Morgan English was sitting on the fire escape in her Portland State University apartment, smoking weed, when she felt drawn to a stationary bike.
So she crossed the street to the gym. For the first time in her life, she said, the exercise didn’t feel like a punishment.
“It wasn’t about ‘How many miles can I cycle? How much resistance can I put? Can I do this for an hour? It was just happy. Like I was just moving my body and doing it for myself… and it really opened up a whole new world for me.
After that, English started smuggling weed in her car before exercise class, certain that her classmates could smell it on her. She wondered if anyone else was doing the same thing.
Turns out they do.
“You get this feeling like, ‘I’m not alone and other people are doing this,'” English said.
Today, English owns and teaches classes for Stoned + Toned, a fitness company that blends cannabis and fitness in pursuit of community and a more enjoyable workout.
The Los Angeles-based company is among those betting big on the legal cannabis boom bringing physical fitness. San Francisco is home to a “cannabis gym” that encourages visitors to light up and lift. A “Pelostoned” Facebook group has thousands of members who smoke cannabis and ride stationary bikes.
“It’s a huge market and I think it’s something that’s changing the fitness conversation again, which really needs to be done,” said English, who founded Stoned + Toned with her husband in 2019.
The researchers also take note of the trend.
A 2021 study by the University of Miami and the Brookings Institute tested the “lazy stoner” myth and found that cannabis had no significant impact or, in some cases, a positive impact on the exercise.
Michael French, chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Miami School of Business and author of the study, remembers telling some of his friends about the results. The friends, all marathon runners, said they used cannabis to recover after long-distance training.
“So they kind of laughed and said, ‘No surprise there,'” French said.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder are studying the same thing. Angela Bryan, a professor of psychology and neuroscience there, said her hypothesis was that cannabis would decrease motivation to work out, but she was surprised by findings that tell a more complex story.
“While I’m not prepared to conclusively recommend that people start using weed to increase their physical activity, I think it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t hurt,” Bryan said, whose lab has recently focused on the public health implications of cannabis. legalization.
Bryan noted that his research did not show an improvement in performance; instead, cannabis users reported more pleasure—perhaps even a runner’s high—after mixing cardio and cannabis.
It’s still unclear whether people come to cannabis or exercise first, Bryan said.
“I suspect this is the first. These are people who exercise, who live in a place where cannabis is legal. And so they decide to try it in conjunction with their physical activity,” she said.
This push towards a mix of joy and exercise is a driving force behind English’s work, she said.
The pre-recorded classes, which range from yoga to Pilates to cycling, begin with an introduction: what the instructor smokes and why. English recommends consuming on the exercise mat – it’s harder to be tempted by Netflix if you’re already dressed and ready to go.
Instructors then take a puff of weed – hand-selected varieties sold at local dispensaries paired with each class – and smoke throughout the warm-up. (English leaves it up to participants how they want to ingest the cannabis but advises against edibles due to the lag.)
“You don’t need a whole joint,” English said. “For example, you’ll be very surprised, one or two hits will get you there. And again, halfway through, we’ll remind you, ‘How are you feeling? Check in with yourself. How’s your high? “Do you need another hit? Take that joint, take your bong. Whatever’s near you, take another hit, find the kid’s pose and we’ll get to it.”
Exercise, she says, is not mandatory.
“If you want to lay on your mat or go get a slice of pizza, you can do that and none of us will judge you at all,” she said.
She has seven instructors, including herself, but some are new to the cannabis training space. English is planning in-person training sessions.
Bree Deanine teaches high-intensity and spin classes for Stoned + Toned, and says she’s never even considered combining cannabis with exercise. But cannabis helps increase her motivation to train, she said.
“People say, ‘You’re crazy, I don’t know how you could inhale smoke and get on a bike and do this intense cardiovascular workout,’ but it helps you connect a lot more with the music and helps you disconnect with pain and discomfort with the body,” Deanine said.
Online class Hilary Clark discovered Stoned + Toned via Instagram. They had smoked weed and taken regular exercise classes, but like Deanine, they had never considered combining the two.
“When I used cannabis in my workouts, I found less inhibition to try something that looked really difficult,” Clark said. “Some instructors do a lot of squats and heavy leg kicks, and without cannabis, I might approach it like, ‘This is too hard, I can’t do this.'”
That’s exactly English’s goal: to break down barriers to exercise and strengthen the mind-body connection.
“And part of that is with cannabis and letting go of those blocks that you have for yourself, letting go of your anxiety,” English said. “And so I really see that not just as a trend, but as something that’s really going to change the conversation and stick around.”
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