Regional Group Focuses on Men’s Physical and Mental Health

This was a front page story in the West Windsor and Plainsboro News, February 2022

https://www.communitynews.org/towns/west-windsor-plainsboro-news/regional-group-focuses-on-men-s-physical-and-mental-health/article_f01fe8fe-836e-11ec-b8f8-171e3ce9eceb.html

In 2011, a movement began in Charlotte, North Carolina, where men could meet up and gather for free scheduled outdoor workouts.

In the process, fellowships and friendships were formed as the men were able to not only improve their physical health, but their mental health as well by sharing their struggles with each other.

This men’s fitness program became known as F3, which stands for the three Fs of the program’s name: Fitness, Fellowship and Faith. F3 began spreading from North Carolina, with many chapters being created throughout the United States.

The local chapter—F3 Princeton—is looking to attract more men from Mercer County and beyond to join up with them on the group’s overall mission to “plant, grow and serve small workout groups for men for the invigoration of male community leadership.”

The roots for the local chapter were planted when Curtis Hoberman of West Windsor learned about F3 several years ago and thought it sounded like a fantastic program.

There was one problem though—there were no F3 groups in New Jersey.

Hoberman had decided to check out the nearest F3 workout (which turned out to be in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania) after seeing an article about the group titled, “Mending Men’s Ministry” in Christianity Today in May 2018.

“I was also influenced by the two Billy Baker articles from the Boston Globe on male loneliness in middle age,” Hoberman says. “I realized it’s not just me, and I asked myself the question: ‘What can I do about this for myself, and for the men in my community?’”

Hoberman made the 45-mile journey from West Windsor to workout at Valley Forge in Phoenixville along with his friends Uday Jain and Vijay Aluwalia. After joining those workouts that day, Hoberman was impressed.

“It was a great experience, reminding me of Princeton YMCA noontime workouts in the early 1980s,” says Hoberman on the group’s website, f3princeton.com. “The Valley Forge men were very welcoming and encouraging to me, and it had been a very long time since I had done something like this. I enjoy and need camaraderie and encouragement that comes in working out with other men together.”

Hoberman says that he gained a lot of knowledge from the workouts in Phoenixville, and he eventually launched the first New Jersey F3 regional group in this area in April 2019.

F3 Princeton currently has members from a number of communities in the area. They include: Patrick Chow of Pennington, Jason Griffith of Cranbury, Harjot Pannu of Robbinsville, Spencer Reynolds of Princeton, and Elliott Gordon of West Windsor.

The workouts in F3 are simple and they follow five basic principles that all regional F3 groups follow across the country: They are free of charge; open to all men; peer led; and held outdoors (rain or shine, heat or cold).

Most importantly, all workouts end with a “circle of trust,” which makes F3 stand out from many other workout programs.

“The circle of trust is performed at the end of every workout and there is an opportunity for members to share what is going on in their life-struggles, successes and challenges,” says Marc Rubenstein, a member of F3 Princeton’s Shared Leadership team from West Windsor.

“This allows the group to provide support to the member, who may be going through a difficult time,” he says.

During the pandemic and social distancing, F3 provided an excellent venue, especially for men, to improve their physical and mental health during a difficult time.

If anything, the pandemic has only attracted more and more men in the area to F3, as it provides an alternative to gyms, which were closed for safety reasons during much of the pandemic.

“We started the pandemic doing Zoom workouts with men from all over the country, but after the first couple of months, we were able to resume outdoor workouts,” Rubenstein says.

“Outdoors, there is plenty of space for distancing and the ventilation is not an issue,” he says. “During a time when many were struggling with physical and mental health and lacking social connection, we were able to promote physical and mental health and provide that social peace, in a safe way.”

Rubenstein says that the pandemic may have actually helped things pick up for F3 Princeton, rather than slow down. The number of workouts per week increased from four days to seven since COVID-19 began.

“At the beginning of F3 Princeton, the most we had for workouts were 10, but now we have up 30 men per workout,” says Uday Jain of Princeton.

Jain is currently the Nan’tan (leader) for F3 Princeton. The role was passed down to him from Hoberman just a few months ago in October of 2021.

Jain is one of the founding members of F3 Princeton, and Hoberman had discussed the change of leadership previously with him. Hoberman is still active with F3 Princeton, and he is now in charge of working with other F3 groups in the north region of the country.

Even with the change of a Nan’tan, F3 Princeton, like many other F3 regional groups across the country, keeps a horizontal line when it comes to the chain of leadership. Everything between the leaders and those who show up to workout are all on equal footing. It’s what makes every man who shows up feel more welcome— and that includes anyone at any fitness level.

“While working out at the gym, you may acknowledge someone then go on and workout alone,” says Jain. “With F3 Princeton, however, you are all working out together and everyone acknowledges everyone before a workout. It creates brotherhood and friendship.”

With different workouts seven days a week for F3 Princeton, anyone can show up early in the morning during any day of the week and choose any workout they desire.

The workout locations are spread out throughout Mercer County.

Boot camp workouts are held Mondays and Wednesdays (6 a.m.-6:45 a.m.) and Saturdays (7 a.m.-8 a.m.) at West Windsor Community Park. There’s also a boot camp work out at Rosedale Park in Pennington from 5:30-6:15 a.m. on Mondays.

Other workouts include running (with weighted backpacks being optional) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. All of these workouts are open to men of all ages, and all ability levels are encouraged and welcomed.

There is no competition involved, just “you vs. you” as Rubenstein puts it. It’s all about improving yourself and getting better each day.

Ruebstein says the boot camp workouts are usually body weight exercises/routines created and led by a different individual each time.

“Tuesday we offer a running group in Cranbury. Thursday we meet at Princeton Stadium to climb stairs. Friday and Sunday we do a hike or ruck (weighted backpack), at West Windsor Park and Mercer County Park. All sessions are held rain or shine.” Rubenstein says.

“The importance of having a free fitness program like F3 is to get guys to come out,” Jain says. “Before a man can go out and help his own community they have to improve on themselves first. They need to be both mentally and physically strong before they can lead their community the right way.”

Jain says he has goals for the future of the program—he wants to add more men, while creating different workouts and getting into more towns.

Jain says he wants to expand the program even further in New Jersey. The word of mouth is spreading— more and more men are traveling from North Jersey to Mercer County for the workouts—similar to the way Hoberman learned about F3 and travelled to Phoenixville for workouts back in 2018).

He plans on expanding into new towns, and a new F3 Program is opening soon in Essex County.

F3 Princeton helps provide a fun challenging workout for men who want to improve themselves and give back to the community. In addition to friendship and fellowship, there’s the third “F”—faith. But it’s not the kind of “faith” that people traditionally think about when hearing the word.

“By faith, we do not prescribe to any particular religion, this simply means belief in something bigger than oneself,” says Rubenstein.

“We express our faith by helping others and engage in many activities to support community. We are proud that F3 Princeton brings together men of different religions, cultures and beliefs to build community.”

For more information on F3 Princeton, visit f3princeton.com. For information on the national program, go to f3nation.com.

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