Freddy is one of those kind people who really is interested in making his city a better place. He and his partner Tyler have been following the NP movement for some time and connected with Bojan and I a few months back. These two good looking dudes, with connections throughout the athletic community in Miami, want to build a NP as a way to connect more humans. Sure they love the racing and the intensity, but Freddy kept going back to the fact that ‘nobody does the early morning thing here in Miami,” and “I think we could stand out and connect more people who are free at that time.” The excitement in his voice was Christmas Eve every time we spoke. On the phone, through FaceTime, or even by text, pure energy. Freddy, months away from being 50 years old has a sharper looking Macklemore haircut than Macklemore himself. His English and Spanish flow at the exact same pace and his eye contact is all day. Leadership. When asked what we’re looking for before we build an NP in Portland or Austin or Atlanta, it always comes down to Leadership. Freddy, like all of us, will get better and better with time, but for now we know that he’s got it, he’s got leadership under control.
. . .
Leaving my in-laws house in Stuart, Florida, I wanted to make sure that we had enough props for the working in Miami. Ask any NP leader in any city about props and they’ll have a few good stories for you. Orange construction cones, CAUTION tape, whiffle balls, props add an element of… still not really sure, but they add something. Weeks leading into the workout in Miami I thought that the Dan Marino jersey, along with lifeguard nose zink, and the gold NP leadership bling piece would be a good dose of flare for my person, but as days became hours I knew we needed more to stir the texture of the workout itself. Gary Kaufenberg, days away from turning 69 years old, has a fine tuned garage of guy shit. Now let me be clear on this point: Gary has worked in real estate all his life, and along with his wife Jen, they seem to move every other year for the past three decades. This means, that whatever “junk” he has in his man section of the garage at any given time is carefully saved in the process of packing/loading/moving/unpacking. His man cave is a curated museum, not dusty piles of question marks. So when you take a stroll through Gary’s garage you’re dealing with some pretty amazing things that, at this point, will never see their way to a garage sale. His collection is dialed, his shit is good.
Two canisters of used, slightly muddy, pink breast caners awareness tennis balls by a reputable brand like Penn? Check. Those are for sure coming to Miami for the Pop-Up. One size XL lightly used leather weightlifting belt? Check. Would my costume begin to to outshine the rest of what was going on? Such pressures in this line of work. And the icing on the cake, one collapsable trampoline. The way skateboarders see the cityscape in terms of hand rails and cases of steps, the way firefighters notice exit routes and escape ladders inside restaurants, and the way a graffiti artist sees empty space on the underside of highway bridges as they fly by on the bus, while the rest of the world misses all of this? This is the way we leaders see props and workout spaces.
“Do you even know what you’re going to do with all that stuff?” Goldie says half laughing and half challenging as I load everything into the trunk of my nondescript rental car. “Nope. I mean yup, I mean.. you’ll see.” We had 2 hours of driving before we’d be in Miami on a Tuesday night. There was enough time to get creative.
Through texts we decided to meet on the corner of The American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami roughly an hour before the start of the workout. Freddy and Tyler show up in matching outfits that, for some reason, didn’t make me laugh. Hugs and laughs standing in the dark turned quickly into a lap around the giant glass building, the usual workout for the pledge group that had been building for the last 10 Wednesdays. Freddy was meticulous, pointing out each set of steps and how they go, “Left around that railing and then back up around this way to come down over here.” They had a route. Shit man, they already had core members. After returning back to the corner we began to talk about how things would go.
I was leading this workout and they were both going to train with the group. The workout would be 30-40 minutes of work with a warmup lap at the begging and a few words at the end before the group photo. They were both visually hyped that this Pop-Up Workout had come but neither of them knew that I was actually carrying the already engraved Positivity Award for this tribe. Miami was one workout away from becoming official and these two had no idea.
. . .
The thing that people forget about NP is that the workouts truly are thought out. The best Co-Leaders in all of the cities take time scouting, designing, and exchanging ideas on what to do at each workout. The physical space matters most. There is a reason that steps work better than loops around the building or up and over the hill. Steps are harder, sure, but they also keep everyone encased in the same engine room of pain and work and togetherness. A loop around the block or an out-and-back will actually separate the group and thin out the “we” that we’re trying to guide. Having speeds of all kinds within literal reach of one another is part of what makes NP magic.
Back in Miami at 6:28AM, the workout laid out for Freddy and the gang was just a 1/4 of the outside of the American Airlines Arena. The typewriter effect up and down the steps would bring the fast kids into their second lap while the slower kids in front were still hard at work on their first. At the end of each stretch around the outside of the building an uphill dash took athletes to a wall where 10 wall jumps were served. Like burpies, hoistees, and everything else, we care about form (at least enough to remind you that you’re doing them wrong/right). At the top of each wall jump, to seal the deal and to prove you’re actually on top of the wall, we had each member “air hump the world.” This got aggressive and hilarious pretty fast. Now, the one and only way out of these wall jumps was if you came to the wall and the trampoline was wide open. In a total ludicrous act of insanity and randomness, if the trampoline was open you could get by with a simple 15 two footed jumps before returning back to earth and back to the start of the section of steps for a new set. The only other piece of variation was borrowed from my boys in DC (sorry Kaelan, this was way before your time). The “spice” involved the passing off of the 6 dirty pink tennis balls from Gary’s garage. If at any point in the workout you were handed one of these tennis balls and the phrase “Happy Holidays” was said to you, your required response was “Fuck Yeah, and an immediate 10 burpies on the spot. This, along with the random trampoline, and the duration of 35 minutes of cardio-steps and hill sprints made for a full workout that came together nicely.
In the end, we made our way to the main section of steps facing the meeting spot. The group was happy and alive, still many hours before the city would follow. This group already looked like November Project. They were smiling and sweaty and seemingly friends. They were tired and worked and ready to hear about the next gathering. Though the group was less 60 people, the vibe was there, the heart was there, and our man Freddy was there. The story of what NP started as, became, and is now reaching to be was rolled out. The concept of positivity and showing up was set into stone. And after speaking on what leadership means and what this city needs and why we need to interact more often with strangers… the wooden Positivity Award was taken from my blue backpack and awarded to the freedom fighter who believes in Miami. The first movements of November Project Miami came with the passing off of the clean wooden oar handle to Freddy, who stood proud in front of his people.
The leaders inside this movement are blessed to get to see this machine from the front row, the front lines, and sometimes even from behind the steering wheel. The reach is incredible and powerful and, in the case of the sunrise that Wednesday in Miami, Florida, emotional. If you need a few days to thaw out this winter consider a visit to Freddy and the crew. They’re legit. And to my wife’s father Gary, thanks for the props – Everything worked out perfectly.