On Oc­to­ber 30, 2011

Runner's World (UK) - - Runspiration -

WE SAT AT A BAR in Bos­ton and made a fit­ness pact. We pledged to show up ev­ery morn­ing at 6:30 to run the river, hills or the steps of Har­vard Sta­dium. We wanted to stay fit over the win­ter. But we didn’t want to go to a gym. We didn’t want to pay to get fit. This was about ac­count­abil­ity, a core ethic. We needed some­one to make sure we’d show up.

Our first work­out – a six-miler with snow spit­ting in our faces – was two days later, on Novem­ber 1. We cre­ated a Google Doc where we posted our times and tracked our im­prove­ments and named it Novem­ber Pro­ject (NP). It be­came ad­dic­tive. Af­ter six months of log­ging miles and eat­ing up sta­dium steps, we be­gan hyp­ing our work­outs on so­cial me­dia. We don’t even re­mem­ber how it went from five peo­ple to 50 peo­ple. We are just two guys who wanted to sur­round our­selves with other like-minded guys and gals who wanted to get in shape – no ma­chines, no fa­cil­ity – and get silly, have fun and bond over sweaty post-work­out bear hugs.

Soon, a few hun­dred Bos­to­ni­ans were show­ing up for our three weekly work­outs. To­day, there are tribes in 30 cities, mostly in the US and Canada, with the lat­est ones re­cently start­ing in Lon­don and Am­s­ter­dam.

If there’s no NP near you, sim­ply ap­ply to start one (see Doy­ouwant tostar­ta­tribe?, p71), or just bor­row from our lineup of work­outs to in­ject some spice into your own ex­ist­ing ‘tribe’. The work­outs are hard – you’ll feel them for the rest of the day. But as you sit at your of­fice desk af­ter­wards, all tucked in and but­toned up, kind of bored, kind of grown-up, us­ing your con­sid­er­ate in­door voice, you’ll know that you’ve al­ready done some­thing that’s pretty raw and real. And that it’s some­thing you wouldn’t have done on your own. That it’s the peo­ple around you, push­ing you, who are mak­ing you stronger.

See, we al­ways pick lo­ca­tions for our work­outs that keep the group to­gether or in a loop. We en­cour­age sup­port, so as mem­bers pass each other, no one is made to feel they’re un­der­per­form­ing. As the lead­ers dou­ble-back and pass the slower run­ners, they push and en­cour­age. And all of a sud­den ev­ery­one is work­ing much harder than if they were run­ning alone. The slower end of the group strives to catch the mid­dle of the pack, while the mid-pack­ers are chas­ing down the top guns. The elites are al­ways work­ing hard to stay there, as they feel ev­ery­one is breath­ing down their necks. By the sheer power of the mass work­ing off of each other, ev­ery­one is get­ting fit­ter, faster, bet­ter.

On the fol­low­ing pages you’ll find a se­lec­tion of our sig­na­ture work­outs, which you can try with your own run­ning crew. If you re­ally want to keep it in the spirit of NP, hug it out at the end. We made sure we gave each other a gi­ant hug each morn­ing when it was just the two of us, and we keep that tra­di­tion to­day. Peo­ple spend too much time avoid­ing each other, look­ing at screens, look­ing away. Shake things up and don’t shake hands.

This is a part­ner work­out. One per­son gets into a pike po­si­tion, with feet and hands out­stretched on the ground, bum high in the air (our yogi men and women call this a down­ward-facing dog). The other part­ner crawls un­der the space cre­ated. Once on the outer side, the now-free crawler stands and turns around to face the down­ward-dog part­ner, who is now in a curled-up ball, face down (This is Na­maste to our yogi friends; we call it child’s pose).

With both feet to­gether the now­stand­ing part­ner jumps this human ball, land­ing on the other side. When the jumper turns and gets down to crawl un­der, the piked dog is back up, bum high again. Re­peat 10 times; switch po­si­tions. We usu­ally then have one part­ner sprint 100 me­tres or more while the other part­ner holds a plank po­si­tion. When part­ner one re­turns, it’s back to Bo­jans. Re­peat for 20 min­utes. The idea is to work at anaer­o­bic thresh­old, as the heart rate re­mains fairly high ow­ing to the lack of rest be­tween tran­si­tions of jump­ing, crawl­ing and sprint­ing.

Bum up in the air, hands and feet crawl­ing, head down. That’s it. We be­lieve that we don’t act like an­i­mals enough dur­ing th­ese adult days of ours.

The in­ten­tion of this ex­er­cise is for peo­ple to recog­nise how weak their hips, shoul­ders and core are, and how badass bears are for be­ing able to reach 30 miles per hour mov­ing like this.

Taken from the world of Crossfit, this mash-up of jump squats, press-ups and jump­ing-jacks was a no-brainer. No equip­ment, no re­sources; cloth­ing op­tional. One of our hard­est work­ers at NP Bos­ton is also an avid Cross­fit­ter. Se­bas­tian will walk up to you and be­gin telling you all about his Crossfit work­out be­fore you even know he’s ar­rived. His in­ten­sity is what this work­out is about. Seven min­utes of burpees at Novem­ber Pro­ject is called a ‘Se­bas­tian’. Try it: burpees for seven min­utes. Bear in mind that our stan­dard goal for men and women is to hit 100. Your body weight, your drive, your fit­ness.

While facing a fel­low run­ner and do­ing squats, com­pli­ment your part­ner while main­tain­ing a straight face in an ef­fort to make him or her laugh. If you are suc­cess­ful, you run to your next op­po­nent, and the laugh­ing loser of the two of you re­turns to the bot­tom of the line. Some of our favourite com­pli­ments have been ‘I bet you look sexy eat­ing corn’ and ‘You make Kegel ex­er­cises look so easy.’

A hois­tee is a part­ner ex­er­cise where the move­ment of a squat jump is ex­tended down to a sit­ting po­si­tion. Part­ners start by facing each other, hold­ing hands and touch­ing toes. Then, both part­ners go down to a sit­ting po­si­tion while their toes main­tain con­tact. Once both the part­ners’ bums are touch­ing the ground, the two spring back up by pulling on each other’s hands and push­ing against each other’s toes to pro­pel them­selves into the jump. At the top of ev­ery jump they yell out ‘HOIS­TEE!’ The silli­ness of the ex­er­cise dis­tracts the par­tic­i­pants from the fact that each part­ner is com­plet­ing a very hard and com­plex move­ment, with a wide range of mo­tion of the lower body, up­per body and core mus­cles. Hois­tees are a Dan Gra­ham orig­i­nal. [He’s Bro­gan’s older brother].

The tribe runs around in a circle while a leader yells out a cat­e­gory. If the cat­e­gory ap­plies to you, you run into the mid­dle and per­form a stated ex­er­cise (such as a burpee), then re­turn to the vor­tex. Cat­e­gories could be any­thing from sim­ply ‘If you are mar­ried’ to the more com­plex ‘If you are afraid of spi­ders, snakes, and/or ducks.’ We re­ally get to know the tribe with this work­out.

GREEN EN­ERGY Ev­ery city can be a gym, if you know where to look

Hois­tees re­quire a great deal of mu­tual trust and a keen sense of the ridicu­lous.

The Se­bas­tians record is held by Evan Dana, aka Burpee Je­sus, who did 150 burpees in seven min­utes.

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