Q & A with The November Project

| September 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

10411751_949779691752536_2476273469592654235_nIf you pass Rash Field early in the morning and see an enthusiastic group of people getting in a workout, say hello to the November Project. Leaders of this grassroots fitness movement hold sessions at 530am and 630am on Wednesdays at Rash Field (…you’ll see them at Light Street Café afterwards) and at 630am on Fridays at Patterson Park. SouthBMore.com caught up with co-leader Patrick O’Neil to learn more.

What is the November Project and how did it make its way to Baltimore?

The November Project is a FREE (that’s right — always and forever) grassroots fitness movement. It was started in Boston in November 2011 by two dudes who were former collegiate crew teammates, Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric, and has since spread to 23 cities across the US and Canada. A feature article in Runner’s World helped the movement gain massive exposure, and it was not long after that one of my co-leaders, Nick Rodricks, came up with the idea to bring it here to Baltimore. We became an official “tribe” in January 2014, which is when my other co-leader Sydney Van Horn and I jumped on board with Nick, and have been spreading free fitness and hugs throughout Baltimore since!

Tell us about the group of people that comes out to participate and how that group has grown.

November Project is for EVERYONE. We attract a range of people in every category — from ultrarunners to people who have just started their fitness journeys — and welcome each person with open arms — literally, for a hug. What’s great about our workouts is that they are circuit-based, specifically designed to give everyone who comes an incredibly difficult workout. What this also means is that there is no “beginning” or “end” to the workout; you just keep going until we tell you to stop. Therefore everyone is running together, doing burpees together, and you can’t tell who has done more of the workout.

What kind of transformations have you seen people make?

I can’t tell you how many people we’ve had come up to us saying some derivative of “since I started at November Project I’ve shaved an entire minute off of my mile pace, 5 minutes off my 10k PR (personal record), etc.” One of the pillars of November Project is accountability — showing up when you say you’re going to be there and giving your best at each and every workout. That accountability goes a long way to staying committed to improving yourself. People love to thank us for helping them get back into shape, but I’ve always replied with “YOU are the one who has showed up each and every week to become a better person. We have nothing to do with it.”

Additionally, the last Wednesday of every month is PR Day. We have the same workout each month — 6 laps around Rash Field — and time people  as they race. We then have an online tracker system that allows each person to input their time each month and see how they have improved month-to-month. It’s a simple yet effective way to show that November Project is legit and HARD, and you will get stronger by showing up.

Tell us more about the comradery and special bond between November Project participants.

Syd, Nick, and I like to joke that you can always tell that someone is a newbie because they are usually on the fringes of the bounce that we start every workout with. However, it doesn’t take long for those very same people to end up right in the middle of the bounce, loving every second of it. Without going off on too much of a tangent, let me just say that we live in a world where we have innumerable digital connections, but fewer and fewer physical connections. Fitness has also become more of a thing you do on your own: you throw the headphones in, turn your music up, and hit the gym. November Project is built on the exact opposite of that. We like to say that we’re taking the headphones out of fitness and putting the community back in. While our exposure is dramatically heightened by our presence on social media, it is a result of that physical connection, not in spite of it. Hugs are a central component of November Project because nothing breaks the ice faster than a true, hips-in hug.

What’s a normal morning like? What type of exercises does November Project perform?

First off, let me say that no morning at November Project is normal, and if it is we’re doing something wrong. We don’t want to be normal because normal is boring. Normal is what you do for the rest of the day while at work, or school, or at home. We want to be the most abnormal thing you do on a Wednesday or Friday morning. But we start every morning with a bounce, a chance to get people warmed up and awake. During the bounce we like to break the ice a little bit, so we usually have people greet one another with a hand hug, or a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, or a thumb war. This is ALWAYS followed with the signature hug where we tell people that we are happy that they are here, and we mean it. After the bounce we give a quick but thorough explanation of the workout and just dive right into it.

We design workouts that will give you a full-body workout. This often includes running the perimeter of Rash Field around the volleyball courts, using the stairs that run along half of the field, and occasionally running to the Science Center. We include a range of bodyweight exercises, from burpees to push-ups to squats to lunges to hoisties. Don’t know what a hoistie is? Come join us on a Wednesday or Friday morning to find out!

November Project meets and works out at Rash Field, which is about to be redeveloped. Is there anything about the park you hope doesn’t change? And, are there certain improvements you’d like to see?

Rash Field has been our home base for over a year and half at this point, and we hope it remains that way for a long time. The beautiful thing about November Project is that mobility is in our blood, and the city is our playground. If the city decides to go a different route with Rash Field, we would certainly be disappointed but have no doubt that the mission of November Project will allow us to keep spreading positivity in this city.

Why should people get involved in November Project?

If you are someone who is looking to get out of your fitness routine, or someone who wants to start working out but isn’t sure where to start, or someone who is sick of paying for a gym membership, then November Project is here for you. But November Project is not just about fitness. We are building a community that is here to not only make you a better person physically, but a better person all-around. There are so many testaments to this fact — just ask any person who has made November Project a part of his or her life. All you have to do is #justshowup.

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The November Project Featured on WJZ

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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