November Project participants step up fitness routine

In a city known for its love of drinking and community, it makes sense that an exercise group centered on community and started in a bar has made its way to New Orleans.

The November Project is a free workout group started by Northeastern University graduates Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric. They crafted the idea in a Boston bar as a way to stay motivated to work out in the Boston’s cold November. They made a pact to meet at 6:30 a.m. to work out, establishing an early morning tradition that still stands at November Projects that have spread across the country.

The November Project combines cardio and circuit training in unique locations. In Boston, unique means Harvard Stadium. In Chicago, it means Cloudgate, also known as “The Bean.” In New Orleans, it means 6 a.m. every Wednesday at Champions Square at the Superdome, and 6 a.m. every Friday at the Lakefront, meeting at Shelter 1 on Lakeshore Drive.

“The way the workouts are planned is you do a lap around the dome, and then you do 10 to 15 minutes of stairs,” George Clark, who has been attending November Project workouts for two and a half years, said. “… you may not be with [everybody] on the run but you catch up to them and you see them on the stairs … then you do like a 10 to 15 minute crossfit style workout so you scale it to your own pace … everybody is doing something, and it just motivates you to see people as they get better.”

In New Orleans, the November Project began with an article. In 2013, after reading an article in Runner’s World Magazine, Cameron Gilly rallied his workout buddies, Kate Gilly, Will Booher and Preston Reeder to start up their group, or what they call “tribe,” in New Orleans.

Booher believes the community formed not only makes the November Project different from any other workout group but also keeps people coming back for 6 a.m. workouts week after week. Multiple members credit the success of the November Project to its culture of self-improvement, accountability and friendship.

“[There are] lots of gyms that you can go to [and] no one talks to each other,” Tulane graduate and medical student Morgan Evans said. “You go, work out and leave. Here everyone is friendly, and I’ve gotten to meet people from age 20 to age 50 or 60.”

Booher, a Tulane graduate and former Tulane cheerleader, said he would like to get more Tulane students, and college students in general, involved. He said he wants the November Project to be a health and fitness resource for all of the people of New Orleans, regardless of age, fitness level, race or gender.

Member of six months Mia Fredricks said the motto of November Project is “just show up.” Fredricks said she remembers making the choice to “put herself out there” and show up to her first workout and said she never regretted it.

“You know that feeling when you were with your friends, and you had a really good hangout or went to a cool movie or did something fun?” Fredricks said. “I get that feeling every Wednesday after NP because I saw my friends, I got to start my day off with the right people, and I think that’s really cool.”

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