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

Check out other #Miracle stories.

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