As Peloton home workouts have skyrocketed in popularity, a growing group of users are riding high.
'Pelostoners' say cannabis can enhance their workout experience and boost performance.
The online community aims to destigmatize the drug as it becomes increasingly accessible.
Sarah Houlston, a former college athlete from Virginia, once thought Peloton was "the stupidest thing" she had ever seen in her life. She didn't see the point of spending so much money - $1,895 for the bike, plus $39 per month for a subscription - just to spin in her house.
But upon relocating from Virginia to Canada, Houlston panic-bought one of the high-tech home-workout bikes, uncertain about the gym access in her area.
Then came a devastating personal tragedy and, months later, a global pandemic.
One night, seeking some relief, Houlston added a mixture of THC and CBD drops to her water bottle before getting on the bike for a Lizzo-themed ride helmed by the instructor Robin Arzón.
Unlike previous attempts to work out where she was caught up in pain from old athletic injuries and anxiety, Houlston felt she was able to be fully present and rediscover the euphoria she once got from exercising. It also helped her confront the emotional baggage of the previous year.
"I lost it on the bike, just broke down crying. It was this weird moment that I was able to accept what was happening," she told Insider.
Houlston is one of more than 2,000 Pelostoners, a passionate Facebook community that has grown into a familial lifeline amid the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic.
United by their enthusiasm for both spinning and getting high, Pelostoners say they subscribe to the belief that cannabis is beneficial for mental and physical health.
Pelostoners are 'finding their people' through the online community
There are countless member-led Peloton Facebook groups for seemingly every interest and identity, from Disney Peloton Riders to PeloVegans.
While Peloton's cannabis community has yet to match the reach of booze-centric Facebook groups like Pelowinos (15,000 members), it's tightly knit and attracts new people every day, members say.
Many users first stumbled upon Pelostoned through its sister community, Broke Ass Bitches of Peloton, said Val Rogers, who moderates both groups.
BABS, as it's affectionately known, has jumped from 500 to more than 24,000 members in four months.
Most of the Pelostoned posts are directly related to cannabis use - members post about being "Cali sober," or share their favorite strains, products, or methods of consuming cannabis. They also chat about experiences on the bike, noting personal accomplishments or recommending particular instructors or events. There's plenty of cannabis-related humor, too: The group's banner photo shows the famous weed comedians Cheech and Chong photoshopped onto Peloton bikes.
Group members will frequently compare dosing recommendations or commiserate about that one time they took a little (or a lot) too much THC and were unable to get off the couch, let alone onto the bike.
But Pelostoned goes beyond weed memes and workout advice. It's fostered a sense of genuine connection, according to Rogers. Many group members routinely post details of life milestones that the community celebrates together. It's also a place for working through challenges, including relationship conflicts and mental-health issues.
That was the case for Rogers, who stumbled into the world of Pelostoners during a period of isolation after relocating to a new home.
"I felt very depressed, very sad I was moving and leaving my friends behind. I thought, 'Maybe I'll get this exercise bike, and it'll make me feel better,'" Rogers said. "Very quickly I became this person that moved to the middle of nowhere to being a huge part of this group."
Between Pelostoned and BABS, she now has a thriving social life with people she's never met in person. They work out together on their bikes, schedule post-exercise smoke sessions, and raise money for charity.
"I don't know how Peloton did it, but they really did inspire community building even if they get this bad rap for being snobbish or negative," Rogers said. "If I'm in a slump, there's a group that I know I can go to and get whatever it is I need."
Cannabis could enhance the emotional experience of exercising
While there is little research exploring the effects of mixing cannabis and exercise, some data suggests the substance can make workouts feel less painful, both physically and mentally.
Cannabis can quiet parts of the brains that feed the ego, resulting in a go-with-the-flow mentality that makes working out less stressful, Dr. Jordan Tishler, an internal-medicine physician and the president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, told Insider.
When a person consumes cannabis, it "gently stimulates" brain receptors in charge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy, Tishler said. As a result, mundane activities such as cleaning the house, running errands, and exercising become adventures rather than chores.
For Houlston, adding weed to a Peloton routine allowed her to work through years of emotional issues with exercise.
As a competitive athlete, she had dealt with pressure and toxic interactions with coaches. Both left her with physical injuries and lingering emotional pain related to working out. Just before COVID-19 lockdowns hit, one of the former lacrosse players she coached died by suicide.
During the pivotal Lizzo ride, she processed the trauma of what had happened and began building a better emotional relationship to exercise.
"I was finally able to release all this stuff, and I felt so good," she said.
Houlston doesn't get high every time she rides. But she'll often unwind by heading down to her basement for a spin session after taking 30 to 75 milligrams of THC in the form of edibles or tinctures. That's enough to cause a strong high for the vast majority of cannabis users.
"It gives me the ability to clear all the negative stuff in my head, and I'm not worried about what's going on outside the door. Once I realized it could do that, that was all I needed to keep using it," she said.
Getting high before a ride could have performance benefits
One Pelostoned member rider from Florida was introduced to the "magic" and "exhilaration" of riding while high in March.
"I took an EDM class with Jess King. She said to imagine there were unicorns and stars shooting out of me. And that's exactly how it felt. It was an out-of-body experience," she said, asking to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.
Her previous routine had involved waking up at 5 a.m. to work out, so she'd have the evening to relax. She'd often use a preworkout supplement, a mix of caffeine and endurance-enhancing compounds like beta-alanine.
But she noticed other Peloton riders talking about impressive achievements while spinning stoned after work, using cannabis as both a recreational drug and a performance enhancer.
"It never occurred to me that I could do both. Now I'm sold. Good luck getting me on the bike not stoned," she said.
These potential performance benefits can make cannabis an attractive supplement for people who are far from the stoner stereotype, including type-A personalities looking for an edge in their Peloton stats, according to former lawyer Chris Jensen, CEO of the cannabis company Mana Supply and cofounder of the Pelostoned Facebook group.
"Anecdotally, something I've known is that there are a lot of benefits for people pre and post workout," Jensen said, adding that he puts up personal records "far more frequently when I have used cannabis."
Harnessing Peloton's power to normalize cannabis use
Peloton itself hasn't acknowledged the Pelostoned group. The company did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
Because cannabis continues to be heavily regulated at a federal level, some Pelostoners prefer to keep a low profile to avoid the ongoing stigma and stereotypes linked to the drug.
"There's a lot of people like me out there that are high performing, we have jobs, we have kids, and we just want a way to relax, and cannabis does that," said the Pelostoner from Florida. "But there's a lot of stigma around moms using cannabis, and it's not anywhere near as acceptable as alcohol."
But more and more cannabis and spin fans are publicly discussing their hobby and hoping to set an example for people who could benefit from the community they've built.
"I want people to understand this is normal," Jensen said. "The way people are talking about wine and coffee now - cannabis is going to be the same way. I couldn't be more thrilled."
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