Guest Blog: My First Year with November Project (Ottawa)

Wether you were lacing up your runners or your skates this morning we’re glad you were there. Thank you for sharing in some skate-pushes, some under the bridge star jumps and some bench tricep dips.

If you have yet to meet Dan let us introduce you. He joined us early last January. This Aussie strolled up to Patterson Creek, during Bridge month. That morning, we were scolded slightly by a neighbourhood dog walker during the bounce, he (without mitt) was welcomed with open arms and Marcie’s generous sharing of her gloves, he showed up with a friend the very next week to a skating workout (with no skates) and he’s been with us ever since. When chatting with Dan, you always learn something new. He has been committed to bettering himself, staying consistent and continuing to challenge himself and others to new races and distances. Dan is also a huge reason we have clean and tidy tags, sunrise 6k and parliament hill tags. He makes this community better. Meet Dan.

Next Wednesday marks my one year anniversary since I joined the November Project. Reflecting back, it’s amazing how much my life has changed for the better all thanks to this crazy thing and the people I’ve met through it. The Ottawa tribe is filled with amazing folks from all walks of life, ready to welcome you to work out, eat bagels, drink coffee, and so much more.  

Before I start talking about my first year of NP, Here’s a bit of about me for those that don’t know me and my relationship with exercise that lead me to this point. I grew up on a 20-acre hobby farm 5K from a small town in country Australia. Being just on the edge of town, as a pre-driving-age teenager, I’d run into town to visit friends. After school and an 18-month stint backpacking in Japan, Europe and Canada, I returned home and started working in education. I found running a great way to wind down and collect my thoughts after long days working with children. I would go out late when it was quiet so I had the roads to myself. Midnight, headphones in, hood up, rain or shine, lit by the moonlight, I would sprint through the vineyards that circle my little town. It was during these nights of reflection that I decided Canada was where I wanted to spend my life and one of the last few times I would run (for fun) for a while.

At the end of 2012, I sold everything I had and moved to Ottawa, Canada with a backpack full of clothes and a bag of Fruchocs. I found a modest job and established my new life in Canada. However, a year later in February 2014 during my first time skiing, I got into a bit of an accident. Before I realized what had happened, I managed to twist my leg in a way it shouldn’t really go, messing up my hip and lower back. Sciatica abounds with months of physio to make it manageable. On a good day I could walk, but on bad days I could barely move.

The injury haunted me for three and a half years. My life became “safe”, favouring things that wouldn’t hurt my back, spending most of my time sitting in a chair at work during the day or laying on the couch at home. It added stress to my job and was a factor in ending my long-term relationship. Over time, it would get better and almost return to normal, but then a slip during Winter or a misstep on stairs would bring the pain right back. One day in October 2017 during another misstep, in what felt like a minute, I tensed, expecting all that pain to come back. After about a month of good days and I had to mentally prepare myself at the thought of going back to square one of all the progress I had made. Then I landed, stood up, and it took me another second to realize it hadn’t triggered any more pain.

I seized the moment, testing the water, seeing what I could do without causing myself pain. So far, so good, I signed up for a 4K while in Vegas. 2K in, I was wheezing and certain my heart was going to explode. I was the heaviest and unhealthiest I had ever been and still in a bit of a funk about the end of my relationship. The run was the wake-up call for how much I had let myself go and it needed to change. Now December 2017, with most of my friends on the other side of the world and a general disdain for gym memberships, I started running on my treadmill at home, aiming to do 3K a day. It took me forever to do and I really didn’t enjoy it, so in January I began looking for help that might keep me going. That’s when I found November Project.

My first workout! https://www.instagram.com/p/BeVRV36l1hg/

The roads were covered in snow on the way to my first workout, I rarely went downtown and especially not in the blistering cold of an Ottawa Winter. Parking on a side street, I started jogging the few hundred metres to where we were meeting. In the fog, a bunch of people running in circles, encouraging each other to move, trying to keep warm in the cold. I asked “November Project?”. I was instantly welcomed by the group, realizing I wasn’t just a passerby but here for them, here for whatever craziness was going to happen next. I really wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into at first but was hooked the second the bounce ended with a “FUCK YEAH!”. People loudly swearing in public places are my kind of people! I quickly outed myself as having no idea what I was doing; it was -13c and I didn’t have gloves. Marcia graciously offered an extra pair so I didn’t miss out on all the pushups, and I huffed and puffed through a dice workout that seemed to be mostly fire-drills along the icy sidewalk. These people were nuts, excited to be awake when everyone else is sleeping, and I loved it.

Amy! https://www.instagram.com/p/BeqLi97loP-/


I needed to show people what I had found, so the next week I brought my craziest friend Amy along and we had completed a solid workout to then watch the blood moon eclipse framed by the canal. These early morning workouts were already paying off!

I ran my first 5K in February and started struggling at the 4K mark this time. A “Let’s go Dan!” from Liz running by kept me going. By March, I managed to run 8K and had lost 25 pounds! By April, I learned what a Burpee was, which I substituted for forward-folds to keep my back pain in check.

First 5K: https://www.instagram.com/p/BfD-keWFVrx/

I noticed my personality and mood change as the pounds fell off. I was more engaged at work, felt sharper mentally (when I wasn’t half-asleep at 6:29 on a Wednesday morning), and was actually enjoying running again. Every month, I bought new workout clothes as the old ones quickly became baggy. With each new round of clothes, I started buying brighter and brighter colours to match my mood. With a trip to Australia in May, I found myself with major FOMO on my Ottawa tribes antics, so I committed to running the Sydney Opera House stairs every day for a week. I posted about it every morning; it kept me going, knowing I had accountabilibuddies on the other side of the planet awaiting proof I followed through.

Australia! https://www.instagram.com/p/BiP77MzhEYH/


After joking that we should have a workout to celebrate my Canadian Citizenship, Andre convinced me to actually do it, and when everyone jumped at the idea, I held a Friday morning workout to celebrate. It’s this energy, no idea seems too crazy and everyone is up for anything, that makes November Project great. Friday morning workouts soon became a regular thing with the start of the Arboretum Hill Club, with me leading the odd workout here and there . It was around this time that Rebecca suggested I have my eyesight checked, and when I found out I would need surgery or risk going blind in the near future! Spoiler alert: I’ve since had the surgery and made a full recovery.

Australia workout! https://photos.app.goo.gl/knfLhzgqwBbR2W3GA

I still have to pinch myself from time to time that only 18 months ago it hurt to move, now I find it hurts if I stop. Had I not found November Project, I doubt I would’ve lasted more than a few months on my fitness goals, let alone become this guy that leads workouts! It’s the lifelong friendships made and future lifelong friendships I’ll make next week that keep me coming back. These friendships have given me life advice, helped me out when in need, and even prevented me from going blind! Every person there on a Wednesday morning contributes in making the tribe better, stronger and the workout more enjoyable just by showing up. It’s something infectious; something that brings out the best in people and something that if you’ve never tried, you’re really missing out on a life-changing experience!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  1. February 16, 2019- Rideau Canal Skate Race! 8am. See event on facebook for details, or talk to Lauren, Liz or Josh.
  2. Next week’s bridge: Adawe Crossings Bridge!
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