Veterans open new CrossFit gym in Ames, make it available ROTC for free


By Mackensie Moore, Iowa State Daily Crossfit

A new gym has opened in Ames called The Factory CrossFit, owned and operated by two veterans.

Veterans Aaron McNew and J Winkowski met during training and were then deployed to Afghanistan together.

“CrossFit is an awesome release,” McNew said. “It helps me stay focused and I really like to be healthy.”

But fitness and CrossFit were not always a top priority for the veterans. When McNew and Winkowski met, McNew was over 300 pounds and a heat casualty at training.

“During training, it was recommended to me to let him go, but because of his drive and determination he became one of the best soldiers in the platoon,” Winkowski said. “He really drastically changed his life, from the start of his deployment to the end, and CrossFit is the reason for that change.”

Winkowski also believes CrossFit helped him. After returning from deployment, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder but credits CrossFit with helping him get better.

After Winkowski recovered from PTSD, he and McNew decided to go into business together and open up The Factory CrossFit.

“CrossFit is for everyone,” Winkowski said. “You don’t have to be in shape or be an athlete. Everyone can come into our gym today and start CrossFit.”

The co-owners said that CrossFit is a lot like personal training, except McNew will have multiple students that he will constantly go around to so he can individualize the program.

“[CrossFit] is unique in the sense that it’s infinitely scalable and adaptable. We can modify our program to fit any fitness level,” Winkowski said.

McNew and Winkowski are also strong proponents of community and charity, as well as helping fellow soldiers, so they have opened their gym up for free to ROTC cadets.

“It’s soldiers helping soldiers,” Winkowski said. “We wanted to get them in here and expose them to the culture because CrossFit is a really big deal in the military right now, and we wanted to make sure that they had the best preparation possible going out there.”

McNew said that they opened it up to the cadets to see them get stronger, both physically and mentally.

“[The military] is using CrossFit and high intensity lifts and workouts to push themselves to the limits so that during battle, they can become under fire and know how to respond and know that they’re bodies will know how to adapt,” McNew said.

From these workouts, cadets are already seeing a difference in their form.

Cadet Isabella Hamby, senior in psychology, said that after learning the proper squat position, she could immediately tell that she had been doing it in wrong in the past.

“It was really helpful. I could tell that I was not using the right muscles before, and that I was really getting at the target areas this time,” Hamby said.

Cadet Steven Brown, senior in finance, believes that the CrossFit workouts will complement his regular workouts with the battalion.

“I really like CrossFit because it’s competitive but yet they’re all one big family going after the same goal,” Brown said. “It mirrors what the army does — builds teamwork and builds a competitive environment — so they complement each other very well.”

The Factory CrossFit is located at 104 Kellog Avenue, on the corner of Kellogg and Lincoln Way.

Every Saturday, McNew and Winkowski offer an introductory, educational course about CrossFit and the gym free of charge at 9:30 a.m. During these courses, anyone is welcome and free to ask questions.

The Factory CrossFit also has workouts at 5 a.m., 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and noon and boxing classes at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., weekly.