I have a small secret, I spend way too much time on Instagram stalking gyms and workout communities. At least 4-5 nights a week, I am in bed, lights out, trolling through Instagram and adding gyms or workouts to my list of places/things I have to try. Then, one night, I hit the jackpot. It was early winter and the weather was already starting to get to me. So in my attempt to keep hope alive, I started looking for outdoor workouts in Seattle for the Spring. I was curious to know if there are communities of people that meet on a regular basis, outdoors to get in a good workout. I know there are plenty of running clubs but I was thinking more Boot Camp style. That's how I came across the November Project Seattle and their Instagram. YOU GUYS!! It was like finding the Mecca of outdoor workouts.
The November Project is a grassroots, workout community started in Boston by two athletes who wanted to find ways to stay motivated to workout throughout the cold New England winters. Having lived many years in Boston, I find it admirable that anyone would even think about going outside to workout in the winter, let alone wanting to do it on a regular basis. That was only the first thing that blew my mind. The second thing is if you go to their website, the Locations Menu drop down says "Asia, Europe, North America". They are INTERNATIONAL. Literally, their sense of community and their passion for motivating each other is so influential that it has become an international community.
So I will admit it, I never really understood the concept of 'FOMO'. (I actually think it's a ridiculous concept.) But for the first time ever, trolling through the @novemberprojectseattle on Instagram gave me a bit of FOMO. Everyone looked SO happy, I mean genuinely happy. I love to workout and I never look that happy when I'm working out! So I HAD to go try one of their workouts. In Seattle, the group meets every Wednesday and Friday at 6:29 AM (that's right, you can get a sense of how fun these guys are just based on their start time). On Wednesdays they meet at Gasworks Park and the Friday location changes each month (check their website for details).
You guys know I never workout alone. Fortunately Angela had been following them on Instagram and was wanting to go too. And Lindsay is always up for trying something new so the three of us planned to go together. Between Angela having her first baby and Lindsay and my work and travel schedules, it was July before we made it to a Wednesday workout with the group. As soon as you walk into Gasworks on Wednesday morning, you know you're in for some fun. The November Project Seattle community is STRONG. There were probably 50-60 people there that morning. You could not miss them and the music playing was also a key giveaway. That day, the group met at the large open grass area near the entrance of Gasworks so they were easy to find. When we got there, we joked that there are probably 15 people there in the winter, but one of the other (clearly more dedicated members) said that even in the winter, you would find about two thirds of this group at the workout. Impressive.
This workout starts like none other. It kicks off with a huddle where they ask if anyone is new. Everyone who is new gets a personalized welcome from the entire group. Then they move straight into a group chant while jumping. That day, it was 'NP! NP!' the following week it was 'I believe that we will win!' Although the words may vary by workout, the message is the same - we are one, we are strong. Then the close out the welcome with hugs for everyone (ideally someone you don't know as an opportunity to meet someone new).
We then warmed up with a run to the bench near the hill and back. Probably the trickiest part of the workout for me given the wet grass and the hill! The workout that day was a serious game of 'Would you Rather'. Everyone partnered up (ideally with someone you did not know) and had to pick a paper from a large bucket in the middle of the circle. Each slip of paper would list two exercises. Each partner took turns picking which workout they preferred. Their partner would then have to do the other exercise on the paper. Once you were done, you'd come back and pick out another slip of paper.
The exercises varied:
> 20 sit ups or squat hold until your partner finished
> 20 lunge jumps or 40 walking lunges
> 20 burpees or 25 push ups
> Run out to the bench by the water and do 10 box jumps or hold a plank
> Run up to the hill or run the tree path
This went on for about 30 minutes. Fortunately, I had an amazing partner, Jackie who was a November Project regular and was full of nothing but positive encouragement, smiles and high fives.
Even though I loved the workout and my partner, the best part came at the end. As we finished the partner workout, they brought out two huge buckets and had each of us grab a water balloon. Of course, in my head, I'm thinking, we're going to have to do a water balloon toss and if we drop it, they're going to make us do X push ups or X burpees. WRONG. They had us form two lines facing our partners with a bit of distance between us. It was a full on water balloon fight aimed right at your partner. It was exactly the cool down we needed after a hot, sweaty summer morning workout.
There are so many reasons why I love this city and why the concept of a fit squad resonates with me. The November Project Seattle has somehow managed to encompass all of it. It is an incredible group of eclectic individuals who come together to support, motivate, inspire and welcome everyone to come workout. They have managed to create a tangible sense of happiness and community. This sense that you can accomplish anything; that you can work hard and have fun; that you are not alone in any challenge.
Admit it, you have a bit of FOMO now too!