I’ll admit that my college years weren’t my healthiest — unless copious amounts of beer, whiskey, and cigarettes, combined with meager sleep, 3 am quesadillas, and unhealthy levels of academic and personal stress comprise a salubrious lifestyle of which I’m unaware. But this isn’t a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-did screed, I promise, because these days, I try to treat my body a bit better — and honestly, I prefer the results.
Perhaps I’m getting closer to that elusive notion: achieving balance. I’m not a health nut by anyone’s standards, but I do aim for moderation, looking for ways to pursue my interests, go out, and have fun, without adhering to monastic self-regulation. I’ve found that Portland is a particularly easy place to do so. The city lends itself to mental and physical health, as long as I’m willing to put in some of the effort. Plus, implementing healthy practices has a positive effect on the environment and, in some cases, on my wallet.
As lame as it sounds, I firmly believe that the foundation of health is adequate sleep, plain and simple. I hear the resounding chorus of easier said than done already. But even if you think it’s impossible to carve out more time for naps and nighttime snoozing, there are ways to make the sleep you do get more effective, by exercising, eating well, and stressing less.
Aside from the abundant walking and biking trails in and around the city (check out PORTLAND TRAILS at www.trails.org for maps and even podcast guides to some local routes), and Portland’s eminent walkability in general (find out how walkable your section of town is at www.walkscore.com— and keep that score in mind next time you fill up your gas tank), there are more conventional exercise options all over town.
If yoga’s your thing, the choices seem endless: PORTLAND YOGA STUDIO (616 Congress St; 10 percent student discount), THE YOGA CENTER (137 Preble St; free introductory classes in September), THE YOGA EXCHANGE (106A Exchange St; first class free), PORTLAND POWER YOGA (425 Marginal Way; newcomers package), or WHOLE HEART YOGA CENTER (150 St John St; Kripalu-style, also holding free classes in September) — just to name a few.
Several Portland gyms offer student memberships, including PLANET FITNESS and the MAINE ROCK GYM, both on Marginal Way. Of course, your school may have a top-notch fitness center that you can use for free.
As for healthy food, well, the area is renowned for its good and good-for-you eateries. An informal survey of Phoenix staffers rounded up these choices for healthy grub in the Old Port: LITTLE LAD'S BAKERY (482 Congress St), O’NATURALS (83 Exchange St), LADLE (58 Exchange St), BIG SKY BREAD COMPANY (in the Market House in Monument Square), and the NORTH STAR CAFÉ (225 Congress St). Sushi is good for the brain and for the body, and YOSAKU (1 Danforth St) and FUJI (29 Exchange St) are two local favorites. And the newish MAINE SQUEEZE JUICE CAFÉ (5 1/2 Moulton St) could help fulfill daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables — all in one cup.