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Effingham Magazine

Fitness, Fellowship & Faith (F3)

Fitness, Fellowship & Faith (F3)
Building a Community and Making a Difference in Men’s Lives

Story by Katrice Williams
Photography by Emily Roscher

Francois Hugon has been part of the “Fitness, Fellowship & Faith” (F3) Coastal Empire team for five years. It has been a tremendous asset to him with benefits that have transcended the realm of fitness into other facets of his life.

“It comes off as a workout group, and we do a lot of working out. At the end of the day, it’s a leadership organization that works to build better community leaders out of men. It helps men identify their purpose a little more,” Francois says.

As a husband and father of two, he strives to be a good leader in his family as well as his community, which is what F3 is largely all about.

The now international organization began in 2011 in Charlotte, NC. It was started by Tim “OBT” Whitmire and David “Dredd” Redding, a former U.S. Green Beret. The mission of the organization is “To plant, grow, and serve small workout groups for men for the invigoration of male community leadership.” It was created to be more than just a fitness group.

At the time, Whitmire and Redding had no clue of the powerful impact their organization would have on fitness everywhere, as F3 fitness groups have spread all over the world.

“It’s that small group and that community focus that brings men together, challenging them and making them better,” Francois says.

F3 and the Coastal Empire

F3 found its way to Savannah in 2015, then Pooler in 2016; thereafter, groups expanded to Richmond Hill and parts of Effingham County, all making up the F3 Coastal Empire Region. Now, men participate in any group in the Coastal Empire. It is totally free, which makes it convenient for nearly any man to participate.

As group members relocate, they are able to start new F3 groups in their new area. The concept has come to be known as the “Starfish Model”—as most groups exist because members have branched off to start their own groups.

“F3 is very community-focused, so we want to better our own communities. I want Pooler to be a great community to live in,” Francois says.

What It’s All About

That is the F3 way—bringing men together through workouts and fellowship, helping them become stronger role models in their homes and valuable leaders in their communities. The name says it all: fitness, fellowship & faith.

“The first ‘F’ for fitness brings guys out to participate; it’s the magnet. The second ‘F’ for fellowship is the glue—it keeps guys coming out. Relationships are built through enduring the shared challenges of the workout. Then, there’s the third ‘F’—it’s the dynamite—the faith in knowing we are doing it all for a much bigger purpose than just ourselves. The men in F3 live this by serving each other as well as their communities as much as possible,” Francois says.

Discipline and commitment is needed to succeed in nearly any fitness program, and F3 is no different. The workouts are challenging. In fact, it is often boot camp-style conditioning, so all workouts are done outdoors, incorporating body weights and easily accessible materials for resistance needs (for example: cinder blocks and tires).

“I love it. It pushes me physically,” Francois says.

Working Out and No Excuses

Francois’ F3 group meets at 5:30 a.m., Monday-Friday, on the Pooler fields behind the West Chatham YMCA. A second F3 group meets in Pooler at 5 a.m. at the West Chatham Middle School bus loop. All workouts last about 45 minutes, and the early morning time frames allow for a great start to the day.

The Pooler F3 team maintains a philosophy of “no excuses.” Whether it is conditioning in the rain, hiking with a rucksack in freezing temperatures or running while it is a scorcher out, the guys work out together each morning—absolutely no excuses.

“There’s somewhat of a ‘shared suffering’ element that allows you to form bonds and rely on each other. Guys form those relationships in the shared suffering of working out in 32 degree weather,” Francois says.

Teamwork and Commitment

The F3 Credo says: “Leave no man behind, but leave no man where you find him.” The F3 team believes that real progress is made together, feeling that nearly any man of any fitness level can benefit.

“It’s open to all men. You don’t have to be in great shape to come for the first time,” he notes.

No man should feel intimidated because the group helps, encourages and motivates each other every step of the way. No one does it alone.

“You won’t be abandoned,” Francois says. “We want to make sure you’re growing, and we’ll accelerate along with you. If someone is running or exercising and may be lagging behind, we’ll go back and finish with them. We want to make sure we’re doing it together.”

There are no professionals in the group, which means that everyone can comfortably work at the level they are on as they continue to progress. In addition, each person has the opportunity to lead a workout.

“Every workout is different because it’s led by one of us. There are no professionals. It gives everybody the opportunity to be a leader,” he remarked.

Core Principles

There are a few core principles that are specific to the overall F3 organization which include that it is “free of charge, open to all men, held outdoors and peer-led (non-professionals); also, each workout ends in a ‘Circle of Trust’”—this is the time following a workout that allows for sincere fellowship together in an honest and uninhibited manner.

On occasion, some groups offer prayer within the Circle of Trust. Men are able to get a host of things off their chests and just relate to each other, all in the absence of judgment, shame or fear. Whether offering sound advice, empathy or some constructive criticism, despite how trying a situation may seem, it can be shared and addressed together.

“That’s when bonds are really formed. A guy can relate more to another guy. As men, we can help each other. We can talk and have those bonds of trust. It’s a really strong way for men to make that connection without forcing feelings—guys tend not to be really good at sharing. But, we can just be relatable—make stupid jokes with each other; it’s just guys being guys,” he says. 

Though core F3 principles are always upheld by each F3 group, each one has its very own culture.

“We each have our own way that we do things,” Francois says.

As a common element of male camaraderie, giving clever nicknames to each other has become a standard with F3. Francois teases that because he has become so accustomed to all the guys’ nicknames, he barely knows their real ones.

He also jokes that he is quite proud of his own nickname: “Betty Crocker.” Early on, the group found that the dutiful, fun-loving dad sometimes enjoyed taking part in cooking/kitchen activities with his little girl. And soon, “Betty Crocker” was born. Francois mentions that if that is why he was nicknamed “Betty Crocker,” he is very honored.

Giving Back

F3 takes great pride in giving back to their community as much as possible. Whether serving in their local churches, participating in the Angel Tree Program during the Christmas Season or being a part of various food drives, the men persist to help promote the welfare of others.

For quite some time, the group has enjoyed assisting P.A.C.K. (People of Action Caring for Kids). P.A.C.K. is a nonprofit, volunteer-led organization that helps combat childhood hunger in the area by “packing and delivering bags of food each month to children in local schools and community centers,” helping those kids that have little or no food over the weekends when school meals are inaccessible.

All in all, F3 is about helping to empower men to be the absolute best version of themselves in life-—a tremendous asset to their families and their communities. And it is doing just that.

Anyone interested in finding out more about F3 Coastal Empire can visit the website at: