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Diary of physical exertion: The November Project

Participants+from+Jan.+27%27s+November+Project+pose+for+a+photo+after+finishing+their+workout+on+Marquette%27s+campus+in+celebration+of+their+win+over+%231+Villanova.+Photo+via+November+Project+Facebook+Page+
Participants from Jan. 27's November Project pose for a photo after finishing their workout on Marquette's campus in celebration of their win over #1 Villanova. Photo via November Project Facebook Page

Participants from Jan. 27's November Project pose for a photo after finishing their workout on Marquette's campus in celebration of their win over #1 Villanova. Photo via November Project Facebook Page

Participants from Jan. 27's November Project pose for a photo after finishing their workout on Marquette's campus in celebration of their win over #1 Villanova. Photo via November Project Facebook Page

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Standing in 10-degree weather at 6:24 a.m., with our Marquette University Television reporters Phil Pinarski and Kevin Wells giving me the stink eye, I tried to figure out what I got myself into.

People began crowding onto Westowne Square as butterflies continued to form in my stomach. I hate physical exertion, but apparently, I was about to participate in a workout group.

All of a sudden, as people began chanting “Wake up the beer can!” we became human versions of Bop Its by slapping the ground, spinning in the air and high-fiving a partner, it clicked: I was participating in something great. And exerting energy.

This was the November Project, formed three years ago by Brogan Graham in Boston. Graham’s older brother Dan quickly joined the movement, bringing the project to Madison, Wisconsin, and eventually Milwaukee after moving for his wife.

Every week, a “grassroots get fit movement” is offered. The idea of offering a free, fun, fitness environment and workout has skyrocketed. The November Project is now present in over 31 cities, including some in Canada.

“We take away all other excuses like payments for a gym membership. If you don’t come 10 times in a row, that 11th time you’re still very welcome and we’re happy to have you,” Dan said. “Taking away any and all excuses makes people show up. The more people that show up, the less you want to miss the next one. It builds on itself.”

Trying to be a professional journalist, I introduced myself to Dan and Marquette leader Christine Smith, a senior in the College of Engineering. I reached out my hand, preparing a crisp and firm handshake. Dan looked at me like I had ten heads and said, “We don’t do that here. We hug here.”

Never would I have imagined running around Central Mall, planking right outside Lalumiere Language Hall or doing mountain climbers by the Haggerty Museum of Art, let alone be having the time of my life during one hour of exercise.

There’s an incredible energy with the group. It’s impossible to not feel pumped up or have a smile on your face, even when you think your legs are going to fall off – from both the cold and squats.

Jordan Airola, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, is the first to admit she is a slow runner. At the November Project, it doesn’t matter.

“I’ll be the last one but people still come up and run behind you and yell, ‘Yeah you’re doing great,’” Airola said. “You just realize it doesn’t matter that you’re the last one. It matters that I’m here.”

“I had a funny quote which I didn’t necessarily mean at first but I’ve said it more since,” Dan said. “People that really enjoy and like their alone time just have the wrong friends. I don’t think that people get out as much as they need to and meet as many new people as they need to, and I think a lot of us end up in the same rut and in the same social situations, so to do that with also a fitness angle gets a lot of boxes checked for people.”

People genuinely want to get to know you. One girl who I partnered with noticed the horse donning my sweatshirt. It turned out that, like me, she rides and owns a horse herself. So as we ran from station to station and motivated one another, we bonded over our love for equines.

Some place down deep in your soul, you want to do a jazz-hands on a Friday morning.”

“It’s hard to not fall in love with a group as magnetic as this one,” Smith said. “Everyone there is there to support you and it’s this mutual support that you’re sharing with everyone. It’s a wide range of abilities and backgrounds and personalities. We have 8-year-olds that go and people in their 70s that go. There is something for everyone.”

When I attended the 171st birthday dinner for the city of Milwaukee (yes, you read right), I was not expecting to meet Evan Goyke, representative for the 18th assembly. He’s the one who told me about the November Project and encouraged me to celebrate Marquette’s big win over Villanova by jumping in and getting fit.

Even though I was ready to keel over when he told me how early I would have to get up on a Friday morning when I have no classes, I kept my mind open and decided to jump in. And I’m happy I did.

“This can be as loud and goofy as you want it to be or as serious and quiet as you want it to be,” Dan said. “We end up with a lot of quality people because the grumpy f—— don’t come back. There’s no place for them. We make you hug, we make you do jazz hands during a workout because if you don’t want to do that, we don’t want you to be here. Some place down deep in your soul, you want to do a jazz-hands on a Friday morning, whether you admit it to your friends or not. It’s something you want to be doing.”

Despite claiming to hate physical exertion 24/7, it turns out it can be alright. It’s time to stop making excuses and for once in my life, fulfill my New Year’s resolution of “new year, new me.” See you next week, November Project.

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