Krista Houghton
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Proceed with caution while using cannabis in the great outdoors

by Krista Houghton

Yes, I’ll admit it – I have gotten high while playing outdoors. A good old fashioned “safety meeting” while snowboarding can in fact take a day on the slopes to an elevated level. Making the sun shine brighter, the snow whiter and the sound of your board carving up the powder truly sublime.

That said, when California legalized “recreational” pot in late 2016 with Proposition 64, it created a lot of confusion. Too many outdoor enthusiasts were smoking (and eating) pot for the first time without any sort of guidance. For some inexperienced weed users this led to some negative situations while participating in outdoor sports and even some actual danger. Weed is not something to be taken lightly, especially in the era of high potency strains. Smoking or eating pot in a cavalier way while pushing our limits outside can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why it’s crucial to treat cannabis like a powerful form of medicine, even if the purpose might be just having fun. When we think of pot as medicine we go through a mental checklist and ask the right questions, leading to better results. Is this the right dosage? Is this the right strain? Is this the right time? Will this help me connect to my friends and my surroundings? Treating weed like medicine will ensure the best and safest results.

Gone are the days of crouching behind a rock or tree – sneaking a toke or two. Now, it’s full on out in the open: people using vape pens, edibles and pre-rolls, to name a few. Everywhere I look – people are getting stoned! Let’s be clear, I am in no way advocating the recreational use of marijuana legal or otherwise in this article. However, with the cultural shift happening as marijuana is now legal to use as a recreational drug, I feel it is necessary to have an open conversation on how the use of marijuana affects the body during exercise. Just like other substances such as alcohol, nicotine or caffeine, consuming too much marijuana could have negative health consequences and even land you in jail. Here are some points to consider when thinking about incorporating marijuana into your sport or fitness routine.

Marijuana stimulates hunger, aka “the munchies.” So, if your fitness goal is to shed a few pounds, think again before taking that hit of weed. Marijuana also has been found to lower impulse control, making that slice of pizza versus a healthy salad mighty hard to resist. Something to consider.

There are many new ways that marijuana can be ingested. But most commonly, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is consumed by inhaling it. Be it a joint, pipe, bong, or vaporizer, inhaling marijuana can cause irritation and inflammation of the lungs and bronchial tubes, which can negatively impact your respiratory function – making your breathing less efficient. This is especially critical when in high altitude environments. So, if you’re already huffing and puffing in your workout, a hit of weed probably won’t help.

For some people getting high on cannabis can increase feelings of anxiety, paranoia or depression. It’s good to be aware that using marijuana could create unpredictable changes to your normal emotional state. Talk to your local dispensary if these are common side effects, as they may be able to recommend specific strains than can lessen these effects with use.

Using marijuana can dramatically affect your motor skills. When under the influence, you may experience changes in visual perception, coordination and reaction times. For some people weed can help them focus, creating an almost tunnel like vision, which can help enhance the flow state we feel when in “the zone.” But over-ingesting THC can create the opposite mood, posing a serious risk to yourself, or others given the inherent dangers of outdoor sports. It’s best to take baby steps. Stick with lighter, easier, known trials, areas, etc. if you’re wanting to experiment mixing cannabis with your sport or exercise routine.

Certain strains of marijuana can quite literally put you on your ass, increasing feelings of lethargy and sleepiness, which can drastically reduce your motivation to exercise. If lack of motivation is a key problem to achieving your sport and fitness goals, best to forget the bud and get a workout buddy instead!

Use of marijuana can also impair short-term memory, and prolonged use could have a negative effect on overall cognitive function. A recent study found that THC significantly impaired recall for two hours after consumption. If your sport requires you to navigate, unless you literally leave a trail of breadcrumbs, you might not recall how to get back home. Proceed with caution if in unfamiliar surroundings.

Those who use cannabis on a frequent basis can build up a tolerance to the THC, requiring greater amounts of the drug to experience the same effects. Even with weed being legal, it is still expensive and habitual use could have a negative impact on your finances, leaving less money for sport related adventures!

Whether you get high or not, marijuana is rapidly becoming an accepted component of mainstream culture. For me, I find using THC in small amounts can enhance my focus and allow me to become more aware of my body alignment and movements, helping me get into the zone better. I don’t use cannabis every time I surf, ride or play. It’s a personal choice, and now it’s a legal one.