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Columbia Business Monthly

No matter what shape…

Sep 05, 2018 01:01PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By John Temple Ligon
Principal, Gervais Studio

There’s an exercise workout phenomenon surfacing in South Carolina, having begun in Charlotte in 2011 and now working its way well into Georgia, Alabama and Virginia. It’s called F3, where the three Fs stand for Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith. The Faith part suggests something of a Pantheon, which means all of the gods. At the end of each workout, a support circle forms among the thirty or so participants and one F3 member singularly calls out the parting prayer. This is no prayer meeting, no holy rollers, but Faith is as much part of the spirit of the program as Fellowship, and hovering above all is Fitness.

How did I get in good with this group? I joined like all the others before me. I showed up. That’s it. No one screens the new guy, and no one reviews the rules. There is no initiation fee. No dues.

It all sounds too easy, and maybe it is. After all, who’s gonna support an exercise program that doesn’t ask for any support? Where does discipline kick in? The workouts are tough, all right, but the tough part is the habit-forming embrace of the weekly schedule, rain or shine and even during record cold. You have an appointment to keep and they have an appointment to keep with you. Discipline doesn’t get you there on the grass turf or the asphalt blacktop at 5:15; obligation and camaraderie does. Showing up five or six days a week at 5:15 or so and then going through a backbreaking, almost bone-splitting 45 minutes of intense exercises puts together a productive cohesion and eventually a great shape, they tell me.

Some of the guys say this is the best shape they’ve been in for their entire adult lives. The people in the workouts have ages ranging from early elementary to early 80s. Me, I’m 70, which is probably the peak for our group. I don’t know why or how, but we’re called the SCORE group, which means we’re a little bit wimpy when compared with that crowd declaring themselves to be in the best physical shape of their adult lives. One of the guys has the nickname NAILS because he is as tough as nails.

Everybody, by the way, has a nickname.

I was asked if I had a nickname, part of the coming-of-age in this workout business. I answered that I did have a nickname, “Cashmere,” which was assigned to me just before Christmas, 1989.

I was driving my Mustang convertible past the Horseshoe in the wee hours with the top down. It was under 20 and breezy, especially with the roof down, and the policewoman had to assume anyone driving in 20 degrees in the open air had to be under the influence. She turned on her bubble-gum roof light and directed me to the curb. As she walked up to me seated in my little automobile, I called out, “Yeah, thank you, ma’am. That’s it. But let me have a large order of fries with that, please.”

She arrested me and called for backup. I went to jail in her back seat. I blew a .17.

I was the best dressed they had in the jailhouse that night. Standing in my favorite topcoat, I was nicknamed by my fellow jail birds. They laughed uproariously at my jokes on both sides of the bars. They called me Cashmere, named after my topcoat.

So, yeah, fellow F3 types, I have a nickname.

As for me, Cashmere, what kind of shape I have achieved so far, I can’t say, because I have not been with it long enough. I tell my friends to give it a full three months and then ask, “How’s it going?”

I do have a history of physical fitness, but it has a half-century history. I graduated Ranger School in summer ’69. That’s almost 50 years ago. I ran London, my 11th marathon, in 1996. Tennis has kept me in a regular sweat practically all my life. Still, I haven’t been in decent shape for a long time, and it will be a little while before I gain some kind of fitness. But it has to happen.

F3 will have to do it just about every morning for the next 10 years or so.

And it’s already doing it in 25 states with 1,300 scheduled workouts a week, which can include women. There’s a group named Females in Action, or FiA, and their Lake Murray workout club sounds well-attended. A visit to their web site FiA Lake Murray is recommended to my women readers.

My group meets in front of Dreher High School in Columbia, and sometimes we park and start our runs and walks in front of Eggs Up Grill on Devine Street. Go to Google under F3, and you’ll see the whole story.

Good luck. Plan on pain for the first few workouts. Tough it out. You’ll see.  Maybe we’ll see each other. Hope so.