Story 2

Dedicated and Pushing it Every Day

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

When I was first approached about F3 in Toledo, I thought that it was a pretty neat idea and that some guys would probably get behind it. I wasn’t sure that it was something I needed because I considered myself pretty active and “in shape.” I coach middle school cross country and track, so I was running almost every day. I’ve trained for running events and triathlons, so I thought I knew what it meant to be dedicated to a workout plan.

I’m not much of a TV watcher, and I can’t stand to sit around and do nothing, so being overweight hasn’t really been an issue. I knew there were some areas that needed improvement, but I was comfortable with my physical fitness and confident that I could maintain it for the years to come. Other than the time I spent coaching kids, I didn’t really experience any joy with exercising, but I knew it was something I had to do. So, I was OK with checking the box next to ‘Exercise’ on my list of things to do. I was thinking that F3 was just an exercise group, and I felt like I had that area of my life covered.

I went to an F3 workout in Cleveland before things got started up in Toledo, and I got absolutely smoked! So much for thinking I was in pretty good shape. I remember looking at my watch after what seemed to be at least 45 minutes of the hour-long workout, and it said that only 20 minutes had gone by! What?? Something must be wrong with my watch! We’re not even halfway done??!! On top of that, I was confused by all the weird names they were calling the exercises and couldn’t understand how everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing. I did get a few laughs from the ribbing the guys would yell out to each other, and it was nice to hear people say encouraging words to the guys who were struggling like me. I finished the beatdown, but I was definitely in the back of the pack. That’s when I realized that maybe I had the wrong idea of how F3 could impact my life.

As things moved forward in Toledo, and I consistently started posting to beatdowns, I really started seeing that almost all of my notions about my workout habits were mistaken.

Did I run almost every day of the week while coaching?

Yes, I did, but I also knew that I was doing the least amount of possible work just so I could keep up with the middle of the pack of runners. I also knew that I would take most of the months between cross country and track season off, and I would start to get back in shape a few weeks before the next season started.

Have I trained for and completed running events and triathlons?

Yep, that one is true too. But, was I truly dedicated to my training plan? I knew the answer to that question was no. If I was honest with myself, I knew that I probably only completed about half of the workouts on whatever plan I was following. I was pretty good at coming up with reasons why it was OK for me to skip a day, and I didn’t let it bother me. At the same time, I was never able to really push myself like I felt I should be able to during an event – I was always struggling to just reach the finish line, not really competing.

Have I ever been overweight?

No, I haven’t. But, do I keep losing the same 10-15 pounds every year? That one would be a yes. I think I know the weight that is right for me, when my body “feels” right, and I’d say that I’m at that weight for about 3 months of the year. I spend the other 9 months either slowly moving above that weight or towards that weight. When my clothes stop fitting comfortably is when I usually start getting more serious about working out. I knew that it didn’t really make sense for me to do that every year, but it didn’t bother me enough to do something different. F3 helped me see these things more clearly and made it easier for me to make some positive changes.

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is that my consistency has improved greatly. It’s not unusual for me to go to 5 or 6 workouts a week, and it’s been that way for the last 9 months. When I know that there’s a group of men getting up just like me because they want to get more fit, it makes it so much easier to make the decision to get out there and put in the work. I know that if I don’t show up, someone is going to text me or call me and say, “Everything alright? Didn’t see you this morning and want to make sure you’re OK.” Much easier to post than it is to answer those questions with, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just didn’t feel like getting up today.” The shared responsibility of everyone’s fitness level has made it easy to be consistent. I want to be held accountable, and the power of the men in F3 Toledo have done an excellent job of doing just that.

And this brings me to the next positive change – dedication and pushing myself every day. There are men of all fitness levels in the group, and there’s always someone that’s stronger, faster, or with more endurance than me. This has allowed me to workout harder and more effectively than I ever have before. I leave workouts knowing that I pushed myself as hard as I could because I’m always trying to keep up with the guys that can do more reps than me or can run to the top of some hill faster than me. It’s much harder for me to say to myself, “I’m not feeling that great today, I think I’ll just go half speed or not the full distance I’m supposed to.” Without anybody having to say anything to me, I’m going to do my best to get better each day. At the same time, I know that there might be someone looking to me to provide some of that motivation, so I feel like I owe it to them to give my best at all times so that they in turn push themselves as much as they can. It’s a bit of an odd dynamic, but it works!

All that stuff is great, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to the most important part of F3 – brotherhood. Real brotherhood in the sense that I know there are men I can turn to for laughs, advice, sharing, etc., and they will be open and honest with me. Real brotherhood in the sense that there are men that hold me accountable and expect me to provide them the same openness and honesty they give to me. Real brotherhood in the sense that we help each other become stronger leaders in our homes, our families, our workplaces, our churches, and our communities. There’s a palpable sense that together, we can accomplish so many positive things for our lives. If you would’ve asked me before this all started if I felt like I had friends, my answer would’ve been yes, and I would’ve meant it. But, in my adult life, I haven’t had friends that I would hang out with on my own. My wife and I have friend couples that we might go out to dinner with every once in a while.

It’s always a fun time, but it’s not like I was calling the guy up to see how his day was going or if he needed help with anything. There are even men that are a part of F3 Toledo that I would’ve said were my friends before we started working out together, but I never really did anything to improve that friendship.

Really, it was more of if we happened to be in the same place at the same time, or if our wives made a plan to get together, then we’d catch up and have some laughs. But, after all the hours we’ve spent together in the gloom, that friendship is now a true friendship.

We do share an interest in how each other’s day is going. We do make plans to get together and grab lunch or a beer without any help from our wives. If I need help with a project or want some advice about something, I know there’s at least 10 guys I could call up and they’d be genuinely willing to help. The support and power that comes from having true friends is enormous, and it has really made a positive difference in my life.

All that from just an early morning men’s workout group? Kind of sounds a bit unbelievable, right? Well, believe me…it’s all true! My F3 brothers and I will be out there pushing each other to be the best versions our ourselves – come see for yourself!!

Bryan “Klinger” Riley