I Tried CBD For 14 Days. Here's What Went Down.

I Tried CBD For 14 Days. Here's What Went Down.
Presented by Spartan Training®

Sponsored by our partner, Lazarus Naturals

As a curious skeptic, athlete and health-obsessed writer by trade, I watch wellness trends roll in hot with big claims, soft science and *supposedly cutting-edge therapies. Some earn enough street cred to stick around (activated charcoal and infrared saunas), and some fall off the radar (goat yoga and sleep robots). CBD, it seems, is in the wellness industry’s spotlight now. 

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a natural compound found in the cannabis plant family—generally sourced from hemp. It’s the lesser known cousin to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound in marijuana that gets you high. CBD, however, is not intoxicating. Allegedly, it helps support your body’s natural response to stress, inflammation, sleep and typical soreness from working out, among other things.

CBD is pitched all over mainstream media as a ‘cure-all’, though we have little data yet to prove it, according to this analysis by The New York Times. Still, you can find it served up in dog treats, balms, supplements, tinctures, lollipops, teas and more. The FDA recently approved the first CBD-infused drug for children with epilepsy syndromes, and scientists across the board are discussing the possible health benefits of CBD. Not to mention, consumer interest has only skyrocketed. According to AARP, CBD has become popular with baby boomers who struggle with normal age-related aches. And Forbes reported that by the end of this year, the CBD market will grow to a $2.1 billion enterprise—a 700% increase since 2016. Fad? I think not. 

However, while we wait for scientific research and FDA regulations to emerge, anecdotal evidence is all we really have to go on. Intrigued by the widely-touted health benefits of CBD, I decided to give it a whirl for 14 days. Truth be told, my curiosity was partly professional (I needed field research for this story), and partly personal. Thanks to a bummer hip injury, I’m on a months-long healing quest to try the latest therapies in total-body wellness.

Here’s How I Got Hurt (Cue the Doomsday Soundtrack)

One evening last July, right after my 30th birthday—I swear, everything hurts after 30—I was powering through interval 11 of 13 during a 100-meter hill workout in the Rocky Mountains, near my home in Vail, CO. 

My eyes stung with sweat and sunscreen. My arms pumped with purpose. My breath was quick, but even, accustomed to mileage and altitude after two solid months of training. I was set to run the Continental Divide 30K Trail Race in less than five weeks. 

As I charged up the steep, buttery single track to finish strong, I felt a sharp bolt of pain surge through my right hip and heard a faint pop. It caught me off guard, and I did stop for a beat. But with just two intervals to go, and feeling okay(ish), I shook it off and finished the workout...like a genius. Sigh. 

A week later, I could barely put weight on my right leg. 

To this day, I still can’t pinpoint exactly how it happened. According to the doc, I had partially torn my right pectineus, a tiny internal hip flexor—probably due to a mix of overtraining and getting old(er). If I raced, she said, I could tear it fully and potentially need surgery. In an instant, I went from hero to zero... from bagging 16-milers up mountain sides to the couch. I was heartbroken. 

Hip flexor injuries are tough to bounce back from, and a pain in the butt. Literally. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, injury to soft tissue in the hip sets off a kinetic reaction in surrounding muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstrings and quads, which then overcompensate for the injury and fall into fatigue. This makes it difficult to isolate the primary cause of pain and dysfunction, and makes treatment tricky. 

Regardless, my hip wasn’t going to heal without help. And I sure as hell was not going under the knife, if I could avoid it. So I shed some frustrated tears, muttered some colorful profanity and faced the music. I sold my 30K bib on Facebook Marketplace and dove head first into any therapy that might get me trail running ASAP. Fast forward through seven months of aggressive dry needling, physical therapy, yoga, infrared saunas, cryotherapy, deep-tissue massages, and FINALLY, last month, (drum roll, please!) I got my PT’s blessing to lace up my kicks and get back to hacking it. 

hemp plant

Related: Can CBD Help Muscle Recovery? Here's the Deal

How I Added CBD to My Running Routine

Together, he and I crafted a temporary training plan. My target is to consistently nail a pain-free, fast 5K on flat ground before I transition back to trails. This distance-based approach gives me time to reacquaint my hip with the biomechanics of running. (Sadly, no rocks or roots, for now.) 

I also started taking CBD to see if it’d help soothe the unavoidable aches of going couch-to-concrete. In the interest of sustainability, I opted for products by Lazarus Naturals, an employee-owned farm and manufacturer of CBD products in Oregon. The company grows pesticide-free, Non-GMO hemp and extracts CBD oil, creating and testing formulations in house. It then sends all CBD product to a third-party facility to test for heavy metals, potency and purity, ensuring top-tier goods from plant to package. (I liked that.)

I’m already accustomed to taking daily multivitamins, so I added the CBD Energy Blend 25mg Capsules to my morning supplement routine. I also introduced 50 milliliters of the Blood Orange CBD Tincture to my nutrition regimen, taking it sublingually under the tongue around midday, and again before bed. (Occasionally, I add it to my decaf coffee or après-workout smoothie.) Finally, for extra topical support, I integrated the CBD Massage Oil into my recovery practice, to help soothe soreness. 

After 14 days of using CBD, as well as alternating gentle jogs (ranging from 0.5-2 miles) with active rest and cross training, here’s what I’ve learned so far. 

1. Just Because I Don’t Get Stoned From CBD Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Feel Different

Honestly, it’s wild, but I do feel different. In a good way—essentially lighter and less stressed out. Maybe it’s the endorphin highs from running that I just don’t get from Downward Facing Dog, or perhaps it really is the CBD. Taking the CBD Energy Blend capsules each morning gives me a welcome, subtle caffeine boost, contrary to my frenzied double-shot latte history. (I’ve been off of caffeinated-coffee sauce since 2015.) Overall, I feel clearer, like I’m experiencing less brain fog. I’m also not usually a morning runner, preferring to pound pavement at dusk. But after introducing the Energy capsules, I feel energized and eager to run soon after I wake up.

2. CBD Oil Makes for a Soothing Full-Body Rub Down

Every runner knows that starting from ground zero hurts. Sure, it’s the "good pain" of total-body fatigue after you’ve kicked your butt back into gear. But it’s pain nonetheless, and inevitable. By the third or fourth run, I started to feel that familiar tightness in my legs, hips, core and shoulders. 

Enter: CBD Massage Oil. After each hot shower, I sit on a towel on my bathroom floor and work the oil into my muscles, targeting trigger points with my thumbs. On active rest days, I rub-down with CBD and use a lacrosse ball or foam roller to dig into tender areas and amplify myofascial release. Trouble spots where I typically struggle with chronic tightness and pain (my piriformis, shins, IT bands, psoas and scapulae) feel more supple. Note to self: I should’ve started using CBD massage oil long ago.

3. I’m Getting the Best Zzzs Of My Life, Consistently

Lately, I hit the hay and zonk out immediately. I’m usually a night owl who takes forever to fall asleep. My killer newfound rest could be thanks to natural exhaustion from running. But, I was already in good shape before I began this experiment and I'm only tackling short distances… so I suspect the CBD has something to do with it. That said, I’m not a trainer. So I called Spartan Race's Director of Fitness, Sam Stauffer, for his take. 

“I can’t say it’s the CBD for sure, but I do know it’s a good thing you’re sleeping well,” he told me. “Whether you’re training or rehabbing an injury, along with fuel and hydration, sleep plays a huge role in your body’s recovery process. It’s your body’s opportunity to buckle down and replenish. Active rest and mobility work are important too, but don't hold a candle to a good night’s sleep and the right fuel.” It’s not that you have to sleep eight hours, he says, rather you need quality sleep. “Lots of people don’t get the REM time they need. They toss and turn, drink water, get up and go to the bathroom, stare at their phone until they fall asleep, and wake up exhausted.” 

(Been there, done that.) But interestingly, a recent study published in The Permanente Journal found that when 72 subjects, who regularly experienced poor sleep, took 25 milligrams of CBD daily in capsule form for a month, 66.7% of participants reported sleeping better. Coincidence that I, too, have been sleeping like a champ since I started taking CBD? Maybe. Maybe not. 

CBD: Love it or Leave It?—My Takeaway

Look, I’m not saying CBD cured my hip injury. It’ll take time before I can amp up my mileage, or even consider a race. And as a skeptical wellness journalist, until I see the science to back it up, I think anyone claiming to sell a magic pill or one-size-fits-all solution is bogus. But I can say, even after just two weeks of taking CBD, I feel good. I’m certainly more energized and focused by day, and relaxed by night. My post-run aches seem manageable, for the most part. And I haven’t experienced any tweaky pain indicative of a potential reinjury, thank god. I’m hyper aware that I’m running on eggshells, so to speak, as I ease back into this. But I ‘spose high risk/high reward is the name of the LD trail-running game. So will I keep training with CBD? As long as I feel like this, hell-to-the-YES. 

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