as being anti-inflammatory,” says English. “I have chronic knee pain, and if I consume cannabis before a workout, it helps with the inflammation, which, in turn, helps my workout.”  

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that many of these purported benefits still need to be studied more to definitively say that cannabis can improve your workouts.

In 2020, the journal Sports Medicine – Open published a review of existing research on the effects of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, on athletic performance. 

The researchers noted that direct studies of CBD and sports performance are currently lacking — and while preclinical studies show plenty of anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD in animals, further research is needed to prove these observations in humans (and athletes in particular). 

“CBD may exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects with the potential to benefit athletes,” write the authors of the Sports Medicine review. “However, well controlled studies in athlete populations are required before definitive conclusions can be reached regarding the utility of CBD in supporting athletic performance.” 

How to safely incorporate cannabis into your fitness routine

While research on cannabis and exercise is still emerging, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from experts and athletes alike about its benefits. So if you want to try enhancing your workouts with cannabis, here’s how to do so safely.

1. Start low and go slow

If you’re new to using weed while working out, then start with a low dose and take things slow, suggests Bady.

Adds English: “You don’t need to smoke the whole joint before class—that’s not what we do [at Stoned+Toned]. We cue you to take a puff before class and in the middle. It’s really about mindful consumption to lead to a mindful workout.” 

2. Choose the right strain for your workout

What pairs best with a cardio session will be different from what complements strength classes or restorative yoga.

Lifters often prefer sativa strains (which uplift and help with mental focus) to get them energized, while yogis may like indica-dominant strains (which are associated with relaxation and anxiety relief) to put them in a comfortable mindset, says Bady. 

At Stoned+Toned, each workout is paired with a specific strain that complements the workout. “Our restorative flows are meditation and breathwork classes, so we use strains that will bring you more into your body and get you grounded,” says English. “Our classes that are more focused on a true sweat session use strains that uplift and provide a wave of energy while also helping to minimize stress and anxiety.” 

3. Pay attention to terpenes

Cannabis also contains terpenes, compounds responsible for a plant’s smell, and those can have an effect on your workout too.

English says limonene is a great terpene to use for stress relief, while Bady explains myrcene terpenes are calming and may be beneficial for post-workout recovery. 

4. Consider your consumption method

Taking a puff before a workout isn’t your only option. “In addition to smoking flower, there are edibles, topicals for joint pain, tasteless tinctures you can place in food, gummies, and even infused-coffee beans for those who need an extra boost,” says Bady. 

Each consumption method has different benefits. English recommends edibles for people with chronic pain, for example, because they operate differently in the body than smoking. 

Just be aware edibles take longer to kick in — so it’s ideal to try them out before you add them to your fitness routine. That way you know how much time to give yourself between popping an edible and working out, explains English. 

5. Be careful when lifting weights or using other exercise equipment

“For those who are lifting while using cannabis, it’s important to be aware that use can decrease reaction time, interrupt concentration, disrupt hand-eye coordination, and reduce exercise capacity and time to exhaustion,” notes Bady. “If using workout machines and heavy weight with too much cannabis use, it can all cause a potential accident that can hurt someone or those around them.”

6. Don’t forget about your post-workout recovery

“We definitely recommend stretching and having an extra puff after your workout,” says English. Bady says women, in particular, have greater pain-reducing effects and more anxiety alleviation when using cannabis, so he recommends it as well for post-workout recovery

CBD strains and topicals help relax muscles, relieve pain, and make stretching more enjoyable,” he says, “and CBD oil can promote sleep for those still energized from their previous workout.”

7. Ask a budtender for guidance

Not sure where to start when it comes to weed and working out? Both Bady and English suggest visiting your local dispensary. You can ask their employees (known as budtenders) for help finding what works best for you and your workout routine. 

8. Be patient with finding what works best for you

It may take time to figure out which strains and consumption methods are right for you and your fitness routine — so be patient and enjoy the journey. 

“Cannabis isn’t one-size-fits-all,” says English. “It’s really about self-exploration and finding what works best for you.” 

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About Christina Heiser

Christina Heiser is a freelance writer who covers beauty, health, nutrition, and fitness. As a lifelong New Yorker, she loves exploring her city by foot, cheering on her favorite local sports teams (Let's go, Mets!), and checking out all of the trendy boutique fitness studios. Christina graduated from St. John's University in 2010 with a degree in English and a passion for reporting. After graduating, Christina went on to work for and, covering everything from beauty to fitness to celebrity news. Now, she contributes to a variety of beauty- and wellness-focused websites including aSweatLife, NBC News Better, Total Beauty, and What's Good by Vitamin Shoppe.