Improved sleep, training motivation, and reduced anxiety are just some ways in which marijuana can help climbers.
Long-time rock climbers know that it isn’t a matter if you suffer an injury, but when. Any significant time climbing inevitably results in scrapes, dislocated fingers, tendonitis, and more serious setbacks. Don’t get most climbers started on the dreaded “climber’s elbow,” reminiscent of “tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow.” Participating in a sport like climbing means taking recovery very seriously, which is where cannabis comes in.
Marijuana and climbing have gone hand in hand since the sport was born in Yosemite Valley. That relationship remains strong nowadays, as the two countercultural forces were kind of made for each other. A 2015 Climbing Magazine anonymous survey of professional climbers a couple years ago, in which most said they used it for recovery while others said they sometimes climbed while using cannabis.
“A lot of the big names in climbing smoke weed recreationally,” one anonymous pro climber said.
Others added they only used marijuana as “a recovery tool,” as it makes a “remarkable pain killer.”
A deeply-researched 2011 review conducted by scientists, including members of the World Anti-Doping Agency and National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that “the use of cannabis as doping will not help to gain a competitive edge by any means.” But the review also highlighted how cannabis can help athletes deal with anxiety in high-pressure situations—climbing includes plenty of high-pressure situations—and “play a major role in the extinction of fear memories” from traumatic athletic events, such as suffering a tough whipper or something more serious.
“Cannabis improves sleep and recovery after an event, reduces anxiety and fear and aids the forgetting of negative events such as bad falls and so forth,” researchers wrote. “Cannabis enhances sensory perception, decreases respiratory rate and increases heart rate; increased bronchodilation may improve oxygenation of the tissues.”
Marijuana can also help you in the gym during training sessions. A University of Colorado study published earlier this year concluded that using marijuana before exercise “increases motivation” as well as “enhances recovery from exercise.” Recovery is huge, particularly in sports brutal on the body like climbing. Professional athletes in football, basketball, hockey, fighting, and even golf have all come out in favor of using cannabis as a recovery tool, with some saying CBD is enough.
More than those other sports, though, safety is of the utmost importance while climbing. Combining marijuana and climbing should be done with serious intention and without harming belay partners or fellow climbers. An online survey conducted by Training Beta, a website dedicated to rock climbing training, explored how readers felt about the relationship between climbing and cannabis. Among 1,462 respondents, 47% said they weren’t comfortable with high belayers and 46% responded that it depended on the setting and person belaying them.
According to Training Beta, one anonymous response summed up the majority view like this: “I’m neutral about its use. Marijuana affects everyone differently, if you perform better after smoking, rock on. If you don’t, don’t use it when climbing. I think everyone should be able to make the decision for themselves based on their knowledge of how it affects him or her.”