While there are a number of conventional aids to help you deal with pain, maintain focus and mental clarity, reduce stress, and improve speed and overall performance, there's a more natural substance that can be used for all of these and more: cannabis.
As a distance runner, you may want to consider incorporating cannabis into your daily regimen to optimize your training and even improve your overall health in between your workout routine.
If you’d rather avoid the high that comes from cannabis, look for hemp-derived CBD products. These provide many of the positive effects without getting you high - the benefits of cannabis can be reaped without the psychoactive effects of THC.
In fact, more and more athletes are turning to CBD thanks to its plethora of health, wellness and medical benefits. With the legalization of marijuana in certain parts of the country, an upsurge in recreational and medical usage has encouraged studies that insinuate an abundance of positive, healing effects of marijuana - and CBD in particular.
As these studies have emerged to verify the benefits of medical marijuana, a recent ruling by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to remove CBD from their list of banned substances has allowed athletes the freedom to use the cannabinoid, both in and out of competition. Whether used to alleviate pain, reduce performance-related anxiety, or to help recover faster from rigorous training, CBD can be an effective tool for athletes.
Over the years, an increasing number of studies have been conducted on cannabis and the cannabinoids within it, including CBD and THC. More specifically, research is focusing on the potential benefits of marijuana. The results tend to point to its ability to alleviate a number of ailments and even improve overall health and well-being - even when it comes to mental health.
But how exactly can cannabis fit into the world of a distance runner? What is it about the properties of cannabis and its cannabinoids that can make the life of a distance runner better?
It's no secret that distance runners require an abundance of energy to complete their long distance runs, but sometimes there just doesn't seem to be enough fuel in the tank. When energy levels are low, performance typically suffers. Just struggling to finish the last mile or two can prove extremely draining.
But cannabis may be able to counter fatigue. In fact, certain marijuana strains may be effective at sustaining energy levels, making it easier for distance runners to keep up with their runs without caving to fatigue.
More specifically, sativa-dominant hybrid strains can help provide a little energy when needed most. Sativa cannabis types are those that tend to provide more energetic cerebral effects, which is why they would be more suitable for those who are looking for a pick-me-up.
On the other end of the spectrum are indica cannabis strains, which have been linked to a sedative effect that's more suitable for users who are looking to relax and alleviate stress.
Hybrids offer a combination of both sides, with different indica/sativa ratios offering very different effects. How you feel depends on which strains dominate, and sativa-dominant strains lean more toward the stimulant side of the spectrum.
Improves Mental Clarity and Focus
While the physical aspect of training is certainly crucial for athletes when they train and compete, the mental aspect is equally - if not more - important. Being able to focus on training with maximum effort requires a certain degree of mental clarity and awareness.
But it's not uncommon for athletes - including distance runners - to suffer from brain fog on occasion, which can have negative implications on their performance.
The CBD component of cannabis has been shown to help athletes - and the general public - improve their level of mental clarity so they're more aware of the task at hand and the surrounding environment. In fact, studies have shown that CBD, in particular, has been showing great promise as a wake-promoting agent.
Helps With Pain Management and Recovery
Long distance runners are known to suffer from specific overuse injuries, particularly in the muscles and ligaments of the lower extremities, for obvious reasons. More specifically, distance runners are more prone to suffering from leg injuries such as stress fractures, muscles strains, and torn ligaments.
Overuse injuries require a certain amount of rest to ensure full recovery before training can recommence. Therapies are often required, including physical therapy or even surgery. But during the recovery process, a certain amount of pain is bound to be experienced, no matter how mild or severe.
While NSAIDs and opioids are typically prescribed to athletes to help them manage their pain, such medications come with a slew of side effects - some minor, but some more severe. Addiction can also arise from the ongoing use of these drugs, which we've all seen with the recent opioid addiction epidemic.
Thankfully, there are more natural substances that distance runners can take to effectively alleviate pain and discomfort from injuries without the potential for addiction or side effects that pharmaceuticals tend to have, and marijuana is one of them.
Several studies have linked the use of marijuana and the cannabinoids and terpenes within the plant with alleviation of pain and inflammation. Different types of pain can be targeted and treated, including pain resulting from physical stress and injury.
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - the two most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant - both interact with the brain's cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system. This interaction activates the reward system of the brain and reduces pain levels. While THC also induces a "high" at the same time, CBD can relieve pain without any mind-altering effects.
Running with tense muscles wastes a lot more energy compared to running in a more relaxed state. Using up too much unnecessary energy can burn you out long before your run is done, and even increase the odds of injury occurring. That's why it's important to relax your body before you take to the open road.
Distance runners are encouraged to practice relaxation exercises to help pinpoint and remove any tension from the body. Taking CBD may also be effective at promoting relaxation in distance runners.
Not only can cannabis and CBD products help calm distance runners before big events, but it can also help relax runners them after they’ve completed their training.
Modes of Marijuana Consumption
Smoking isn't the only way to consume and enjoy the benefits of cannabis. Not only is this mode of consumption irritating to the lungs and bad for overall health, but it can also hinder the performance of distance runners who rely on maximum lung function to sustain long distance runs.
The good news is that there are other ways to use marijuana that are perfectly safe, including the following:
Marijuana is a lot more than just a THC-laden recreational drug that gets users high. The benefits of CBD and THC are boundless for athletes and those facing other physical and/or mental ailments.