Lazina Mckenzie at a November Project workout


How to Become a Morning Exercise Person in Any Season

Good vibes and good friends are a good start

By Jordan Whitehouse

Good vibes and good friends are a good start

By Jordan Whitehouse

July 10, 2023 •

When Lazina Mckenzie, ’08 MBA, showed up at Commonwealth Stadium for her first November Project workout in 2014, she didn’t know what to expect. She’d seen tweets about the fitness group that then-Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference had brought to the city from Boston, but that was about it. 

“So there I was, with a crowd of people I didn’t know, and at 6 a.m. we’re told to start bouncing in unison,” recalls McKenzie. “One of the co-leaders screams, ‘Y’all good?’ And everyone screams back, ‘F*ck yeah!’ before setting off to run stairs. I was just thinking, ‘What is this?’” 

She quickly found out — and fell in love with it. 

Started in 2011 in Boston, November Project is a free exercise group with 58 chapters around the world. The Edmonton chapter, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in July, meets three times a week at 6 a.m. sharp whether it’s raining, snowing or 30 C — plus or minus. The locations vary, but the workouts usually involve running stairs, climbing hills or bodyweight training. 

“Our biggest competitor is a warm bed,” says Mckenzie with a laugh. She’s now a co-leader of the group. 

So what does it take to get out from under the covers? Mckenzie shares five lessons she’s learned about showing up to the November Project week after week. 

You can start anytime

One of the big deterrents to joining November Project is that people think they need to be at a particular fitness level, says Mckenzie. That’s just not true. “No one cares,” she says. “I say that cheekily, but I think it helps to let people know that no one is paying attention to them.” In fact, Mckenzie and her co-leaders design the workouts so that anyone can participate, no matter their age, background, fitness or mobility levels.

You see your city differently

One of the big reasons people join is for the chance to enjoy unique Edmonton spaces like Commonwealth Stadium or the river valley staircase at the Royal Glenora Club. For Mckenzie, it’s also motivating to see those spaces in a new light. “Say we’re at a parkette doing decline push-ups on a bench, and you notice a coffee shop nearby that you visit later,” she says. “It helps you appreciate your city in a totally different way.” 

It’s best to have fun

As adults, we need to take some things seriously — but working out doesn’t have to be one of them, says Mckenzie. “One thing we always say about the November Project is that we’re serious about play. This is recess time, and so it’s OK to be silly and wear a pickle costume for no reason.” That sense of playfulness can be a real motivator for the person struggling to get out there.

We are limitless

When it’s cold and dark out, getting up to work out might seem impossible. But once you actually do it, you realize what you’re capable of, says Mckenzie. “I grew up in Richmond Hill, Ontario. I never spent much time outside in the winter — didn’t think I could do it. Now I’m a winter runner in one of Canada’s coldest cities.” Breaking through mental limits like these makes you realize you can break through others in your life, she adds. “I’ve seen that happen with so many people.”

Community is a great motivator

An outdoor workout on a cold, dark morning is one thing. But doing it again and again takes a certain kind of person, Mckenzie says. Usually, that person is at least somewhat motivated by a sense of community. “Would I leave my house to go for a run by myself in January when it’s -20 C and there’s a warm bed upstairs? Probably not. It’s easier when you know people are waiting for you. We show up for each other.”


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