At 6:20 a.m. on Wednesdays, Gas Works is quiet and peaceful. By 6:29 a.m. the park is packed with people bouncing in a big circle while chanting, shouting, high-5’ing and hugging. There are lots of hugs. This isn’t some strange cult ritual. Instead, this is the November Project - a group of dedicated people looking to connect while getting in a pre-dawn workout.
The people behind the November Project, Brian Fisher, Casey Winkler and Jess Lyons lead Seattleites through free, outdoor workouts at Gas Works on Wednesday and various locations around the city on Friday mornings. Each workout is different and are designed for all ages at any fitness level. The level of support at the workouts is outstanding. You’ll hear shouts of, “Awesome work!” as people sprint or trudge up Kite Hill with high-5s given out freely. All shapes, sizes and ability levels are welcome at November Project.
There is a strong community aspect to the workouts which have and will always be free. The body-weight based workouts allow attendees to adjust and modify the moves for their individual needs.
“The workouts are all outside; rain, snow or sunshine which means at least twice a week our tribe members are starting their day outside in the fresh air,” said Fisher. “We like to say that we're #weatherproof. In two years, we have never cancelled a Wednesday workout (or a Friday workout since they started about a year and a half ago).”
Why 6:29 a.m. though?
“6:29 a.m. is an odd time.” admitted Fisher. “It's a conversation starter because anytime we tell someone we start at 6:29 a.m. they think for a second and then ask about the start time. By the time the conversation is over we've both probably repeated the time out loud at least twice and now you're going to remember, right? It's early enough that most people can attend and still have time to get to work. Right now we're approaching the time of year where we get to watch sunrise during the workouts, it's beautiful! There are some times during the winter months where the sun doesn't rise until after we've left the workout. That's pretty awesome to know that there is still a huge group of people here in Seattle willing to wake up in the dark to workout and build community year round with us.”
Five years ago, the November Project was born in Boston after a few guys decided to hold each other accountable for a month’s worth of workouts. They designed a spreadsheet called “November Project” to track their workouts and soon after the project spread across the country. There are now November Project “tribes” in over 43 cities and 7 countries. Seattle was the 23rd city to join and celebrated its 2nd birthday this August.
Attendance is higher in the summer months with more than 100 attendees but the winter months still bring in the regulars. Workouts end no later than 7:30 a.m. with a group photo which helps reinforce the community feeling.
“I love the November Project because while I'm getting an intense full body workout, I am surrounded by amazingly supportive people, high fives and an overall feeling like I'm at recess in the 5th grade! Oh, and it's totally inclusive and free!,” said November Project attendee, Shelley Morgan.
I recently attended a few November Project workouts and was blown away by how welcoming everyone was. There is no Seattle Freeze at these workouts! I was quickly given hugs and a quick run-down on how everything works. Before long, Winkler had gathered everyone together to warm up with bounces in a circle. Yes, I’ll admit I felt a little awkward but then I got into and then I felt like a kid again. My first November Project workout involved a deck of cards, four workout movements and a lot of running up and down Kite Hill. I was hooked! I have not run in years and am extremely slow but no one cared. I received just as many high-5s as the lean sprinters. I also loved the truly encouraging words from others as they passed me going up the hill.
I quickly embraced the goose poop and threw down some burpees with the best of them. My friend and I drove home from the workout with big grins on our faces and excited chatter. We returned again and my friend is hooked on the workouts.
But Fisher was right when he told me, “Reading about November Project might give you a brief glimpse into what our workouts or our community is all about, but it's a pretty unique experience so anytime someone asks about it we will always tell them to #justshowup and see for themselves. Not a morning person? Me either. Personally, I don't think morning people actually exist. That shouldn't be the only reason that you haven't checked out November Project at least once!”
Join the November Project at Gas Works on Wednesday at 6:29 a.m. and at various locations around the city on Friday at 6:29 a.m. More information can be found on their site.