For a gangly emo kid from the Midwest, a trip to a gym in America's fittest city is hell. If it weren't for the fact that I spent my first year in Portland living in a van, I would've burnt off those IPAs and vegan doughnuts on a bicycle or along the trails of Forest Park like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, however, I had no place to shower on a daily basis, so I coughed up $40 a month for a membership to 24 Hour Fitness. With flexible hours and five locations in the city, this massive chain of muscle meccas makes a quick cardio session and hot shower accessible during the nether-most hours of the night.
Unless you're downtown on a Saturday night, in which case you're screwed. Portland's downtown 24 Hour Fitness location closes at 9 pm, which is so downtown Portland. We're a provincial bunch, which makes it oddly poetic how each 24 Hour location is a direct reflection of the city quadrant where you choose to get swole. In a year of bouncing from one location to the next in search of the fitness chain's sweet spot—the place where the music is innocuous, the showers are piping hot, and the treadmills are far, far away from the groaning and grunting of the free-weight section—I learned there's no clear-cut answer when everyone's fitness needs are different. Which one is right for you?
4224 NE Halsey St., 281-4767, 24hourfitness.com/Website/Club/955.
Who goes there:
Pros: Free towel service, endless treadmills, convenient TriMet access.
Cons: Showers are never operating at 100 percent, the swimming pool is always full of old people, and there's always an old, naked Japanese guy making menacing ninja warrior poses in front of the mirror. Trader Joe's and its den of sugary evil is across the street, and convenient TriMet access means there are
crustpunks on every corner.
1210 NW Johnson St., 222-1210, 24hourfitness.com/Website/Club/562.
Who goes there:
Pros: Great for implementing the "copy what the ripped guy with the sleeve of tats and the Hood to Coast shirt is doing" workout plan. An excellent ground zero for Tinder-ing if you're new to the #basic market.
Cons: It's in the Pearl. An endless cloud of Axe body spray wafts upward from the free weights. The music is very '90s Abercrombie & Fitch. Your bike will probably get stolen. Twinky dudes in the locker room foster low self-esteem.
Who goes there:
Pros: Only four blocks from the county courthouse, making it a great place to get a quick shower before your arraignment.
Cons: Only open 24 hours on weekdays. If you need to run off some club drugs or
wash off someone else's puke at 3 am on a Saturday, you're stuck with the frat party up in the Pearl. Just call a cab and go home.
4546 SE McLoughlin Blvd., 205-9588, 24hourfitness.com/Website/Club/425.
Who goes there: Although many bona fide residents of "close-in Southeast" would turn their noses up at the out-there location (it's halfway to Milwaukie!), it's all the better for it. Tatted-up metalhead straight-edge body builders, strippers from Southeast Powell's many gentlemen's clubs, and awkward teenagers from Sellwood and other adjacent quasi-suburbs all pump iron in harmony at the chain's finest location in Portland proper. If Planet Fitness hadn't trademarked the "judgment free zone" catchphrase, this would clearly be it. Then again, you won't see 24 Hour Fitness hosting pizza parties and using subliminal mind control to keep its patrons from actually using the facilities they're paying for.
Pros: Towel service, massive locker rooms, cardio equipment on the ground floor (because going upstairs is hard!), shower stalls with doors, and a covered parking deck without the winding, meandering chaos of the Hollywood location's parking structure.
Cons: Automatic sinks in the locker room are the worst of any location, it's not walkable unless you live in the neighborhood, and it's hard not to hang a right out of the parking lot and mysteriously drive up to nearby Acropolis.
10052 SE Washington St., 252-2447, 24hourfitness.com/Website/Club/423.
Who goes there:
Pros: Close enough to burn off the shame of eating endless pasta at the Olive Garden across the parking lot without having to get in your car, but you'll probably get in your car anyway. Next to a Target with a Starbucks, if you're into one-stop shopping and aimless yoga-panted afternoons wasted on an elliptical
Cons: It's all the way behind the mall. You'll get lost and give up five times before you even break a sweat here. If you're out this far, you might as well save yourself $30 and sign up for Planet Fitness. They have free pizza!