Taking Care of Each Other
It’s hard to say for sure why anyone decides to connect with a particular way of exercising. I’ve quit many workouts throughout my life because I just didn’t feel engaged. Another gym membership, another New Year’s resolution with good intentions – only to fade out over a few months. Not this time.
F3 is a free, peer-led, voluntary, men’s workout group. It stands for Fitness, Fellowship, Faith. It’s somewhat boot camp style where guys take turns leading and encouraging everyone to step up and lead a workout from time to time. When I consider why I’ve stuck with this workout, it’s likely several things. Pushing myself physically was enough at first, but over time we can all look for reasons not to show up; to have a lazy morning. Eventually I felt ready to lead workouts. Now the group is depending on me to be there, which pushed me a bit more, in the best possible way: accountability to other guys who were relying on me. Then the fellowship took over.
I began using this as my primary exercise routine a little over 5 years ago, and before long I noticed a difference. It’s typical for a new guy to hear someone say, “It doesn’t get easier, you get stronger! I believe that’s true in a few ways. Yes, with more runs, burpees, flutter kicks, pushups, etc. our fitness strengthened, but that wasn’t the only thing.
While working out with my F3 group, I’ve seen guys help each other through divorce, job loss, health issues, and the loss of a family member. After Hurricane Harvey, these guys were going from house to house helping any way they could with physical labor, but also offered friendship to a man whose home just flooded and was worried about how to keep his family safe.
Men can struggle to have healthy relationships with other men. Some have work buddies, some have old friends from the past (loosely connected, perhaps geographically distant), some have “man-dates”, or the spouse of their spouse’s friend. We all know about those forced social interactions with someone we don’t know well and certainly won’t open up with. Each of these are superficial in nature and unhelpful in times of need.
As a gender, men certainly have flaws, one of them being, we aren’t so good at admitting our flaws. The façade, or the mask we each put up (in superficial relationships). In lasting relationships, that façade can come down, especially when challenged to be more vulnerable as a human. When I lead, I often remind the other guys that using good form in an exercise is important; when you cheat it is only yourself you are fooling. Good form helps you avoid physical injuries, for sure. It also helps you be authentic. When push-ups are too hard, drop to your knees. We all have to drop to our knees sometimes.
Our workouts are always in the morning, outside, rain or shine. Yes, that requires some self-discipline at times, something that F3 has helped me strengthen. Each work out ends with thoughts and prayers. Prayers, of course vary quite a bit based on who is leading, but in nearly every instance I’ve seen, it’s not religious, rather it’s thoughtful about gratitude for gifts (including one another) and thought of support for others who need them. It’s connection, it’s humanity.
One thing the past two years has taught us is the importance of humanity. I’m grateful for the moments in my life where humanity exists, and for the group of men I see three days a week. They have kept me committed to caring for myself, making me better able to care for others.
It certainly has not become easier, but I have become stronger.
NFCC Advisory Board Vice Chair