Back in January 2017, my friend Ginny launched a campaign to get me to this free M/W/F workout she’d fallen in love with. “Everybody’s so nice,” she said. “I gotta warn you, though…there’s hugging.” And–because this was Ginny–the workout was, naturally, first thing in the morning.
These days, it takes a lot to get me out of bed for a 6 a.m. workout. Especially now that I, a freelancer, have no rigid office time. Setting an alarm is so 2014.
But did she say hugging?
Well. If nothing else, I had to experience hugging with the morning workout.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Ginny was on to something; this Project Austin was definitely worth setting my alarm. So now it’s my turn to testify. Allow me to share a little bit of the magic that’s getting me out the door before 6 a.m.
What I Like About Working Out with Project Austin
The November Project. This is the parent organization, a national fitness community. Roughly paraphrased from their website, the November Project is dedicated to bringing people together to work out for FREE, growing and striving through love for a city/town/neighborhood and the people who live there. NP has tribes all across the country (in fact, Dallas just became the first Texas-based NP tribe–congrats, Big D!). Project Austin is in the final pledge phase of becoming a full-fledged November Project tribe.
Connections. Project Austin workouts are about physical interactions with others. We could all use more socialization and bonding that is independent of age, ability, ethnicity, social status, occupation, politics, and morning-person status (who’s actually a “morning person” anyway?). Yes, we really do hug each other.
Reliability. Workouts are #weatherproof, meaning they go on despite some rain, cold weather, or heat (of course, safety matters–one workout was called for lightning but group leaders and die-hards with flexible schedules waited it out until skies were clear). You’ll never get stood up on that weekday workout again.
Simplicity. There’s no messing with pesky gear, gadget to wear, equipment to tote. We’re talking old-school, body-weight exercises that, combined with running, creatively use public space. Benches are spots for tricep dips; stairs run and bear-crawled up and down; low walls subjected to step-ups; hills repeated. You get the picture.
Smiles. Project Austin workouts start the day off on a positive note. Smiles all around (okay, not while you’re actually doing a shit-ton of burpees, but certainly after). Silliness happens–yelling “Twinkle, Twinkle” while executing star jumps and passing along Ricky Burpee (an armadillo-shaped spirit award). It’s FUN.
Newness. I get sick and tired of being stuck in a workout rut: running with the same people, showing up at the same classes, covering the same routes. Project Austin constantly provides new faces and fresh workouts; only the first-of-the-month PR workout is repeated, so regulars can measure their fitness progress.
Motivation. Activity is encouraged after Project Austin workouts. This April, for example, we had a plank challenge (reminder: make sure my 100 minutes are completed before May 1); group leaders post info about other Austin-area free events. And get ready for woohoos, high fives, and plenty of attaboys/girls during workouts.
Acceptance. Every body is truly welcome at Project Austin. Exercises are structured so all can participate, no matter ability or pace. We each have our own concerns to address. I, for example, am a slow runner and need to modify burpees. Nobody cares; it’s trying that matters. First, last, in between–it all works out.
Pride. I love my city and I’m proud of its beauty. Those early mornings among Austin’s still quiet downtown buildings are magical. Using public spaces in unexpected functional ways makes this citizen’s heart sing. Sharing is nice: newbies and other NP tribe members drop in all the time (see the NP website for locations).
Freedom. Who isn’t tired of gym fees, training costs, and coaching contracts? Project Austin puts simplicity back in exercise. I’m free to come when I can without commitment (unless, that is, I opt to give a verbal). You’ll want to come because you do get a good workout: warm-up, main set, final challenge, and stretching. All for free.
CALL TO ACTION:
Project Austin is making its big push for November Project tribe approval on Wednesday, May 3, at 6 a.m. at the Texas Capitol. It’ll be a great day to drop in and see what Project Austin’s all about.
Meet Project Austin
Group Leader Gina Rivera: “I discovered November Project in the fall of 2014 through a Washington, D.C. friend’s social media posts about their workouts. I attended one of the workouts shortly thereafter while visiting D.C. It was the most fun workout I had ever done and I hoped there was something like it here. So when I returned to Austin, I tweeted NPDC, and they directed me to Ellen Perl who was just about to start Project Austin. I have been a part of it since the beginning (Nov 2014).
I took over as leader about 10 months into it and, until Brian Fons joined us, lead solo for a while. In addition to leading the workouts, I am the social media champion. When you see a tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram pic, nine times out of 10, that’s me
The thing I love most about Project Austin is the sense of accountability we feel toward one another. If you don’t show up, people notice–and we let you know you are missed.”
Group Leader Brian Fons: “I was a regular November Project member in my home city of Chicago before I relocated to Austin. A huge fan of community fitness and November Project, I found the small Project Austin group immediately after moving to Austin. After about six months, I decided to help Gina and lead a workout once per week. I could not be happier to be a part of this amazing leadership team going through a period of tremendous growth.”
Group Leader Edwin Pacheco: “I went to the second workout Project Austin had in November 2014, but I didn’t start attending regularly until June 2015. Rachel Laretta (Rachie) first introduced me to Project Austin. She was looking for a free fitness option and dragged me along. At the time, I didn’t enjoy running; I struggled with cardio and core workouts and was a little embarrassed to work out in front of a group. After a while, I realized that, no matter how much I struggled, I was having fun. I attended more, learned about the free fitness community–how widespread this movement was–and was hooked! I became so dedicated to the group that Gina asked me to sub for her a couple of times when she and Brian were out of town. I loved it so much that, in October 2016, she asked me to be a leader. I’ve met so many great friends and discovered a new love of running I never thought possible. Because of Project Austin, I’m happy and in the best shape of my life. Leading this free group doesn’t feel like work to me; it’s a passion, a fun hobby–and I get pleasure seeing everyone’s faces in the mornings.”
The Project Austin Group: Here’s the group photo from the last Project Austin Wednesday workout in April 2017, taken on the Capitol steps. We were a sweaty bunch, which makes the obligatory finisher photo (there’s one taken at the end of every workout) a special sensory experience.
Our heart rates were up, the morning was young, and we were smiling, fit to meet the day.
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