Running produces a number of positive health effects for both our bodies and our brains. In fact, many scientists will venture to say that our bodies were evolutionarily designed for running. The shapes of our hips and feet, the length of our legs, our shock-absorbing spinal discs, and our ability to sweat all make it possible for us to endure long distance running mile after mile (well, in theory, anyway).
Given enough distance, humans can outrun nearly any animal alive today. For example, on a hot day, a person could even beat a horse in a 26.2 mile marathon. In other words, running is part of who we are and takes us back all the way to our hunter gatherer days chasing down prey. This is why many find running to be therapeutic, why you can often feel the surge of euphoric and positive feelings during and after running, a phenomenon commonly known as a “runner’s high.”
The problem, however, is that running (especially consistent, long distance running), like most forms of physical activity, can often lead to muscle soreness and joint pain. For many athletes, popping ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs regularly becomes the norm. But these drugs have the potential to cause kidney problems, blood thinning, and, rarely, liver issues if taken heavily on a consistent basis.
This is where CBD may come in to save the day as an alternative.
Is CBD Good for Runners?
CBD has hit the health and wellness scene like a tidal wave in recent years. As you may be aware from previous articles of ours, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is found in both hemp and marijuana plants. There have been many reported benefits of the substance, some based on anecdotal evidence and some on scientific. These range from treating insomnia, stress, anxiety, nausea in cancer patients, and even helping patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
When it comes to runners and other endurance athletes, however, the most important potential benefit is as an anti-inflammatory. Numerous studies and mountains of anecdotal evidence have shown that CBD can be extremely effective as both a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory medicine. Many doctors will even say they prefer recommending CBD to prescribing opioids which can cause bleeding, cardiovascular problems, or other issues.
How CBD May Help Runners
Although there is still a lot of research to be done, CBD is thought to work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This bio-chemical communication system has receptors throughout your nervous system and body in general. CBD interacts with this system by binding with those receptors to stimulate changes in our bodies.
For CBD and runners specifically, the relevant receptor is CB2, because this one deals with inflammation. CB2 receptors are most often found in the peripheral nervous system. Specifically, on the cells of our immune system. This allows them to help moderate and respond to inflammation and our immune response to pathogens.
See, what many people don’t realize or may not know, is that inflammation is an immune response. When your body detects a problem like an injury or infection, it triggers this response in order to help you heal more quickly. However, sometimes those responses cause us pain, last longer than they need to, or are not needed at all. Anti-inflammatories work to mitigate that overreaction or false response.
If you use CBD products to try and combat conditions of an overactive immune system (i.e. arthritis, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders or digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease), then you are tapping into your endocannabinoid system to change the signals that your nervous system is sending.
CBD and Runners: Other Potential Benefits
- Muscle Recovery – Similar to how CBD may help with joint pain, it can also help with sore muscles following an intense workout. Put simply, when you push your muscles during a workout you are tearing them and making them rub against one another. The body’s nervous and immune systems interpret this as damage and delivers a response that can cause inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and pain. To take advantage of CBD’s reported anti-inflammatory properties, many athletes will add CBD to their post workout supplements.
- Mood and Motivation Boost – We mentioned “runner’s high” at the beginning of the article. Although it is not completely understood, those feelings are theorized to be connected to the body’s endocannabinoid system. If that’s true, then this euphoric phenomenon would stem from the activation of the same receptors in the brain that CBD and THC bind to. As a result, many runners and other athletes consume CBD to help create similar feelings as a “runner’s high” in order to motivate themselves to push harder.
- Prevent Game Day Anxiety – Ever feel nervous or anxious before a big race or game? You’re not alone. Game day jitters are common and can often cause you to lose your focus. People have long used CBD to attempt to relieve both their anxiety and stress. Studies have also been undertaken (here’s a link to one) that have shown CBD to be effective at reducing social anxiety. Many runners report that consuming CBD before a high-pressure dramatically reduces their anxiety, allowing their nerves to reside naturally so they are better able to focus on the race instead of their nerves.
CBD for Runners
CBD for runners is a growing trend. Although there are more studies to be done, the research that has been undertaken points towards CBD helping in several key areas critical to a runner’s success. This is not to say that CBD will heal or cure any injury. However, if you make CBD a part of your daily running regimen, it can help you gain some support on the margins. It can potentially reduce that pain that may be slightly holding you back, reduce that anxiety that is causing you to lose some focus, and even possibly motivate you to push a little harder.
The best part? There are no negative side effects and so there is no harm in giving it a try. See if CBD is right for you.