Announcements:

  1. Chris Larson is first-ever NP MKE President. Congratulations to PONPMKE on this President’s Day.
  2. If you have plastic Easter eggs, send Christine a message on Facebook.

Now on to the good stuff. For the first guest blog post, we present to you Milwaukee’s Matt “Super Rad” Mathias (origins of the name is the crowd surf that took place when he was awarded the PA this past Wednesday). Not only can this dude run, win over hearts with his cheer, and surf and ski like the gnar-shredding dude he is, he can also write. Try not to cry.

A few years after recommitting myself to care about my health and fitness, I began to get tired of group exercise classes I had been attending that were overcrowded, repetitive, and no one ever talked to each other.  In a class of 50 when the instructor asked how everyone was doing even a simple nod by a girl in the front row would be a colossal response (a bit different from the “y’all good’s?” I’ve come to love).

So when NEWaukee incorporated rise & grind workouts into their Young Professional Week schedule during April of 2015 I thought it could be a good opportunity to try different fitness classes and maybe find a new gym to join.  Monday brought a boot camp that was intensely focused on selling their gym membership and the extent of group interaction was awkwardly apologizing for brushing shoulders as we bear crawled past each other in a tight hallway.  Tuesday was some sort of motion based workout/mindfulness/get in touch with the planet workout?  I have no clue what the purpose was but we did parkour in a single file line, not talking to each other for 45 minutes.  Friday – Enter November Project Milwaukee.

I was freaked out.  Everyone seemed to know each other and were talking, laughing, and hugging.  I went off to the fringe and did some of those solo side-to-side inner thigh stretches you do when you’re try to look busy but really are feeling isolated from the group wondering what the hell you got yourself into.  Finally after what felt like an eternity of self-conscious panicking, an absurdly tall, fit dude with a mohawk began shouting at everyone to begin bouncing.

DG, please bring back the ‘do

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Before I knew what was going on we broke apart and a lanky, fast looking, spectacled dude named Dominic introduced himself by saying “partner?”  Still overwhelmed I nervously squeaked out “sure” and he brought me in for a hug.  Over the next 45 minutes we ran around the Milwaukee River through stations involving wall sits, planks, hoistees, box jumps, partner pushups, sprints, high fives, laughs, and yes, more hugs.

Leaving that workout (and commencing a two year streak of showing up late to work on Fridays) I couldn’t help but smile thinking about how much fun the experience was and began researching how soon I could come back.

First ever workout – April 17, 2015

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Since that Friday, I returned 148 times (thank you fitness tracking spreadsheet for finally being useful!) with my longest consecutive streak of workouts attended at 20.  I’ve been publically shamed for being late twice, recruited three tribe members, likely convinced countless other friends and family recruit targets that I’m in a cult, witnessed a marriage proposal, puked on PR day, slip ‘n slided into Lake Michigan, survived a Sunrise 6k in a hurricane, dressage-d on the courthouse steps, fathered a penguin ornament baby, watched a lifetime of incredible sunrises, and most importantly met some of the most impressive, likable humans in my life.  The people and interactions had been the missing element in my fitness life and I’ll never forget that first day and the sense of fulfillment I’ve gained in my life since.

Life goal: beat Will Bott in a race

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So why does November Project stick when all those other group fitness classes cycled in and out of my life?  Everyone has their own interpretation of what November Project is and what it means to them and I don’t pretend to have the answer for others.  I don’t even know if the fabled Bojan and Brogan could tell you.

To me it’s a group of people trying to do something to benefit themselves but in the context of helping others reach their goals.  It’s being as out there and strange as you are in a judgement free zone.  It’s a comfort of belonging when someone says “I’m glad you’re here”.  It’s a shout of encouragement from a stranger 27 minutes into PR day that gets you across the finish line.  It’s starting the morning with a positivity high at 7:17am and carrying that vibe through the rest of the day.  It’s the fear of missing out on that one workout that everyone will be talking about for months to come.  It’s a collective understanding we’re going to this workout to sweat, to be pushed, to be teased for taking ourselves too seriously.  It’s to be acknowledged and to genuine human interactions without a cell phone anywhere nearby to distract our attention.  It’s amazement at the fastest cat lapping everyone else on the course, and inspiration from the new to working out guy who won’t quit no matter how hard they are huffing and puffing.

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Group pictures remain my favorite reminders of the workout because in those you see real smiles from a collection of people with unbridled joy.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been beat up running hills or you were sidelined at injury deck, no one is faking a smile in those and our photographers do an incredible job of capturing spontaneous moments of happiness.  They signify the completion of a workout of course, but moreover a community of diverse individuals who recognize and appreciate the accomplishment of everyone around them and are ecstatic to share in that moment.

We all have our own holes that November Project fills and our own reasons we keep coming back.  As a group, we appreciate that we’re all lucky enough to have found it and experience it alongside members of our tribe.  What makes this group so special to me is that when speaking about it to newcomers, we’re less concerned with expressing what it was done to us, but more so with the potential of what it can mean for them.  There’s a selflessness to this community that radiates throughout and makes it impossible to not be dragged in.

So keep obnoxiously talking about it to your friends and maybe one day they’ll take the scary first plunge that we all went through.  They’ll thank you but you’ll be happier seeing their excitement for the movement build and the recruits they drag along in future months.  We often have a difficult time expressing the complex in words, however a boisterous, mohawked fella once shouted, “This. Shit. Is. Good.”  I’m not sure a tribe member anywhere could have simplified the essence of why this community works so eloquently.

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Guest blog: Matt “Super Rad” Mathias
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