Monday, September 22, 2014

Spotlight On: November Project

After hearing about them for months, we finally got a chance to try out the November Project for ourselves.  For those who are unfamiliar, the November Project originated in Boston, MA, as a way to continue working out through the cold winters. These workouts are FREE and all about high fives and hugs for all levels of fitness. Now the project has tribes all over the country, including our beloved Mile High City.

We did a little Q&A with Dan and Molly who lead the Denver tribe to find out more about what makes this such a success from coast to coast.

How did you (personally) first hear about the November Project?

Dan - I started [going to the] November Project in Boston in September of 2012. I was on at the time, and received a message from a girl who suggested, based on my profile, that I may be interested in November Project. I jumped at the opportunity to workout in a social environment.

Molly - I was a college student at Northeastern, living in Boston at the time. One day I was on the leg press at the Northeastern gym when a fellow gym goer approached me. I expected him to ask me to work in, but he was actually coming to recruit me for November Project. He described it as a fitness group that met outside in the mornings before class, and that he was doing his NP “homework” by recruiting three new people. Personally, I didn't think twice before going-- but not every recruit is that easy, some times we really have to work for them. Ironically, that same guy is now our photographer here in Denver. 

How did the Denver tribe get started/organized?

Dan - I was fortunate to be relocated within my company to their Denver office. When I arrived in Denver over Labor Day of 2013, I shacked up at the home of an old college friend, his wife, 2 young daughters, and two dogs. Before I even found an apartment of my own, I invited them to the first morning workout on Ruby Hill. They didn't make it that day, but three others showed up!

Molly - A college/NP friend shared a post on my wall written by Dan, a stranger at the time, saying he just moved from Boston and wanted to bring the group to Denver. I was ecstatic at the idea of having NP back in my life so I showed up the next day, met Dan, and the rest is history. I think we worked well together in the beginning because we both took part in Boston, so although we were new to each other and both new to Denver, we had a common vision.  
What inspires/excites you about the November Project? What makes it different/unique from other running and workout groups?

Molly - The biggest distinguishing factor is that it’s NOT a running group, it’s NOT a boot camp. In running groups, the line between the fast runners, the slow runners, and the somewhere-in-betweeners becomes apparent very quickly. I think that’s prohibitive and part of the reason you never see a run club with that many people. At NP, we purposely conduct our workouts in small, contained “venues” so that after five minutes, you can’t tell who is on lap 3 or who is on lap 14. People don’t have to be intimidated that they’ll be too slow, or won’t be able to “keep up”, because we’re all in one place, running off the energy that is generated by the group. So while everyone is getting fitter and faster, we’re also strengthening a community by doing it together, and that’s the most inspiring and exciting part about it for me.

How important is it that the workouts are free? Will they continue to be free?

Molly - Free is key. It’s what sets us apart from all the other fitness groups out there. It’s what allows anyone and everyone to just show up. It allows members to attend when they can, and not feel guilty when work or life gets in the way one week. It also allows people to feel good about recruiting their friends, family, co-workers because they have nothing to lose by trying it out or becoming a regular participant. Last time we checked, using your body was free, parks were free, stairs were free, sidewalks were free, so what really is there even to charge for? As soon as we start charging, it will no longer be November Project.

How do you see the November Project making an impact in people's lives?

Molly - I see this in two ways: the large scale and the everyday. I work in the medical field and have always had an interest in public health. The top killers and drivers of obscene healthcare costs in the US are characterized by vastly preventable diseases, but people often don’t embrace “healthy behaviors” due to one barrier or another. A major barrier to healthy living is costliness (e.g. gym memberships, exercise classes, and healthy food). November Project breaks down any barrier related to exercise by being free and open to everybody all year round. In a large sense, we are doing our part for public health by making exercise fun, accessible and by promoting the health of the community.

In the everyday, we've seen people go from never running to racing their first 5k, people
signing up for their first marathons after swearing off running forever, and veteran marathon runners sign up for their first ultramarathon. We've had members tell us they've lost weight since they've started training with us. We've witnessed strangers turn into friends, running buddies, and fourteener explorers. We use the term “payday” among NP leaders for when someone shares how November Project has changed their lives for the better, and we get these messages all the time. For instance, just today I had a co-worker that I badgered to come when we started up a year ago approach me and say, “Hey, thanks for getting me into the best shape I've ever been in, and getting me to run again for the first time since high school.”

We both really liked the energy brought to the workouts, and they aren't overly long, so getting it in and getting to work on time are completely doable. Rebecca was a little intimidated because it had been awhile since she had done any kind of group workout and wasn't sure what to expect. But you just show up and jump right in, and do as much as you can as hard as you can. The workout consisted of a warmup, then we separated into two groups. We alternated running a loop up and down some stairs, and choosing two playing cards that equaled 10 push-ups, 10 burpees, 10 hoisties, or 10 Supermans. Our only note is that we would have liked a little more variety in the main workout, perhaps switching to something after the first 10 minutes. But since the workouts are different every single time, we look forward to going to more and seeing how they change it up!

For our local readers, workouts are Wednesdays and Fridays at both 5:30 a.m. and again at 6:15 a.m - locations and info are regularly updated on their Facebook page. To find a November Project near you, check out their website!

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