A free fitness movement has residents and out-of-towners gathering in the wee hours of the morning to work out.
They were ready before the sun even had a chance to wake up.
After starting the morning with a short run around Lake Baldwin, the group took a rest before the second leg of their morning routine began.
As the time for the group workout approached, rays of sunlight streaked across the lake as the sun slowly began peaking above the horizon line off in the distance.
At 6:29 a.m., Allison Palmer, co-leader of November Project Orlando, gathered the group of more than 25 people in a circle, hyping them up for the hourlong workout.
The instructions she gave were simple — lunges across the cement overlook of the lake, then run to one dock and do side planks, then run to the other dock for more side planks, and finally run back to the overlook — starting the process all over again.
It was a routine easier said than done, especially once the humidity kicked up and the sun began bearing down.
“Some mornings, you’re just happy to be alive,” says Matt Garrepy. “And in mornings like this, where it is oppressive, you’re happy to be alive, but just carrying a lot of extra sweat with you.”
After almost an hour’s worth of lunges, running and planks, the workout ended with participants forming a “human tunnel” as they chanted and cheered as runners barreled through.
The group, a “tribe” of the November Project, was started a year ago by Palmer and is co-led by her friend Travis Hennager.
Referring to itself as a “free fitness movement,” the November Project was started in Boston and has spread throughout the world — from Orlando to Hong Kong.
“We have a growing contingency here with this,” Palmer says. “Its freakishly friendly people dressed up as neon Skittles, and we spray paint our shirts because we think it’s funny.”
Palmer was referring to the colorful shirts each person wears, which have “November Project” spray-painted across the front. The shirts also include a spray-painted on orange half that serves as a logo of sorts — each location has its own insignia.
The idea to start up the tribe in Central Florida arose during the Orlando native’s time living in Maryland where she found out about the group’s activity in Baltimore.
“I also like connecting people and seeing friendships grow,” says Palmer. “And say that you go to a running club, you normally wouldn’t run with people not in your pace, but here you normally interact with people with different paces and different backgrounds. So I like that, I like the diversity of it.”
The group is certainly diverse, with everyone from children to seniors participating in the runs and workouts.
Inspired by his daughter, who is part of the tribe in Washington, D.C., Dave Camous decided to try the program.
“It really is the camaraderie — I worked on cruise ships for four-and-a-half years and only came back to land last year, so I missed that,” Camous says. “I missed that intensity; I missed that group of people around you that supported each other to get the job done.”
That sense of budding friendships and the inspiration that inspired in runners seemed to be the general theme for everyone involved.
“It really just is the people that are here — though I love the exercise — but it’s the environment,” says Michelle Kruse, who is about to move to Baldwin Park.
Kruse, a native from Huntsville, Alabama, ran for the Chargers’ cross-country team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and has participated off and on in the group since before it became an official tribe.
Along with the camaraderie, there is also an appreciation for people with ranging skill levels in running.
“It’s very eclectic … you know, I bring friends who say, ‘Oh I’m not in shape,’ and I say there are people who are walking, there are people who are competitive runners – there’s all ranges,” Dawn Panny says. “There are other people who are just making it, whatever, you do what you can do, there’s no frowning on … we’re all supportive.”