Amy Diiullo has been playing sports and working out since high school...and she's been smoking marijuana about that long, as well. She studied exercise science in college, and as she learned the technical aspects of working out and being healthy, she realized that cannabis could help her achieve her fitness goals.
Now she's running the Fit for 420 program in Denver. We recently sat down with her to learn more about how to work out with marijuana.
Westword: How did you first start using cannabis in your workouts?
Amy Diiullo: I’ve always been very active. I was an athlete in high school and ran track, cross-country and did tennis and a whole bunch of other sports, and I also used cannabis recreationally. I don’t think when you’re younger that there might be some synergistic effects there — that you might be using cannabis because you’re sore or having trouble sleeping, or that it could be related to activity. I got more involved with it in college on the science side — a very physiology-based practicum of learning how exercise affects your body, which then translates to how cannabis can affect your body. So when we talk about cannabis or THC being a bronchodilator, what that means is it opens up the blood vessels in your lungs to receive potentially more oxygen. So there’s a direct correlation between understanding some of the physiological effects of exercise and the physiological effects of cannabis in the body and the different receptors.
For me, it just became a natural marriage. If you're sore, using topicals or a hash bath is a really easy solution, but it also translated to asking: How can this affect my workout itself?
How did that process work? You hear about cannabis being used for sleep or for pain, but using it to work out is a relatively new concept.
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I break it down into three different phases: I do a pre-workout phase, a during-workout phase, and a post-workout phase or recovery. As a pre-workout, your main objectives are to get your body primed and ready for the exertion of a workout. You are raising your blood pressure, raising your heart rate, you're sweating, so it's more of an uplifting feeling you're looking for, and you're looking for something fast-acting. So when I choose cannabis as a pre-workout, I generally vape. I vape distillate because it's high THC and really, the effect I'm looking for is the stimulus to keep my attention focused. It is also an analgesic, which means it reduces pain, so if you're going into a weight-lifting session and you know you're going to lift heavy that day, if you use distillate beforehand, it can sometimes mitigate some of the pain that you're experiencing during your session and push through your full sets for that exercise.
You do always have to use caution with any exercise activity; you want to consult a doctor before you begin any program. When you look at pushing yourself, there's good pain and there's bad pain, and having a trainer or physician help you determine what that is is really important.
That might be a little weird for people — going to their doctor and saying they're going to start incorporating cannabis into their workouts.
And for good reason! A lot of physicians are educated that cannabis is a drug and it has certain bad side effects, so they'll tell you it increases blood pressure, it increases heart rate and it does all these things that could be a very negative effect — but on the other hand, it could have a very positive effect. For someone who's in condition — a healthy, active individual — it can enhance your physical experience. With running, it's a great tool. You think of that term "runner's high," and you know when you hit that zone it feels amazing — like you can run forever. That's actually an interaction between your brain chemistry, your body, what your endocrine system system is doing during the act of running. By consuming cannabis prior to a cardiovascular event like that, you can actually hit that runner's high, that endocannabinoid high, quicker, because you're priming your endocannabinoid system and the receptors in your brain and also your peripheral receptors in your body. That way you can have a really great run or a really great interval workout and really push to that next training zone you're looking to hit in your progressions.
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So how has your workout changed since you started incorporating cannabis?
It's become more organized. I have more structure to what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. By consuming cannabis beforehand, I know I'm probably either going for a really great interval run or I'm going to go do a structured lift and I know why I'm doing it. I think what's changed more is it's more creative. I use social media a lot and I follow a lot of fitness leaders on there, so I incorporate fresh new moves in my workouts. Just having that experience of cannabis, too, is more creative in how you move your body in space. You're very mindful.
I think that's really key to a holistic view of working out: It's not just about gaining muscle mass or benching your body weight; it's about your body being as optimally healthy and synergistic and balanced as it can be.