Grassroots fitness movement gains following in Atlanta

There is no shortage of new workout programs coming to Atlanta.

Just this month, the latest fitness craze — Australia-born F45 — launched its first studio in the metro area.

Many of the most popular workouts are part of the wave of high intensity interval training group exercises currently enjoying widespread support.

Each take on fitness may have its own cult following, but it also comes with a cost. Individual classes can run in the range of $20 or memberships in the range of hundreds of dollars.

Five months ago, another group workout came to town and while it is similar to some of the other HIIT workouts, it is more about building community than building muscle…and it is free to anyone who wants to join.

Fitlanta is in the process of being accepted into the international grassroots fitness organization known as the November Project (NP).

The November Project began in Boston in 2011 when two rowing buddies from Northeastern were looking for a way to stay in shape post-college. They began working out together weekly and slowly other people began to join them.

It took a few years, but NP began taking root around the world with groups in Malaysia, London and Paris, as well as in other cities around the country.

To become a formally recognized group, tribe leaders in a given city must host a 30-minute, 6:30 a.m. workout each week on Wednesday and have a regular, committed base of participants (or tribe members). The November Project leaders have challenged Atlanta to get 100 people to attend workouts regularly.

“They call it a grassroots movement because it is about building a community around fitness. If you are not an athlete, you can still come and feel welcomed,” said Alexa Lampasona, one of the Atlanta tribe leaders.

Workouts are a combination of plyometrics, functional movements and paired exercises that are accessible to every fitness level from beginner to elite.

The Atlanta NP hopefuls began with tribe leader Christian Lopez who had moved to the city from California. Lopez is a marathon runner and was looking for something new. He reached out to the head NP tribe and told them he wanted to start a group in Atlanta.

L to R: Tribe leaders Christian Lopez, Alexa Lampasona and Jamey Gigliotti. Not pictured: Palmer Curry.

He started with four or five people at Piedmont Park and with a little help from social media, the group tripled in size. Now with four tribe leaders and about 50 tribe members attending each workout, the founders of NP are watching and waiting to grant Atlanta official membership into the November Project family.

As they draw closer to the goal of 100 tribe members per workout, they can expect founder Brogan Graham, to show up in Atlanta at a Wednesday workout and announce their full acceptance into November Project.

Lampasona first heard about the project from a story in Outside magazine. When she visited a friend in Denver for a relay run, she ended up in a van with a bunch of Denver November Project members. They were so welcoming, it left a strong impression on her.

Part of the lure, is the feeling of community. Workout sessions begin with a group bounce and a chant. Each city has their own version and in Atlanta, the chant is based on the song Hey Ya! by Atlanta’s own OutKast. Members greet one another with hugs, not handshakes.

November Project workouts take place no matter what the weather, and that is as true in Boston as it is in Seattle or San Diego. The big message is to just get up and get out, or #justshowup as fellow NPers might say, said Lampasona.

“There are a lot of stresses in life that you can have. It is hard to think about what workout I am going to do today. When you just show up (at November Project) the leaders take care of the workouts,” she said.

Building community in a city like Atlanta can be a challenge. The metro area covers a lot of territory, but each week at 6:30 a.m., NP members gather in the parking lot of Ponce City Market near Lululemon for their ritual workout.

There is also a rotating workout on Friday which moves around the city to different neighborhoods such as Inman Park or West Midtown. “We just look for a venue that has stairs or somewhere we can work out,” said Lampasona. The location is announced each week on the group’s Facebook page.

There are a lot of runners and cyclists in the group as well as just regular people seeking a free workout and a dose of camaraderie.

While there are a lot of seasonal outdoor workouts in Atlanta, none really keep the fitness fires burning through the winter and that is where November Project can make a difference for many locals.

Rain or shine, pro or novice, Lampasona, emphasizes the importance of just getting there.

People should show up and expect to have a blast, be part of a community and make a lot of friends, she said.

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