#14. UPDATE: November Project

“Are you good?” – November Project Leader

“FUCK YEAH!” – November Project Tribe

4:15am wake up. Workout clothes, head lamp, water bottle, bandana*, gym gear, work clothes and work back all laid out made the AM a grab and go kind of experience. The November Project is crowdsourcing fitness and accountability group with a crazy loyal following and a global presence. Their story can be read in their own words here, and the specific workout I did was the Stadium – climbing the stairs of the iconic Harvard Stadium. Over, and over, and over again.

In order to accomplish this feat of fitness and knowing my need for accountability (especially if I’m waking up at 4:15am), I enlisted a colleague who I knew had done it before. Peter became a willing accomplice from the start, and we quickly set a time and day to meet. Given I was already getting up, I sent out a note to a few more colleagues to see if anyone would bite – and Sherri did. Funny thing about human nature, when you tell someone “I don’t want to do this alone.”, it is likely that they have had that feeling too, and likely that they want to join in. With a major storm pushing out our original intended meeting date (note: the hard core November Project Tribe still showed up storm and all), we landed (Coincidentally? Universe sending a sign?) at the stadium on Wednesday, November 1 – November Project’s 6th Anniversary, and the day they were celebrating Halloween. “We’re celebrating BOTH Halloween + Yearbook Photos (Talk to me about an adventure)!!!  This year’s theme is Multiples.  Be creative. Get weird.  Partner up.  Use your noggin. Then we’ll photograph your noggin.  BUT most importantly #justdressup.”

*Peter, incredibly dialed into social media, has been searching the world for the best coffee. With his famous Instagram hashtag #nbcoffeebandit, he features beautiful latte art and NB’s fantastic footwear in each of his shots. What better (read: easy to execute the day before) costume then, that NB Coffee Bandits.

And so it began. The Tribe lines up along the base of the stadium stairs in Section 36. The Tribe leaders get us fired up – “Are you good?” and a resounding “FUCK YEAH!” from the Tribe. And the workout is called > today’s challenge was the Seven Boroughs of New York. We each had to think at which level of speed we’d be climbing today – Borough 1 = Fastest, Borough 7 – Slowest. Personal choice on what speed you’d be working at, and the then Tribe split up. Each borough was dedicated 5 sections of stadium to climb and descend (the descent is important here – almost as painful as the climb towards the end). Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, across (back to beginning section), down…and so on.

It was dark. I had left the above mentioned headlamp in the car. Who wants to be the over-prepared kid on their first day? I don’t think I needed it until I fell off the bottom step because I didn’t see it. Umpgh. And the darkness made the experience surreal. Stars above, tapping of feet, muffled chatter of Tribe members talking and grunting up and down. Shout out to Matthew who was incredibly friendly and introduced himself. We chatted for a few sections – he loves going to November Project because it works with his schedule, some of his friends usually go, and it is a great (free) workout. Cheers from the other boroughs, which I couldn’t see, reminded me how many people were actually there. Doing this. In the darkness and cold. It was so cool. I mean fitness geeky cool.

We paused briefly when our borough was called for “Yearbook Photos”. Given it was November Project’s 6th Anniversary, Yearbook Photos are taken of individual Tribe members for posterity. And we are now officially in the book. Now we must show up again.

I didn’t count how many sections or steps I did. I completely underestimated how big the steps were. 15 inches tall and 30 inches wide. That is a freaking long stride. My focus attempt was on the seat #s. Follow lucky # 11 up. I snagged this cool shot (while still moving!) as a fellow climber was going up with their headlamp.

Verdict:

How was it? Awesome. Meeting up with colleagues and making memories outside the office. Being held accountable. Going at my own pace. Taking photos and meeting strangers doing the same hard thing. I loved it all.

Will I do it again? Ugh (first thought). FUCK YEAH! (second thought). Committed to showing up at a minimum of each first Wednesday in November. Climbing the stairs is convenient for work, but not my home life, so weekly participation is unlikely. BUT, I will go back.

What was the coolest part? Just as we were walking in, I saw two kids going up the steps. KIDS about the same age as mine. All I could think was, “Well that is fucking bad ass.” Get your kid out of bed, show them this super cool fitness culture, and maybe they get some exercise. Or maybe that isn’t the point. Maybe the point is that if you committed to doing something, you show up. Kids and all.

QUADS

#38 – Kayak (more) (with different people)

“Yeah, down by the river

Down by the banks of the river Charles

(Aw, that’s what’s happenin’ baby)

That’s where you’ll find me

Along with lovers, muggers, and thieves

(Aw, but they’re cool people).” – Dirty Water, The Standells

I was recently at a baby shower. The hosts requested that each guest write down some advice for the new parents. Brilliant idea. Why read 10 different books when you can read 25 practical, “worked for me”, snippets from friends who have your best interest in mind? As our small group debated what would be the best advice, one dad wrote down, “When in doubt, put them in water.” Brilliant again.

From my early parenting days, this advice would have been welcome during the days full of fussiness, discomfort or boredom. And those are just words to describe me as a parent, not even the wee ones. Babies are created, and subsequently live in a water-like environment for 9+ months. They are used to that feel – the slosh, and splash, the experience and sounds of water. And for those bigger than 6 months, discovering toys and bubbles is a lot of fun and a great distraction.

That single piece of parenting advice inspired “Kayak (more) (with different people)”. Getting out onto (note: onto, not into) a body of water inspires movement, but in a calm and peaceful way. There typically isn’t a race or challenge being accomplished. There is just kayaking. And being in a kayak doesn’t have to be a solo activity like swimming can be. I have found on a few occasions that going out in a tandem kayak with my oldest daughter gets us talking about different things than what we’d discuss at the dinner table or even on a walk. Perhaps because we aren’t face to face, perhaps because we are looking at different things from our everyday, or better yet perhaps because we are looking at things we see every day, but from a different ANGLE.

Being on the same level with the water brings me a lot of peace. There are sounds on a river or lake that are tremendous distractions from nagging thoughts. There are lots of other beings on the water that bring about perspective as to how big the world is – dragonflies, fish, ducks, geese, herons and water spiders. Their world is all around you. Their world does not include the gridlock of 93 South into Boston on a Monday morning. Ah. Peace.

I don’t own a kayak myself. I don’t think I’d benefit from owning one as the first thing I’d see is the hassle of buying a roof rack, paddles, a wet bag, and then finding time to use it enough for a ROI. However, I’m lucky enough to live in New England where there are plenty of great places to kayak, and kayak outfitters who rent by the hour or day, and provide excursions, life vests and instruction. Kayaking is a great group activity, and easy enough to do – no special fitness level or gear – just an interest to get a bit closer to nature.

Kayak Adventure 1: Ipswich River, Foote Brothers Canoe & Kayak Rental / I spent an interesting hour with my oldest daughter on the Ipswich River this summer. Interesting in that it was incredibly peaceful, and that completely freaked her out. We’ve been kayaking before in an open pond, but to her kayaking along a fairly tight portion of the river, and not seeing any other humans for stretches, made it a very lonely experience. She saw a beaver dam, and thought said beaver would tip us over. While this type of kayak environment didn’t work for her, I’d recommend Foote Brothers and an Ipswich River adventure to anyone. It is a beautiful paddle.

Kayak Adventure 2: Charles River, Paddle Boston / As you can see from the list item title “with different people” is critical. Conversations while paddling (you can’t exit the boat, you have a common goal of moving forward, and no easy access to your smart phone for distraction), and hopefully the cold beverage following, is fun with lots of different types of people. I had the pleasure on August 14 to enjoy a post-work paddle with an old colleague. She had been kayaking once before, but spent most of her time running the paths around the Charles River. Paddle Boston’s outpost along Boston’s Soldier Field Roa in Brighton made it easy enough to park and paddle, and not once did I feel like we were floating between busy sections of Boston roadway at rush hour. We paddled up river for about 45 minutes without really noticing the time, only recognizing the distance paddled by the bridges that crisscross the river at increments. The conversation made only sweeter by the refreshing beer at the local afterwards.

Remaining Kayak Adventures: Open Sea Kayak, Kayak Outside of MA, Kayak with Youngest

NATURE

#19 – Escape the Room

“Man is a gaming animal. He must be always trying to get the better in something or other.” – Charles Lamb

For as long as I can remember I have been part of a team. As a Brownie, playing soccer, softball, our neighborhood summer evening “Man Hunt” games, and the never-ending team based projects in college. As an adult we get to be part of teams in the workplace, or perhaps within the volunteer world, but that dig-in, come-together, work-it-out teamwork opportunities aren’t as prevalent (or perhaps not as satisfying). No one really enjoys trust falls, or the team building games that were cutting edge when I started in the workforce, anymore. However, experiences like Escape the Room lend themselves to fun, engagement, activity, learning and did I say fun?

Escape the Room is a concept in which you and a few friends, or strangers, gather in a space, are presented with a challenge a-la-Jason Bourne. You need to work together to solve the problems, that eventually lead to your getting out of the room. I’m certain there may be some savants who could get out of the room as fast as they can solve a Rubik’s Cube…but that isn’t the point. There are the pressures of time – 60 minutes, but luckily the only thing to be shattered if you don’t get out of the room is your pride.

The reason I put this type of activity on my list to complete this year is because like some other great ideas for team building (Drink & Hunt coming to mind – pub crawl, team trivia and scavenger hunt combined!), they may be considered “fad” and not be around in perpetuity. I want to ensure I experience it.

The beautiful thing about #19, is my husband has already paved part of the way to experiencing this. A gift certificate for 4 people to Escape the Room. I can’t wait. More to come following the inevitable escape of the room.

TEAMWORK