On October 30, 2011
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.