Self-Help Patrol: 420-Friendly Fitness
Can working out high transform my body and mind? I got stoned and tried five different workout classes to find out.
The closest I’ve ever come to exercising stoned was during my freshman year of high school, when I took a rip off a six-foot bong and went to softball practice. Needless to say, it didn’t pan out well for me. I was so disoriented that I missed most balls that were hit my way, and one even hit me in the face. That was the first and last time I ever mixed pot and fitness.
Recently working out high has turned into a trend. Everyone from marathon runners to yoga moms seems to agree: You get a better workout when you’re stoned. Stoners are getting into exercise, too, and have even started an event series called 420 Games dedicated to “destigmatizing millions of responsible, positive cannabis users through athletic achievement.” (MEL Films attended their race in Los Angeles in March.)
“When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form,” elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky told Men’s Journal. In a column for The Cut, Allison P. Davis talked up the virtues of “Bowlcycle” (stoned SoulCycle). Because of the difficulties researchers have getting access to marijuana to study its effects on our health, we don’t have definitive answers to these questions; only tales of personal experience. That’s why I decided to dip my toe in the stoned workout waters and try various classes while under the influence.
I bought an eighth of Pineapple Express from my trusted weed store after the budtender recommended it for focus-driven activities. Then I signed up for a variety of morning workouts via ClassPass (with the exception of SoulCycle, which isn’t available via ClassPass) to see how I fared stoned versus stone-cold sober.
Class 1: Sweat Garage
Sweat Garage ($25 for a one-hour class) is basically Barry’s Bootcamp on crack. Half the class is spent doing sprints, endurance hills and half-mile runs on a treadmill; the other half is circuit-training floor exercises (like squats, shoulder presses, lunges and bench hop-overs). Each class is organized differently, so you never have any idea what exactly you’re getting into. It’s the hardest workout class I do, which made it the perfect class to try high. I smoked half a joint, got blazed as shit and headed in, praying I wouldn’t fall off the treadmill.
Stretching before class felt life-changing — like I was truly feeling my body for the first time.
Doing bench jump-overs in the middle of the warmup, it became clear to me that I’d entered a dissociative state, where my body and mind were functioning as two different entities. The physical activity was challenging but I was breezing through it. My body was going through all the necessary motions without registering any muscle pain whatsoever. I was in the zone like never before.
Smoking first thing in the morning really does a number on you, and I was way too stoned to speak or make eye contact with Derek (the instructor), the check-in girl, or basically any of my fellow exercisers (who were likely fueled by bee pollen, turmeric smoothies and Ritalin).
A wave of paranoia washed over me when an older man got on the treadmill next to mine because I assumed he was trying to hit on me, but then I realized he was gay and I calmed down. Aside from that, there were no other negatives to report.
I credit my success in this class both to the weed and to Derek’s excellent taste in music and incredible dancing abilities. When he announced that we were going to do a 90-second sprint, I sprinted 10 miles per hour for the whole 90 seconds while he fully raved behind me, giving me life. At the end of the sprint, I experienced what can only be likened to an orgasmic release, perhaps because pot makes me horny, but honestly, who knows.
Class 2: LIT Method
“LIT” stands for Low Impact Training, and the $28, 50-minute class switches between using resistance bands and what they call a “sexy” water rowing machine that lights up red when you use it. It’s also taught by two instructors instead of one.
Because I’d never been to a LIT Method class before, I decided to get only mildly lit beforehand. I’ve signed up for and missed this class at least three times, so finally showing my face for the first time stoned (and a couple minutes late) was a bold move, but it was now or never. I stashed my shit, hopped on a water rower and started rowing away.
Overall I felt pretty focused during the class. I think the pot made me hyper-aware of my form during the resistance band exercises, and since I was new to LIT Method, my mind didn’t have a chance to wander because I was trying really hard to pay attention.
While the male instructor lead the class from a water rower in the middle of the room, the female instructor acted as both a demonstrator and a hype girl. To try and get people amped up during the more intense moments on the rower, she’d pound on it like it was some sort of water drum. I tried my best to give off “please do not approach my water rower and aggressively beat it” vibes, but she didn’t pick up on that and went to town on my rower, which really freaked me out.
Under sober circumstances I’m a focused exerciser; I go to class ready to work hard and sweat, so that’s what I do. When I’m stoned, I’m way more sensitive and easily annoyed by people’s antics (especially when they’re trying to recreate some sort of Venice Beach drum circle), which is why I usually prefer to smoke weed alone, on my couch, in front of the TV.
Class 3: SoulCycle
SoulCycle ($30 per class) is a super intense spin class with an avid, cultlike following. It’s bougie and expensive and chic and intimidating and I don’t do it often because it’s not on ClassPass, but when I do, I fucking love it. It’s like an emotional growth workshop where you burn calories, have realizations and maybe cry. Major.
Pot has a tendency to make me heavily emotional, which I assumed would, in turn, make me even more obsessed with SoulCycle than I normally am. I smoked a joint in the car on the way to my 7 a.m. class, ready to kill it.
My body and mind disconnected, and while I pumped away on the bike, I went into a highly introspective state of mind where I’m not quite sure what I was doing, but I know I wasn’t really paying attention to anything. That being said, I burned over 400 calories during the 45-minute class, so I must have been doing something right. It’s awesome to think that you can just go through the motions while mentally checking out and achieve a great workout, so kudos to marijuana for that.
Trying to get to SoulCycle class on time already causes me enough anxiety, because they won’t let people in late and there are several steps you have to go through before you’re in the class. To get to the location I chose, you have to park in a multilevel garage, take an elevator, check in, rent shoes, buy water, store your stuff in a locker and adjust your bike. Doing all of this stoned is quite honestly the worst. While I attempted to program my locker code, I had flashbacks to the first day of my junior year of high school when I smoked a blunt before my first class and almost mentally imploded trying to figure out my locker combination.
Thankfully I was able to steel my nerves, remind myself I’m a different person now and enter a combination I knew I’d remember. However, I wasn’t able to quell my anxiety about my lateness and convinced myself I didn’t have enough time to pee before the class started. I figured that whatever pee was inside of me I’d just sweat out because that’s how the human body works, right? Sitting on my bike waiting for the class to start, I realized I would definitely have had time to pee, and cursed my life because now it was absolutely too late.
The music was subpar. I’d chosen David’s class because on the SoulCycle website he said Kanye West was his favorite artist. I figured this would mean that he’d blast at least one song from The Life of Pablo and all I’ve wanted to do since that album came out is to work out to it. I’m a bad bitch and (while I wasn’t exactly at Equinox) I am definitely a freak and I was ready to celebrate that on a stationary bike while Highlights blasted at top volume! But alas, David began the class with “Family Business” and the rest of the playlist consisted of hits from 2013, which completely infuriated me.
SoulCycle classes usually make me cry, and I love the combination of burning calories while also experiencing an intense emotional release. But when David got to the cry section of the class, preaching about how “it’s never too late to change” and assuring everyone that it’s “okay to cry in here,” I felt nothing.
I passed by David on the way out of the class, and thanked him because that seemed like the polite thing to do, and then we engaged in an awkward, sweaty hug. I would never hug anyone after a workout class sober.
Class 4: Rise Nation
Stoned SoulCycle was the turning point in my pot-smoking exercise regimen that convinced me that I hated working out high and never wanted to do it again. However, I still had two more classes to try, so in order to get through both of those and avoid having to wake and bake for two more days, I scheduled them back-to-back. First up was one of my favorite types of cardio classes, Rise Nation ($26 per class), a 30-minute “experience” that takes place on a stationary climbing machine that mimics the movement of climbing up a ladder.
The classroom has these crazy LED lights on the ceiling that coordinate to each song, and with the exception of one class where an instructor played a live version of Ray of Light, the music is generally pretty on-point.
I figured it would be a delight to be stoned in there, and I was right. I got really into dancing on the climber, especially during the rips (a move where you pull down for a long, fast stroke for each beat of the song). The movements on the machine complement the dance party vibe of the class itself. And the rave element of the LED lights and the music kept my mind from wandering too much as I climbed away—a total of 3,200 feet during the class, a personal record.
Being high broke down my inhibitions and unleashed a side of me I’d never experienced before: the grunter. I have morphed into a person who grunts and moans under her breath during the challenging moments of my workout classes. This trend began in this specific class and hasn’t stopped since. I grunt now. Deal with it.
Class 5: Training Mate
Training Mate ($25 per class) is a 45-minute circuit training class that is owned and operated by hot Australians. The class is fast-paced, and consists of three nine-minute stations where the exercises are broken down into 45-second increments where you do maximum reps of things like jump-lunges, Bosu burpees and deadlifts; take a two-minute break; then move on to a new station with three new exercises. At the end of the class everyone does nine minutes of ab work while the instructor makes dirty jokes.
I experienced the mind-body disconnect and burned more than 250 calories during the lower-body workout class I’d signed up for. I also got insanely in the zone when it came to focusing on my form.
After class, I even took time to use a foam roller to stretch out because although it’s painful to roll out your IT bands, doing so stoned makes it a “hurts so good” kind of pain, and it’s super beneficial for your muscles and fascia.
Being stoned and having to work out had put me in the worst mood of my life. Normally I am living, laughing and loving when I’m high, but that’s because I’m horizontal, as opposed to participating in strenuous physical activity. I usually get a kick out of all the Training Mate instructors and their jokes, shouting and high-fives, but Kayne’s chipper, upbeat attitude only made me feel all the more sour. I glared at him throughout class and only when prompted did I begrudgingly high-five him.
I felt guilty about my bad attitude, especially when Kayne came up to me after class and asked me if I was a trainer because he “rarely sees people with such perfect form.” I might have had great form, but I was sick of feeling so bitchy all the time. I just wanted to love working out again and stop being so pissed off at the instructors.
Did marijuana help me perform better at the gym? Maybe a little. Was getting stoned to work out worth it? No. The most shocking discovery of working out stoned was that it made me look forward to working out sober even more. I’d pushed myself to new physical limits while stoned that I hadn’t known I could accomplish sober. So now, whether I’m on a treadmill, a bicycle or simply doing weighted reps, I try even harder.
If you’re a late-afternoon or early-evening exerciser, then smoking weed might be just the thing you need to enhance your workout. But if you’re like me, a nighttime smoker whose morning workouts keep you high during the day, you probably don’t need that extra push to get you through.