Story 24

From Lonely, “Sad Clown”
to Clowning with Pals
and Getting Yoked

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

They say most men live lives of quiet desperation. I could relate to that…a ton! 

It was the year 2007, like a frigid dousing of water  slapping me in the face, I sat in my favorite chair in the living room…stunned. 

Where once there were three girls under the age of 6 screaming, laughing and carrying on…there was now nothing. Feeling the cold leather armrest under my hand while I gripped it tightly, “What just happened?” The silence was deafening. Cursing all those days that I wished for silence in the house, I pleaded to an invisible shrink across the room to have it all back. 

This was the first night spent without my family. My wife (ex, now) took our three girls and moved into another house. A clear marker when my life began a slow downturn. Then the questions…“How could a Division I, mentally-tough-Butkus-award-nominee fail at the most important event in this chapter of his life? How could this happen to a two-time captain who led championship teams to victories?” 

Tears welled up in my eyes like someone filling buckets of water under a spigot.

Life after that grew lonely. Fast.

Many of my friends at the time were married. That’s the lie I told people who asked, “why don’t you go out now that you are free?” The reality — I had about a total of two friends who were divorced and available to “hang out.” Kiss your married friends goodbye. Have you ever tried to cajole a married man away from his wife to grab a beer? It’s not easy. And I get it. When I went to school functions, I had a few acquaintances to walk up to. But there were times when I’d be at these same functions feeling isolated and heading for the door as soon as I could because I maxed out time with those few friends.

Did I ever go out with other groups besides these two pals. Yes.

However these two were my homies. The challenge is that our topic of conversations were mainly about the nagging ex-wives. And nothing really productive. Nothing wrong with these guys; I’m still pals with them today. However, I always secretly wanted more friends. More options. More people who were aligned with achieving more out of life. Pushing ourselves to be better and not just slug brews in a bar or golf on weekends. 

My college football buddies for the most part faded with my divorce. Hey, I get it. We didn’t have much in common anymore. 

I remember clearly a few prayers sent up to the heavens. Lord, I’d like to have a couple more friends. Ones that are more aligned with my values. I know there are more fellas in this community with whom I can connect. I recall praying for this several times over the course of the last several years. There has to be a group I can get involved in. I looked on Meetup a couple times. That’s not for me. You never know who will show up at those spots. When I don’t have my children, life is pretty boring. The last thing I wanted was to be that guy who has two friends show up at his funeral several years down the road. 

Fast forward to last year in April. While at work in our production studio at the office, a call came in.

And it was a guy I recognized as a gent who I met back in 2015 at a cross country practice for my daughter. I was kind of hanging out by myself. Never really could make small talk with the other parents. But this guy, he was different. He was go-getter. Personable. A former athlete. We had a few things in common, and we hit it off from the start. 

The name came across my phone as Jared “Bielinski’s friend,” who was a mutual acquaintance of ours. And I didn’t know Jared’s last name. 

I set the phone down. “What the heck does he want?” We always said we’d stay in touch to maybe grab a beer, but I was in the middle of something. Five minutes later, I picked up my phone and listened to an audio recording, “Vince, this is Jared. We met at cross country. I’m not here trying to sell you anything. But I have something you might be interested in.”

Those few sentences changed the course of my life forever. I furiously called him back curious as hell. And after we spoke, I was hooked. We did three or four workouts pre-launch teamed up with the other regulars Bryan (Klinger) and Jason (Brute). 

Early on, the group of 3 invited me to “clown car” to Cleveland at 4am for a workout!!! I politely declined. I also declined the first time Jared (Colonel) asked me to go to grab bagels with him and Bryan. Hey, you gotta break me in slowly. 

The week before our launch, Colonel, myself, and Klinger were in Barry Bagels. Colonel asked Klinger, “Do you think you can really get 8 guys there next week?” 

Klinger replied, “Nothing has changed since you last asked me that 30 minutes ago…Yes!”

Colonel was nervous and anxious that no one would show up. I asked him, “Let’s say only 5 total show up, are we going to stop doing this?”

“No,” he said, “We are doing this!”

“Exactly, then let’s not sweat it. We are good,” I replied.

Then May 13, 2017 hit and everything changed. We had an amazing turnout of 46 guys. Picture a tailgate before a football game with a lot full of cars, but this group of men were all ages and sizes — stretching and warming up. That workout, like the previous pre-launch ones, blasted me. I felt spent, but I felt elated to have gone through a tough one with these new friends. And ever since my health and my outlook on life has drastically changed. 

Ever since that Saturday morning, I’m active in some way shape or form. I’m more health conscious. I no longer look in the mirror in disgust. Exercising with the PAX cures the loneliness of living in my empty house when my children are not with me. My girlfriend helps with that as well. 🙂

If you have ever run a marathon, you understand the feeling of 40,000 people snaking through a city, all with a common goal – cross the finish line! The energy you feel along the way is one of camaraderie. It’s one of pure positive energy that pulls you thru the race by the kind gestures and feedback from other racers along the way.

And that’s kinda the feeling you get with F3. But not really. There’s more. 

Imagine walking into a breakfast joint and half the people in there notice you and call you by your name. 

I used to crave something to do to get out of my house when the girls were with their mother. Since joining F3, there is always something going on. I have lunches with the fellas 1-2 times a week. We have breakfast every weekend. When you walk into one of these settings, everyone knows you and you feel a kinship, a belonging to a tribe that makes you feel great. 

My business is better because I’m always distracted with something going on in F3 instead of sitting around stressing about typical small-business stuff. Plus, this is an amazing networking tool. But in a way that naturally happens…it doesn’t feel forced. Leaving the office to have lunch allows you to meet someone who knows someone who needs what you do. And there are other opportunities to get to know one another. In our 2nd F (fellowship) events and the workouts themselves. Take a workout for example. One morning, I was out on a ruck (special forces style training with a weighted backpack while walking). Modell and I struck up a conversation. We shared what our jobs were. Turns out this meeting had synergistic energy, and we decided to have his people meet with my people. It’s led to some interesting possibilities on the business front. You never know who you are standing next to or what their connections might be until you ask questions about your F3 brother. 

And that brings me to one of the most important reasons I’ve stuck around in this group. 

That important reason for staying the course in F3 is the men. Good quality, trash talking, solid men who are liking to be and do better things. They have taken me in like one of their own. I’ve shared some very personal stuff with several of them, and they always have my back. 

What I appreciate about this group is every time we finish a workout we end in a COT – that’s code for “circle of trust.” We pray for families and individuals big and small. We share things we don’t typically share in a normal setting. This is your time to get things off your chest. And this is something we don’t share outside the circle. 

Let me tell you another aspect of F3 that always amazes me. Picture a brotherhood expanding outside your city limits. One that is nationwide and one day worldwide. I traveled back to my hometown of Stow, Ohio around Memorial Day. My brotherin-law, Bundy, was in town and always up for a workout. We set out to travel north (an hour) to workout with the F3 Cleveland chapter. We showed up and met guys like Mr Kotter, Magoo, Buchanan, and Patton. These guys took us in like their own… provided a wonderful beatdown (exercise) and then invited us for some 2nd F (fellowship) afterwards. We truly felt we were one of their tribe too. And we had only met one time before at our Toledo launch. I’ve worked out in Chicago as well and have realized if you travel, you will always find an AO (area of operation) to start your day off the right way. F3 and its network of fine men make you proud to be one of them. 

We have donated toys to children at Toledo hospital. We have sponsored families at Christmas and raised money for charities. I have a feeling this is just the beginning for this group. 

Bottom line, F3 is about something bigger than you and me. These men have honor, discipline, integrity, leadership, and a thirst to be more — that in turn makes you a better man. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like men I want to be around, because iron sharpens iron. 

Are all my challenges gone and life completely fulfilled? No. However, I’ll tell you that life is a ton easier to navigate when you are surrounded by outstanding men. And you can share your challenges in a non-judgmental arena. I’m grateful for God answering prayers. And I am grateful  for this fine group of men. 

When you join up with us, my goal is to make you feel welcome…that’s part of my role as 2nd F Q (facilitator of our fellowship gatherings). Even deeper than making you feel welcome, I want you to feel essential to our group…just like a guy named Jared (The Colonel) did for me and many other PAX members! 

Expect one more thing working out side-by-side with me in the gloom…“Good stuff, mang!”

Vince “Pixar” Palko

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2020 Winter Challenge

GOAL: Commit to F3 Toledo and your fellow PAX to live all three F’s. As the name clearly states, this is meant to be a “challenge.” We have upped the required point totals across the board. Don’t be intimidated. Embrace the suck with your brothers, get better and earn a badass t-shirt only a select few will ever be able to wear.

DURATION: January 1st through March 31st

COST: $15 – If you complete the challenge you will earn a custom F3 Toledo shirt designed by our very own world renowned artist, Pixar. You’re going to want this shirt! For those that do not finish, your money will be donated to Cherry Street Mission on behalf of F3 Toledo. 

Payment can be made via PayPal or cash to Ticket.

***For sizing purposes shirts will be similar in fit and quality to GoRuck t-shirts (Next Level 60/40 blend). These shirts won’t suck!

Submit your shirt size using this form.

REQUIREMENT: Accumulate 65 points over the 13 weeks and you will receive the shirt.

POINTS – (minimum requirements in each F)

  1. FIRST F – (30 – point minimum, 29 points from workouts, 1 from Q-ing)
    1. 1 Point for showing up to a regularly scheduled workout
    2. 1 Point for Q-ing a workout
    3. 1 Point for attending a workout at a “non-home” AO

**SO if you Q a workout at a non-home AO you will achieve 3 points in one workout**

  1. SECOND F – (5 Point Minimum)
    1. 1 Point for attending a Coffeeteria or Q-source after a regular beatdown
    2. 1 Point for attending a larger planned social gatherings of 5 or more PAX (i.e. lunches or evening events). Please give fellow PAX 48-hour notice with an event post
  1. THIRD F – (3 Point Minimum)
    1. 1 Point for attending a Cherry Street event
    2. 1 Point for attending a Bible Study
    3. 1 Point for participating in a cause of your own that pushes your comfort zone in involvement and community service. Contact Geppetto via GroupMe once complete.


  1. The SITE Q for the TOP 3 AOs (in total attendance) will earn a yet to be determined award.
  2. The SITE Q with TOP SITE OVERALL (in attendance percentage increase over 2019 average) will earn a yet to be determined award.
  3. TOP 3 PAX in POINT TOTAL will earn a yet to be determined award.

So rack up those points and sell your AO!

You can keep track of your stats/points here all winter long!

Story 23

Strength Through Brotherhood

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

My story begins several years before F3 came to Toledo. When my second child was born in 2009, I was 60 pounds overweight and in poor condition physically. I was 30 years old but felt much older than that, like my best years were behind me. I successfully lost about 25 pounds by his first birthday through diet but without any exercise. Three years later, I had regained 15 of those pounds, and so began another round of weight loss, this time with some moderate exercise thrown in. Finally, I was no longer obese – just overweight! Unfortunately I regained some of this weight but not all of it. 

In January 2015, my wife and I decided to separate. It was an amicable separation, and we parted as partners and co-parents in raising our children. This life event pushed me to once again improve my body and to channel some of my stress and emotions. 

For several years, I wanted to run a 5K. I did track and cross country as a child, but I didn’t continue it through high school or as an adult. I did two 5Ks in the previous 2 years, but I was unable to run the entire race, easily becoming winded due to lack of cardio stamina and conditioning. My company was hosting a 5K on the campus and encouraged all the employees to download an app called C25K (couch to 5K) for training. The week before the 5K, I ran 4 miles during a training run. I completed the 5K in May 2015 easily in a little over 27 minutes. One of my friends encouraged me to train for a marathon which sounded crazy to me at the time.

Fast forward 18 months later, and I ran my first marathon, the NYC Marathon, in November 2016. NYC is my hometown and the excitement and energy during the race was incredible. I injured myself during my training and didn’t complete all of it. A combination of determination, Ibuprofen, and divine intervention propelled me and my strained calf muscle to finish the marathon in just under 5 hours. It was one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment in my life. Additionally, I lost another 35 pounds during this time, and I was finally at a normal weight and BMI for the first time as an adult. 

However, my physical transformation was nowhere close to being complete. I lost a lot of muscle in addition to fat during my weight loss and running. I was looking for something to take my conditioning to the next level. I began seeing a personal trainer at my company’s gym to start lifting weights. I was also doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes there as well. 

Then, I received the very unfortunate news in March 2017 that I was being laid off. My employer provided the inspiration and kick start to my running 2 years earlier, and the support I received really encouraged me, especially whenever I hit a roadblock in my training. I became depressed and started to lose focus, especially after I reinjured my leg and couldn’t run for a couple of months. Then a friend introduced me to a new exercise group starting in Toledo, F3. 

The first F3 workout in Toledo was Saturday, May 13, 2017. Several men drove from 2 hours away in Cleveland to lead our first workout. These guys were intense! Full of energy and brotherhood, I was in awe of their determination and fun leading the workout. It astounded me that they would drive 4 hours round trip, leaving home before 5 AM, to help us workout. I completed the workout excited and drained physically. I had a lot of work to do to keep up with many of the men there. Afterwards, we had fellowship at a local restaurant. The bonds the Cleveland men shared reminded me of my fraternity days in college which were the best of my life. 

During the summer, I looked forward to those Saturday morning workouts. They kept me distracted from being unemployed as I continued my job search. Some of the men I already knew from church or work. Many new friendships were made. Several job interviews were outside the Toledo area, and I knew I would miss my new F3 brothers if I took one of these opportunities and moved away. Luckily, I found another job in the area and began working there at the end of July. 

F3 grew tremendously that summer and fall. The single Saturday morning workout grew to six in the Sylvania suburb of Toledo. Workouts began in another suburb, Perrysburg, and in downtown Toledo as well. I would split my week between my running and my F3 workouts. I gained confidence in many workouts that previously intimidated me. As the weeks progressed, I could feel myself getting stronger, both physically and with the quality of my new friendships and connections. 

Then winter came. Winters in Toledo can be cold and brutal. The previous 2 winters were mild, but the Arctic cold came in early December. For my first cold weather workout, I didn’t dress appropriately, and one of my F3 brothers lent me his gloves as my hands were numb. It happened again a couple of weeks later. The men gave me tips on how to dress and prepare myself for the cold. 

Soon, I was looking forward to my outdoor workouts, and I began running in very cold temperatures as well. Previously I would not run below 20 degrees F. One morning I ran 4 miles in -4 degrees F temperature and got a thrill from the challenge of conquering the cold. While other people were spending the winter hibernating indoors, I was still able to enjoy being outside, thanks to the tips taught to me by my F3 brothers. 

My first accomplishment of 2018 was doing an unassisted pull-up. For some of the strongest men in our group, they could do ten or more pull-ups during a workout. For me, however, pull-ups were always something I can never do – not even a single one. During one of our cold weather workouts in the snow, I managed three consecutive pull-ups. For me, always one with thin arms, this was a major achievement. 

I achieved a lot before F3, but this special group of men helped me during a low time in my life and helped me reach another level of physical strength that I previously thought was unattainable.

Less than a year into my F3 journey, I can’t wait to see how far this group can take me.

Tom “Bagels” Russell

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Story 22

You Get What You Give

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

Wake up, take daughter to school, go to work, come home, play with kid/make dinner, put kid to bed, maybe watch a show with my wife, maybe workout, shower, and go to bed. Next day, rinse and repeat. This was a summary of my week for nearly the last 3 or more years. Before that, maybe a bit more active, but roughly the same. I haven’t had a group of guys that I would call my friends in over 10 years. There was a void in my life that not only wasn’t getting filled, I couldn’t imagine a way to fill it without negatively impacting those I loved the most. Enter F3.

I was at a soccer practice for my daughter when a tall, bald gentleman walked up to me and asked if I would be interested in a free men’s workout group starting in a week. It sounded interesting, but knowing how tight our schedule was, I was skeptical I’d be able to make it. I told him to send me the information and I’d let him know, but also told him I wouldn’t be able to make it for the first couple weeks due to my martial arts instruction on the weekend. I found out later that he never thought I’d show up and was doubtful when I said I’d be able to come Memorial Day weekend. The weeks quickly went by and Memorial Day had arrived. Already regretting my decision to get  up at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday out of my own free will, I was hesitant to go. However, I told the gentleman I would be there, and my brother in-law was going to meet me over there as well. 

I arrived at the local high school parking lot and there were nearly 30 plus guys gathered and warming up. An intimidating sight, yet I was feeling confident with the exercise time I had been putting in my basement and that I’d be able to hold my own. We circled up and a man who referred to himself as Buchanan was in the middle providing instruction. I was looking at him and also gaining some false confidence as he appeared to be in his fifties. So, I thought to myself, how hard could this really be? The next fifty minutes were a very humbling experience to say the least. There were a few times I felt like I was going to be sick and even more times where I was not able to complete all the reps of an exercise. I was cooked and immediately hooked.

Since that day, my experience with F3 has been a life changing whirlwind that would never have happened for me had it not been for a seemingly insignificant exchange of words and a leap of faith. Over the last 8 months I’ve: 

  • Gotten in the best shape of my life / lost 15lbs 
  • Worked out with my wife and planned and led workouts with her, which in turn has brought us closer together.
  • Regularly attended Bible study and helped me strengthen my faith.
  • Participated in various philanthropic endeavors.
  • Planned and led a 6-hour event that raised nearly $900 for charity.
  • Participated in a GoRuck Tough Endurance event.
  • Made friendships that will last a lifetime.

This list is not meant to come off as braggadocious or as a “look how much I’ve accomplished” sort of thing. Simply put, it is to show the power of F3 and what it can do for you if you put your heart into it. The beauty of it is that it can be whatever you want it to be, and like everything else, you will get out of it what you put into it. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Colonel, the man who invited me to join F3 and help recharge my life. I’d like to send special thanks his way, as well as thanks to all my F3 brothers, who push me each and every day. 

See you in the gloom.

Joe “Splinter” LeBlanc

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Story 21

Men Providing Inspiration

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

What F3 means to me…

When I was first approached about F3, I was skeptical. I thought OK, someone profits from this somewhere. It’s only a matter of time before someone starts asking me for money. But it never became that. 

F3 has brought me a brotherhood and friendships that I didn’t have in my life before. 

I can find a workout, a good workout, a lot of places. I can’t find the men in this group in just anyplace. These men have taught me to be a better Christian, a better father, and a better husband. They’ve taught me it’s OK to be vulnerable. You don’t have to have a “macho” persona. 

The men in this group are giving and caring. We look for ways to help and inspire. 

Being an older guy at 47, men in the group have told me my fitness level inspires them. I say to them, their compassion, humility, and Christianity inspires me.

Ron “Sipe” Vass

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F3 & FiA Gift of Play

F3 & FiA are combining their efforts and putting their community focus towards a new and very exciting goal! We’ve aligned with Wood County Plays to plan to raise $25K towards a $750K all-inclusive playground being built in Perrysburg! This playground will be the first of its kind in Perrysburg as well as the entire county. The Park is meant to allow EVERYONE to enjoy the benefits of a playground, no matter their disability. What better cause than that?

We have a few methods of getting to this very attainable goal!

1 – Member donations-donate as much or as little as you want by going to Suggested levels of $25, $50+, or at any level that you are comfortable with will help us meet our goal. In the donation memo line, be sure to put “F3/FiA Toledo” so that we can keep a running total of donations!

2 – Business donations-the donation is to a 501(c)(3) organization, so you can pitch to local companies as an awesome tax write off opportunity. Many companies offer matches to employee donations, so let us know if you need help with pitching the idea! Suggested levels of $250, $500 or more will help us reach our goal.

3 – An awesome concert event is being planned as we speak for March 14! The Skittle Bots (F3-Billy Bob-his FiA wife is Saturn) will be the featured band for the event to help raise some serious cash! Price of admission will include free food and adult beverages, games of chance, raffle gift baskets and more. Mark your calendars and tell your friends to be ready to come out and party for a great cause!

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Jay “Thai Guy” Solarik


Rick “Huckleberry” Thielen

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Story 20

From Skeptic
to True Believer

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

To be honest, I thought I was very happy with my life before F3. I’m married to an amazing woman and have 3 beautiful and healthy children. I’m blessed to have a large family with the majority of them in town. Things seemed to fall into place with nearly everything; the one exception was since kids came into the picture (10 years prior), I had not spent much time focusing on my health and fitness. This was further slowed by needing knee surgery to repair some injuries from years on the basketball court. After seeing some aging family members run into health troubles, I thought I needed to make the change now so I can be around for my kids down the road.

I was told about F3 from Matt “Stark” Yarder, and like many, I was skeptical and gave many reasons why I couldn’t join. His pitch and persistence had me eventually coming out in the “gloom” to join a group of guys I’ve never met before to perform “The Murph!” 

This was the first real exercising I had done since being injured and having surgery nearly 18 months prior. I will forever remember looking up at the sky during the pull ups with the rain hitting me in the face thinking, “What the &^%$ am I doing out here?” 

I remember I was sore for days and still not sure I was going to come back, but after a few posts, I started to understand that there was much more to F3 than just the fitness benefit. Hearing the stories of so many great guys in my community, with all of us working to improve ourselves for our families, community, and our impact during our time here was moving. 

The accountability and genuine support from the group was unlike anything I’ve seen before. I mentioned the other day at my first solo Q that two months ago I could barely think about doing a workout much less leading one! This group and this community have driven me to step outside my comfort zone and given me a gift and an opportunity to be a part of something great!

I find myself picking up various pieces of advice from the group that has helped me personally, professionally, and physically. The concept really has shown that whether you are a marathon runner or an aging out of shape former athlete, F3 allows you to be challenged and improve yourself. I am not one of the smaller guys in the group and was very hesitant to think I could fit in with the workout. I’ve been amazed at how quick the transformation and how the other PAX motivate everyone to do their best with positive reinforcement. I think the ideal of “never leave the 6 behind” is great because it keeps everyone together (and because that was me catching up to the group in the beginning). 

Stark told me he couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to meet the PAX, and I thought that sounded crazy. Now I get it, and I find myself in the same boat looking forward to starting my day with my F3 brothers. Having just gone through Christmas, I was able to participate and to see firsthand the impact as we helped numerous families with gifts, food, and having a brighter holiday than they would have otherwise had. 

After originally joining for the 1st F, I’ve come to embrace the 2nd and 3rd and see the importance of all 3. I feel that those principles have taken what I thought was a great and complete life and improved them with things I didn’t know were missing. To anyone reading this or interested, I would tell you, I was very skeptical and didn’t want to take the leap, but my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. To paraphrase a quote from Lou Holtz’ explanation of Notre Dame to explain F3…

“For those who are a part of F3, no explanation is necessary.
Those that aren’t a part of F3, no explanation will suffice.”

Michael “Poodle” Lagger

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Story 19

Facing the Challenge
Not Alone

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

How did I get here?

The alarm is set with a “4” as the first digit and the little dot indicating PM is not illuminated. And surprisingly, I am already up, switching it off before it blurts out to disturb my wife. 

The alarm is set with a “4” as the first digit and the little dot indicating PM is not illuminated. And surprisingly, I am already up, switching it off before it blurts out to disturb my wife. 

The temperature in my closet weather station reads “3 degrees” from the sensor perched outside my window. My dog is looking at me with an expression seeming to say, “Are you really going out there this morning?” The weather app on my phone is advising strict avoidance of outdoor activities at all cost. I give myself a little reassuring chuckle, as I know what is imminent. I know in a few minutes I will be sucking in the frozen air at rates that will tempt my lungs to harden like concrete. I know my eyelids are going to need a small butane torch to unthaw before I can head back home. I know there are a dozen men in a dark parking lot with heavy metal objects, eagerly awaiting a chance to test each other’s breaking point. I can only equate the scene to a terrifying backdrop for a post-apocalyptic Hollywood flick. But here I am, excitedly debating on 4 or 5 layers for this morning’s mysterious task. In fact…I can’t wait! And I think again…How did I get here?

This awkward appreciation for discomfort is not innate in me. In fact, it is quite contradictory to most of my natural survival instincts. I spent most of my years behind the plastic shield of generations of video game consoles. Sure, I rode bikes around the neighborhood, played recreational sports, and did all those things kids do to find their way through adolescence, but I was never interested in pushing my physical limits. Heck it wasn’t until my college years that a friend showed me what a bench press was and my future wife encouraged me to strap on skis and attempt roller skating. Physical exploration of my abilities was a road not meant for me. Yet here I was, 2 pairs of gloves deep, preparing for a battle. 


Fast-forward through a couple years post college. A healthy lifestyle made sense. To the gym we go! I got my ear buds in, music just for me, membership paid. 2 months in and still killing it. 

Feeling good. Routine is setting in. Things come up. I will get there tomorrow. Routine stalling. Hit it hard next week. Membership renewal? Ok, I guess. Feeling guilty I am not using it enough. Mediocre motivation. Nothing to strive for. 

Sound familiar? Looking good in my swimsuit was just not enough for me to keep coming back to the comfort of a climate controlled, immaculately clean, big box gym. But, risk of frostbite, slipping on ice, and slush-soaked socks were not stopping me from lacing up my trail shoes this frigid morn. What is wrong with me now? 

Nine months ago, with my wife by my side, I headed out for one of Toledo’s cultural Spring traditions, the Mud Hens home opener. The city comes out in droves to welcome the change of seasons. For most, including myself, it is more of a chance to shake the cabin fever and be “seen” and less about baseball. And here is where the “emotional headlock” happened. I ran into an acquaintance at one of the rented-out suites filled with ball park dogs, sudsy beverages, and folks more interested in a new connection than what inning we were in. And he tells me about this new “thing” just starting in town. Says I would like it. Calls it F3.

“Huh? You say prayers and do push ups? OK? I will look into it.”

“Where is it?”


“What time? Ha! 7:00 on a Saturday morning?!” “OK?”

So I go home and lie in bed with my wife and type it in…“F 3 N A T I O N . C O M.” It’s all there. Exactly as he told me. I start reading about “smokefests” and “circles of trust” and “circles of  pain.” I read about nicknames and merkins. My wife and I both laugh as we scan through the lexicon of terms used to express the activities of this unique gathering of individuals. She questions my interest, but like always, she supports my endeavors. Plus, I told my acquaintance I will check it out. So I do. 


Nine months ago I knew nothing of cadences. I knew nothing about merkins. I could barely get up for 7:30 AM meetings at work. Now I have to control my urge to Q the next workout to give another member of our PAX the chance to experience this gift. I lay out clothes with a fevered passion the night before. I ask for sandbags from my wife for my Christmas gift so our PAX can carry them on our Tuesday rucks. And here I am excited for what has been promised on our group chat app as “100 % chance of pain in the forecast.” What could make a reasonably sensible man be so damn excited to wake at an hour that could still be considered “night,” just to hit dangerously cold temperatures for 45 mins of burpees and lunges? …Because I wasn’t facing it ALONE. I had warriors, brothers by my side now. They put out the battle cry the night before. I knew they were going to face the challenge in the gloom the next morning, and I wasn’t about to let them face it alone. 

Here’s where the real difference manifests itself from the traditional health routine. The challenge we face together is not the workout. It is how to be a good father. How to be the best husband and raise my M on the pillar she deserves. The challenge is to lead my company and provide mentorship and career advancement for all my employees. The challenge is to make a damn difference in my community. The challenge is to open myself up to my weaknesses and to combat and embrace them. Sure, we are putting in work, battling burpee mountains, squatting until we forgot our own ages in the COT, and feeling the best we have felt physically in our lives. But that is a side effect. I often tell new guys that if they are interested in this group solely for “biceps and abs and to be a hot dad, it’s not for you.” But if you want to live third, expand your leadership to new heights, honor your wife for the angel she is, embrace every moment with your children, and surround yourself with men that will never let you face a jester alone, then welcome to F3. 

As I am writing these thoughts, with my 4-year-old son hanging on my left arm, cuddling me while he eats his cereal, my 6-year-old daughter walks through the kitchen and asks what I am doing. I tell her I am writing a story. She is very into books so I knew where this was going. “What’s it about daddy?” I tell her it is about F3 and ask her what she thinks about it. 

“It makes daddy stronger in a happy way!” 

…I don’t think I can say it better than that.

Matt “Stark” Yarder

P.S. Cooter, thanks for the EH big man. You changed my life.

Check out other #Miracle stories.

Story 18

Leading Yourself

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

-Bill George
Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

The hardest person you will ever lead is yourself. I glazed over those words as I sat in my final MBA class on leadership development. The assignment was defining what your leadership legacy will be. I had no idea…I did know that I was a young, hard charging worker bee checking off the boxes for the next promotion. I was in control, and all I needed was myself, continued determination, and hard work. The rest will take care of itself. 

That mentality can be a silent killer causing us to drift…and drift I have done for many years. Drift does not mean unsuccessful, lazy, not dependable, unfaithful, etc. To me it means unintentional. Am I being intentional with my time, talent, and treasures? Am I committed to be the best I can be each day? 

On May 13, 2017 I showed up in a parking lot with approximately 40 other men for the kickoff of F3 Toledo. What I thought would be just a good workout (and it was a serious beatdown) turned out to be so much more. 

For years, I have spent so much time and energy striving for success. In tough times, my natural tendency is to retreat with the thought that I can pull myself through it and overcome. It is a dangerous, slippery slope that causes times of high anxiety while feeling like I am “carrying the weight of the world” on my shoulders. I lose focus on relationships and leaning on people for help. I internalize everything. 

F3 has helped me see things a bit differently. It has challenged me physically beyond what I thought I was capable of, but more importantly, it has challenged me to see the interconnection and power of relationships in so many other aspects of life. I am not alone in this journey and share in the many challenges we face as men in the multiple roles we play. Each day I have the privilege to start my day with a group of men that will push me physically, mentally, and spiritually to be the best version of myself. I battle with myself every day…trying to walk the tightrope of life. I am a work in progress and perfectly imperfect. 

As a father of four, I hope my kids remember it all, but if there is just one memory I could etch into their hearts, it would be this. I want them to remember a man who was steady at the helm. Someone who gave them his best every day because not only are they entitled to that, but more importantly, they deserve it. A memory of a man like that just might come in handy someday, and I’m grateful for the F3 brothers that are pushing me to get there. 

So now it’s time to finish the assignment I started six years ago… What do I want my leadership legacy to be? There are many pages to still be written…

Matt “Ollie” Britt

Check out other #Miracle stories.

Movember 2019 Kickoff

Join the F3 Toledo Movember Team

The Movember Foundation has been raising awareness around men’s health issues since 2003. Over the years, they have helped raise nearly $1 billion dollars and funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world.

This Movember, join the F3 Toledo Movember Team, as we join the cause and raise awareness and money to take on men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention. 

Here’s How You Can Get Involved:

Here are some things we are planning to do around F3 Toledo in support of this effort.

Clean Shave Welcome Party

On Saturday 11/2, join your fellow F3 Toledo Movember teammates for a shave down. Bring whatever tools you use to shave down, electric razor, straight razor, weed whacker, whatever. After the beatdown, shave that mug clean. Make sure to snap some photos for your Mo Space.

Border Battle Shave Off

This year, the big game happens to be the last day of Movember. I’m sure Michigan will get waxed. But you don’t have to. We will have a Border Battle Shave Off after the beatdown at all AOs. A weed wacker may be the only thing to trim the bush you’ve been growing for the last month. 

Battle of the Mo Bros

At the end of Movember, we’ll open the “polls” for the PAX to vote on the best and worst Mo’s for a small donation.

There may be other things that we do around the region during the course of the month to support the cause.

Does your employer gift match? Double your donation. Not sure? Check the Movember Foundation’s database of company’s that match gifts. You may need to scroll down to search.

If you have any questions, reach out to Geppetto or Ticket on GroupMe or in the gloom. Get after it. Aye!