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Iron Sharpens Iron

Naz Hamdi gets to know the team behind youwasntder, the London fitness collective that doesn’t fit the mould.

Words: Naz Hamdi
Photography: Chase, or Isa

Brotherhood, resilience, and staying true to your principles. This is what welds together the London-based fitness collective youwasntder. Each weekend at the crack of dawn in the heart of west London, the community holds their main group session while the rest of the city is sound asleep. Fourteen people with a shared mission train at their local park in a closed session led by one of the members, alternating each week. Here, they blast through blood-pumping, heart-racing, full-body exercises. Sprints, lunges, pull- ups – whatever it is, the crew are putting their all in.

Founded earlier this year by core members and childhood friends FK, Fem, and Joey, youwasntder has already become a force in fitness – inspiring people up and down the country to get up and get outside. Driven to push their self-improvement journey beyond the gym, the founding trio tapped more friends to join the outdoor sessions and grow the community. Though not from a fitness background, they were determined to crowd share their skillset – utilising the park’s public bars for callisthenics and partnering with one another for intense body-conditioning sessions.



Hammering home their no-nonsense approach to pushing the limits of their fitness, “iron sharpens iron” has become a collective refrain from the community’s inner sanctum of die-hard members. While collectives frequently face difficulties around conflicting interests and internal politics as they grow, FK explains that, “Everyone plays a pivotal role in the group, and we’re all of equal importance.”

Testament to this sense of togetherness, they unite in their motto, “NSLB”, which stands for “No Soldier Left Behind”, and six intrinsic laws: family is all, take no backward steps, no individual is above the family, your word is your bond, live off the land, and comfort is suicide.

It’s these collective beliefs that have helped them achieve so much (all in less than a year), having launched their first merch collection, lookbook, and website, all the while documenting their journey and accumulating nearly ten thousand followers on Instagram and counting.

This was on top of two memorable activations, including an open run over the summer where people from across the country joined them in Hyde Park for a jog and embarking on their first half marathon in Porto in September. The result of three months of hard training and discipline, it was “the first kind of athletics any of us have taken part in since school,” explains FK, who added that they had to study workout and nutrition plans to make this Porto half marathon happen.

As well as having a shared interest in wellness, the collective are multifaceted individuals who work across business, film, music management, and content creation. “The group is not supposed to come across as a hyper-masculine project,” explains Fem. “It’s more of an environment to learn, trade knowledge and empower each other. It’s not just about training.” As avid readers, they share their thoughts on books, going beyond hardcore early morning fitness regimens to become a space for sharing knowledge and expanding their collective horizons. This is further demonstrated by the launch of the youwasntder book club hosted by Fem on Instagram, where he breaks down chapters of books for their followers. Each member is inspired by legendary athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Khabib Nurmagodemov and Eliud Kipchoge, whose legacies exist beyond sportsmanship, further reflecting the group’s mission of creating a space and legacy that follows suit.



“The mandem have created a space where it is cool to dream and want better for yourself and those around you,” says FK, explaining their holistic attitude towards mental fitness. As the majority of the group comes from working-class and minority backgrounds, training and education can often be inaccessible due to limited resources and discrimination. “We know how easy it is to fall into the wrong things,” continues FK, explaining that growing up as a young man in inner city London comes with its fair share of trials and tribulations. “It is easy to revert into crime, abandon the drive you had when you were younger and pick up bad habits like smoking,” he adds.

A lot of boys and men who come from the same background in the group can attest that football and the pursuit to get to a professional level can make or break you. youwasntder highlights the importance of young men having a support network and sense of belonging beyond academia and youth football clubs. “We create our regimen, support each other’s aspirations and put wellness first,” says Fem.

While they didn’t expect to gain traction and establish a cult-like following so rapidly, youwasntder are creating an undeniable movement and sharing it from west London to the world. People from as far afield as Australia and Saudi Arabia have sent them messages about how they have been inspired to reintroduce fitness into their lives and set up run clubs in their neighbourhoods.

As youwasntder continues to inspire and become a safe space and positive role models for our young people – far beyond the confines of fitness – their word is their bond, and no soldier is getting left behind.

Shout out the youwasntder team:
FK, Fem, Joey, Stan, Stan Cain, Alf, Atlas, Eva, Mehdi, RD, Tylo, Tommy, Albie, and Motz.