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A Runner’s Guide to CBD

Written by Lance Griffin

Can runners benefit from cannabidiol (CBD)? Many in the trail running and ultramarathon communities have adopted CBD into their routines. Whether elite competitor or weekend jogger, find out how CBD can enhance your running.


Many runners use CBD to facilitate recovery and manage achy knees, sore muscles, and tender joints, as failure to heal after training leads to burnout or injury. CBD can help boost runner recovery via the following:

  • CBD can help with chronic pain, arthritic pain, and nerve pain, common issues for runners. [1, 2] Transdermal application of an infused lotion or topical cream is an effective way to target problem areas.
  • Anti-inflammatory. CBD has systemic and localized anti-inflammatory properties. [3, 4] Some runners use CBD as a natural alternative to traditional medications like ibuprofen.
  • A runner who pushes their limits can experience nausea, and CBD may be effective in suppressing nausea and even vomiting. [5]
  • Adequate sleep is essential for optimal recovery following training. While anecdotally it has helped runners get better sleep, greater research is needed in this area.


Some runners utilize CBD prior to training or performance:

  • CBD can help manage pain and inflammation. It also reduces cortisol, the body’s major stress hormone and physiological limiter.[6] Runners may find that CBD boosts stamina and allows them to go the extra mile. However, it is important to train properly and heed pain signals to avoid injury.
  • Anxiety/Stress Reduction. CBD helps alleviate anxiety by acting on serotonin receptors in the brain.[7] Thus, runners can use CBD prior to a training session or competition to stay calm.
  • Depending on the dose, CBD can promote wakefulness and focus.[8]
  • Runner’s “High.” The endocannabinoid system helps create the positive, performance-enhancing feelings of runner’s high.[9] CBD may help runners get in the zone.

Many runners have turned to CBD and with good reason. Topical creams are especially popular since they can target specific parts of the body.

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  1. Burns TL & Ineck JR. Cannabinoid analgesia as a potential new therapeutic option in the treatment of chronic pain. Ann Pharmacother. 2006;40(2):251-260.
  2. Hammell DC, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Eur J Pain. 2016;20(6):936-948.
  3. Juknat A, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of the cannabidiol derivative dimethylheptyl-cannabidiol-Studies in BV-2 microglia and encephalitogenic T cells. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2016;27(3):289-296.
  4. Nagarkatti P, et al. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349.
  5. Rock EM, et al. Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, attenuates vomiting and nausea-like behaviour via indirect agonism of 5-HT(1A) somatodendritic autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Br J Pharmacol. 2012;165(8):2620-2634.
  6. Zuardi AW, et al. Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers. Braz J Med Biol Res. 993;26(2):213-217.
  7. Blessing EM, et al. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836.
  8. Murillo-Rodríguez E, et al. Potential effects of cannabidiol as a wake-promoting agent. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2014;12(3):269-272.
  9. Ray LB. Cannabinoids provide the runners reward. Science. 2015;350(6262):784-785.

About the author

Lance Griffin

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