The November Project: Fitness Community Or Cult?

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Is it fair to say that fitness is transforming from a hobby into somewhat of a cult? Something much larger and stronger than sweating it out in private for an hour in the shadows of your basement. Take CrossFit for example, what started out as a small fitness movement, has rapidly become a hashtag lifestyle of its own. It encompasses its own cuisines and native wear.


Another group of fitness freaks, deemed as somewhat of a cult, is called the November Project. Not the type of cult you feel trapped into, but rather one in which your loyalty is driven by a serious case of “FOMO.” As is the story with most movements, this one too started small. Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric were two friends who pledged to exercise together every day before sunrise during a Boston winter. A desperate attempt to stay fit during the colder months has now become a global phenomenon.


But for anything to be successful, it needs to have a solid foundation. When you’re working out before sunrise throughout winter, the foundation needs to be extra strong, nailed together with something one deeply desires and polished off with some sort of excitement. The November Project embraces this and has built itself upon four pillars, which help you to forget you had to kick yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn for a grueling workout.

Here Are The Four Pillars Of The November Project:

1. Verbals

Considering the whole cult was built on social media and word of mouth, what you say is awfully important. Your word is your promise. Your confirmation is as securely received as your limbs are attached to your body. If you say you will be there, you better be ready to face hell or high waters to get yourself there.


2. Hugs

It seems awfully strange to combine exercise with cuddles, but this group loves it. Upon arrival, randomly throughout the workout, and definitely before leaving, everyone is embraced and welcomed. It creates an addictive sense of belonging and appreciation. There is also one massive group hug and chant at the end of the workout. Just picture one giant, sweaty, loud, bouncing mess of overly enthusiastic and incredibly motivating people.


3. “We Missed You”

This might be the only negative of the whole scenario, but it may also be the only reason you show up. Remember how I mentioned the importance of keeping one’s word? If you fail to show up for a workout, the group has the right to humiliate you publicly on social media. Shaming has been proven to be an ineffective method of getting a person to commit and strive for results. However, Jennifer Hurst, an associate professor of health and exercise science at Truman State University, says that the reason the November Project seems to be successful using this method is because the shaming is somewhat positive. Rather than breaking the person down about what they failed to do, the group emphasizes the fact that they missed the person’s company but had an incredible time without them. Creating that “FOMO” inside of them draws them back into the group. You can read more about Positive Shaming here.


4. Community

This is the most important pillar of the November Project. It’s the glue that holds it all together. As humans, our deepest desire is a sense of belonging—this fitness movement fosters that. Each and every person is welcomed and embraced. No individual is above the group. If you are absent, you are missed. Each group becomes its own little community. You show up, not because you want to protect your reputation, but because you care about the other members. You don’t want to let them down. You want to wake up before the rooster to get sweaty with them. You want the hugs and jumping and chanting. I guess the exercise part fits in somewhere as well.


So, if you are struggling to get yourself to the gym or finding the discipline to make the time to work out, why not join a fitness group? Do some research to discover the hidden gems of a community in your area and get involved. It is a fantastic way to get motivated again, and the feeling of belonging may just be the most uplifting part of the deal.

Here are some other articles you may like:

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