Running High: #ChasingAnandamide

Every runner has their rituals; I’m no exception. Before I lace up my sneakers, don my appropriate running attire, and cue up my playlist, I start with cannabis.

I select an uplifting strain and mix it with some bud leftover from the previous evening, something I call a “salad.” Today’s salad is a strain labeled Strawberry Diesel topped with some Cheese. I give little heed to strain names or the labels indica and sativa—and neither should you. (This topic will be covered in depth in future articles.)

A few twists of my grinder allow me to tap the ground cannabis flower into my vaporizer’s glass receptacle as I sip pink Himalayan salted water and wait for it to reach the optimal temperature. When the vaporizer is ready to go, I take a few draws, the cannabis vapors entering my lungs and the taste of a range of flavorful terpenes reaching my olfactory senses. Today’s salad is clean, crisp, and woodsy. After having medicated to my satisfaction, I finish dressing for my run and adjust my sunglasses on my nose.

The efficacy of cannabis is immediately perceivable. My neck and shoulders begin to relax as my chest warms and my breath expands my torso. I stir the herb in the vaporizer one last time and complete the bowl with a final inhalation before tapping out the spent flower (called “duff,” which I recycle and consume in my food). I pop in my earbuds and press play as I head out the door with Chopin flooding my ears.

running cannabis

As soon as I step into the road, I’m ready and focused. While its effects are subjective, cannabis allows me to squelch distraction and anxiety with the goal of staying in the present (the classic principle of “be here now”). I’ve performed this routine so many times that my body now adjusts to this mode very automatically. I take a moment to adjust my sunglasses and jaunt down the faded asphalt.

I should emphasize that this process of attempting to optimize my exercise time is mental, physical, and spiritual. Embracing the warm and fuzzy feeling I get as I float through the air, I’m free of anxiety-inducing thoughts that accompany a cannabis-free run. I’m not thinking about how long I’ve run or suffering under the burden of the distance that lies ahead of me. There are no to-do lists or superfluous thoughts hampering my progress or distracting me from my focus on pushing as hard as possible. If my focus is good enough, I’m able to not only push harder, but to improve biomechanical and respiratory rhythms (what some endurance athletes label “cadence”). I am present with every gravity-defying leap.

Tchaikovsky now sets the mood as I increase the volume and check my posture. I focus on how my body performs and feels. I’m aware of where my weight is distributed within my foot, where my foot placement resides in relation to my knee, where my chest is centered, and the other alignments that so majorly impact my progress and efficiency. I’m standing outside my body with a better perspective.

Instead of clenched fists, my wrists attach to open, relaxed hands. Instead of tight grinding teeth, I run with a relaxed breath and a tension free jaw. Why do I possess this advantage over many of my exercise peers? Because I vape with cannabis before I run.

Exercise with cannabis

As I continue to fall into a literal meditative state during my run, my hips loosen and I lengthen my stride. My body finds its rhythm and I zone in on my groove. My mind and body are now united. My state is objectively euphoric. But what causes this at the chemical level? What is happening in my body to trigger this euphoria and improved efficiency?

Technically, it’s anandamide. Researchers have debunked the decades-long false belief that runner’s high is produced by endorphins. It was believed that endorphins fit into specialized receptors in the brain to create euphoria. In actuality, endorphins cannot cross the very selective blood-brain barrier, meaning it’s actually impossible for them to create the state of euphoria commonly referred to as runner’s high.

Research has indicated that this state of exercise euphoria is actually caused by an internally produced chemical called anandamide (categorized as an endocannabinoid). Coupled with similar chemicals from plants like cannabis called phytocannabinoids (including tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] and cannabidiol [CBD]), anandamide is a powerful ally in health and happiness. It serves to amplify and support the function of its cousins THC and CBD from the cannabis herb.

As I feel my body temperature increase and my joints loosen, I know that the cannabinoid and terpenes in the cannabis that I recently vaporized have been absorbed by my lungs, transferred to my heart, and pumped directly to my brain. Roughly 2.5 minutes later, molecules such as THC and CBD have reached their destination: The CB1 and CB2 receptors of my brain and central nervous system. Together, these molecules intermingle in the poorly named entourage effect to help separate me from fatigue and weakness as I push my body to the limit.

The net effect? I’m not reminded of the knee I hyperextended twice playing soccer. I feel not a twinge of pain from a herniated disc gifted by a car accident decades in the past. Somehow, I’m unaware of the soreness given to me by yesterday’s training session. Biomechanical efficiency and a euphoric bliss are all that remain.

workout with Cannabis

I enjoy the heat of the sun on my skin while focusing on expanding my chest and relaxing my diaphragm. I feel powerful and invincible. I can’t believe everyone doesn’t do this and perceive that I am enjoying an almost unfair advantage over my peers who don’t consume cannabis prior to their runs! My right hand forms the peace sign that I raise for each driver that gives any amount of girth as we pass on the road. I smile as they wave back.

Miles pass with Beethoven bellowing through my ears and vibrating my body. I reluctantly head back and raise my sunglasses to my head as the sun continues to warm my back. Feeling superhuman, I consider passing my house and continuing for a greater-than-planned distance.

As my run completes and I’m greeted by my excited dog at the front door, I consider the beneficial effects of the anandamide produced by my body co-mingling with the THC and CBD molecules from the cannabis I vaporized prior to my run. I pocket my mobile vaporizer, freshly loaded with a new strain and head down a nearby trail with my dog.

She leads the way and I breathe in the mountain air, mixing it with deep inhalations of medicated cannabis vapors. I radiate with the confidence that my next run will be even more rewarding and health-giving as I supplement anandamide with THC and CBD to give my mind, body, and spirit the best possible inspiration and fuel for regular healthful exercise.

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