FARGO – Despite all the good things in his life, Jason Myrmoe, 44, a primary care physician with a young family, sensed a lack, including male friendship, and finding the time and drive to stay physically fit.
“As a new dad, exercise can seem expendable,” Myrmoe admitted. “You get used to not doing it, and pretty soon, your five-year-old is in the backyard beating you at soccer.”
In researching a way to reignite the fire, he discovered F3, a fast-growing network of men’s workouts that combine exercise with spiritually-infused camaraderie in the early-morning “gloom,” outdoors.
“There’s a lot of modern-day snake-oil salesmen out there,” he said, noting initial skepticism. But with further research, his interest in F3—Fitness, Fellowship and Faith—increased. “I couldn’t find any red flags, including that it’s free.”
After contacting national leaders, in August 2021, Myrmoe started a Fargo group, which now meets up to five days a week in several locations, with hopes of further area expansion.
A lexicon all their own
New arrivals are called “Friendly New Guy,” or “FNG,” and each receives a unique nickname after his first workout.
“There’s a whole lexicon,” said Myrmoe, “Zamboni,” which helps create connectedness. “Nobody outside the group uses our nicknames—or knows what the heck they mean. But it’s part of that fellowship piece.”
Jason Medders, 45, affectionately known as “Soccermom,” earned his name because of his big van and seven children. Though initially a bit embarrassed by the name, that changed while he was in Alabama working out with an F3 group there.
“A guy came over to me, noticing I was new, and we gave each other a fist bump,” Medders shared. “I said, ‘I’m Soccermom,’ and he said, ‘I’m Snow White.’ Then another guy said, ‘I’m Judge Judy.’”
The men take turns leading the workouts. Morning leaders are called “Q.” Sometimes, after a workout, they’ll have a “coffeeteria,” with someone providing coffee. “It’s usually pretty thick and sludgy,” Myrmoe said, “And we’ll sit around and talk for a bit.”
Leaders record work-out details, attendance, and the weather. “The more sarcastic and witty, the better,” Myrmoe said. “One summer, it was hot, wet and sticky, and Soccermom described the weather as ‘Like the inside of a dog’s mouth.’”
They call their regular banter “mumble chatter,” and a “circle of trust” concludes their sessions, with open sharing of words of wisdom and encouragement.
The bonding has led to some gatherings outside the workouts, with monthly “Thirsty Thursdays” at a bar or brewery for a pint, and partaking in occasional CSAUPs, or “Completely Stupid and Utterly Pointless,” workouts that are exceptionally long.
This past Sept. 11, the group embarked on a “Rock,” or hiking with a weighted backpack. “We wanted to walk up the height of the Trade Towers,” Myrmoe said, “so we walked up and down The Dike 37 times to honor the men and women who died in that tragic event.”
All ages and stages
F3 includes men of all ages, with no limits on fitness level. “You don’t have to be a gym rat,” Medders said. “You can modify these workouts as needed.”
The same goes with the faith piece, which is all-encompassing. “It’s the idea of believing in something bigger than yourself and giving back to others,” Medders said, adding that he’d hate for anyone to be deterred for fear it’s a Bible study.
Tim Bertsch, 42, “Porkswab,” discovered F3 at the invitation of his neighbor, “Sloppy Joe.” After pushing the invitation aside, he finally decided to dive in.
“I almost threw up my first day,” he said, noting that his desk job at a bank had led to a more sedentary life. He now loves the group. “It’s a good place for healthy masculinity, if that makes any sense.”
When he invited his pastor to join, he confided in Bertsch how refreshing it was to be in a group with so few demands. “Especially at 5 in the morning,” Bertsch said. “I’m rarely at my best then, but that’s the nice part about it. Everyone shows up a little bleary-eyed,” but leaves energized.
He also appreciates that it’s a place where his jokes might be better received, he said. “There’s just a different level of relationship between guys – sometimes it’s just extra flatulence that I’m not as embarrassed about.”
As faith leader of the group, Bertsch writes “a little sermon” weekly, sharing it in a group app. “You can’t pour out of an empty cup, and it’s my way of trying to give back to the guys who give to me.”
Workout with a purpose
Mike Little, 36, “Nightcrawler,”said with three children under eight, he was struggling to find time to work out. “During Covid, I created a gym in my garage, but for the cardiovascular stuff, there’s no way I’m going to be doing ‘Burpies’ by myself.”
His work as executive director for two nonprofit foundations is “very cerebral,” he said, so being able to “exhaust myself physically is an amazing balance to that.”
Little, who has Type 1 Diabetes, also noted that after working out with F3 for a while, his blood-sugar levels improved markedly. The group, he said, can lead to both better physical and mental health.
“Male loneliness is kind of epidemic” in our culture,” he said. “There’s something unique about having those male friendships, especially men of faith committed to leadership, the community, and each other.”
When exerting yourself with another guy, he added, you feel accomplished, like “When you’re trying to do a ‘Murder Bunny’ with a cinderblock dragging behind your body as you jump over it, or with 300 overhead presses as your partner is doing a ‘Bear Crawl.’”
Myrmoe agrees. A workout might seem intimidating, but when you see other guys doing it, “All of a sudden, you dig deeper, and you find this reservoir of strength you didn’t think was there.”
One guy showed up for a workout with a Hornbacher’s bag on his hand, he said. Despite being injured, he didn’t want to skip his workout for fear he’d stop coming altogether. “As I reflect on that, I think of how many times life throws a curveball, and it makes me change my initial plans a little bit. And rather than modifying, I just quit!”
And there’s nothing more freeing than working out on the ground in wet, muddy snow, he said. Even minus-degree temperatures don’t stop F3. “We’ve worked out at 27 below. It’s great in the winter; the ice beards are ferocious.”
Zach Hendrickson, 33, “Cap’n Claus,” said he “went for the fitness, but stayed for the fellowship.” “On those nights you don’t get a whole lot of sleep, and it takes a lot to get out of bed, it pushes me out, gets me there, and I’ve gained some closer bonds.”
As full-time military for the Minnesota Army National Guard, Hendrickson said he enjoys the structure, but also the freedom of working out how you want.
Despite being fairly fit, at the time he found F3, he’d recently moved to the area, and was seeking more male fellowship, and accountability. “We have four kids. Our youngest is nine months, and our oldest, seven, so it’s busy,” he said. And his wife is extremely supportive. “She says, ‘You’re definitely happier when you’re able to go regularly, even when you’re tired.”
Medders said he used to go to a gym by himself, “waddle along on the treadmill, and go home,” but it was a lonely routine. “With F3, we push one another, and all strive to encourage one another. It meets that fitness piece, but also the need to have meaningful relationships with other men who want to improve themselves and others. There’s a lot of synergy.”
As noted on the local “ F3 Fargo ” Facebook group, where workout days, times and locations are posted: “Two People are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” (Eccl. 4:9)
F3 national will celebrate its 12th year anniversary next month. To become part of the local F3 group, or consider starting one, visit the local Facebook page or the national website, https://f3nation.com/.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 9, 2022.]