The (Very Legitimate!) Health Benefits of Running While High
My first attempt at running while high was an abject failure. My sneakers were laced and I was ready to jog, when a friend dropped by, loaded hash pipe in tow. I couldn’t refuse that offer, but I also didn’t want to skip my run. I know, I thought, in classic stoner-revelation form. I can do both!
The first 10 minutes of the stoned run were great. My music sounded incredible and everything was beautiful... until I came back down to earth, feeling winded and fatigued. I deeply regretted leaving my couch. Smoking and running don’t mix, I concluded.
Fast-forward a few years. Marijuana use is increasingly accepted, and even endorsed by some members of the medical community -- research on cannabis and running shows a mild anti-inflammatory effect, as well as reduction of stress and muscle pain, according to exercise physiologist Dr. Scott Weiss. In other words, weed can get you pumped up for that long run and make it hurt less.
Is stoned running officially “A Thing”?
I put out feelers on social media and got an overwhelmingly positive response: tons of people said weed helps them run longer, harder, and have more fun. Apparently, there’s even a loosely organized stoned-running club in New Orleans, where I live, called Vapor Apollo.
It was time to revisit my stance. I decided to chat with Vapor Apollo founder “Chris” (not his real name) -- while running stoned.
Meet the stoned runners
Chris invited me to his home studio in Bywater. Wearing black shorts, sneakers, and a tank top with a print by street artist Columnz, he loaded up a vaporizer with the bud I’d brought (it seemed like the polite thing to do). Chris said he started running when he was 13 and now runs three or four miles a few times a week -- usually stoned.
“[Running while high] encourages attention to detail and makes running less boring,” he said. “I’m thinking about how my foot is landing, diving into the minutia of running. And it increases the intensity of my runs… It makes everything very fun.”
Jasmine, a 27-year-old smoke shop owner who always gets high before she runs, echoed these sentiments. Four years ago, she lost 60lbs after making serious diet changes. Jasmine knew she needed to be active, too, but she hated team sports and running.
“No matter what anyone tells you, running is very uncomfortable,” she says. “It’s a constant battle to keep yourself moving forward. Long story short, I hated running. And I happen to know that marijuana is a great way to get myself to do the things I don’t really want to do.”
Weed isn’t exactly the drug people turn to when they’re looking to get motivated; stoners get high for the exact opposite reason, right? Chris says that’s a misconception, one he hopes to fight with his stoned running club.
“I’d love to kill that stereotype of weed and laziness, if possible,” he says. “The idea of smoking and being active is something I believe in. There are so many people who smoke and surf or go hiking… I know I’m not alone.”
How baked should I get?
Jasmine puts on her running gear, then hits the vape before heading out. “I like to get to a level I’d refer to as ‘toasty’ just to get the warm fuzzies going,” says Jasmine, who runs six to 10 miles per week. Chris doesn’t get totally baked, either. “I don’t smoke a huge amount when I run,” he says.
I noticed another trend with practiced pothead runners: they were vaping, not smoking. Was my method of ingestion to blame for my first bad stoned-running experience? I asked Dr. Weiss.
Vape, don’t smoke
Though Dr. Weiss didn’t advocate getting high before running, he admitted that getting high and running is better than not running at all. He also said that if you're going to get stoned before a run, you should vape, so as to avoid the pulmonary irritation that accompanies smoking.
“Vaporizing the marijuana reduces the harmful effects of the smoke, plus it offers a greater level of chemical extraction,” Dr. Weiss said. “Ingestion does make a difference.”
I’d smoked before my first stoned run, which meant my heart rate raised mildly, possibly leading to increased blood pressure and cardiac output. These elevated heart rate and blood pressure levels could last from two to four hours, Dr. Weiss said.
Maybe that explained why I’d struggled with my first stoned run.
Savoring the high
The second time was the charm: my stoned run with Chris was one of the best runs of my life. We went three miles at a pace of 10 minutes and 16 seconds per mile, and at the end, I felt euphoric: I’d done something good for myself. I had a runner’s high. Plus, I was still actually high.
As Weiss points out, natural endocannabinoids (a fat similar to the kind found in marijuana) create the much-touted runner’s high -- not endorphins, as was previously thought. Even without smoking, these lipids can give runners “a real sense of elation,” Weiss says. So that high feeling you get after a long run is physiologically closer to the weed version than you may have realized.
“Runner’s high is a real thing,” Jasmine concurs. “But why wait for it three miles in, when you can start your run that way?”
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Missy Wilkinson is buying a vaporizer as soon as she gets paid for this article.