Can't Afford A Gym Membership? These Malaysians Are Running A Free Fitness Movement

You don't need a sen to stay fit.

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Can't Afford A Gym Membership? These Malaysians Are Running A Free Fitness Movement
With the rise of the importance of fitness in the media and community, people feel the pressure to keep in shape.

Most of the time, it costs a lot of money. A gym membership could run you up to more than RM200 a month, minus personal trainers.

November Project Malaysia is here to show Sarawakians – and fellow Malaysians – that they don’t need to spend a single sen on a fitness session.

Rojak Daily spoke with Ridley Chen, kickstarter of November Project Malaysia, a free for all fitness movement.

1. What is November Project? Why November?

NP Malaysia was announced at the NP Summit 5.0 in Boston.
November Project is a grassroots free fitness movement, started by two ex-varsity rowers from Northeastern University; Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric, in Boston, Massachusetts in 2011.

This movement started as they were looking for ways to stay active during the cold New England winters, so they decided to challenge and be accountable to each other to workout every day for one month.

That month was November, but after that month, they decided to keep going and started inviting anyone and everyone they could to join them. November Project currently spans 44 cities in eight countries, says Ridley.

2. Who started NP Malaysia and when? Who are the Tribe founder and leaders?

Ridley was the man who started it all.Ridley started Myfitnessfeat in 2014, modelled after November Project, focusing on free fitness and the community. Ridley lived in Canada, played American football and was into weight training for years. He was also a certified trainer.

Ing was a competitive swimmer turned fitness enthusiast, who is always finding ways to challenge her limits, physically and mentally.

Harry was one of the co-leaders.
Harry enjoys recreational league soccer and is into cycling.
"Ing and Harry both started to just show up when we were Myyfitnessfeat. Watching their fitness levels and confidence grow was awesome.

"They had also been around the group long enough that when we became November Project, I needed help and they were the perfect candidates," Ridley tells us.

3. Who does NP Malaysia help, and how?

Everyone and anyone who wants to be active, whether to get in shape, stay in shape or have a fitness goal to achieve.

"Our first workout had six people, consisting of friends and family, and we slowly grew to a consistent 20 plus. You could have zero fitness experience or you can be a seasoned marathoner.

No pain, no gain!
According to Ridley, their workouts are tough but "they are scalable to an individual’s fitness level. We push, challenge, and encourage each other. It’s always about the positive at November Project."

4. How do you promote NP?

Back in 2011, Brogan and Bojan sent out a tweet on twitter and when one person (Sara Wild) decided to #justshowup, they were over the moon with joy.

"NP is heavily promoted and dependent on social media, but as a co-leader/tribe we are encouraged to recruit by talking to strangers. Extending our network and community by bringing strangers in, or #recruiteveryone as we call it," he adds.

5. Does NP work with other charity/community groups?

"We don’t work with any charity or community groups, but at the same time we work with every one of them. If there is a run, there is probably someone from the tribe participating.

The cheerleading squad encouraged runners with free high fives.
"If we have enough tribe members participating, we will most likely have a cheer squad out to support, encourage and cheer all runners on," Ridley points out, adding that as Myyfitnessfeat, they supported the PCAM (Palliative Care Association of Miri) in 2015 and 2016, raising over RM6,000 just from the support of their tribe.

"This year as November Project, I have been encouraging our tribe to sign up for their run. As for community groups, we haven’t had the opportunity to work with any but are open to it. As long as it benefits the community and not an individual or company, we will consider it," he says. 

6. Any word on whether there will be other NP tribes in Malaysia, or is it one country one tribe?

Ridley tells us that he would love to see more than one NP tribe in Malaysia, but they are currently some challenges.

"I think the awareness about November Project is still very low in Malaysia, and that is where we need the help from the media to promote what we are.

When November Project officially announced Miri as an official November Project Tribe.
"It’s definitely not restricted to one city per country," he says, "as they have 10 cities in Canada, 28 in USA, one each in UK, Iceland, Netherlands, Serbia, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Other tribes will be subjected to a pledge period, which we went through."

7. What are the sessions like? Could you describe them?

"Our sessions are the earliest in the world (44 cities); we start at 5.15AM. People start arriving around 5:00AM, and do a little catching up while we wait. If there are announcements, they are done right at 5.15AM to give others a few minutes to join us."

According to Ridley, every session starts with a call out to “get in close, nice and tight as we begin “The Bounce”.

"The Bounce is our way of giving everyone a shake, a wake, a warm up. We bounce, we make loud noise, sometimes it doesn’t even make sense but there is sure to be laughs." 

While we're big on hugging, we also encourage the high fivers, the handshakers, and the head nodders to join us!
Hugs, high fives, fist bumps are exchanged before a workout is announced to the tribe, and then off the entire tribe goes for a hard 30-35 minutes of sweating, fitness, cheering, motivating, encouraging and sometimes trash talking.
"If you are hurt or injured, we will have an injury deck where you still exercise but not make your injury worse," he adds. 
Ending the 'day' with some good fun."As we approach 5:50AM, the tribe is called in, we take a group picture, we celebrate any birthdays, we give out the positivity award (twice a month), give them a positive message to start their day, give them homework to challenge them to personal growth or for betterment of the community and we send them off to start their day, hopefully full of positive vibes."

8.Aside from the weekly morning sessions, does NP organise activities like hiking, etc.?

"We currently meet on Wednesday and Friday mornings. 5.15am on Wednesdays, and 5.18am - yes, 5.18am - on Fridays. We also once a month have a social gathering, which we call the crate escape," says Ridley.

The crate escape, according to Ridley, involves a slow run with multiple random stops along the route and a volunteer tribe member will get on top of the crate and share a story.

It's crate time!
"At the end of the run, we are usually at an eatery where the tribe can have some drinks and food and again, build on relationship and human connection. Crate escape is about getting to know the city, story-telling and socialising."

9. What is the typical progress like, in stages, for people who start out as newbies to fitness with the NP tribe?

A newbie is usually recruited by someone already in the tribe, or better still on an off chance they just show up after stumbling upon the November Project on social media.
"First workouts are tough because you are new, you are on the outside, you don’t really know anyone so we will try to hold newbie meeting. Introduce the newbies and tell them what to expect, what our culture is and things like that.
"Then we send them off to join the group already working out. At the end of the workout, we will check with them on how it went. Some we will see again and some we won’t because it’s not for them or it was too tough," he says.

We're still here.But of the regular 40 plus that do show up, they were all newbies at one time and they are still here, says Ridley.

"We have had 'I am not a morning person' become a regular, we have had 'I am not a runner' run their first 10km/Half marathon and even full marathons," Ridley boasts.
"We have had a people step up to take on obstacle races when they barely exercised before they joined us. These are all incredible individual goals and achievements that should be celebrated and we are just happy that we part of their journey.

"It all depends on the individual, the support and encouragement is there but the will and desire is within him/her.

When the Mayor of Miri, Adam Yii, showed up at a NP workout "If we have seen you at our workout once, we want to see you every time and we do our best to make sure you are welcomed, accepted and of course, challenged physically."

10. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about NP?

What Ridley wants Malaysians to know is that the November Project is a free fitness movement that accepts everyone; it is a judgement-free zone where anyone can come and be his or herself, as long as they are respectful towards everyone else.

"We gather in the mornings because we want to send everyone out to start their day on a very positive high, hoping that their positivity will be passed on to the next person they encounter, and the next (ripple effect)," he adds.

The tribe surprised a departing tribe member with her face masks!11. How does one contact NP for more info?

"This is the easier part… you #justshowup. Every Wednesday morning 5;15am at Taman Bumiko Hill and Friday mornings at 5.18am at Bulatan Park, we are there rain or shine because November Project never cancels, we are #weatherproof," he laughs.
Want to know more about November Project Malaysia? Just 'Like' their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram, or like Ridley said, you could #justshowup at their next session!

We hope you are filled with positivity and pumped with excitement for fitness after reading this. If it is not for you, do share with your fitness-enthusiast buddies!

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