Keeping It Fresh
WE TRY TO HOST new, fun and creative events and workouts that cost our participants nothing at all. Here are a few of our favourites.
We had 350 RSVPS for this nighttime event in January 2013, an eight-mile out-and-back race with 20 burpees at the turnaround. Temperatures dipped well below freezing and many assumed the race would be called off. But those who were close to the NP movement knew the terrible weather was a gift. Runners dressed in head-to-toe black, and ice formed on the eyelashes of many and seemed to freeze zips and hands, making the process of thawing out at the after-party something to see.
Another nighttime race – this one in November 2013 – in which the theme was bright, blinking, neon, glowing and visually stunning. It brought racers around two loops of Pleasure Bay in South Boston, creating a five-miler – or was it a 5K? It really doesn’t matter. The point was that it was cold and dark.
There were costumes like we’d never seen. And the banquet hall for the after-party was standing-room only.
One Friday in January 2014, the weatherman was preparing us for another Snowmageddon. We saw a golden opportunity: clear some pavements and driveways as part of our workout. So the tweet went out to the tribe to bring shovels. And about 70 members turned what was supposed to be a 40-minute session into an hour-long run-shovel-run event. We got a good workout – and brownie points with the neighbours.
In May 2014, we loaded 100 plastic eggs with strips of paper. On each were typed directions: ‘Bear crawl across the courtyard,’ ‘Bray like a donkey for 30 secs while spinning.’ It was happy chaos as everyone dashed, sang, crawled and jumped across an outdoor courtyard on Boston University’s campus. People were having insane fun with the eggs and it wasn’t even Easter; just another Monday morning.
This event was something to train for and would replace a workout. In February 2015, all 16 member cities across the US raced 6K for time. Why 6K? Because why 5K? Why 26.2 miles? Everything is made up. So why not 6K? And why not attend a full-on race before work? Workouts are great, but later in your normal day, when someone idly asks, ‘How’s your day going?’ and your answer is, ‘Amazing’…well then, that’s why we do what we do.
These days, running Full Frontal hills is the least exciting, most boring workout in our repertoire. Yet for the first few months, that’s all we did. And we loved it. The workout originated from our rowing days at Northeastern University, where Coach Pojednic would pile the 40-plus team into vans, drive to a hill and have us all continually race each other all-out to the top until he said it was time to stop. There was never a case of ‘We’re doing six repeats’ or ‘You have three more to go.’ The only time we knew we were almost done was when he said, ‘This is the last one.’ And even then we weren’t 100 per cent sure. It was straight-up brutal. Every. Time. Whoever dreamed up the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) definitely had Full Frontals in mind. All you have to do is run up the hill, turn around at the top, come back down, and repeat that five times as fast as you can.
We eventually moved the start/finish line to the top of the hill. Before, with the finish line at the bottom, in an effort to post fast times, people would bomb down the hill with no regard for human life. Lighter runners had a big advantage doing this, as their weight didn’t cause as much stress on their joints as it did on the bigger runners. We both have 14-plus-stone frames and we can report it was an unnecessary strain. So in order to level out the playing field (and prevent potential injuries) we discouraged reckless downhilling and instead focused on the uphill push.
Once we brought the starting line to the top of the hill, we realised there were two sides to this hill. Who could have imagined? A hill with a front side and a back side! Mind-blowing! Aside from this amazing discovery, we also recognised the fact that our group wasn’t getting any smaller. So to keep runners safe, we decided to utilise the full hill (front and back sides). This gave us the chance to spread out the group, allow runners to enjoy the slightly less intense gradient profile (the back side of the hill we use is much shorter and easier to tackle) and put in longer mileage.
Indiana Jones forces teams of five to 10 people, organised in a straight line, to push each other up a hill. The person at the back sprints to the front, breaking up the long hike up the hill into shorter, higher-intensity intervals. Once at the front, that person slows down to a normal running pace. Runners are teamed up according to speed, so everyone is pushing to the limit.
This started as an optional detour across a grass patch off to the side of the hill. Initially, we placed a few cones in the corners of the patch and asked people, as they were coming back down the front side of the hill, to make a cross-country detour around the cones. Eventually we started creating obstacle courses, using anything from recycling bins and hazard tape to miniature flags and, of course, car tyres.
To keep our workouts fresh and creative, we throw in small, quirky elements to get people to meet new friends and sometimes even forget about the watch on their wrist that’s counting out splits. Hello burpees, old friend.
Sprinkling in burpees as a penalty for running without a partner during a ‘No one runs alone’ workout was a perfect way to get people to interact with strangers. We’d also play various iterations of the game of tag, in which each runner at the top of the hill had to run through the tag area. If touched by a tagger, the runner would have to do five burpees. Some of the smarter runners would calmly run up to the tagger, take their burpee penalty and continue with their workout, while some runners would try whatever they could to escape tagging, as if the tagger was infected with the Ebola virus. Most of the time, the chase eventually resulted in tagging, so not only would the tagged runner have to do five burpees, they’d also spend 20 seconds dodging the tagger, tiring themselves even more than if they were just to do the burpees. Not a single person involved in this workout ever had a grumpy face. Why? Because we all loved
playing tag as a kid!
GRIN AND BARE IT NP sessions are tough but fun
The inspiration for the Indiana Jones workout is Indian Runs, an exercise session often used in US high schools.