New York Times, For Suburban Texas Men, a Workout Craze With a Side of Faith:
By day, Glenn Ayala is a 50-something account manager who spends much of his time behind a desk. But at Rick Rice Park in the early morning darkness, doing push-ups and jogging with a 20-pound rucksack on his back, he is known as K9, and he is with his people.
One Friday in August, Mr. Ayala joined about 20 other men in what they called the predawn “gloom” for the group’s regular workout. They grunted and hooted un-self-consciously, razzing one another and shouting encouragements, using nicknames generated by the group. (Mr. Ayala got his because he trains dogs in his spare time.)
The members also often gather to pray together and talk, building friendships that have extended into their daily lives: When Mr. Ayala separated from his wife, members of the group helped him move. When his relationship with his adult son floundered, they texted him Garth Brooks songs to buoy him.
This is F3 — that’s fitness, fellowship and faith — a fast-growing network of men’s workouts that combine exercise with spiritually inflected camaraderie. After its founding in 2011 as a free, outdoor group workout, its popularity exploded during the pandemic, expanding to some 3,400 groups across the country from 1,900, aiming to solve, as John Lambert, a.k.a. Slaughter, the network’s chief executive, put it, “a problem that society at large and men definitely didn’t even know they had: middle-age male loneliness.” ...
I first heard about F3 through a few acquaintances in Texas, men who spoke about their local groups with the zeal of evangelists. It reminded me of how urban women used to talk with me about SoulCycle, only these guys were suburban fathers.
Its no-frills formula inspires fervent devotion. “F3 has changed my life,” Mr. Ayala said. He first attended last year, when a friend repeatedly nudged him to try it — or in F3’s baroque jargon, put him in an “emotional headlock.” He was hooked immediately. About a year ago, he got an F3 tattoo on his chest. ...
In F3, there are no facilities, no formal gear and no membership fees. Popular in the South, where outdoor workouts are pleasant most months of the year, the groups are ostensibly nonsectarian, in the style of Alcoholics Anonymous, though many have a Christian emphasis. Some men describe the group as complementing and expanding on their experiences in church.
F3 is also the rare setting devoted to male bonding. It means you “have guys to do life with,” said Pastor Giraud, a.k.a. Baby Shark, who works out with Mr. Ayala. “To really care for others and be cared for, to acknowledge others and be acknowledged.” ,,,
Many F3 men want to be traditionally strong providers, but also be more active and attentive in their family lives than their own fathers were.
David French (The Dispatch), A Short Story of Men:
October 2, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink