Fitness: November Project

It’s 6:27 in the morning. You’re shivering in a stencilled t-shirt in the pre-dawn light. Dozens of hugging people around you vary from couch potatoes to Olympic athletes. The air is filled with exclamations of “f— yeah!” It happens rain or shine. Welcome to the November Project’s group workouts.

The November Project started out when two collegiate rowers in Boston – Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric – wanted to create accountability to keep working out in the off-season. As you might guess from the name, it was supposed to last for a month. But when word got out, a two-person meetup turned into 50, then more. Now, there are November Project “tribes” across North America and around the world.

What makes November Project so appealing? First, it’s free. Second, the ferocious enthusiasm of the co-founders is f-bomb-peppered magic. They’re outgoing, friendly, encouraging and they create a strong community. Their ethos is at least partly rooted in their background as rowers. Rowing is a grueling, lung-busting, all-out red-line group effort. When you are in a boat of eight people, you depend on each other. If one of your crew sleeps in and doesn’t show up to your workout, you’re not getting into the water. So Mandaric and Graham already had a background of willingness to give it all, make iron-clad commitments, and hold each other accountable.

That’s why November Project cultivates a strong spirit of accountability and support for everyone at every level. You might be doing a stair workout at a stadium, but whether you can keep up with the hardcores charging up two steps at a time or you’re barely making it up your first flight, you’ll have people cheering you on, high-fiving you, hugging you, and saying “You good?” (The correct and only answer to this is, apparently, “F— yeah!”) If you make a commitment to show up at a workout, then don’t, you will get called out online with your most embarrassing social media photos and an adorable bit of bad poetry about you.

Stanley Cup-winning hockey defenceman Andrew Ference remarks, “November Project is exactly like fight club… but with hugging.” Runner’s World editor David Willey says, “November Project is changing the world, one tribe at a time. Their method is radical and simple, equally profane and profound: Show up, work harder than you ever would alone, and have more fun than you thought was legal in public places.”

Writer Caleb Daniloff met Graham and Mandaric to do a simple feature for Runner’s World. Swept along by their enthusiasm, he instead found himself creating a cover story that introduced November Project to a much bigger audience. Now, he and Graham and Mandaric have published a book entitled November Project: The Book: Inside the Free, Grassroots Fitness Movement That’s Taking Over the World. If you can’t get to a November Project workout, this is the next best thing.

But if there is a November Project workout in your area, the best way to experience the camaraderie is to “just show up”.

Pranada McBurniePranada McBurnie is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. In between times, she enjoys being active at the gym, on her bike, in the pool and on the running trail. She was competitive as a teenager in distance running, badminton and ringette. 20 years later she built her running back up from scratch and has finished races up to and including the marathon.

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