October 24, 2013

Finding A Workout Common Ground

When working out becomes an uphill struggle, having a buddy helps

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

A version of this article appears in the November 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

The dimensions of Harvard Stadium shaped American athletics. The structure, modeled on both a Greek stadium and a Roman circus, was the first stadium built in the U.S., erected in less than four months in 1903. Just three years later, in 1906, a national debate was raging about the violent, brutal nature of football.

Nothing is new, is it?

One of the proposals to alleviate the problem of young athletes becoming horribly injured and/or dead, suggested by the football rules committee, was to widen the dimensions of the field by 40 yards to reduce collisions. Since it would have been impossible to alter the concrete shoehorn of the nation's only stadium to accommodate that width, the powers that be came up with an alternative: the forward pass.

And football was changed forever.

Another product of the great football debate of 1906 was the foundation of a little organization called the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which was created "to protect young people form the dangerous and exploitive [sic] athletics practices of the time," per the NCAA's website.

And all American sports were changed forever.

Today, Harvard Stadium looks much as it did when it was first built, with its historically preserved arches and its historically preserved lack of elevators. The first time I saw it was a hot August day when I had to lug a heavy laptop up, up, up those classical stairs to cover the 2008 MLL championship weekend. I fully expected to step over the dead bodies of my less fit colleagues en route to the press box on the top level. (Reporters, as a general rule, are not health nuts. I am probably the most in-shape sports writer in the whole wide world, and my mile time is in the 10-minutes-plus range.)

My point: It's tough to climb the stairs at Harvard Stadium, which makes the November Project all that much more extraordinary.

The November Project is the creation of two former Northeastern University rowers, Bojan Mandaric and Brogan Graham. After graduation, the duo found it much too easy to skip workouts. They realized that they had hardly ever ditched their crack-of-dawn rowing practices when they had a team counting on them. So they formed a plan.

Named for the month when their resolve to exercise typically faded (or rather, in the harsh Bostonian winter, froze), Mandaric and Graham made a pact to run the stairs at Harvard Stadium in the early morning of Nov. 1, 2011. Thus the November Project was born.

By fall 2012, as many as 300 people turned up for 6:30 a.m. workouts three times a week at different locations around Boston. (Wednesdays are always at Harvard Stadium.) At the end of each workout, you turn to the person next to you and hug her, even if she's a total stranger.

"It sounds cheesy, but it's rare to see something uplifting like this. It's helped me feel more open-minded," November Project regular Claire Wood said in a 2012 Boston Globe article.

(Note: I'm quoting the Globe article because Mandaric and Graham don't do phone interviews. They only speak to media post-workout, and only if the media members participate in the workouts. I didn't think my sad 2008 stadium climb would count.)

The November Project now calls itself "a grassroots morning workout tribe," and it has expanded to three other cities. It is a thing of beauty, just like Harvard Stadium. I hope it lasts for a century and then some, also like Harvard Stadium.

Here at Lacrosse Magazine, we dedicate every November issue to our "Gym Rats," lacrosse players who work out harder than anyone else. While playing a game is almost always fun, it's sometimes tough to find motivation to get into the gym and lift, or whatever part of training you find particularly dull. Organizing a partner or group workout, like the November Project, can be a great way to get past that.

So find a buddy, or find a mountain (or a stadium) to climb, or find anything that gets you off the couch and out into the world and moving around. Create your own November Project to get you through the winter, and imagine the dividends it will pay in the spring. 

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