I am so excited that you all get a chance to read Dean’s NP story. Dean’s physical strength inspires me regularly whether he’s pushing his limits on the hill to choosing to do burpees even when they’re optional. I am also inspired when I watch him double back on a hill to encourage his mom to finish her last one. As you will read, NP is a family affair for Dean. I don’t want to give it all away, so, here’s Dean, sharing his NP story…
After receiving the positivity award this year, Rob asked me to contribute a blog describing my journey with November Project. I immediately felt this panic on what to write about. Don’t get me wrong, I was humbled by this request and I knew I really wanted to do it and I know deep down I needed to do it. My fear is that my story will not really encapsulate the essence of what NP means to me and how truly grateful I am for being part of this group. It has, without a doubt, positively impacted every aspect of my life.
My journey with NP began over 4 years ago when one of my colleagues, Jerrold Dubyk, asked me to come for a workout at Commonwealth Stadium in May of 2015. When he mentioned that the workout was at 6 am, was free, and that it was actually in the huge stadium doing stairs, I was very intrigued. He didn’t tell me much more other than just to show up. I had so many thoughts and questions like ‘who lets us in?’ ‘why is it called November Project?’ ‘I’m in good shape I will dominate it!’ ‘Is someone going to sell me something?…..it can’t be free?’ I was used to getting up at 6 am most mornings, going to the gym and doing some weight training and running on the treadmill so waking up an hour earlier than I was used to and doing some stairs to me wasn’t going to be much of a problem….boy oh boy was I completely wrong. As I was driving there I felt irritated and I remember thinking to myself “why am I driving across the whole city for a 30 minute workout!” When I got there I was impressed at the amount of people and the energy they all seemed to have. Jerrold came and gave me a hug and he was so happy that I actually made it. My irritation immediately ceased and I took it all in. He then introduced me to a few people who also gave me hugs. This was followed very shortly by my first group bounce, chant, and fuck ya!! Although it was waaaaaay out of my comfort zone to be so close to so many people so early in the morning, not to mention yelling a swear word at the top of my lungs….it felt so good and gave me so much energy and I felt this immediate connection. I then followed Jerrold to the upper deck and did my first flight…followed by my second flight….as I started my third flight Jerrold left me in the dust as I hit a wall and struggled immensely. My determination waned as I felt the burn and exhaustion in my legs and lungs and my pace went from a two stepping sprint to barely being able to put one foot in front of the other. I knew that if I was by myself I would have quit right then and there….but I wasn’t…..this was something way different than anything I had experienced. As others went past me, words of encouragement were given. “You’ve got this”, “keep pushing!” and “almost there!” kept happening over and over. I pushed and pushed well past what I thought were my physical limits. I wanted it to be finished so bad….it was the longest 30 minutes of my life!. Finally…after what felt like 3 hours I heard someone shout out “TIME!” I have never felt so relieved to finish a workout. As I sat up in the stands for my first every group pic with NP a euphoric blissful feeling came over me. It was a combination of pushing past my limits, feeling everyone’s energy, and knowing that I didn’t quit. This workout was at a different level in so many ways than anything I had ever experienced and I knew right then and there that I had to go again.
Despite not being able to walk properly for the next 5 days I showed up the following Wednesday and then the week after that. I couldn’t wait until Wednesday mornings, and when it was time to go to bed on Tuesday night it was hard to fall asleep. I started noticing that I was also getting a little bit further each and every workout and I wasn’t as sore in the mornings. Eventually I started attending Fridays and the struggles and triumphs I had with stairs were repeated on hills. I couldn’t believe that there was another workout that could be as equally difficult and addicting to me as the stairs (in fact I have come to like the hill workout the most). The Wednesdays and Fridays were a staple for me for the remainder of the summer.
I am not sure when the old 96er happened that year as it was so long ago now. That morning when I showed up at 5:25 was the most nervous I have ever felt about a workout. I had managed to complete one of the uppers and a couple flights of the second upper as my personal best in the half hour workout. The thought of doing stairs for 59 minutes was so daunting! My mind was telling me that there was no way I could do it for 59 minutes let alone finish it because doing it for a ½ hr was barely possible. When 5:30 hit I began the impossible feat. After finishing the lower bowl and taking my first flight on the upper bowl I was done….I hit my limit. My mind was racing and was coming up with every excuse to quit. I kept reminding myself how hard one section of the upper is let alone two!! And that is when I’m fresh not after doing the entire lower! To this day I remember vividly how much I struggled for the remainder of that workout. It was easily the hardest thing I have ever done. I battled with my quitting mind for what seemed like eternity. There would have been no possible way I could have kept going without the collective group around me. There were two parts to this. The first part was that I couldn’t quit because I couldn’t do that to the others around me. I knew that they were struggling as bad as I was and they needed me to keep going as much as I needed them to keep going. The other part to this was the words of encouragement I kept hearing around me. One voice in particular was relentless in guiding me through it when physically I couldn’t go on and mentally I was at my lowest and darkest place (I think it was during the first part of that last upper section). It just so happened that Jenn was running the old 96er to and she was there nearby pushing everyone around her to keep going with her words. As she passed me, her encouragement and energy gave me strength when I had absolutely nothing left. To this day I don’t know how I was able to finish (with 20 seconds to spare) with the shape I was in at the time.
After that first summer and fall I actually stopped going to NP and I really don’t know why….maybe I wasn’t ready to commit or put in the hard work. I think some of my excuses at the time were ‘too cold’, ‘not at commonwealth anymore’, ‘I’ve got hockey tonight and don’t want to be tired’. Our minds our powerful at giving excuses not to do things and validating our reasons for taking the easy way out. It took me until the spring of 2016 to get my act in gear and make the choice to show up again. This time I went all in and attended all three days on a regular basis and have not looked back. Going Mon/Wed/Fri helped me build the momentum but also allowed me to establish connections with other members, especially during the Monday workouts where there were less people and workouts often involved pairs or small groups. Sharing a workout with someone new each time and getting to know them that way is more my style as I am normally very quiet during the large group pre-bounce on Wednesday and Friday.
I became so addicted to the energy and positivity that everyone brought each morning and I am even more so today; it is of a higher vibrational frequency and it brings my whole body to a heightened state. It is also truly mind-boggling how much further we can go and how much more we can accomplish when we have others around us pushing us and encouraging us. When we are pushed past our limits again and again like we are in these workouts we get used to being at that point of exhaustion and for me, I have learned to appreciate it. The voice inside my head telling me to stop when things get agonizing is now simply a voice that I choose not to listen to anymore. I carry this practice throughout the day too and I get into this flow state all day! Work becomes so enjoyable as does coming home to see my wife and three kids. It has also transformed my body and physically and I feel so balanced. The natural motion of stairs and hills have built muscle where it needs to be and has straightened everything out for me. My minor back pain and knee ailments are a thing of the past. My cardio is also better than it has ever been. I find that I now have boundless energy and never get tired when I am playing hockey, basketball, going for a run or playing with my kids.
Experiencing something as amazing as NP makes it even better when you go through it with family and/or friends. About four weeks into my journey with NP way back in 2015 I asked my sister Darla to come out. We have always placed a high value on our fitness and have raced several times together in the City Chase.
I knew she would fall in love with NP and since her first workout, she was hooked. Since then we have experienced these amazing mornings together. I have needed her to be there more than she knows. She has helped me show up especially at the beginning when it was still new and my introvertedness needed her there. I can count on her to always be there especially during the cold winter Monday mornings when I want to remain in my warm bed. I would show up because I didn’t want to break our verbal and let her down as I knew she wasn’t going to break it. We have become much closer and our relationship is more genuine and positive than it was before. Since then we have had people close to us come out and become regulars. We always group text each other after our workouts and celebrate our hard work and dedication.
We have also recently had the fortune of sharing these workouts with our parents. They have added a new level of inspiration on top of everything that NP has to offer. Seeing them not only show up but to also push past their limits every week is so amazing to see. They are such an inspiration to me and I couldn’t be more proud of the commitment that they continue to show.
Something my mom shared with me after one of her first Friday workouts really moved her and sums up what November Project is all about. As time was winding down to the final seconds my mom was struggling as she neared the top of the hill. One of our tribe leaders who was at the top and about to call time noticed her and shouted words of encouragement to keep going. The leader then ran down to where she was walking and started to walk alongside her. My mom then dug down and gave it a bit more and started to quicken her pace to a run and then they made it to the top together. The leader then called ‘time’ and they embraced in a hug. I purposely left out the name of the leader because it could easily have been any one of them as they always look out for us, motivate us, and inspire us to be better. Now that I think of it (other than the calling ‘time’ part) we could replace the word leader with the names of so many tribe members that make up this amazing group. I thank all of you all for your inspiration, dedication, and your decision to just show up. A special thanks to Jerrold for asking me to show up. Lastly, thank-you Erin for supporting me going to bed so early at night so that I can get up so early to be and be a part of this. I appreciate you and love you to the moon and back.
ANNOUNCEMENTS – #justshowup
- Monday – Borden Park
- Wednesday – COMMONWEALTH STADIUM – Gate 2
- Friday – Walterdale Hill
Until next time…SMILE! J