Pot smokers are lazy, pot smokers don’t work out…yadda yadda yadda. Who hasn’t heard that one before? It’s stereotypical for people to say that cannabis and fitness don’t mesh well together. It doesn’t help that there are only roughly 15 published studies out there that look at whether THC can enhance exercise performance. (They all conclude that it does not.)
Then again, there’s a diversity of professional athletes, Olympic gold medalists, and exercise experts that say the opposite. Who can forget about the time Michael Phelps was caught ripping a bong? Not exactly the proudest pot smoker, but he proves a point, and that’s that dabbling in a little herb doesn’t prevent you from physical activity.
While studies on exercise and cannabis are limited, there is some other—seemingly unrelated—research that is promising. In addition to relieving pain, there is well-documented research that weed reduces inflammation and relieves anxiety. Cannabis users are also shown to have lower BMI counts thanks to marijuana’s ability to speed up your metabolism and burn fat. Still, ultimately, with limited research, we must rely on the stories of individual people who have used cannabis to transform their bodies. Stories like Jennessa Lea’s.
At the young age of 26, Lea, who experienced joint pain most of her life, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. EDS is a connective tissue disease that affects your collagen. As Lea puts it, “collagen is the glue that holds your body together. It gives your body structure and strength.”
Before finding out the real cause for her ongoing joint pain, Lea was misdiagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disorder. To combat the symptoms, doctors prescribed her oxycodone and morphine. But it was never enough.
Eventually, Lea was taking 150 mg of oxycodone and 90 mg of morphine every day. Her tolerance to the opiates kept increasing so, as is often the case, her doctors upped her doses.
To help her build muscle, which is imperative for supporting weak joints, Lea was told to begin physical therapy. But since she was on so many narcotics, exercising was impossible as she was exhausted all the time. As a young mother to a daughter, Lea knew something had to change. And so she decided to try cannabis.
Before long, Lea went from being 250+ pounds to shedding weight like a champ. Cannabis not only gave her the pain-relief and motivation she needed to push through exercise but also energy and focus. So much so, in fact, that she ended up losing a total of 110 pounds. Doctors said she would never escape narcotics. But she did and hasn’t stopped proving them wrong ever since.
Lea then opened Break the Stigma Fitness in Denver, Colorado in 2017 to help others incorporate weed into their exercise routine. It’s more than just a weed-friendly gym. It’s an entire experience—including weed products which are donated by sponsors and then gifted to members.
Break the Stigma Fitness offers classes from cannabis-infused cardio to weed yoga. Products handed out at the gym include organic, soil-grown flower and rosin press products. While you can only access the gym via invite, anyone can request one on their website.
Lea is most passionate about helping people who, like her, were told by doctors that they were incapable of exercise or a full recovery. She says the different strains of cannabis combined with different kinds of exercise provide many options can be customized to a person’s physical needs. Even just moving around gently in the pool after hitting a vape can be transformative, she advises.
Generally, members at Break The Stigma Fitness stick to sativas as opposed to indicas, but Lea says it all depends on the person. It’s also about more than just indica and sativa. Terpenes and cannabinoids play a significant role in figuring out the strain that works best. For example, THCV is known for suppressing the appetite and boosting metabolism.
As for the best ways to consume before, during, and after a good exercise, Lea prefers vaping. Her favorite device is the VapeXhale Cloud EVO, a desktop unit that maintains not only the terpenes and cannabinoids in flower but also concentrates. Lea also is big on promoting cannabis-infused topicals for muscular pain relief.
The scientific evidence to suggest that weed improves exercise might be lacking. But stories like Lea’s indicate that it’s worth investigating further. Particularly because, in many cases, the alternative is opioids.
“Fight it. Figure out what works for your body,” Lea says. “We should have the right to choose.”
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