A Culture Shift Reminder

There’s this joke that has been following me around for 7 years which goes something like this: “Have you met Laura? She leads (led) the November Project San Francisco tribe and helps Brogan and Bojan continue to grow this thing. Oh, and she hates November Project.”

I’ve tried to embrace the role of the Chief Cynical Officer, who usually comes up with reasons things won’t work before I see the possibility that they might. Blame it on the fact that I grew up in NY, or that I have been surrounded by men my entire life (brothers and friends) who have hardened me up. On my way to becoming a loud, sarcastic human, I have also learned how to wear an invisible protective barrier, something that even I forget I am wearing most of the time.

So this character I have become in the November Project world seems fitting and perfectly in line with what I am about to say: I still have trouble with the hugging. We are nearly 7 years into this insane ride and I still struggle with the “turn to 3 people and give them a hug.” Why? Well, because I am a sour human devoid of all emotion, right? Eh, maybe. But I don’t really think that’s the whole story.

For me, it’s actually not so much about the action, but about the invitation to press your body up against mine. I think that’s something you earn, not something you are entitled to. When I see my friends who have earned this reaction, I genuinely enjoy greeting them with a hug. There is something so warm and welcoming about a well-received hug. But are all hugs at November Project well-received? How many butt-out-lightly-tap-the-shoulder hugs have you experienced? Especially with this gross, humid, weather where people look like they jumped into a swimming pool before they even begin the workout. Since moving back to the east coast, I find myself avoiding hugs like the plague as people try and bath my exposed arms in their pouring sweat. Each and every time I picture my unborn child saying “Oh, that’s just vile” in Stewie’s voice from Family Guy.

Unfortunately, this sentiment also spills over into November Project social events which often involve alcohol, jubilation, and lowered inhibitions. At these large NP gatherings, I frequently find myself backing into corners with friends so no one can “sneak up” from behind for a blind greeting. As a woman I have developed an entire artillery of weapons against unwanted advances from a very young age, many of which I never realized I did until recently, which include this rear blocking technique. These techniques are definitely not exclusive to November Project workouts and socials, but rather every time I exit the safety of my own home. And now that I have attended (and thoroughly enjoyed) 823,820,392 total NP workouts and outings, I want to challenge this particular community, the community I rave about daily, to be better. Hold yourself to a higher standard and take the “rules” of NP workouts out into the world when you leave. We are constantly talking to the leaders about making their workouts a safer space for those participating, for improving the language we use, and for holding ourselves accountable for those times when we at NPHQ make mistakes. Why don’t we ask the same of the people coming to the workouts? Honor and respect one another so we can all let our guards down and get the most out of these workouts and this community.

Last year, Brogan and Bojan released a PSA about November Project taking action in making people feel safe at our workouts.There is so much good that pours out of every single workout, I absolutely hate hearing that people don’t return simply because of the hugs. I mean, I get it, but as a movement we have to keep working on changing that. Hugging tears down walls, connects humans to one another, and breaks the ice in new friendships…but so do high fives. A high five forces eye contact, connects person to person, and (somehow) always produces oversized smiles on the faces of the participants.

So I challenge each person to embrace the November Project culture shift and remind one another of the changes we have been working on this past year.

  • When it comes to hugging, you should always feel just as comfortable putting your hand up for a high five instead.
  • And on the flip side, if someone puts up their hand, you should gleefully slap it, and never feel okay in saying “we hug here” while lunging at a person with your arms out wide. That was once part of the November Project culture, .
  • Leaders, we are holding you accountable as well. “Turn to 3 people and give them a hug OR HIGH FIVE” should roll off your tongue by now.
  • Gotta Hug? You think they NEED a hug? I’ve heard of this foreign concept before. If this is you then respect those out there who may shy away from hugging strangers and find a healthy practice of saying, “May I give you a hug?”

I end this PSA Part Two with a confession: I actually really love November Project. Turns out, I have lots and lots of feelings about it. I even enjoy working with close friends, Brogan and Bojan, even though making fun of them is way more entertaining. This movement has changed my life and I hope to continue meeting more incredible people through this fitness circus with each passing year. I even look forward to hugging my NP friends, when they are in a dry outfit, and their sweat imprint won’t linger on me after.


Laura Green, CCO 

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