It’s 5:15 on a frigid Wednesday morning and Chris Capozzi is standing in the center of Harvard Stadium, the school’s historic U-shaped structure and the scene of November Project’s weekly group stair-climb workout. As a co-leader of the free fitness community, he arrives early to take on the stadium “tour” with a group of die-hard members, and finishes in time to greet a second round of members at 6:30.
If it were someone else standing there in the dark morning air, he might be worried he would be taking on the infamous stairs alone. He knew, however, that each time a tribe member said he or she would “just show up,” he/she meant it. Sure enough, two or three at a time, brightly-dressed people begin to drift across the field, forming a gathering characterized by eager chatter, hugs, and affirmations of determination.
Chris never expected to be co-leader of November Project. If you asked him a few years ago where he’d be now, he certainly wouldn’t have told you shouting in the middle of a Boston stadium while the rest of the city slept. But that’s where he is. And free fitness is what he does.
November Project began with a pact. Founders Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric, two former Northeastern rowers, were looking to form a group of athletes who were committed to meeting at 6:30 each morning. The idea was that this accountability would keep each of them motivated through winter training. What resulted was a close-knit community filled with people of all backgrounds, fitnesses, ages, and goals meeting in Boston on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. By the time Chris joined, the group had grown exponentially, with members showing up every day in cities across the world. When he speaks about his role with NP, it’s clear that it’s had a major impact on his life, igniting a passion he might not have found otherwise.
“I’ve always been unsettled- I love to go to new places and meet new people. In total, I was traveling for three years before I made my way to Boston. Even then, I set a deadline for when I would move on to the next city. November Project obliterated that deadline by engulfing everything that was important to me: The diverse and constantly growing community, travel, and purpose. I didn’t want to leave.”
Despite all of the time he must devote to NP, Chris believes that his involvement has benefited his career as an architect and designer causing him to ask new questions: How do people interact with the city? How could he keep them engaged? “[ NP] reminded me that I had always loved movement. I looked for a way to celebrate that. I decided to create URBN MVMENT.”
URBN MVMT is a free fitness-inspired revolution, focused on pushing communities to interact with the architecture and design around them while they sweat. As he navigates the kinds of events URBN MVMT will host, Chris draws influence from November Project, its community, and his professional background.
The first event invitation urged attendees to bring “yoga mats, cash and ID, positive energy,” and most important, “a mechanism to move with.” Running shoes, skates, boards, pogo sticks, and wheel barrels were provided as suggestions, but creativity was strongly encouraged. What were the entendees required to leave at home? Expectations.
“There are no limits,” Chris says when asked about the future of free fitness in Boston.