Crash Course: The November Project is a grassroots, guerrilla fitness movement started in 2011 by two Boston guys who needed a little extra motivation to stick with their workouts during the cold winter months. So they made a pact to hold each other accountable for showing up to workout together, no matter the weather, no matter the reason. Soon, social media and word of mouth brought a few friends into their crazy all-weather workout “tribe.” Friends told friends, a few became a few hundred, and now the November Project is popping up in cities across the country. The idea? Show up at 6:30 a.m. to workout with members of your community. For free. The goal? According to the website: “driving people out of bed to get fit and build a better world to live in. ” Sound awesome? It is. Lucky for you, the November Project launched in DC. #justshowup [line]
[left]where: Lincoln Memorial
bring: water bottle, towel
perks: incredible views, free hugs, no cost
sweat score: 8 out of 10 [/left][right]wear: weather appropriate gear
cost: FREE [/right] [line]
I’ve been trying my darndest lately to make it a habit of working out in the morning. Why? Because honestly, that’s the only guaranteed, unscheduled “me” time I have in my day. Do I always enjoy the sound of my alarm ringing at 6 a.m.? Heck no. But I’m learning…ever so slowly…to appreciate the freedom it gives me to workout how I want, as frequently as I want, without interruption.
This past Wednesday, I set my alarm for earlier than usual (5:40 a.m.) to wake up for my first crash with the November Project. A former Georgetown Triathlon teammate emailed me information about it a few weeks earlier, just as the group was starting out, and I was intrigued. “I’m curious to know what you think about the idea,” she wrote. “I know you’re always trying out new things, so I thought this would be something you could be interested in.” A morning workout. For free. With other crazies who love to sweat. At one of the most iconic places in the city? Be still my heart. You know me all too well.
So I got to my car by 6 a.m., picked up a fellow first-timer along the way (hey Michelle!), and made it down to the Lincoln my 6:15. For anyone coming by car, I found ample parking along Ohio drive and recommend checking there first. We grabbed our water bottles, hats, and gloves and quickly walked through the 30-some-odd degree cold to the even colder granite memorial steps, bumping into a few other first-timers along the way. “You going to this November Project thing?” “Yeah.” Blowing into frozen hands. “First time?” “First time. No idea what to expect, but I heard it’s pretty cool.”
There was already a small crowd gathered at the base of the monument, so we knew exactly where to go. At exactly 6:30 a.m., just as the dawn’s early light started peeking over the horizon, tribe leaders Steve and Danny called us all in for a quick huddle. Newbies were made to identify themselves, and were then welcomed with hugs. Yes, hugs. If you are uncomfortable with hugging strangers first thing in the morning, this really isn’t the gang for you. But the whole idea of the November Project – aside from the fitness thing – is to build a community bonded through basic human interaction. And in a world of social media ADD and smart phone addiction, eye contact, a hug, and a genuine “nice to meet you” go a long way.
Steve and Danny then led the group through a November Project tradition: a call-and-response of “Are we good?” and “F*ck Yeah!” There’s something amazingly ironic about screaming profanities into the pre-dawn DC quiet, under the serene gaze of a larger-than-life former president. But hey, don’t mess with tradition.
After a few enthusiastic rounds, Steve and Danny gave a quick explanation of the morning’s workout: the fireman five. We needed to form groups of four, learn each others names, and throughout the workout periodically find each other to complete 5 pushups and 5 burpees. All the while running continuously up and down, up and down, up and freaking down the Lincoln Memorial steps.
It sounds a little tedious, all that stair running. But you know what? Between the epically beautiful sunrise over the reflecting pool, the continuous high-fives and verbal encouragement from the November Project team, and the occasional “you got this” from a complete stranger…it was wildly worth it. I couldn’t help but stop a few times to take it all in. The view, number one, but also something better: regular folks, coming together in the cold and dark just to support each other in united sweatiness. If you’ve ever been on a sports team, you know exactly what this feels like.
Do you have to be an experienced runner to do the November Project workout? No way, but if you are, I bet it wouldn’t hurt. Honestly, if you have a desire to workout, you’re ahead of the game. You are welcome to do as many or as few rounds as you want, as fast or as slow as you want. Hop up the stairs, dance up the stairs, climb up the stairs…get up the stairs. Bring friends, bring your dog, bring fancy new workout duds or old sweats. Leave your money at home, because you’ll never be asked to pay to join the workout. Just show up and the rest is all good.
We continued our running + burpees + pushups cycle for about 40 minutes. By the end, my legs were absolutely toast. I run a couple times a week and fit in a few days of leg strength training, but never ever do I willingly do stairs for that long as part of my workouts. So by default, Wednesday morning was a great shake-up to my normal routine. As one November Project DCer said on the group’s blog: “we’re building community and giving DC great asses.” Win-win.
Our final challenge of the morning involved squats. But not just any squats. Special togetherness November Project style squats. As you can see in the photo, we formed a tight circle and sat down on the person behind us for about three minutes. And then proceeded to do the wave. Here’s the video proof.
After the workout, we took a group photo, got Project updates from Steve and Danny (who are hosting a turkey trot next week), gave a few more hugs to new friends, and headed on our merry way. All by 7:30 a.m.
Let me recap the morning for you: free workout, lots of sweat, sunrise over DC, iconic Lincoln location, hugs, the wave, new friends, high fives, endorphin highs, and a handfull of “f*ck yeahs.”
Thank you, oh thank you, November Project for coming to the District. I haven’t felt that jazzed about a workout experience in a very long time. And I’m absolutely sure I’m not the only one. I can’t wait to follow the tribe as it grows and reaches more people in DC, especially folks who wouldn’t usually get out of bed that early to workout. What an awesome way to build community, inspire and motivate people to commit to their health, and create a freakin’ good time.