By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Dakota Aaron has always been fond of a good workout. As an avid gym-goer, Aaron knows what it takes to push one’s body to its ultimate limit.
“I kind of stumbled across it on the Internet one day,” Aaron said. “Now, I’ve been doing it for a year and a half and I can honestly say it’s been life-changing.”
Aaron is a part-owner of the brand new CrossFit 256 in Cullman. The gym recently opened in November after Aaron, his wife, Chelsie, and his business partner, Shea Butts, decided to bring the newest workout craze to Cullman County.
CrossFit involves a little bit of everything, from weight-lifting, to cardio and circuit-training.
“I was sitting in church one day, not really sure about doing this,” Aaron said. “But I felt like God spoke to me, so I decided to start CrossFit and change people’s lives.”
The 26-year-old has certainly changed one life so far, his own.
Aaron said when his wife was pregnant he “gained more weight than she did.”
However, after doing CrossFit training a little over a year, Aaron said that he’s gone from 215 pounds at 30 percent body fat to 175 pounds at less than 10 percent body fat.
“It changes the way you think about a lot of things,” he said, mentioning that he no longer plays video games or watches much television, but rather worries about the more important stuff in life.
“The mental change for me was big,” Aaron said. “It’s really mind-blowing how fast it happens.”
With CrossFit spanning over 5,000 affiliations worldwide, including 20 between Huntsville and Birmingham, Aaron said he saw starting his gym as a way to get a jump start.
“Bama, as a whole, is a little behind with CrossFit,” he said. “However, I think that our gym is a little ahead of schedule, because it’s been less than a month and we already have 33 people signed up so far.”
One of those people is Shawn Coleman, a 36-year-old who’s been doing CrossFit for a little over a year now.
“One thing that CrossFit does for me is bring that team unity that I had back while playing high school sports,” Coleman said. “These people you’re in class with are like teammates. They’re very supportive of each other and I think it’s great.”
Aaron echoed Coleman’s words, citing the community’s support as being “overwhelming.”
“It’s been great,” he said. “You really do feel like the people you’re doing this with are friends and family. These workouts are their own animal and I think by doing them as a group, there’s a mutual respect that gets built up.”
The standard CrossFit workout consists of about a 15-20 minute warmup session designed to get muscles loose and to increase range-of-motion before exercising.
The actual workout itself is only about 20 minutes long, according to Aaron, but it’s a tough, grueling 20 minutes.
“I’ve worked out for a long time,” he said. “I remember my first CrossFit workout after all of my previous gym time and I thought to myself, ‘I had my first real workout just now.’ It was tough.”
The growing popularity comes as no surprise to Aaron, because as he puts it, “Quite simply, it get results.”
“Your physical body changes, your mentality changes and your goals constantly change,” he said. “It’s hard work, but it’s fun to see how it changes a person over a period of time.”
Even though he’s barely had time to get his feet wet, Aaron has already made his presence known around the athletic community.
The Holly Pond graduate was back at his alma mater this past summer and in the last few weeks to help out coach Nate Ayers and his Holly Pond football team.
Ayers liked what he saw.
“It’s very intense,” Ayers said. “They help with us every Monday and have stuff for us to do throughout the week.”
Ayers stated the international CrossFit position is “on your back.”
“They call them sweat angels,” he said. “After the workouts, a lot of our kids are laying on their back, tired. It’s big-time good.”
Aaron added he’d like to bring his program and training to other schools besides Holly Pond.
“It would be really good to get involved with more county schools,” he said. “It’s a great way to push yourself and get the results you want, that’s for sure.”
‰ Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.