3Qs: The building of a 'fitness tribe'

January 3, 2013 by Matt Collette, Northeastern University
Two Northeastern alumni are the force behind the November Project, an intense workout that gets hundreds of Bostonians out of bed and into shape. On Wednesdays, the group meets at Harvard Stadium to work out. Credit: The November Project

The November Project began last fall as a pact between friends who wanted to stay in shape, but has evolved into what co-​​founders Brogan Graham, AS'06, and Bojan Man­daric, AS'06, call a "fit­ness tribe." On Mon­days, Wednes­days, and Fri­days at 6:30 a.m., hun­dreds of Bosto­nians—many of whom are in their 20s and 30s and grad­u­ates of North­eastern— gather for intense work­outs at loca­tions such as Allston's Har­vard Sta­dium and Brookline's Summit Avenue.

Last month, GoNU high­lighted the November , a three-​​year-​​old endeavor that aims to dupli­cate the cama­raderie and account­ability that Graham and Man­daric show­cased as rowers for Northeastern's crew team. We caught up with Graham to find out what gets him out of bed in the morning and what makes the group successful.

Where did the idea for the November Project come from and how did it evolve into what it is today?

Bojan and I had just fin­ished com­peting in the North­eastern alumni boat at the Head of the Charles Regatta and were at the bar after win­ning our race. I had stayed in great shape on my own but Bojan had always stayed in shape through rowing. He was saying, "Now that it's over, how do I keep going?" I told him it was all about con­sis­tency. As guys often do when they're talking over a beer, we made a plan to meet up and exer­cise before work every day for a month. Every morning we'd run or do sta­diums and every night we'd text about what we were going to do the next morning.

We recorded our mileage, our times, the tem­per­a­ture, and any fun com­ments in a Google doc. We called that shared doc­u­ment the "November Project," and that's how this all got started. The whole idea was if we got up Monday through Friday, we'd just become morning people. The first few days are dif­fi­cult, but you become more and more of a morning person over time.

By the end of the spring, friends started run­ning in the sta­diums or doing the group runs. It wasn't any­thing big, but when we gave this thing a name, some­thing was born; we had cre­ated a frame­work for people to par­tic­i­pate. We started drawing some people from the city's run­ning world, some of the city's big yoga instruc­tors. One day, 12 people par­tic­i­pated and we were sky high. That's when we started a Twitter handle, a blog, and a Face­book page. All at once people were really die-​​hard about this and started bringing their friends.

What about November Project gets people out of bed for the workout?

A lot of people think they have to pay a lot of money at a gym to stay in shape. This is free—and it's a lot more fun. We're using the city as our play­ground and we're building a com­mu­nity. We have a Bruins player right next to a woman with her dog next to a fat guy next to an under­grad, and each of those people is as much a part of this as any other. I love just guiding the inter­ac­tion, whether it's a big group hug before a workout or a high five while you're run­ning up the hill or sta­dium stairs. I love making people turn to intro­duce them­selves, because then they're going to do that when they're in the library or the super­market when they see someone wearing a November Project t-​​shirt.

We've found that people really con­nect through social media, too. We take photos and videos all the time and then post them online. When you share your videos online, it's like star­ring in your own low-​​level Nike com­mer­cial. We've seen people get more com­pet­i­tive about their time or become more serious about their workouts.

We hold people account­able, too. If you say you're going to be there, we're going to hold you to it. That's where we came up with the idea of "We Missed You," which is a sec­tion of our blog where we call out people who say they're going to be there and then bail. Fear of get­ting your name and pic­ture up there is enough to get a lot of people out of their bed in the morning.

What comes next for the November Project? And how can people get involved?

We joke about world takeover. But what we're doing, no joke, is uni­versal. Everyone wants to be in better shape and that's a big part of what this is all about. We have found that a larger per­centage of people are seeking com­mu­nity with others who share the same interest. They're not looking to find friends at the bar or even friends in the same demo­graphic. With November Project, you find people who just want to get fit and get up early to do this crazy workout.

You just have to show up. Every Monday, we're at some dif­ferent place in the city—we post it online every Friday so you'll know where we'll be. Every Wednesday, we run sta­diums. Every Friday, we do hills on Summit Avenue in Brook­line. It doesn't matter if it's raining or freezing, we're there. You don't pay any­thing, and you don't sign any­thing. You just get your butt out of bed so you're there at 6:30 a.m. and then you push your­self as hard as you can before you head out for the rest of your day.

Some­times even I think this is too crazy and too hard. But at the end of the day it's a good, fun workout.

Explore further: 3Qs: The fastest man on no legs

Related Stories

3Qs: The fastest man on no legs

July 30, 2012
South African double-​​amputee Oscar Pis­to­rius will com­pete in the 400-​​meter sprint at the 2012 London Olympics wearing high-​​tech carbon-​​fiber pros­thetic ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.