Runners and the Miseducation of CBD

Welcome to the #RunPainFree Podcast.
Today, Coach Jessica Marie Rose Leggio talks with Scott Douglas, author of The Athlete’s Guide to CBD. They discuss what CBD is, what it’s not, what to look out for, and how it actually may benefit you as a runner.

Bio: Scott Douglas is a contributing writer for Runner’s World and the author/co-author of several books, including Running Is My Therapy, The Athlete’s Guide to CBD, Advanced Marathoning, and the New York Times bestsellers 26 Marathons and Meb for Mortals.

Difference between CBD and THC.
The first point we need to address is CBD being confused with marijuana. Yes, both CBD and THC are compounds found in cannabis plants, yet they have very different effects on the human body. From a technical classification point, a cannabis plant that has less than 0.3% THC is considered hemp.

Scott’s experience using CBD.

In 2018, Scott had heard of friends of his wife using CBD to help with sleeping. Having never been a great sleeper himself, he did a little experiment and started taking CBD before going to bed. After several weeks, Scott’s noticed his sleep had begun to improve. 

But what Scott was surprised to learn was that CBD was also aiding his recovery. He noticed it was easier to warm up into his run, and overall, his body didn’t feel as creaky and sore. As he says, he didn’t have “to old man it” at the beginning of a run. Another area he attributes CBD to is the pain he encountered from a meniscus tear. The tightness, discomfort, and pain had dissipated. 

“Think of CBD as allowing things in your body to happen, rather than CBD making things happen in your body.”

Scott points out that CBD didn’t cure his injury, he still has a meniscus tear, but it did reduce his overall pain. In doing so, he found it easier to do the strength and conditioning work needed for the meniscus tear. 

CBD is not a magic bullet, but it can be a tool for runners.

Scott suggests thinking of CBD providing a broad level benefit, but it needs to combine with other complementary practices. Much like taking a multi-vitamin can be beneficial for your health, but relying on it while eating junk food is hardly the best approach to nutrition. For example, CBD can aid sleep when done in conjunction with healthy sleep routines. But, if you take CBD and spend time on your phone before bed, you are unlikely to reap the benefits. 

Sidebar: Want to know about healthy sleep practices? The Science of Good Rest and Recovery

The Runners High and the Endocannabinoid System.

Typically, people think that its endorphins release in the body as the catalyst for the runner’s high. But Scott points out when you run, your body also releases more elevated levels of endocannabinoids. In essence, the endocannabinoid system gets into gear when your body is in a stressed state, such as running. 

Endocannabinoids are internal cannabinoids. Both CBD and THC are examples of external or exogenous cannabinoids. Whether endogenous or exogenous, the cannabinoids attach to receptors in your body. 

The result of the endocannabinoids attaching to receptors in your body system results in feeling good or “euphoria.” 

The limitations of research on CBD for runners.

While there is currently research focused on the health benefits of CBD, Scott notes that this is an area of study that the scientific community has not fully covered. Scott notes that up until 2018, hemp is still classified in the same category as marijuana. Consequently, research into CBD was minimal due to legality issues. 

While medical studies are being conducted on CBD, Scott highlight that these are typically for specific diseases. From a public health standpoint, how CBD may help runners recover is a much lower-order issue on the general research agenda. 

Take away lesson.

While Scott has personally found benefits from using CBD, he suggests approaching CBD, like anything you add to your training regime, with healthy skepticism. You need to be aware of things such as the quality of the product and appropriate dosages, Scott says, check your sources of information, identify if people have a particular vested interest in putting forward a specific position on CBD, mainly financial. 

While the science may not have confirmed the benefits of CBD in clinical trials for runners, Scott reminds us that many of our practices as long-distance runners may not have been proven in the lab, but yet athletes have found them valuable. So if you are interested in taking CBD to aid your running, put your critical thinking cap on, get reading, speak to other runners using it, and then you can weigh up how CBD may be beneficial for your running goals. 


01:00 – Intro and biography

02:20 – The difference between CBD and THC

08:51 – Scott’s experience using CBD

16:21 – The Runners High and the Endocannabinoid System

25:14 – Limitations of research on CBD


·     CBD does not get you high

·     CBD works by attaching to endocannabinoid receptors in your body

·     CBD may assist runners in recovery, sleep, muscle tension, and anxiety


Resources & Programs To Run Injury-Free:

#RunPainFree Bootcamp:

Podcast: The Science of Good Rest and Recovery With Nick Littlehales 

Visit Scott Douglas’s website and find links to all his books, including The Athlete Guide to CBD:

Thanks so much for tuning in this week. We hope today’s topic opened your mind about the medicinal benefits of CBD. 

Have you tried CBD and found it beneficial for your running? Please leave a note in the comments section below; we would love to hear!

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