It was out of necessity that Jennessa Lea discovered marijuana's function as a fitness supplement.

After a lifetime of “pain and instability” in her joints, countless misdiagnoses and a parade of potent painkiller prescriptions, Lea was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in 2013.

The rare and genetic collagen disorder – which affects the joints, skin and blood vessel walls – meant the Minnesota native had to work harder than ever at building muscle through physical therapy.

There was just one problem with that.

“I wasn’t able to complete my physical therapy without being in so much pain that I needed to stop... and I would experience so much muscle fatigue [afterward] that I couldn’t continue,” said Lea, whose relationship with opioids had completely soured at this point.

“You build such a tolerance to narcotics that after a while they don’t even work... I didn’t have any quality of life. I was obese and lived in a haze.”

That all changed when Lea took the plunge and swapped opioids for cannabis.  

“It wasn’t until I completely got off the opiates and just used cannabis that I was able to really start doing my training on an everyday basis... I was able to not only complete my physical therapy but I could continue building on it the next day,” Lea told Civilized. “[Cannabis] helped not only by reducing the pain, but by putting me into a zone where I could just focus on my workout and strengthen that mind/body connection... It saved my life.”

Marijuana’s potentiality as a ‘performance enhancer’ of sorts has been well documented. From cannabis-friendly athletic events to CBD-infused workout supplements, the idea that cannabis can be used to enhance physical activity has gained major traction in recent years.

It’s what drove Lea to start the blog, Fit Cannabis Girl – about “fitness, cannabis, and how I reclaimed my life with [both]” – in the summer of 2016. Now, she’s bringing that same philosophy to fitness-minded cannabis consumers in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

On July 23, Lea will officially open the doors of Break the Stigma Fitness – a facility that will offer cannabis-friendly fitness classes, nutritional advice and workshops. Her goal is to empower others to “control their own health and wellness” with the help of cannabis.

“I want to be a living example to people that you can have cannabis as part of your daily fitness and lifestyle routine... It doesn’t need to define you or put you in a box,” said Lea, who gets “very offended” when people peddle old stereotypes about cannabis users.

“We want to show people that they have the power to control their own health and wellness, and that they can do that through fitness, cannabis and clean-eating.”

The fitness center – which will operate out of Lea’s own home and 1.5-acre backyard – will host a preview party/soft opening on July 9.

“The party be our chance to ask the community what they want from us as far as time schedules and classes,” said Lea. “I started from scratch myself and I want everybody, regardless of their physical ability, to feel comfortable coming to my gym.”