F3 Knoxville

Q101 at The Project

The Project

THE SCENE: Cold and Clear 20s, full moon overhead

One minute warning @ t = -1

Leading a workout (“Q”) is one of the absolute best ways to improve as a leader.  If you can lead 10 men to do burpees in the rain, leading just about anywhere else will be a cakewalk.

Qing is not about your ego.  It is about the PAX experiencing a good workout, commaraderie, getting their bodies, heads, and hearts started right for the day.  It’s also about you practicing leading men – so take it seriously and don’t just phone it in.

Q should arrive at least five minutes early and begin rousing the PAX into action.  Greet each man.  Welcome FNGs and PAX who have been out for a while.

The workout begins promptly with the disclaimer at the appointed time. DO NOT FUDGE THIS. It can be tempting to see someone walking up, pulling up, etc. and delay for their arrival. Instead of accommodating and reinforcing their behavior, reinforce to everyone else that we take time seriously. Typically the warm up will provide plenty of time for the guys coming in hot, and it isn’t respectful of those who were on time to delay. Obviously, to accomplish this effectively, wear a watch.

Disclaimer @ t = 0

Good morning and welcome to F3 – Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith. My name is Mathlete and I will be your Q this morning.

This is a free workout and I am not a professional. I have neither training nor certification, thus I do not have liability. You are here of your own volition, so please modify as you see fit. I am not familiar with your injuries or condition, but I, or several of the experienced PAX, can help you figure out a modification to keep working while avoiding injury. Be sure to push yourself. Don’t Cheat yourself, Treat yourself.

This is an example of a disclaimer. While the disclaimer can be performed in many different ways, there are key elements to include:

  1. I am not a professional
  2. You are participating at your own risk
  3. You are responsible for your own well being
  4. You are here voluntarily, and you are not paying to be here
  5. Know your limits and do the best you can

It is not uncommon to hear a low quality disclaimer from an experienced Q, but there is value in doing a consistent, high quality disclaimer. It is a ritual that, with repetition, serves to produce a shift in the mind of the PAX. Out of the “ugh, I’m tired, it’s cold, this is dumb, why am I here?” into a state of focused attention and unity. It’s psychological conditioning, plain and simple, used not for evil, but for the good of the PAX. It serves this purpose also for the Q, providing an opportunity to further your mental shift into a posture of leadership . This is accomplished at its best by being intentional in your volume, tone, and inflection. You are loud, but not yelling. You are giving orders and stating facts, not asking questions. Speak with authority, and you will begin to have it.


This process can be further cemented through a strong warm-up. The particular exercises you use to warm-up are not particularly important, though it is nice to hit the major body movements. Rather, the goal is to establish your lead while drawing the PAX into coordinated motion. This is accomplished through the call/response format and cadence exercises.

The first exercise will be the Side Straddle Hop. [Demonstration with count].  (pause while PAX repeat)

Ready position move! (pause while PAX get into position)

In cadence (pause while PAX repeat “in cadence”)…Exercise.

Count with rhythm that matches the movement. When you plan your workout, try out counting exercises if you are unfamiliar or have never led before. Remember that the goal is coordinated motion. There is copious evidence that this activity produces esprit de corps and improves morale, so don’t low ball it. If you act like it is boring and stupid, it will be. If you approach it with energy and intent, it will boost the energy of the entire group and get your Q off on the right foot. It’s also a great opportunity to demonstrate new/unusual exercises that you may have planned for later.  On the last rep, change the inflection of your voice or count backwards to indicate this will be the last.

Rotate through PAX in attendance to each lead a warm-up style exercise.


You should PLAN your first Q workout. It is prudent to write yourself notes, because when you are nervous in the heat of the moment, a brain fart can knock you off the tracks, so make provision to recover before it happens.  Be familiar enough with your workout that you do not have to read your notes word for word.

Until you begin to feel more comfortable leading, keep your workouts very simple. There are some time tested formats that I will show you today that will give you a high chance of success, but you are free to innovate. One key limitation, If you can’t do it, don’t Q it.

If you can’t do it, don’t Q it”, can be misleading and is often misunderstood. First, it carries the message that the Q does not Clipboard, he must do whatever he is asking the PAX to do. The bottom line is to not ask the PAX to do stupid and/or dangerous exercise motions.

It is totally acceptable to plan routines which are challenging beyond your own capability.  If you are currently the least fit man in the PAX, you still owe the fittest man in the PAX a good workout – you don’t soften his workout to match your capability.  Often, we plan to work to failure – that is totally fine.  Example: “Do a burpee every time the song says ‘X’” is totally fine, even if you cannot complete every burpee required by that challenge.

However, do not call an exercise that you are not willing to at least try to do yourself (e.g., “Everyone do handstand clapping merkins…except me because I’m injured”) – no bueno.

General note about complexity.  Especially for newer Qs, routines should be simple enough to explain in a few seconds.  If it takes a full minute to explain – its too complicated.  If the explanation will take more than 20 seconds, get the PAX into a working listening position (e.g., Al Gore or Plank), so they are getting work done while listening to your plan.  Don’t just let the PAX stand around with their hands on their hips while you gab at them.

Make a point to praise/encourage each man.

Push the men to give 100%

Promote mumblechatter

Mosey to the Friendship Bell. One common format is the String of Pearls. It consists of short runs followed by a period of exercise, possibly in cadence. The goal of an F3 workout is to challenge the most fit man that posts while not leaving the 6 behind. String of Pearls does this by letting the fittest PAX lead out a little ahead, and then rewarding them with extra work at each stop. A wagon wheel can also be used to maintain the unit.

Step ups at Bell. SoP on the way to K-25 hill – Merkins, squats, Freddies.

As the Q, you set the example for all PAX to follow. Thus, it is key that you use proper form because what you do will be emulated. If your form is sloppy, the PAX will be sloppy. If you don’t do what you said to do, neither will they. When you are Q, you should strictly adhere to your own direction. If you actions don’t match your words, it will produce confusion in the PAX and damage morale.

The DORA is another useful format for any Q. PAX pair up and one performs an exercise while the other moves. When the mover returns, they switch places, and the count continues with the intent of achieving some cumulative number of reps. Sharing load and punishment improve esprit de corps while a little competition naturally emerges to help spur the PAX to push harder. You can load reps higher, but still a good idea to move through a few exercises, unless you are deliberately trying to punish a single area/movement.

DORA: Run K-25 hill/ 100 dry-docks, 200 lunges

The goal of every F3 workout is the increase of 3S2T – Strength, Speed, Stamina, Toughness (physical), Toughness (mental). It’s not required to hit all 5 in every workout, but these needs provide a good touchstone to think about different work to incorporate. A great way to build mental toughness is the ironically named Lazy Dora. A lazy Dora is like a Dora, except instead of traveling, the non-counting PAX holds a positions, such as a gore, plank, wall-sit, etc. Generally, the reps are performed in a prescribed set, such as 10 merkins, 25 squats. The lazy DORA is also an excellent way to generate some mumblechatter since the partners get enjoy one another’s pain together.

Call “recover”.  Generally, you’ll watch the fastest man/pair and call recover for everyone once they are finished.  Don’t wait for the slowest pair – cut their DORA short and move on to the next thing.  You don’t want your fastest man just sitting around waiting.

Lazy DORA: 200 Squats/Gore, sets of 25

Mosey to the Bridge and Demonstrate the format of 11’s, except we did 6’s, Diamonds/Heels to Heaven


Two well established techniques to discuss on our way back to the flag – the wagon wheel and the jail break. The wagon wheel is used when, during an extended period of running, the spread gets too wide and the group needs to circle back and pick up the six. It has the advantage of adding distance for the faster runners. The jail break is traditionally called during the final approach to the flag at the end of a workout. Ideally, the Q drifts back to get behind or neck-n-neck with the front runners, then yells jail break like a war cry (any man can call jail break if it is obvious that the shovel flag is your destination). This is an order to burn all reserves in an attempt to reach the flag in minimum possible time, like you just jumped the fence of a prison. This can be a good way to gauge how successful you were at challenging the PAX.

Always plan more than you think you’ll need.  Always have optional extra parts planned in case you finish sooner than expected.

Keep the men moving and/or under load – limit idle time as much as possible.  If you want an intentional break, use a 10-count.

Watch your time and anticipate how long it will take you to get back to the shovelflag.

Mosey back to Flag – Demonstrate a Wagon Wheel and a Jail Break

Originally, “Six minutes of Mary” was used to refer to any time you did a long period of core work. In Knoxville, it is generally used to refer to the work that gets done between Return to Flag (RTF) and the end of the workout. Personally, I have had the mindset in the past that this was a stop-gap for poor planning, but I now believe that to be wrong. Mary provides an ending to the workout that is symmetric with the beginning, typically in a circle in the same spot doing cadence called or otherwise coordinated exercise. Now I see value in deliberately saving a few minutes for Mary. Core work is vital and it often gets less love during The Thang. But more importantly, it can be used as an opportunity to begin engaging PAX in leading the workout by calling one out to lead an exercise. This gives him an opportunity to test out leading without the commitment of signing up to Q, and can go a long way toward getting him some confidence and comfort with the social dynamic. Remember, the workout is not the end, it is the means. Our goal is to invigorate leadership, and Mary gives us an opportunity.
The formula here is simple and most guys pick it up after a couple workouts (though I think we all screw it up occasionally). But again, don’t low ball the importance of this ritual. It makes sure that every man is SEEN and HEARD by every other man. It builds the sense of Team that we are working for.

What’s the difference?  COT is the time spent talking about a Word.

As the Q, this is a few minutes to speak on something that has been on your heart. Often this will be a little restatement of something I have been studying or thinking about, which is good. But the most important thing you can do during the Word is be Starkly Honest (the QSource word is Candor). The goal is not primarily to teach, although it is expected that men will learn from it. The goal is to develop trust by cutting out the crap and exposing as best you can a sliver of Truth as you see it. This is a difficult thing to do, and I find even as I considered this, I needed the refresh. It is a temptation to project a false image, but trust is only built through Candor. But remember also, do this with kindness and love. Our goal is to invigorate, to build up leaders for the benefit of all, not to strike a man down because he has trusted you to see his weakness. Candor, hard truth, spoken in kindness and love. That’s the ideal of the Word.

Once you have that model in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Word is followed by the Circle of Trust. This is the opportunity for men to reflect on the Word and by doing so create the circle of trust. Don’t rush it, it often takes a little time for a man to digest what he heard, realize his response, and muster the courage to reveal it to the group. Don’t try to force it, either, but take an uncomfortable second to assess the PAX and try to spot the hint that a man has something he wants to get out. Sometimes it ain’t out there, and you just move on, but if it is, try not to miss it.

BOM – is balling up to pray

Once the COT has clearly concluded, or it is drawing out into a length better for coffeeteria, it’s time to ask for prayer requests. Lots of folks have inherited different cultures around this, and that is ok. You can approach this in a way you feel comfortable providing it jives with the format and spirit of F3 (e.g., no hard demands on other men to come up with something). F3 is not a Christian organization, so although most men here pray that way, you aren’t obligated to try and imitate them. In fact, it is ok to ask another PAX to do the prayer for you if you think that would be best. However, I would encourage you NOT to let fear of inadequacy or self-consciousness motivate that. You will never develop this skill if you do not practice it, so step up to the plate and take a swing. Pray from your heart in love, and you can’t miss.


The photo is vital for the after-action of a Q, so make sure you get one. Posting these on Slack is one of the primary ways that men connect with PAX at AOs where they don’t regularly post. It should also help you remember who was there.

Post the photo on AO Channel and F3 Knox Main

As soon as you can, get the pic up on the AO channel and main channel with a count of the total PAX that posted. Don’t make this complicated. This is the simple, fast step. Save your spirit of detail and eloquence for the backblast.


This is done through the f3knoxville website in WordPress. When you start a new post, it will automatically populate the field with a form that you can fill out. It already has some notes in it to help you figure out all the details. Probably good to try and use it, then ask somebody with experience questions about how to do it well. If I am going to give you one takeaway, DO IT! It’s not that hard, especially if you plan your Q on paper anyways. Just copy your plan into the form, fix the places where you did something different, get the tags and stuff done, and publish it. We would much rather have a so-so version of your workout documented than nothing because your personal standards were too high. And if something actually needs fixed, you can edit it.
This was a lot of fun. I got a lot of benefit just from preparing, and then it was great to meet some guys from around the region. Should do again!
VQ Week of Valentine’s day. Wild at Heart retreat will be advertised on Slack.