SOME PEOPLE POSSESS the ability to clear their minds during exercise, to drift into a zen-state during a long run or bike ride, letting the endorphins transport them into a peaceful, blissed-out mental space.
I don't have that.
In the absence of other distractions, my inner monologue never stops shrieking "PAIN" and "STOP" and "OW WHY WHYYYY." Listening to music doesn't help; my mental bitching is even more relentless when synchronized to "Drunk in Love." In an attempt to muffle my brain, I watch The West Wing at the gym and schedule runs around new episodes of my favorite podcasts.
Exercise is something to endure so that I can continue to enjoy sandwiches. If I could do my job while working out, I would, just to get it out of the way. (Alt-weeklies don't spring for treadmill desks, believe it or not.) In lieu of that, however, I'm drawn to workouts that allow me to multitask, to accomplish something altruistic or practical at the same time I'm clocking in my daily allotment of Fitbit steps.
You have to exercise, and you have to get home from work. Kill both annoying birds at once by run-commuting: Buy a tiny backpack to throw your stuff into, change into running shoes and shorts on your way out of the office, and voila. When you get home, you're done. I live five miles from the Mercury office—running home takes less time than the bus. (I know, I know, BIKES. Not my thing, guys. Not my thing.)
It's a bit tough to get into, but if you're looking to pair your exercise with do-gooderism, consider the Oregon Humane Society's Running with Dogs program, which matches runners with high-energy dogs for weekly runs. Participants must complete OHS' volunteer requirements first, including a seven-week training program, in order to qualify. More info at oregonhumane.org.
On a similar note, work parties from groups like Trailkeepers of Oregon provide an opportunity to get outside and accomplish the dread exercise while actually making this state a better place to live in. Work parties involve clearing and rebuilding trails, and usually require no prior experience. See trailkeepersoforegon.org for more details.
For most people, working out is basically a selfish act (it's about your butt, come on), and a new series from Sweet Momentum Fitness offers a chance to balance the karmic scales a bit: Project 41 is a monthly workout that raises money for Camp Aranu'tiq, a summer camp for transgender youth. "The goals of Project 41 are to raise awareness about the staggering suicide rate among transgender youth, to give people an opportunity to make a difference, and to provide a unique exercise experience that puts people in touch with their bodies," explains the website. The donation-based workout is open to people at all fitness levels, and 10 percent of funds raised go to support scholarships to Camp Aranu'tiq. The first workout is Saturday, February 22, noon-1 pm, at Northeast Portland's Red Rose Ballroom (1829 NE Alberta).