Updated: Oct 20, 2020
According to a Emerging Infectious Diseases article provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2003 SARS outbreak led to posttraumatic stress syndrome among ~40% of people who recovered from the illness. For those survivors, PTSD is triggered by memories of their illness and the environment the illness created. Like the psychological reaction for the survivors of SARS- CoV-2 dealing with PTSD, those who’ve lived in fear of catching the novel coronavirus may be imminent.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has put a blunder in people’s routines and that includes their outlets for pain management. As a sufferer of chronic back pain, I regularly manage my pain pretty successfully through a combination of regular Bikram yoga, acupuncture, and massage. COVID-19 blew up that maintenance for me, so here I am dealing with a literal pain in my ass.
Elective surgeries have come to a standstill which means I had to further delay an already long overdue knee operation. For months, when loose cartilage slipped under my bones, I went limp in pain. I tore my Medial Patellofemoral Ligament (MPFL) when I dislocated my patella in November. When the pandemic shut everything down, I had already been more secluded and limited in my ability to exercise for months. The only exercise I could get for months was walking my dog, Sophie. Sophie is getting a good deal out of this.
In the past nearly 20 years of my life, I have never taken more than a couple of days off of exercising. As someone who had completed an IronMan 70.3 right before my injury, I needed some major distractions to keep myself from wallowing in depression during months of rest and recovery. I turned to working diligently on my job and on a side gig for fun. I put focus on my Painless project, an idea I coincidentally came up with about a month before my injury last October.
While Painless gave me purpose, I was not recharging my mental, emotional, and physical batteries. I became hyper-focused on work while neglecting my body. Going from training for an Ironman 70.3 every day to limited physical activity had me in the dumps. I was working long hours, but my focus was weak. Our mental health is so reliant on our physical health. Exercise and mobility is a daily haven for me and for most athletes. Within the athletic community, those who normally find solace in training, races, and athletic communities probably are also dealing with a lot of emotions because of the pandemic.
“Race day is stressful enough.”
When athletes opt to participate in events over the next few months, there will be an added level of anxiety around following strict, COVID-friendly protocol, and in maintaining safe distance from others throughout the race.
The time that COVID isolation has given back to us to explore mindfulness, journal, and practice religion should be taken advantage of, so that we come out of the pandemic loving ourselves and others more. This should have a lasting effect on reducing anxiety and improving physical performance.
I phoned my friend, Brenda McChesney, founder of Health Power of Hemp, to discuss how incorporating mindfulness and hemp into our routines may help reduce the mental and emotional side effects that are forthcoming. We also more specifically dive into how athletes may benefit from incorporating these techniques. Below is an abridged version of our interview. You may find the full interview on the Painless Podcast here.
Megan: What is mindfulness and how do you think that athletes may practice mindfulness to better their performance during peak training times?
Brenda: My go-to definition of mindfulness comes from the founder of Mindful-based Stress Reduction, John Kabat Zinn. He says that mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Sara Avant Stover, the author of The Way of the Happy Women and the author of The Book of SHE, advocates practicing this daily in a way that connects us to our mind, body, emotions, and intuition. What I learned through studying and practicing with her to become a certified meditation teacher is the importance of checking in with yourself daily, ideally first thing in the morning and again at night. During these check-ins, ask yourself how you are doing and be open-minded enough to listen to what your body, mind, emotions and intuition are teaching you. This four part check-in is a tool that you may use to train yourself to listen to yourself. We are more disconnected than we ever have been, which begs for us to become more connected to ourselves than we have ever been.
For athletes, it is even more critical because the chaos of daily life disrupts our focus and commitment to our endeavors. Learning to listen and connect with your intuition helps to remove the “should haves”, “could haves”, “would haves”, and instead promotes who we are so we may maximize the potential we have in our lives in ways that are revolutionary.
Megan: How may athletes incorporate cannabidiol (CBD) for recovery both during rest and during training to enhance performance? What are the different types of CDB out there? What are the regulations around the use of CBD in athletics?
Brenda: Just 2 years ago, The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from it's list of prohibited substances for professional athletes including the international athletic federation and the US Anti-doping agency. This is a tremendous step because they are validating that the research supports the use of CBD. The 2020 Olympics would have been the first to allow the use of CBD in athletes without consequence. Remember though, THC is still strictly prohibited for use by professional athletes. It is critically important to know what kind of CBD you are getting in your products. Full-spectrum CBD does contain some amount of THC, so you may run the risk of testing positive for THC by using such products. Broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolates are safe with no THC detection.
We are in a time when the recognition that CBD can support our body's natural production of endocannabinoids to promote homeostasis throughout our body is causing a huge shift in the world of health, wellness, and endurance athletes. The result of us not effectively caring for our bodies is that we stop producing the amount of endocannabinoids necessary to promote internal balance. Taking CBD mirrors our endocannabinoid system, giving you a myriad of benefits helping with emotional wellness, migraine relief, inflammation decrease, muscle and joint pain relief, sleep improvement, immune-enhancement , and more.
Megan: When is it most safe and effective to use CBD?
Brenda: There are several aspects of CBD that are really beneficial pre-workouts, post-workout, and ongoing for improved performance. According to a 2018 article originally posted in Molecule, CBD can help support chronic injury management and reduce inflammation within your bones and joints. It can be taken internally to receive a full systemic effect through your body as well as topically to specifically target areas that need a breath of relief. Post-injury and post-workout, CBD has become such a positive go-to for athletes and others. It helps to maintain fitness levels and recover quicker.
I like to refer to CBD as mindfulness in a bottle. The same daily practice of meditation and mindfulness that gives you the sense of groundedness and focus is what CBD tincture can offer. You may take it during training at night to improve sleep which then improves performance. You may use it in preparation for competition to optimize your physical, emotional and mental health. You may use it for the competition to support endurance when you have chronic injury and to prevent soreness and swelling. The combitionation of ingestible and topical CBD is your powerhouse of health and wellness.
Megan: How should athletes prevent getting tired from CBD during training?
There are certain thresholds of CBD that can make some people sleepy. It is hard to say what that threshold is for individuals without some trial and error. One general rule of thumb is not to try CBD for the first time on race day, at least not orally. Topically, it should not be a problem as it is not going to make you tired because it is targeting the receptors just underneath the skin. It is not going through the bloodstream the same way an oral supplement would.
I tell people to start with a consistent dosage for 3-5 days while doing the four part check-ins. This gives your body time to get comfortable with the foreign aid and to internalize how you feel. Before you take your CBD daily and then again about an hour after you consume or put on CBD ask, “how is my mind?”, “how is my body?”, “how are my emotions?”, “how is it my intuition?”, and “what are they telling me?”. This way you can begin to notice if it is enough or too much. If you are getting sleepy then you are probably taking too high of a dose. Everyone's sensitivity levels are different based on your body mass, metabolism, the foods you eat, your exercise, and more.
Mindfulness and CBD go hand in hand. If you are mindful, you can notice more quickly if the CBD is achieving what you hope it to achieve and the amazing ripple effect that CBD can have in other areas of your body and life that you didn't even intend it for. It is critical to tune in so that you know what the right amount is for you and how many times a day to take it.
Brenda McChesney Min is an international health and wellness speaker, a hemp health pioneer, a Way of the Happy Woman Coach, SHE Yoga and Meditation instructor, author and national expert in the field of family support. In 2018, she launched Healing Power of Hemp, a mindfulness-based hemp health and wellness company dedicated to making hemp health accessible, affordable, and impactful. She is currently authoring the following publications: Healing Power of Hemp Guide to Hemp Health; Healing Power of Hemp Daily CBD Tracker; Ignite Your Zen – 30-Day Guide to Mindfulness-Based Hemp Health; and Naked CBD! An Infused Cookbook.