Mom did a headstand, and that is a good thing at this new west Lawrence gym

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Clay Weinaug leads a group of CrossFit students through a step routine at the new Kaw Valley CrossFit gym in west Lawrence.

I have had health professionals for years tell me my body is perfectly suited for CrossFit training — cross off ice cream, cross off candy, cross off Doritos … Actually, that’s not quite how CrossFit training works. But it has become a growing fitness trend, and there is a new business bringing it to west Lawrence.

Kaw Valley CrossFit recently has opened at 5150 Clinton Parkway in the building that used to house Prime Martial Arts. If you are still confused about the location, it is actually next door to the Genesis Fitness Club.

That close proximity to another workout facility doesn’t bother business partners Alec Barowka and Clay Weinaug. They believe CrossFit is a different enough training program that it stands out from traditional fitness center offerings.

5150 Clinton Parkway, Lawrence, KS 66047

Ask Barowka’s mother how different it can be.

“She got excited recently that she did a headstand,” Barowka said of his mother, who is over 60 years old. “She called me and told me how excited she was to get it done.”

CrossFit is a training regimen that involves some gymnastics, some metabolic conditioning such as running and rowing, and Olympic-style weightlifting. The CrossFit program has been around for decades, and there are now more than 13,000 CrossFit affiliates across the country, including several in Lawrence.

The program actually involves competitions for people who want to go that route. Perhaps due to some of those intense competitions, the regimen has gained a reputation as being something only for those looking to be extreme in their workouts.

“My mom said, ‘I know you are opening a gym, but I’m not into lifting 300 pounds and flipping tires and yelling a lot,'” Barowka recalls. “I said ‘Mom, it really isn’t like that.'”

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Co-owner Alec Barowka at the Kaw Valley Crossfit gym at 5150 Clinton Parkway.

Although the set of exercises is the same for each individual, the exercises are designed to be scalable — i.e., a 60-year-old woman is not going to be lifting the same amount of weight or doing the same number of repetitions as someone 30 years younger.

The CrossFit program is built around the idea of coaches assisting each participant. The program requires people to take classes rather than simply coming to the gym to work out on your own. Kaw Valley Crossfit offers four classes a day currently — each capped to 12 people — but soon is expanding to five classes. The business also offers open gym time for people who want to do additional workouts on their own. Members pay a monthly fee that gives them unlimited access to classes and gym time. Prices range from about $130 to $175 a month, depending on the length of the contract.

Barowka came to the business from the corporate world where he said he was increasingly stressed and unhappy. The chance to own a business that helped other people relieve some of those feelings was appealing to him. Weinaug, who works as a paramedic in Miami County, has been a longtime practitioner of CrossFit. He coaches at Kaw Valley and is responsible for overseeing the business’s other four coaches.

He said the business aims to carve out a niche by focusing on coaching excellence, and ensuring that everybody gets something out of each class. Plus, he just wants people to better understand the CrossFit program.

“I want people to understand that you don’t need to be in shape to get started,” Weinaug said.

Barowka also said he tries to help people understand that Kaw Valley also is taking a longer-term view of fitness than some gyms.

“We want you to reach the distant horizon,” Barowka said. “It is not just being fit tomorrow. We want you to be able to get off the ground when you are 80.”

Also in the same building as Kaw Valley CrossFit is Top Tumble. Former Lawrence High and Free State gymnastics coach Brooke Santee has had Top Tumble since 2016, but recently moved into the Clinton Parkway space.

Top Tumble primarily focuses on providing tumbling classes to kids and teens, with ages ranging currently from just under 3 years old to 17 years old.

If you aren’t familiar with the sport of tumbling, it is similar to the floor exercise routines you might see at a gymnastics competition, except the sport doesn’t use a spring-loaded floor or set their routines to music.

It is a popular activity, though. Santee said Top Tumble offers seven to 10 classes per evening, Monday through Thursday, plus practices for Top Tumble’s competitive team on Sundays.


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