Story 14

Already Exercising
but Missing Something!

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

Growing up I was very active in sports and competed into my college years. Upon graduating, I was burnt out and didn’t care if I ever saw a gym or running track again. I pretty much kept to that promise and became a very inactive guy for the next eight years. 

When I turned 30 years old, I was watching an interview with Oprah Winfrey discussing her recent completion of a marathon. I had always pictured running a marathon as a very lofty goal. I’ll admit it, that Oprah interview inspired me to get back into a fitness routine. I signed up for the Walt Disney Marathon the next day  and decided to begin my training. The experience was very rewarding as I completed the event alongside my older brother. For the next ten years, I completed 10+ marathons including qualifying for and running in the prestigious Boston Marathon. Other more challenging races followed – a 50 and 100-mile ultra-marathon. 

Late in my 30’s, I decided to compete in a handful of Ironman triathlons (70.3 & 140.6). I quickly determined that while I was a decent runner, my swimming and cycling ability were less than desirable. The breaststroke technique for a 2.4-mile swim is neither efficient or pretty. 

I love the sense of community created by a running or triathlon event. These athletes are extremely supportive of one another. It’s also great to see friends and family cheering on complete strangers throughout the events. The adrenaline rush of competing in the races is unbelievable, but then the day ends and it’s over. The weeks of training leading up to the race were once a hassle but now are looked back on fondly. The shiny medal now sits in a bedside drawer collecting dust. These events filled the void of my fitness need and provided a great sense of accomplishment, but they kept me wanting something more. 

Now, I’m 42 years old and happily married to my wife of 18 years with four healthy and happy kids. My life is rewarding with time spent focused around my kid’s activities and interests. My best  friends are parents whose children participate in the same sports or activities as mine. Interests amongst the parents seem to vary, so the focus of our relationship and discussions is on our kids and their performance in the game or activity of the day. Once the sport season or activity runs its course, then those friendships typically dwindle and die. I just don’t have the excess time and haven’t spent the effort to keep those relationships alive. 

Earlier this past summer, I was walking the dog in the neighborhood along with my oldest daughter. We moved over as a car slowly passed to exit the neighborhood. The car quickly did a U-turn and began to approach us. The window slowly rolled down, and I recognized my neighbor of fifteen years. We’ve been very cordial with one another through the years but never had any friendship beyond a quick hello in passing. My neighbor began to explain a new fitness group for men that would be starting within the next month in Toledo. The immediate internal reaction was a high-level of skepticism. How much would this new fitness group cost? What is my neighbor trying to sell me here? 

The kickoff weekend of F3 Toledo happened to be an open spot on my kid’s activity schedule (very rare with 4 going at once). I decided that I would attend the first workout only out of respect for my neighbor’s invitation. The timing of the invitation was good, my fitness routine was irregular at best, and I didn’t have anything scheduled on the calendar to get me off the couch. The first workout included exercises I hadn’t done in years. Exercises with funny names performed by the entire group in cadence. The Cleveland division had come down to lead the first beatdown and called each other by nicknames. They appeared to be enjoying this stressful workout while I struggled greatly. They joked and laughed with each other while I remained silent hoping the workout would end soon. When the sixty minutes came to an end, the group gathered in the Circle of Trust. Each of us Friendly New Guys (FNGs) were given a nickname and welcomed into F3 and invited for coffee and bagels following. 

I reflected on that first day that night at home. This opportunity was different from what I had been chasing the past several years. There was a sense of belonging that I had not felt since being on a team while in high school and college. I missed that. There was a chance to build direct, lasting friendships not based on my children’s activities. An opportunity to create a social life in the early morning hours of which I was normally passed out in bed. 

This new schedule would not conflict with my family or work life. F3 would remove the constant starting and stopping of exercising for the next run on the calendar. The accountability to get out of bed and workout with my F3 brothers was something I badly needed. Sleeping in has taken a back seat to avoid the friendly ribbing for missing a workout. 

Seven months have passed since we’ve started this journey. I’ve never been as consistent with my fitness schedule in my life since my school days. Some days are harder than others to get out of bed, but that is minor to the post beatdown rewards physically and emotionally. I’ve become a better husband, father, and friend relieved from some of the daily stress. The friendships that have been created are more genuine and deep as we all strive to be better men. I’m thankful for the invitation to join this group that is open to all men.

Jon “OZ” Newsom

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Story 13

From Divorced to I’m Normal!?

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

At the age of 46 in 2016, I had just completed my divorce after 20 years of marriage. I had a new outlook on life and knew the importance of making good choices. Connect with my high school buddies and spend money at the bar or join them in some of their bad habits? Hook up with every female I can and shake off the 20 years of monogamy? Nope! I knew I was better than all that, and I needed to make the right choices…which can be tough in this world we live! 

In March of 2016, I got involved with a group of men through my church. Over the course of the next 15 months, we met regularly and grew spiritually! One of my brothers mentioned crossfit workouts he did at a gym called Extreme Fitness by Vince. After attending 8 – 10 of these workouts, the interest quickly died off. Then in May 2017 another brother mentioned a new group called F3, and I joined a 6:30 AM Saturday morning workout with 40 other men. I attended a few Saturday workouts and joked about the timing of the 5:30 AM weekday workouts. I used to say the only thing I do at 5:30 AM during the week is take a leak, fluff my pillow, and crawl back in bed! 

Now I am hooked! By the count of my weasel shaker (F3 name for the guy who does our statistics), I have posted close to 70 workouts, am down 15 pounds, and replaced fat with muscle! The workouts are always outside, and if you would have told me I would be working out outside in weather below zero degrees, I would have said, you’re crazy! 

Here is a little of what I have experienced with F3:

  • I’ve experienced the support of 30+ men encouraging me to give a little more when my mind is telling me there is no more! There is typically 40% left in the tank at that time!

    I’m far more physically strong!
  • I’ve shared my vulnerability in the COT (circle of trust) at the end of each beat down and have learned that the burdens I carry are no different than every other man around me!

    I am normal!
  • I’ve gained hundreds of friends throughout Northwest Ohio. It is rare to attend an event and not run into and F3 brother!

  • I’ve gained a routine I like. Once my workout is complete, I grab a hot shower, get ready for work and read my devotional and Bible until it’s time to head to work!

    I am spiritually stronger!
  • I’ve supported the community by joining my F3 brothers on providing presents during Christmas, coats for the homeless and other worthy causes!

    I am more generous!
  • I’ve helped my fellow F3 brothers through their divorce, the loss of loved ones, the help with teenage children!

    I am more supportive!
  • I’ve left it all on the AO (area of operation) with nothing to fear! Always afraid of coming in last in everything before F3, I know the workouts are me vs. me! If there is something I cannot physically do, I modify! If there is something I am slower than the others to complete, my faster F3 brothers return and complete with me! No man is left behind!

    I trust more!
  • I’m given the opportunity to lead and develop leadership skills!

So, what does F3 mean to me? Physical strength, vulnerability, friendship, spirituality, generosity, brotherly support, community involvement, trust, leadership, and I’m normal! 

Iron Sharpens Iron! I know F3 is an effective use of my time! See you tomorrow at 5:30 AM somewhere in the gloom…I’ll be there!

John “Worm” Kevern

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Story 12

My New Band of Brothers

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

Band of Brothers is a term that is normally associated with the military. The basis comes from the fact as a military unit you become so close to those guys fighting and training that they become like family to you. That brotherhood is what makes leaving the military so difficult for many veterans. You lose the sense of purpose you had when you wore the uniform as you realize that you are no longer a defender of freedom. You also miss that feeling of knowing that your band of brothers have your back no matter what. That is a very powerful thing. 

I struggled with that very thing. I got out of the military in 2006 and went to college. Along the way, I got married, bought a house, and started a family. I also slowly watched my weight creep from 220 lbs. To nearly 300. One day in 2016, I came to the conclusion that I should be a lot happier than I was. I have a beautiful wife, two adorable little girls, a nice house in the suburbs, a well-paying job, and a family that loves me. I realized what I didn’t have was a purpose. I was also out of shape, and I felt like my weight was holding me back from being all that God wanted me to be. 

I started F3 on June 6, 2017 and hit my 100th post on December 16, 2017. F3 has been awesome. I have met so many high impact men (HIM) through F3. It is a group of men that makes you want to keep pushing yourself to be a better man yourself. 

Churches always push men’s groups and men’s retreats, but they also need to push F3. Get guys out of their comfort zones and watch how they change and grow. F3 has also revealed that I have a passion for helping my fellow veterans. We have been able to raise money to send care packages to troops in Afghanistan, and my fellow brothers have also stepped up to collect food,toiletries,  and other personal care items to ship as well. F3 Toledo is doing great things, and I am privileged to be a part of it.


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Story 11

Helping Men Be
Better Versions of Themselves

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

I have been part of F3 since June 2017. It changed my life for the better and I didn’t even realize I needed a change. I am so grateful for The Colonel, Klinger, Brute, and Pixar for bringing F3 to Toledo, Ohio and to my friend, Froman for introducing it to me. It has truly been more than a workout. 

I remember when I first heard about F3. It was mid-May 2017. Froman and I were helping setup for a festival at our church. He was telling me about this workout that he had gone to the weekend before. It sounded like a really tough workout. And they started at what I thought was pretty early in the morning for a  Saturday, 7 AM. Then, he started to tell me about this thing called a Ruck which they did that at 5:15 AM during the week. It sounded interesting. But, I was a night owl. There was no way I could get up in time for a 5:15 AM workout. It sounded kind of cool but kind of crazy at the same time. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I started to have a conversation with myself about why I couldn’t get up that early, let alone go work out. Over the years, I had tried working out at different times of day. I felt sluggish in the morning, rushed over lunch, and couldn’t fit it in after work. This F3 thing just didn’t sound like it would be for me. But, there was this nagging feeling that I should give it a try. There was no way I was going to start on a Saturday when they had boot camp style workouts. I was too out of shape. But, the Ruck was just a little walk through some neighborhoods with a little weight on our back. I could do that, I thought to myself. So, I decided I would give the ruck a try. 

I attempted to go to my first Ruck in late May 2017. My alarm blared at 4:45 am that morning. I woke up, turned off the alarm, and went back to bed. It was way too early for me. Two weeks later, I decided to try again. This time when I woke up, I stayed awake. On June 15, 2017, I went to my first F3 workout, a Ruck of a little less than 4 miles, with some core work every half mile. It felt great. The guys were very welcoming. I got an F3 nickname, Ticket. I learned that the two other guys that posted that day and I were the 100th men to post to an F3 workout in Toledo. It had been just over a month since F3 had started in Toledo. Everyone was full of energy and enjoying being out early in the morning on a beautiful day. I was hooked. 

After a slow start, I began to post regularly in July. The workouts were led by someone different every time. There was no routine. I didn’t know what exercises we were going to do next or how many reps we were going to do. My body just had to adapt. There were guys at the workouts with all levels of fitness, from super-fit to out of shape (me). While everyone struggled to some degree, some struggled more than others. All the while, the guys that were handling it well encouraged those who were struggling. If one of us on the “struggle bus” fell behind, someone would fall back to pick us up. No man left behind. 

Getting back out to the next workout became easier and easier. The guys I shared the morning “gloom” with helped keep me to be accountable to myself in trying to get in shape. I was also meeting new people. We would grab a bite to eat after some workouts, and we’d get to know each other a little better. There were guys at the workouts with all levels of fitness, from super-fit to out of shape. 

At some point, an old injury began to flare up, and I found myself unable to join in the workouts. I ended up having a meniscus tear. I knew I should stay away, but I missed hanging with the guys. For 3-4 months, I would find myself trying to find an excuse to get back out there every now and then. The guys would check in, wish me a speedy recovery, tell me to be smart, and heal up. But, those bonds I had started to form kept drawing me back out. 

It was during my injury, and seeking a way to stay connected to the group, that I stumbled upon a way to help the group in my own way with or without an injury. We had just had a local news team out to do a story on our local F3 group. A few of us went to a local sports bar to watch the segment. One of the guys asked about whether we had a mailing list. I didn’t think anything of it in the moment. But, a day or two later I started to think about compiling a list and then tracking who was going to workouts. I reached out to Colonel, and he said one of the guys was starting to do just that. I reached out to him to get a look at what he had done so far, and I knew this was something that was needed.

After a couple of weeks working together to build out the tracker, and getting caught up on old workouts, we were ready to start tracking on a go forward basis. We began to publish reports of who was working out the most, how many workouts were happening around the area each month, and how many new guys were working out each month. Immediately, the sports nerd in  many of the guys started coming out. They loved the stats. Over time, they would reach out to find out their individual stats. The stats were not only providing good information to organize and plan, but also additional motivation for some of the guys. Without being out there working out with them, I was helping guys to improve themselves. Also, in tracking the stats, I was beginning to learn new things that could help me professionally. Things I wanted to learn but was not feeling inspired or motivated to learn. 

As the holiday season approached, the group really began to look beyond the workouts. There were several guys that led efforts to contribute to the community and beyond. There was an event with proceeds going to the troops, gift drives for a local hospital, blanket donations for a local homeless shelter, and people shoveling driveways for neighbors. All of this was inspired by men that had been touched by F3. 

That is ultimately what I love about F3. It is more than a workout… much more. It is truly fitness, fellowship, and faith. It is beyond a doubt a workout that is as hard as you want to make it. But, it is also accountability to yourself and others to follow through on commitments. It is a leadership development group. It is the camaraderie that comes with guys you can count on. It is inspiration. It is motivation. It is doing something bigger than yourself. It is contributing to your community. It is all of that…but most of all, it is truly a gift that needs to be shared with people that don’t even realize they need it. One of the best decisions I have made in my life was the decision to wake up, stay awake, and get in a workout one summer morning. It changed my life.

Jason “Ticket” Ziegler

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