Just go on back…

It had been a year since my youngest brother, Eli, had passed. I was sad deep down and consumed by work, kids (I had 2 under 4 and one on the way at the time), and life in general. I was extremely exhausted and overweight.  I have always been a bigger (not taller) guy my entire life, but never passed 215.  There I was in August 2017, 5’9″, 281 lbs, 42% BMI, XXL, size 42 pants, couldn’t run a 1/4 mile…..good God almighty. Since my brother’s passing I was trying to get back into shape and looking for ways to make it happen when my M tagged me in a Facebook post on our neighborhood group page.  It was a post about some nonsense called F3 by some dude that probably thought he was better than everyone else. I wasn’t buying it. But my M nagged me and pretty much challenged me, so I reached out to Jordan (aka Gus) and got more information. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I was used to going to the gym in the afternoon or late at night and working out alone, avoiding any guys in the gym because I was afraid of what they might think. These thoughts rolling through my mind the night before the Memphis launch.

I roll into the parking lot, mainly seeing guys much skinnier than me, thinking I really hope we don’t run. I hate running. Even though I ran regularly in high school and college…I absolutely hate it. We circle up and this douche named Bagger Vance steps in and starts leading the group and what do we do following Warmarama??? We freaking run (edited for the reader). Then we had to partner up! Partners??? I don’t work out with anyone. Here is where I meet Antonio (aka C-Lo). Great….a guy who looks in decent shape and is going to be wishing he hadn’t partnered with me cause this fatty is going to take forever to punch out some merkins. As we start repping out merkins and derkins, I realize that the guys around me are in no better shape than I am. I struggle on through the workout to our final exercise…..the Indian Run. We head out, me already winded and on the struggle bus. I make it for my second sprint to the front and I start puking. Six times with a lot of dry-heaving. I felt like a little b….you get the point. Here comes Mr. McDouche (Bagger Vance)….”you alright?” he says. “Yea….*throwing up*…I’m good, just need a *throwing up* second”…..”Just go on back” he says. “No need to carry on, just go on back” he continues.  “That mother…” I think to myself. “No, I got this” I stammered as I got up and finished the run with Bagger Vance by my side. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all I thought.  We split into groups. I am in Gus’ group and we are rapidly naming people. They asked what I did for a living and I mentioned I was a biologist and worked with bats (only like 10% of my job btw). Like most people, they think of Batman. Therefore, I was named Bruce Wayne.

I made it home, barely alive and woke up the next morning so freaking sore. I was hooked. I posted at every workout I could for the next 3 months. We started opening up more AOs and Gus asked me to take charge of The Bermuda Triangle (right by my house). From there, we started rucking and attended GrowRuck 05 in Chattanooga. Another life changing experience for me. C-Lo surprised me before the start of GrowRuck with a #8 patch in rememberance of my brother. I held back tears. I don’t think I had ever had another buddy provide something so meaningful before. I wore that patch all of GrowRuck. It was my Why and it still is. Anyways, enough of the emotional sh**. Guess who I ran into at GrowRuck?….Bagger Vance. “Bruce Wayne, is that you?” he says. “Yea man” I respond. “I’m Ba…” as I interrupt him..”I know who you are”. “I didn’t think I would see you here” he stated. “Glad to be by your side, brother” he stated. At that point, I realized that F3 and the guys within it are there for you. Whether its the hard truth they are speaking to you or the hard time they are giving you. They are there to make you better.

Fast forward to the present. I’m still 5’9″ (unfortunately), but I’m weighing in at 250 with my BMI down to 30%. I can wear XL shirts and size 36-38 pants. I just finished a 5K, 7.5 minutes faster than my first 5K I ran right before launch last year. I’m balls deep in F3 and rucking. I have done more service-related things than I have ever done in my life. I have drank the kool-aid. I currently function as Ruck Q in F3 Memphis and run our Memphis Ruck Club. I am no longer afraid to jump into or lead a workout with however many guys. I am no longer afraid to pray with others or talk about God and his presence in my life. Instead, I encourage the others around me. I lead COT and prayer without hesitation. While fitness is a great deal of F3, the reason I and others like me keep coming back is because of the camaraderie and the fact that we, as brothers, endure many of the same aspects of life. I personally want to thank Gus (and others) for bringing F3 to Memphis and constantly pushing us PAX to step-up and lead. And thank you to Bagger Vance for kicking my ass at launch. It was what I needed to jump start a new life of fitness, fellowship, and faith.

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Bruce Wayne

Christopher Grow

31

Bruce Wayne

a mile in someone else’s shoes. #WasNow

I got my F3 name because I showed up to launch without shoes. My best friend of over 20 years was getting a workout thing off the ground in Memphis, and he thought I should come. Truth be told, he had mentioned it a number of times, but I had things that required my attention. My employer expected me to work, my sons expected me to feed and play with them, and those dumbbells I bought at Bargain Hunt weren’t going to lift themselves (not that I was actually going to lift them either). Any chance he had of convincing me to come workout with him and a handful of random men I didn’t know was lost in my bermuda triangle of scape-goat responsibility.

One friday night, however, I found myself pinned into a corner. Circumstances had left me with unusual free time, so I met my friend and his bride for drinks after their dinner. (Laymen call this crashing your best friend’s date night, but they were gracious enough to pretend it otherwise.) We talked about life and all of its hopes and troubles. My friend in his cunning let me get a few good strides into some whiskey before he threw his sucker punch. He knew I was free the next day. He knew I was a strong breeze away from having Pizza Hut on speed dial. He had everything he needed to build his case. So what did he do?

He lied.

Judas. Lied to my face. “We just do some light running and pushups and sit-ups and stuff. You’ll be fine.” Unaware of his betrayal, I threw my hail mary. “I don’t have tennis shoes, man.” Crisis averted… for about 4 seconds. “What size shoes do you wear?” I’ve know this guy for 20 years. I know he doesn’t wear the same shoe size as me, so I confidently answer. “11.5s.”

“Oh you’re good. I’ve got some. Just come. I’ll bring them for you. Don’t be late.”

Son of a. Fine. I’ll be there.

And that was it. He had me. I had been emotionally headlocked. I showed up the next morning to a crowd of 40 strong. My friend pulled the shoes out of his bag, and I got them on about 10 seconds before some caddy named Bagger Vance from less than 901 started talking. I made it maybe 15 minutes before I was spread out counting all the black dots in the sky. My body was too busy looking for the off switch to have time to puke. That would have been easier. Instead, it just wallowed. While 40 other men bear crawled past me, I laid in the grass.

I’ll be honest. By minute 20, my self-loathing was at full steam. My recent separation had left the voices in my head plenty of ammunition. Each man that bear crawled, crawl beared, and ran past me (or at least the ones I could see through my hazy fog state) was a reminder of how I was uniquely gifted at managing to fall short. At some point, the men had run back to the starting point, and I thought I was fittingly alone.

I wasn’t.

My friend had come back. I’m not sure what he said first (not that I would have given the liar’s words any weight at that moment anyway), but he somehow was able to lend me emotional support while more importantly physically moving me forward.

“Sorry. You didn’t have to come back. Thanks though. I feel like I’m the only one failing at this, and I don’t think I can handle that right now.”

“Well then you haven’t been paying attention, because you’ve missed the other 4 guys throwing up. No man left behind.”

It was his way of reminding my not to be such a self-absorbed child. Maybe he’s a good friend after all.

Before I knew it, we were back with the group, just in time for me to lie back in the grass (this time as instructed) and pretend to do flutter-kicks. We counted off. Everyone went around the circle saying a bunch of words I didn’t understand. Then we circled up, and all the friendly new guys, myself included, got names.

That was my first of who knows how many F3 workouts over the past year (actually, I’m sure either Speaker or Soybean has that number somewhere, because spreadsheets). It took me a while to realize it, but that one workout significantly altered my trajectory. I was something a year ago. Now I’m something else.

Fitness. Fellowship. Faith. That saturday morning, I got my tail handed to me in a way I hadn’t in a long time, sure. But a year later, morning after morning of lunacy in the hot, cold, rain, snow, and everything in between (except lightening.. for the love of all things please don’t mention working out in lightening..), I find myself in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Like our 1st F Q (whose #WasNow post you should read), prior to F3 I had grown accustomed to eating and drinking what I wanted and had labeled the lack of weight gain “fitness”. I’m now 15 pounds of good weight heavier, can run a 5k pretty much on command (still hating most every second, though I’m working on it), and can wrestle and chase my sons for extended periods of time without having to convince them that they need a break. I still probably look better with my shirt on. I still get my tail handed to me. I’m not close to where I want to be. But goodness I’m so much further than I was a year ago. That makes the first F an easy check in my book.

The second F is also an easy check. I’ve already spoken of my best friend, Gus. He’s a lifetimer, F3 or not. But some of those other random guys I didn’t know a year ago. Those are game changers. I did not realize how much I needed male community in my life until it was sweating next to me. Men were meant to do things. It’s better if they do them together. Some of the men I stand, crawl, run, and push next to every morning have become dear friends. Those relationships are increasingly meaningful to me. Some of the other men I don’t talk to as much, but I trust many of them in a way I don’t trust just anybody. Some other men I may have never seen before in my life. Those are truly special.

A year ago, I was throwing myself an impromptu pity party when a friend lived out the tenant of “no man left behind.” It was a catalyst. Men of all ages and fitness have taken the daily red pill just to show up, and we don’t leave them behind. Ever. I don’t care who you are or how much you think of yourself—we all have and reach our limit. It is a beautiful thing when we reach it only to have a man circle back and say “i’ve got you, and you’ve got this. we started together. we’re finishing together.” A year ago, I was a sad clown. I was so focused on my own discomfort that I missed the opportunity to encourage guys who may have needed it more than I did. F3 has time and time again given me the opportunity to do that differently. We push ourselves daily, but primarily for the benefit of others. Those dumbbells in my corner haven’t taught me that yet.

As for the third F, it is the pearl. Faith can be a polarizing topic for some. At its most fundamental, though, we all live it. We all put our trust in something. Even if we haven’t defined it, we all bank on something to come through for us. One of the sayings in F3 is “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.” Ignoring for now how inadequate I believe that saying is when you break it down to its parts, I do believe there is truth in the sentiment.

Life doesn’t get easier. It keeps coming. Often in ways you don’t want at a time you’d rather not. When your kid gets cancer. When you get divorced. When you lose your job. When you are fighting depression. When you are in over your head as a parent. When you’re out of steam, everything hurts, and someone keeps shouting at you to keep moving, what is going to keep you going? What am I trusting to get me through?

I’ve lived with myself long enough to know I’m going to fall short. I was married to someone I love, and she couldn’t bear the weight of my soul. My sons are sleeping in the next room, and as much as I love them, they will let me down. My job and professional achievement haven’t gotten me through. I’ve had some amazing sex in my life, and it was never enough. Money has come and gone.

It all falls short.

Faith. Do push-ups make me less angry when my kids do that thing for what has to be the hundredth time? No. When I lie awake at night fearful of loneliness and idle living and whether I really have what it takes, do I find soul-level comfort knowing I didn’t puke after foot-racing Bookworm, again, in between an obnoxious number of burpees? No. But as I push myself to my limit time and time again, I remember that I’m not the source of my strength. Even when my body is quitting on me because I still can’t catch Four Eyes, the light of day peaks through, and I remember there is an artist behind the rising sun. Even if I have to literally crawl across the ground like a baby, I know I can keep moving. I know I’m not alone. The guys next to me know it too. Because at the end of the day we know we are tapping into something bigger and better than ourselves.

F3 is more than a workout. We all show up for a beatdown. We come back for something else.

Jason McCuistion
31
Toms

Shoestring #WasNow – 1 year later

DISCLAIMER:
I am not a professional, but I am Puerto Rican, which is close.  This is my story and you do not have to read it, but I am thankful if you do.

#WasNow
I see and hear of a lot of stories of guys who have lost weight being a part of F3 Nation. I’ve never been a big guy.  Im 5’6″ and a year ago when I started F3 I was “skinny fat” at 130lbs.  I stayed up  every night til 3am playing video games, watching Netflix or working on my laptop and did not take care of myself in any way.  I ate whatever I wanted but never really put on any weight.   I work for a local non-profit ministry and while I was surrounded by a bunch of people and doing “good things”, I now look back and realize I was still a Sad Clown. One year ago, F3 entered my life and changed that.  I became Shoestring.

I definitely drank the kool-aid and jumped head first into F3.  Posting multiple times a week and rucking before every bootcamp.  Due to my obsession, I was thrown into the role of 1st F Q.  My entire routine and diet changed in just a few months.  The thing that changed the most was my mentality.  For my New Years resolution I decided my motto for 2018 was going to be, “Do Hard Things”. I immediately signed up for GORUCK events and pushed myself harder at workouts. While I have seen great results physically, the biggest change has come in my home.

Recently, my M pointed out that one of the things she has noticed has been how I have pushed myself to do hard things around the house.  A year ago, any time something broke, needed to be repaired or built, I would pay someone to do it.  I had no confidence in myself to be able to learn to fix or build anything.  It was easier for me to shell out a few hundred dollars and watch Netflix while a contractor did work.  This year I have repaired showers, installed sinks and toilets and even built a chicken coop for my M. F3 has not only changed me physically, but has changed me mentally and emotionally.

Finally, the best part has been the brothers of F3 Memphis who I have come to love by taking the daily red pill and locking shields with them. We have not all arrived and we still have a long way to go, but this is definitely more than a workout.  F3 is transforming men and helping them grab life by the horns and do hard things together.

Was-Now: All the Effs by Teacher’s Pet

This is me on probably the third Saturday workout of F3 Memphis

How did you know to post for the first time?

I had seen Rick Kuhlman (F3 Knoxville – G6) in Facebook photos with a group of 15-20 other guys who looked like they had just gone through a mud pit or ran some ungodly amount of miles. They looked like they were spent, yet they were smiling and clearly a community. Rick is somebody a generation older than me that I greatly respect, and I also recognized a couple other guys in the picture. There may have been a caption saying something about the 3 F’s of F3: Fitness – Fellowship – Faith. Basically I made a mental note to want to know what that photo was all about – also how did the handful of folks I recognize know Rick!

On March 20 2017, I filled out the expansion form on the F3 Nation website and even sent an email to 20 or more men that I thought could be interested in a Memphis launch. I didn’t get notified by F3 that the launch was happening by F3 royalty, but happened to find out on my own through looking at F3’s website. I came and roped in at least one other guy to join me.

1st F – Fitness: How has F3 Accelerated your fitness?

Backstory: I wasn’t very competitive growing up and didn’t try very hard at sports. Parents weren’t going to make me continue playing if I wasn’t interested or giving it my all. Therefore, I only played one year of soccer, two years of baseball, and one year of middle school football. I was way too sedentary in my middle and high school days. I did play outside quite a bit growing up, but I was in the era to see video games pick up steam and stayed indoors too much. The results have been that I’ve often been overweight and insecure.

Once in college, I played hours of pickup basketball at a church lock-in. We played on a full length court and I was on a team with guys who were on the Carson Newman baseball team. I was smoked and extremely sore the next couple of days. This was the first time I remember that feeling and realizing that movement was really good for me. I  predominantly used pickup basketball, ultimate frisbee, and occasional solo running as my fitness outlets from 2007-2017. Any consistency I showed was through commitment to a Tuesday night pickup at such&such gym. My fitness too often depended on others–the assembling of a game or access to pickup. And maybe this was once or twice a week.

F3 has accelerated my fitness to where it is now an essential part of my life and not a temporary or fleeting thing. I’ve gone from being self-conscious about my weight and appearance to knowing that I’m consistently doing something about it. There’s not a cleanse or a pill or a quick fix that’s going to make me feel better about myself or improve me over the long haul. This  consistency, predictability and definitely the community of F3 has drawn me in and keeps me coming back for more. I’ll do the hard thing next to somebody doing the same hard thing with me. Going solo to a gym hadn’t done it for me. Spin classes were fun, but I don’t think I actually cared to get to know the person spinning next to me. The bootcamp that I had tried out was good, but it required an additional fee to the gym membership to even participate, let alone the fact that so and so had to be present at the front desk to even get signed up! 

2nd F – Fellowship: How has F3 Accelerated your community?

Spring 2016, I remember feeling a million miles wide and an inch deep. I’m extroverted and a connector. I know more people than I’m able to stay truly connected to.

A coworker of mine had helped me to assemble this morning guys group that wasn’t necessarily tied to a specific church or even an agenda. When I was set to get married in June 2016, he pitched an idea to this group to help me to get in better shape for my honeymoon – he called it the LGN plan (LGN=look good naked). We may have ran once or twice as a group. Given the short lived LGN plan, I greatly value the shared leadership model that perpetually carries F3.

I love that F3 is a great third space for me to workout with several people in the city that I already enjoyed being around. Additionally I’ve met people from other churches and communities that I for sure would’ve never met otherwise! I always love long rucks and 2ndF events to get time to know guys better. Many F3 guys I see as often as coworkers. In adulthood I’ve found it challenging to have those friends that you might only get to see a few times a year or every couple months for a two hour dinner. The consistency of fellowship is something good for my soul that I think myself and others might miss the most from our school days.

3rd F – Faith: How has your faith been accelerated by F3?

F3 defines faith as belief in meaning and purpose outside of one’s self. I think we see this exhibited through “looking out for the 6” or fist bumping an FNG. This is the effort of the guy who is saying – I know what it’s like the first time the Q says we’re going to do 1000 burpees or whatever and I’m going to be by this guy’s side doing it with him. I think this is something we really don’t do very often in life. We always want to be out in the lead driving the newest car and having the biggest house. We rarely stoop down low and prioritize someone on the fringes over our own livelihood. 

The community that we form with each other in the gloom creates bonds that aren’t as easily created in the mundanity of our work lives. We’ve gotten real with one another about our weaknesses and flaws. We’ve prayed for guys coming out of recovery programs, families overcoming cancer, and people searching for work. We’ve also been there to praise God for healthy babies, clear cancer scans and gainful employment. Our community is what you could call tight knit. 

There are numerous instances in year one that inform me that what we’ve got within F3 is way more than a workout group and we’re certainly not less.

Jeff Riddle
30
Teacher’s Pet