Get Fit

Just Show Up

The early bird gets free fitness on the State House steps


I’m a fitness person, but I’m not a morning person. I’ve always been envious of those who can effortlessly rise with (or before) the sun. I wish I could be one of them, but it’s just not in my constitution. When it comes to working out, I much prefer an afternoon or evening session.

Steven Blais, on the other hand, is a morning person – or at least I assume he is, based on how he chooses to spend them. He is the organizer of the Providence Project, the local chapter of the November Project, a worldwide free fitness movement that started in Boston. Every Wednesday morning, Blais and his “tribe,” as he calls them, gather at the State House stairs for two workout sessions at 5:27am and 6:27am.

“The reason why we work out early in the morning is because getting it done before you start your day means that your nights and weekends are yours,” he explains. “Folks willing to come to work out in the dark on a February morning are making the conscious decision to be there, to work hard, to join their community, and to be a part of something great.”

The core philosophy of the Providence Project (and the November Project as a whole) is “just show up.” The workouts are free and your level of fitness doesn’t matter. There are no sign-ups or membership cards – you just show up (super early in the morning). When I decided to just show up (at 6:27, after sleeping through the 5:27 session), I wound up getting hugs from four complete strangers (including Blais) before we even started. That’s the thing about morning people – they tend to be very enthusiastic.

Nearly 40 people were there for the second workout and the energy was admittedly infectious. I was one of a handful of first-timers, but many were loyal members of the tribe proudly sporting their “PVD Project” t-shirts. There was a lot of laughter, hugs, and high-fives.

There was also some exercise – some fun, fast-paced, and challenging exercise. We started off with what Blais called “Cha-Cha Slide Planks,” which used that annoying song you hear at every wedding (“Turn it out, to the left/Take it back now y’all/One hop this time, right foot let’s stomp”) as the inspiration for some serious core work. This involved holding a high plank while following the instructions of fitness guru Mr. C the Slide Man: on “to the left” or “take it back now” we would crawl one step in that direction; each call for a hop meant jumping our feet up towards our chest. Some were less literal, and more intense: “hands on your knees” translated to mountain climbs and “clap your hands” meant alternating shoulder touches while still holding plank.

That turned out to be the easy part. Don’t forget: Providence Project works out at the State House stairs.

The remainder of the session was a three-person relay, with one at the top of the stairs, one at the bottom and one runner on the stairs. The exact mechanics of the relay would be a bit unwieldy to lay out on this page, but suffice to say it involved running, bear crawls, two types of squats, jumping jacks, high knees, and worst of all, burpees, among other things – with no breaks in between.

As tough as it was, it was never boring and the team spirit made it easy to keep going. The creativity of the exercises, along with the overall atmosphere of fun and camaraderie, made 30 minutes pass by in a flash. It was a fun and invigorating way to spend a morning. I will definitely do it again – if I can manage to drag myself out of bed in time.

Providence Project
Workouts every Wednesday at 5:27 and 6:27am on the State House steps