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.

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