It was approximately 5:20 am in a Domino’s Pizza parking lot when I immediately began to regret my decision to crawl out of bed 40 minutes prior. This was a mid-December morning in 2020, it was a crisp 28 degrees, and the sun was a good hour and a half away from peaking over the nearest trees. One by one, late comers whipped their vehicles into the secluded parking lot with cinder blocks in hand, fist bumping and greeting each other with names no parent in their right mind would name their child. Ten minutes later we headed on foot into the blackness, a trek that would change the way I approached fitness for the next year.
So What is F3, Exactly?
F3 saw it’s beginning in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2011 when two friends started a boot camp style workout for men. In short, and according to the national network itself, F3 is “a network of free, peer-led workouts for men in the United States led by men who participate in the workout in a rotating fashion, with no training or certification necessary.” The three F’s of F3 stand for fitness, fellowship and faith. Men of all religious beliefs are welcomed and encouraged. For women looking to experience the same type of morning beatdown, there exists FiA, or Females in Action, which is a comparable network of free, peer-led workouts for women.
Core Principles and F3 Workouts
The 5 core principles for every local F3 workout:
- Be free of charge.
- Be open to all men.
- Be held outdoors, rain or shine, heat or cold.
- Be led by men who participate in the workout in a rotating fashion, with no training or certification necessary.
- End with a Circle of Trust.
F3 workout groups are available in nearly every city nationwide and typically begin at 5:30am and end promptly at 6:15am—a 45 minute beatdown which may include repeated calisthenics, running, jumping, pushups, and the occasional grueling session with a coupon (that’s F3 lingo for a cinder block.) Each workout is followed by a circle of trust where men new to the workouts (FNG’s) will be introduced and given a nickname that will stick with them throughout their F3 workouts for life.
At my first F3 workout, after jogging into a nearby memorial park with 18 other men carrying cinder blocks on their shoulders, we immediately began a series of side straddle hops (jumping jacks) and various other exercises without pause before heading back onto the path for a mile-long jaunt. I seriously felt like quitting the first few times I attended, but was encouraged by the repeated mumble chatter from the likes of ‘Sea Gull’ ‘Uncle Joe’ and ‘Mayhem’ who cheered a newcomer on to the end. At the end of my first adventure into the F3 world, I was given the nickname ‘Sex Wax’ unanimously by the group after haphazardly sharing with them my part in crafting Peckerhead Mustache Wax—a strong hold mustache wax built for speed.
Twice a week for the next 12 months I attended F3 workouts, losing 12 pounds in the process and gaining a few friends. I’ve since stopped going, as waking up at 4:15am to punish my body in the freezing cold is something I’ve decided only an insane person would do. And I’ve still got my wits about me for now.