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Men's outdoor workout group in Omaha focuses on three Fs: fitness, fellowship and faith

Men's outdoor workout group in Omaha focuses on three Fs: fitness, fellowship and faith


Nick Rudman used to be a regular runner.

Then his world flipped upside down when triplets doubled the size of the Rudman family.

After that, fitness fell by the wayside.

As his daughter and three sons got older, and as Rudman crept toward 40, he picked up exercise again.

Now he’s replaced his traditional — and solo — sessions at the gym with outdoor group workouts.

F3 Omaha, a chapter of a national organization, is a free men’s workout group that meets regularly and puts an emphasis on three Fs: fitness, fellowship and faith.

The Omaha chapter kicked off about 17 months ago with two workouts a week. Now, the group hosts 11 sessions and a couple of hundred men each week.

Rudman, an original member of the local chapter, said he was skeptical at first.

“The first thing some guys look at is the name. ‘Fitness, fellowship and faith? What does that mean?’ That’s exactly what I thought,” he said. “Turns out, it was exactly what I needed.”

Chad Brough helped launch the group in Omaha last year. He missed the weekly workouts when he moved to Omaha from Greensboro, North Carolina.

Representatives with the national organization told Brough to give it time, get settled in Omaha and get to know the community first.

The first session, in April 2018, drew more than 20 men. It snowballed from there.

Most workouts are boot camp-style and incorporate body-weight exercises, as well as some work with sandbags or concrete blocks. Some include running, others include weights. All workouts are peer-led.

“You don’t know what you’re walking into,” Brough said. “You come in and have that certain amount of suspense about what the workout’s going to involve.”

Workouts are held outside. Rain or shine, hot or cold.

A row of flags flying from shovels stuffed into the ground marked the workout spot at Boys Town for a recent Saturday morning session.

Exercisers gathered around the flags, some dousing themselves with bug spray and others sipping from thermoses of coffee.

At 7 on the dot, they huddled up for an overview of the day’s workout. It was hot outside, so the day’s leader reminded them to modify as needed.

After a lap through the campus, the group of about 30 men circled up for jumping jacks, planks and other bodyweight exercises. Their voices echoed through the field as they counted each rep.

And that was just the warmup.

They split into small groups and rotated around eight stations for pushups, situps, burpees, leg lifts and more. Grunts and groans came from two stations that incorporated concrete blocks, especially during burpees.

One man sported a weighted vest for the entire workout. Another playfully jabbed while going from one station to the next, “It’s swimsuit season, gentlemen.”

At the end of the workout, the men reconvened at the flags for the “circle of trust.”

The men circle up and repeat their name and their F3 name, a nickname given to them after their first workout. Then each man can share what’s on his mind. Sometimes leaders close with a prayer or an inspirational quote.

In a recent circle, faces and arms glossy with sweat, they started by naming a newbie. After sharing his background and some embarrassing stories, he landed the name “Blue Light Special.”

That week’s leader encouraged his peers — Crab Cakes, Lucky Charms, Bloodshot, Tonight Show, Cornhole and Captain Kangaroo, to name a few — to make the workouts a routine.

“Lean in. Or get in where you can fit in,” he said. “Don’t hit snooze and do nothing.”

Weekday sessions are 45 minutes long and draw about 20 participants. Saturday workouts are an hour and draw up to 45 exercisers.

F3 started in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2011. Its mission is to spur community leadership through the workout groups, said Frank Schwartz, a spokesman for the national group. There’s little governance over the chapters, Schwartz said. He estimates that F3 groups are up and running in more than 35 states and in a handful of other countries.

“Fitness is the magnet,” Schwartz said. “You get out there because you think it’s important to be in shape. Then you realize you start making some friends.”

The F3 Omaha group has rallied around one of its members injured in an accident this summer. They’ve hosted an online fundraiser and surprised the member with a birthday party.

Group sports have always played a big role in Patrick Chandler’s life. He played baseball and football growing up. But in adulthood, he struggled to find a fitness routine he could stick with.

And after moving to Omaha from northern Mississippi, Chandler had a hard time finding gym buddies.

He decided to check out F3 Omaha after seeing it on social media. He was hooked from the beginning.

“Going to the gym, it was just me,” Chandler said. “If I didn’t go, no one knew I wasn’t there. With this, there’s built-in accountability. They notice I’m not there.”

Since starting, Chandler said he hasn’t lost much weight, but he’s gotten stronger. He can tackle more pushups and ab exercises now.

“I came for the fitness, but I stayed for the friendships,” he said.

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Related to this story

It isn’t unusual in larger cities to see marathons stacked one after another on the running calendar, said Rich Harshbarger, CEO of Running USA, a national trade association. But it’s surprising to see the stacked marathon schedule in a market like Omaha, with fewer than a million people in its metro area, Harshbarger said. Especially in light of race registration numbers dropping nationally.

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