5 Ways to Get Fit in Philly Without Going to the Gym

You’ll have so much fun doing these six activities around Philly — from rock climbing to axe throwing (yes, axe throwing) — that you’ll forget you’re even getting a workout. (Don’t worry: Your muscles will make it clear that you did, in fact, get a workout later.) Bonus points: You won’t be forced to step foot inside a boring ol’ gym for any of them.

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How to Stick to Early-Morning Workouts (For Real!)

Be Well Philly Underground with November Project | Photo by Susan Nam

Be Well Philly Underground with November Project | Photo by Susan Nam

Philly’s November Project tribe is a grassroots workout group — one of dozens of other free November Project workout groups in cities around the world (yup, the world … there’s NP Iceland, London, and Hong Kong) — that meets almost exclusively in the early morning hours. Philly’s group works out at the Art Museum steps at 6:25 a.m. on Wednesday mornings, in locations around the city at 6:25 a.m. on Friday mornings, plus the occasional pop-up workout or run. (Guys, it’s free, if you haven’t heard, so #justshowup — that’s their motto. That is, if you can first #justwakeup.)

Many of us want to be committed to early-morning workouts (after all, according to this Philly trainer, it’s the best time to exercise) but have trouble actually getting our butts out the door in neon spandex to bounce up and down the Rocky Steps before sunrise. To find out the secret to sticking to those good morning-workout intentions, we caught up with seven dedicated November Project early-risers, including the group’s two fearless (or insane) co-leaders, to find out what motivates them to get out the door when their alarms go off. Check out the (sometimes weird, sometimes adorable — see: puppy wake-up call) secrets to how they do it below.

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The 19-Year-Old CHOP Patient-Turned-Playwright Whose Poetry Will Make You Cry 

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy, 19, is a poet and playwright who occasionally rocks purple hair. “I dyed it purple after I had pneumonia,” she says. “I was in the hospital and feeling so out of control of my life. My dad went out and bought me the hair dye so I could feel in control of something.”

She had to dye it back to her natural brunette before she began her most recent round of proton radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, because the radiation irritates her scalp. Elizabeth was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem when she was only seven years old. She’s had two brain surgeries, proton radiation, and three rounds of chemotherapy. She was stable for eight years before heading back to CHOP this fall.

Despite being in and out of hospitals since she was seven, she focuses all of her creative energy into a positive place: her writing. She writes poems constantly, and most recently wrote a one-act play, “The Bureaucracy of Existentialism,” which will be performed at the Shawnee Playhouse this January as part of the Shawnee Original Playwright Series Contest. Read more »

This Is City Hall’s Best Kept Secret

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown leading her Noonwalk group

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown leading her Noonwalk group | Photograph by Gina Tomaine

The light step of sneakers on tile corridors echoes over people sitting in the sixth floor corridor at City Hall as they wait to report for jury duty.

“If you walk a little faster you’ll get your heart rate up,” Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown says to the group of women behind her as she hefts a ten-pound weight in the air.

Blondell Reynolds Brown is currently serving her fourth term on Philadelphia City Council. She’s the only woman to serve as an At-Large Philadelphia Councilmember since 2000, the only woman serving in City Council Leadership, and the Majority Whip.

Oh, and, she also pioneered and leads a free midday walking group at City Hall twice a week.

And your excuse for not working out was … ?  Read more »

Get Inspired: Kinzey Lynch Is Blind — But That Doesn’t Keep Him From Running Marathons

Lynch and Philly Achilles guide Charlie Tomlinson  on the Schuylkill River Trail / Photograph by Adam Jones

Lynch and Philly Achilles guide Charlie Tomlinson
on the Schuylkill River Trail / Photograph by Adam Jones

If you’d told me when I was a little kid that I’d be doing marathons, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was born with microphthalmia, which limits my vision to light, shadows and colors.

Getting around University City and Drexel is always an adventure. I have orientation and mobility instructors who teach me to maneuver through obstacles in the city. I have to be in tune with when Market Street is going, if it’s a red light or a green light, if there’s a food cart in the way. Read more »

How to Laugh at Your Worst Days (and Why You Should)

Shane Burcaw | Photo by Jeremy Cohen

Shane Burcaw | Photo by Jeremy Cohen

Shane Burcaw, 22, suffers from a debilitating disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (it’s related to Muscular Dystrophy). Despite his illness, or maybe, because of it, the Moravian grad is internet-famous: he’s written a book, founded a nonprofit called Laughing At My Nightmare (LAMN), and is currently jet setting around the country on speaking engagements. His idea? Laughter as prescription, in all your worst circumstances and on all your worst days.

Burcaw’s nonprofit, LAMN, fundraises for kids with MD and SMA, to make their lives “more awesome.” Burcaw has a vision of helping people with illnesses lead better lives, but also, of helping everyone realize on a day-to-day basis that if he can laugh at his lot in life, they can too. We caught up with Burcaw at his house in Bethlehem where his team is preparing for world domination with their positivity and laughter movement. Burcaw, who has a wicked sense of humor, chatted with us about his (multiple) tattoos, the upcoming LAMN 5K , and Rainn Wilson’s bathroom.  Read more »

Get Inspired by Rebecca Levenberg: “There’s Nothing I Can’t Do”


Rebecca Levenberg | Photo by Adam Jones

Old City resident Rebecca Levenberg lost her leg in a bike accident. But since learning to rollerblade, rock climb and, yes, bicycle in a prosthesis, she hasn’t looked back. This is Rebecca’s story, in her own words.

I’d been a bike commuter for about five years when, in November 2010, a garbage truck hit me. I was riding my bike to work, in the bike lane.

I always knew there were risks. But you hear about cyclists getting hit by a door or breaking their wrist—not losing their legs.

The truck crushed my left leg completely. I sustained severe internal injuries, broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. I was wearing a helmet, and I didn’t have head injuries. The doctors at Jefferson had to amputate my leg to save my life. In total, I’ve had 15 surgeries since the accident.

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Meet John Schultz, The Inspiring Runner in Marisa Magnatta’s Broad Street Photo

John Schultz at the Delaware Marathon this past Sunday // Photo by Mark DeNio

John Schultz at the Delaware Marathon on Sunday, one week after Broad Street. // Photo by Mark DeNio

An Instagram photo taken by Marisa Magnatta of WMMR’s Preston and Steve went wild on the Internet last week: a lone racer at the Broad Street Run, pacing forward long after the Philadelphia streets had quieted.

A picture says a thousand words, right?

Well, the story behind the photo is even better.

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