Listening to my favourite podcast earlier this year, I was intrigued by a conversation with a guest named Brogran Graham, a fitness fanatic who started a free, year-round, group fitness program with his partner, Bojan Mandaric.
Looking for inspiration during the cold winter months in Boston, the two former rowers decided to meet every day at 6:30 a.m. for an outdoor workout. They created a Google spreadsheet and called it the November Project. And what started out as a simple, month-long workout routine between friends added in fun and camaraderie as they began inviting friends and community members.
It turns out this was the beginning of a free flash-mob fitness revolution.
After the first Boston “tribe” took shape in 2011, this movement blossomed to 43 tribes worldwide located in Canada, the U.S., Iceland, United Kingdom, Serbia, Amsterdam, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Free weekly workouts for anyone and everyone, what’s not to love?
Earlier this year, I Googled “November Project” and was thrilled to discover we had a tribe in Victoria. The following Wednesday, I awoke before dawn and arrived at 6:29 a.m. at the Beacon Hill Park Petting Zoo. I could feel the buzz of energy among the members: there were inclusive smiles, laughter and conversations and many of them proudly wore brightly coloured T-shirts with “November Project” spray painted across them.
The morning kicked-off with a huddle, a motivational chat from NP’s three enthusiastic volunteer leaders, followed by a group hug from the tribe members. Everyone joined in with a universal bounce and then we started our kick-ass work-out – a workout that can be modified for all fitness levels.
The 60-minute workout closes with high fives and more sweaty hugs. The tribe celebrates birthdays, member accomplishments and announcements. Lastly, the Positivity Award is presented to a member who represents team spirit, community and unwavering commitment. This award is a wooden oar handle that represents NP’s “just show up” concept (adopted from the founders’ rowing origins).
The Victoria tribe began at Mile Zero at the Terry Fox Memorial in 2015. Rumon Carter, a lawyer and wilderness running enthusiast; Jason Ball, owner of BDHQ/Westcoast Runner, and Shannon Kane, a Lulu Lemon store manager and former Canadian national team rugby player co-lead this grassroots movement. The tribe eventually relocated to Beacon Hill Park, where the concept spread quickly and the tribe blossomed from only a few members to 70 to 80 people on average.
Participants love NP because it uses movement to transform strangers into friends and connect everyone in the community. It aims to motivate and encourage people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels to move and play together.
With the contagious vibe, the invigorating, fresh ocean air and the beautiful sunrise, this workout is way better than the gym. It’s a perfect way to start the day. I recently took part in their second anniversary celebration and haven’t missed a Wednesday since. It is most definitely the highlight of my week.
If you’re looking for a free, fun way to get active in your community, bring a friend and be part of the worldwide community empowering humans through fitness. The workouts go rain or shine. Check it out on facebook.com/NovemberProjectVic or search #JustShowUp on Twitter.
Michelle Gjerde is a designer with Black Press and just ran the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon.