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Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

The F3 men’s training group is spreading fast in Winston-Salem. Why this growth is about more than getting in shape.

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There’s something about having a bunch of other people waiting for you in the cold and rain that makes a guy get up at 5 in the morning. I mean, if they’re out there training, shouldn’t you be?

That’s what got Brian Amrich out of bed on a dark February morning for an F3 workout. F3, which stands for fitness, fellowship, and faith, is a training group for men that began in Charlotte in January 2011.

Former Green Beret David Redding decided to start a men’s workout group for those being turned away in the one he was already in. Despite the typically dreary winter weather, 35 guys showed up for the first workout. Now, more than 3,000 regulars get their sweat on in branch groups all over North and South Carolina. It launched in Winston-Salem in 2014.

Workouts are free, almost always outdoors, and peer-led. One day, one guy leads the training session. The next day, it’s someone else. Everyone gets their turn.

“We have our own terminology for every exercise, and you’re empowered to come up with new exercises,” says Amrich.

F3 does have a website (f3nation.com) where it sells T-shirts, apparel, and other stuff to raise funds for equipment and other expenses. But its membership growth is strictly word-of-mouth. Amrich is an example of that. A friend he goes to church with heard about F3 from another friend, and together they went online to check out the details.

He was initially worried about not being in good enough shape for the workouts and not knowing anyone else involved. But those fears subsided after the first session.

“There’s a lot of teamwork involved,” says Amrich, who played sports in high school. “It made me feel like I was back out there with the team. I was hooked on day one.”

He adds that most of the workouts consist of body-weight exercises such as pull-ups and sit-ups. “Sometimes guys get creative and bring a bunch of tires and incorporate those into a workout. Today, we had our first ever kettlebell workout, so we do use weights occasionally.”

Guys who aren’t in shape shouldn’t be scared away. Nor should men who think they may be too old. “Our workout group is literally all ages and fitness levels,” Amrich says. “We give disclaimers to new guys that they can push themselves, but they’re welcome to modify the exercises or stop if it’s too much. We’re not out here to kill ourselves.”

Newcomers will likely feel a unique culture and camaraderie that emerges when you train as the the world sleeps. “I’d say our culture is super inclusive,” says Amrich. “They’re all just good people to be around. They’re good guys who really want to do good things in the community and in their lives. All the positive energy just rubs off on you.”

Others have taken notice. Amrich says the Winston F3 group started with Saturday workouts that maybe drew 15 guys on a good day. That number soon grew to 30-plus men, which led to the addition of a Wednesday workout. Workouts are now offered daily except Sundays for a roster that exceeds 100. Each lasts around 45 minutes.

All of the newcomers were attracted through good word-of-mouth publicity. And that’s really saying something for a group staked on predawn workouts in the great outdoors, rain or shine.

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F3 Workouts occur six days a week at locations including Hanes Park, Reynolda Village, and Tanglewood. Weekday workouts start at 5:30 a.m. and Saturday workouts at 7. For more info, go to www.f3nation.com/winston-salem-nc.

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