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When my wife and I first married, we splurged on an incredibly comfortable, open-cell, organic, bamboo memory foam mattress. It is the nicest bed I have ever slept in. And though it seemed incredibly expensive for us at the time, it has proven to be worth every penny. In an effort to cultivate gratitude, I sometimes think about some of the most powerful men who ever lived—kings, emperors, tzars, chiefs, pharaohs, and presidents--and how they all probably slept on straw, feathers, or something else that us modern folks would deem wildly uncomfortable. Despite all their influence and authority, Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan never slept in a cozier bed than me.

When you zoom out a bit, that sentiment is true across all aspects of modern life. We are drowning in comfort and convenience, the likes of which our ancestors couldn't imagine. The kings of old had minstrels; we have mind-boggling films in Dolby Cinema 3D. A high-ranking general might travel by horse for months to reach their destination; we can enjoy a short and comfortable flight while streaming our favorite podcast. Unlike you, George Washington never enjoyed the ease of indoor plumbing--keep that in mind the next time you need to use the john at 2:00 am in the middle of February. It's hard to quantify how much easier, less stressful, and safer our lives are compared to people who lived just a few generations ago. For eight dollars, you can go to Chipotle and get a delicious, calorie-rich meal that would make your great-great-grandfather weep. This list could go on and on.

In his book, "Death by Comfort: How Modern Life is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It," neuroscientist, nutritionist, and exercise physiologist Paul Taylor argues that despite all of this convenience, we're not happier, healthier, or heartier. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be true; Taylor says, "Modern humans are the most overweight, depressed, medicated, and addicted cohort of adults that has ever lived, yet life has never been so good!" What is the reason for this seeming contradiction? Taylor's answer is simple: our lives are far too comfortable. Citing an enormous amount of scientific research, Taylor demonstrates that doing difficult things within appropriate boundaries is incredibly good for you. Essentially, anything you can physically do to yourself to make your body uncomfortable--exercise, fasting, exposure to extreme heat and cold, stretching, meditating, etc.--not only improves your quality of life, it actually up-regulates your biological systems on a molecular level.

Other advocates for embracing difficult activities to improve your overall health call this "increasing your discomfort tolerance." Taylor has coined a different term that I prefer. He calls engaging in these challenging activities "discomfort harvesting" because you reap such a massive benefit from partaking in them. When I think about my time at F3, this term accurately describes my experiences. The workouts are hard, both mentally and physically. It's hard to get up so early. It's hard to be out in the elements. It's hard to stay consistent. It's hard to return after illness or vacation has pulled you out of your routine. It's hard to keep everyone on the same page. Anyone who has ever posted knows these difficulties firsthand.

These challenges aren't merely anecdotal; you can see them in our yearly attendance data. So far, in 2023, F3 Ashland has welcomed 72 FNGs. 26 (36%) of those guys only came one time. That means over a third of the men we headlock into coming decide it's too hard after one workout. Of those 72 FNGs, only 9 (12.5%) have posted consistently. That is a considerable drop-off. Our statistics show that only slightly more than one out of every ten bros we recruit will be able to hang with us for an extended amount of time. This is not a judgment on those who do not stick; I understand that F3 isn't for everyone. This is simply a recognition that what we are inviting one another to do is very difficult.

However, the benefits of accepting the difficulties of F3 cannot be overstated. Truly, everything in my life is better when I submit myself to this kind of distress. I sleep better. I eat healthier. I have more energy. I get sick less often. I feel less stressed. I drink more water. I have less pain. I have more confidence, more friends, more resilience, and more joy in my life because F3 regularly invites me to harvest those things by embracing discomfort. Virtually everyone I know who frequently posts at F3 would say the same thing. F3 does not simply provide men discomfort for sadistic bragging rights; it provides an invitation to cultivate the best version of yourself by not shying away from hard things that make you stronger, healthier, and happier.

I wish more men would discover the incredible benefits of discomfort harvesting. I wish more men would resist the siren song of comfort that is slowly lulling us into atrophy and despair. I wish more men could find a wholesome community that would encourage and challenge them to get out of their historically cozy beds and step into the dark, cold, brutal beatdowns during the winter at F3. You gain so much good from shaking hands with that kind of hard. If you're reading this, I hope you consider joining us in the gloom. As my favorite Rabbi once said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." -Moonshine

“I just don’t have the time.” I must have said that thirty times in response to a friend’s attempts to get me to an F3 workout. It’s true, we get so busy with life – work, family, home, and a host of other responsibilities – that we can lose sight of the importance of health and fitness. That happened to me. I was fifty-two years old, and working fifty to sixty hours a week (most of it sitting in a classroom, in meetings, or in front of a computer). Before I knew it I was 100 pounds overweight, always tired and out of breath, and – I honestly believe – on my way to an early grave.

That’s when my dangerously high blood pressure sent me to the emergency room, and then to a personal physician who happened to be part of the F3 group in Ashland, Ohio. We talked about the group and I decided then and there I would try it out. I showed up to my first workout, in the dark, knowing only a few people there. Only when the sun started to rise did I notice that I had been flipping tires with my doctor! Of course, I started working even harder once I saw him!

I have to admit, though, that the first few months were extremely challenging. I often modified exercises greatly, sometimes even just walking while the others followed the Q’s workout. I think I heaved – or came close to it – every workout for the first two months. But there was something about this group of men that made me want to be around them. That’s why I initially came back. They encouraged each other. They didn’t judge me because I was in such bad shape. They challenged me to push myself. And they had fun spending 45 minutes around each other a few times a week. Every loving insult they hurled at me made me appreciate them that much more. And then I realized that what I missed even more than the exercise was being around men such as these. They are, each and every one, an example of what it means to be a good man – a good friend, a good father, a good neighbor.

That’s why I kept coming back, and slowly, over the course of several months, my fitness improved. I finally did my first sit-up, managed to run an entire flight of stairs at the stadium, and stopped walking during workouts. I’ve lost about sixty pounds, not in a fast, dangerous way, but little by little, one workout a time. I am almost positive that I’m still alive because of this group. But the point is that, for me, the fitness followed because of the fellowship. Every workout now is a chance for me to reflect on how lucky I am to have found this group on men. These guys can help you to challenge yourself, too – one workout at a time.

– Chris Burkett, “Misfire,” 53


I very recently came up on my "postiversary" - it was about one year ago when I first decided to crawl out of bed at youmustbekidding o'clock to go work out with the guys of F3 for the first time. Even though I dropped in unexpectedly, the decision certainly didn't come out of the blue. I'd been carrying some extra weight, and was feeling tired and run-down pretty much all of the time. I'm usually the one responsible for handling the laundry in the house, carrying the full baskets up two flights of stairs was starting to wind me. So I picked a pleasant late-April morning and rolled up to Arrowhead at 5:16 am.

Just in time to see a bunch of dudes running away. The 5:15 workouts start promptly at 5:15.

So I ran them down as best I could and, huffing and puffing the whole time, did something that approximated the workout that the rest of the PAX was doing. Some time later, Sprinkles confessed to me that they didn't think I was going to make it. I'm not sure if they thought I was going to die, or just not come back! But in 2021, I came back about 90 times, in heat, rain, snow, and bitter cold. And I learned something along the way:

Getting in shape, fitness, dropping a few pounds, "The First F" in F3 lingo - whatever it is you call it - got me to those first few workouts. But after a while, I realized that just getting in better shape wasn't going to keep me coming back. I've had gym memberships before, and I've never stuck with them for more than a few weeks. But here I am, one year later and still a "regular." While it was the First F that got me out of bed for that first workout, the community of guys that comprise F3 is what keeps me coming back.

In the book Social, Matthew Leiberman breaks down research that was done back in 1985 and again in 2004. In 1985, 59% of respondents said that they had 3 or more friends, and 90% claimed at least one close confidant. By 2004, less than 40% claimed at least 3 close friends, and 25% said that they had no one in whom they could confide.

Think about that: 1 out of 4 people walking around have no one to share life with.

It's no wonder Sad Clown Syndrome is everywhere you look.

We all need a circle of guys around us. We are social creatures, and 2020 taught us that we all suffer when we can't be together. We need each other for a million reasons - we need other men to lean on, to push us, and to make us be better men. Sometimes it's a deep conversation and prayer after coffeeteria, or sometimes you just need an extra set of hands to move that bookcase.

Whatever it is you need, you'll find good men here. And if you roll up for one of our workouts at ridiculously-early o'clock, we'll be here. And you'll be welcomed into the community. I know I sure was.

-Stamos

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