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help leading November Project YEG. His sister suggested Nadim
he scene: A cold, dark weekday morning at 6 a.m. A
leader calls out to the crowd: “Let’s move in real tight. OK, Chin, a human-resources consultant at Servus Credit Union and
loyal tribe member. (Each city’s group is called a “tribe.”)
“There are these dynamic people leading the tribes who are funny
With that, about 50 Edmontonians — myself included —
and not afraid to be crazy. They’re extroverts. That’s like Nadim,”
of all ages and fitness levels bounce until we’re told to stop.
Ference says. “And I somehow convinced Jen that it wouldn’t be as
“Good morning!” one of the leaders yells. “Good morning!” we
much work as it was.”
yell back. “Are you good?” a leader yells, Canadianized from “Y’all
“It’s a non-paying job,” Jennifer says as she, Chin and I warm
good?” “F--k yeah!” we answer — except for the underage members,
up in her car after running hills at Gallagher Park and toboggan-
who remain silent. Then, the 30-minute workout begins.
ing with the rest of the group. The two of
How did I get here? I was feeling
them share leadership responsibilities,
adventurous. Well, adventurous and fat. I
like determining workouts and locations,
needed to shake things up.
and write blog posts after workouts.
A boot-camp instructor once told me
Her brother joins in when his hockey
it takes three weeks of purposeful change
to break a bad habit or create a good one.
“In a weird way, the fitness thing is kind of
I combined that with a helpful tip from
secondary,” Chin says. “We’re not trainers.”
a colleague about a free, early-morning
“No, we’re community builders,”
workout. My excuses about a lack of
time and money quickly sounded weak.
Graham stresses that tribe leaders
My shakeup came when I committed
must show up on time, every time, no
to this early-morning workout called
matter the temperature or lack of sunlight.
the November Project for three weeks.
Mondays are a mishmash of activities,
“Why not? You can do anything for
like burpees, hoisties and partner work.
three weeks, right?”
Stairs are on Wednesdays, and hills are for
The November Project is the brain-
breakfast on Fridays.
child of Brogan Graham and Bojan
If you’ve wandered around downtown
Mandaric, former college rowing
at 6 a.m., you may have heard the happy,
teammates from Northeastern University
— Andrew Ference
obscene chants. But, for most, mornings
who decided that, throughout November
don’t start so cheerily — not even for es-
2011, they would exercise together each
tablished athletes like Jennifer and Chin,
weekday morning using free outdoor
or professional ones like Ference. Nobody
spaces throughout Boston.
likes getting up that early, but it’s worth it
Yet, when November ended, the duo
at the end of the day when you’ve already got your workout in.
didn’t stop and, starting in spring 2012, their friends wanted in. “We
As for my three-week experiment, all of my boundaries were
just know that parties are more fun when more people are there,”
tested. I hugged strangers; I am not a hugger. I navigated the city for
Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference heard of the November Monday locations; I am directionally challenged. I pushed myself in
workouts; I am exploring how close to throwing up I want to get for
Project through a friend when he was playing for the Boston Bruins.
a personal best.
“I liked the energy. It was cool and different,” he says. “I was chasing
Over the weeks, I increased from five to 6.4 flights of Royal
for once, trying to keep up to some really good athletes. It drove my
Glenora stairs. I earned a –30˚C badge for braving extreme
level of fitness higher.” When Ference was traded to Edmonton in
elements. And I learned how to properly do a hoisty — I think.
July 2013, he brought the November Project north. Edmonton was
I skipped Monday of Week Four because, really, I completed the
the only Canadian city out of 16 November Project sites until groups
experiment. But something felt missing: The accomplishment and
started up in Calgary and Winnipeg in early March.
rush of working out and yelling “F--k yeah!” so early in the morning
A day after flying into Edmonton, Ference invited people to join
with other like-minded individuals.
him for a workout in Kinsmen Park via Twitter. (Social media and
Will the November Project have a Tae Bo, Thigh Master-esque
word-of-mouth are the November Project’s main marketing tools,
ending? Who knows? But Graham says they intentionally expanded
helping keep it fun and “free forever.”) His sister, Jennifer, a teacher
this idea via tribe leaders who embrace being inclusive, reliable,
and consultant, joined him, along with about 25 others. He hoped
to follow Boston’s example and build enough momentum during the punctual and “badass.”
“We had a nice recipe going — a beautiful blend of community
summer months before winter made regulars question their sanity.
and fun and fierce athletes,” Graham says.
Winter also brought hockey season, meaning Ference needed
“I liked the energy.
It was cool and
different, I was
chasing for once,
trying to keep up
to some really
good athletes. It
drove my level of