By Anne-Marie Fischer Moodie
For personal trainer and wellness consultant Greg Horton, fitness is about looking past traditional models of exercise to engage the whole person rather than going for a specific physical “look.” For some of his clients, cannabis plays an important role in helping people achieve their optimal mental, emotional, and physical health and wellness.
Greg Horton provides fitness solutions, personal training, and wellness plans for individuals of all abilities under his brand, The Casual Athlete (TCA), based in London, Ontario, Canada.
Horton primarily works with people with physical disabilities, and when appropriate, his approach includes cannabis consumption as a supplement and aid for one’s journey to maximum health in mind and body.
Understanding the Approach to Cannabis in Wellness
Horton’s experiences with cannabis haven’t always been positive or productive, which is why he brings a particular sense of wisdom to his clients.
He began consuming cannabis at age 18. What he thought was a habit, he realized, became more of a medication.
“At the time, I thought using cannabis [was] a pastime,” he explains, “but in retrospect, I used it as an escape and a self-administered medication for anxiety and depression.”
“I had very little understanding of the effects, strains, dosage, or sourcing of what I was smoking and it resulted in major interference in my ambitions and goals,” he said.
Through this reflection, Horton saw an opportunity to use cannabis more intentionally, rather than curb it entirely.
Regulating Cannabis for Well-Being
Horton re-introduced cannabis into his life after he was diagnosed with PTSD, a decision driven by the emerging discourse on the effects of the plant on the disorder.
Horton takes the “less is more” approach; prefers to limit consumption to one-to one-and-a-half joints per day. He finds that lower doses help him control anxiety attacks, regulate his moods, and give him the mental clarity he needs to pursue his interests.
Applying What He’s Learned
Horton’s passion is people.
Through The Casual Athlete, he applies a consultation method that invites his clients to share life stories and insights. He then creates a wellness plan that addresses the overall mental, emotional, and physical needs of each, individual client.
“Many of the people who are engaging the fitness community are struggling with concerns surrounding weight, disability and/or self-image,” Greg says when discussing his interest in carving out a fitness niche for people with disabilities, “It’s easy to forget that there are many people with disabilities that need a fitness plan.”
With an educational and professional background including work as a Developmental Service Worker and continuing education in Recreation Therapy, Greg serves these individuals with a model that looks past the traditional methods of fitness and attempts to engage the whole individual beyond the physical “look” they’re trying to achieve.
Greg sees cannabis as one of the most effective supplements for fitness for those with physical limitations due to disability. This is best demonstrated through the progress of his client, Jon Davis.
Davis was in a motor vehicle accident seven years ago, which rendered him fully quadriplegic. At first, a lot of negativity surrounded his ability to recover and he worried about what skills he would be able to regain, leading to a lifelong emotional struggle as he tried to overcome his physical limitations.
Davis is a medical cannabis user. Cannabis has helped bring him into a positive emotional state before each workout. When he mentioned this to Horton, it prompted both to further investigate the connection between cannabis use and its effect on fitness.
When used pre-workout, cannabis helped Davis’ spasms decrease dramatically, and improved his muscular endurance. His drive to succeed in his workouts intensified, and most importantly, he felt his mind begin to heal through his positive feelings of motivation and physical progress.
Cannabis helps him be stronger, and more in control. “My body does what I want, when I want,” he added, “It improves the pathways from my brain to my muscles and nerves.”
Davis is his own guinea pig when it comes to finding products that work for him. “Knowing the [right] balance of edibles, smoking, and the combination is important,” he said.
“Products like an automatic joint roller for people like me would make life so much easier” Davis added, “ a doobie is so much easier compared to bowls.”
With the help of Horton, The Casual Athlete, and cannabis, Davis can now bicep curl 30 pounds, bench press, and move his legs. He is preparing to go kayaking this summer.
Horton said, “Without cannabis, this process would have been torturously drawn out.”
But not everyone understands the value of The Casual Athlete, explained Davis. “In the eyes of other people though, well they shut us down. TCA uses techniques and exercises you wouldn’t usually see,” he added. “More focus on function has actually allowed me to do things I wasn’t able to do previously. Anyone in my situation needs that.”
Where Do Fitness and Cannabis Have Limits?
Horton matches his clients’ interest in cannabis with the type of exercise they’ll be doing. “Oxygen is a natural and essential fuel for physical performance and anything taking up space that should otherwise be carbon dioxide or oxygen will negatively affect performance,” he explains. This is why he wouldn’t recommend smoking cannabis before a cardio-heavy workout.
With his own clients, he recommends the use of edibles low in sugar in conjunction with an overall dietary plan for high performance or injured athletes, noting their anti-inflammatory effects.
When discussing cannabis access, Horton encourages his clients to explore the legal markets. He recognizes that there are various beneficial strains and methods of consumption that are targeted specifically to the athletic experience.
His Hope for Cannabis’ Future
For the fitness and cannabis communities, Greg wants to use TCA as a platform to urge people not to just think of able-bodied people when thinking of cannabis.
“I cannot underline enough the usefulness of cannabis to help otherwise severely disabled persons… be able,” he said. “I have seen a man with spasms so hard it can throw him off his hospital table calm because of cannabis’ antispasmodic effects,” he added. “I have seen cannabis loosen the muscles of a man who endures Cerebral Palsy so he can hold a door open for abled-bodied patrons.”
When reflecting back on his own journey, he sees his very personal experiences manifest in his work with clients. “I have had emotional breakthroughs with people suffering from PTSD because they had their emotional barriers weakened by the mood enhancing effects,” he added. “I understand the strife and challenges these people face, and couldn’t bear to see what they’d endure if cannabis was not available to them.”
Follow Greg Horton’s blog at TheCasualAthleteBlog.wordpress.com
Keep up to date with Horton’s work and stay engaged with his approach to wellness on his Facebook page Facebook.com/TheCasualAthlete