Fierce and Fit! Des Moines’ only Latina crossfit gym owner uses nutrition and fitness to improve lives.


By Christina Fernandez-Morrow

Famed basketball star, Julius Irving once said, “If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end.” Merenciana “Meddy” Paulus, built a life and business around this thought. Meddy is the principal owner of Black Collar Crossfit near downtown Des Moines. She opened her gym in 2015 as Crossfit Akeso but in April of 2019 partners Nate Yoho and Thomas Oertli joined the business and together they rebranded into Black Collar Crossfit. The name is an homage to the southside, where the gym is located. The area was mostly coal workers before the city was established and the residents of that area were known for their black collars after long days working in the mines. 

Meddy, a native of Des Moines, loves the diversity in the city. She has experience with all kinds of people from her days as a bartender and server, where she learned a lot of the skills she applies to her business. “Working in the service industry for so many years taught me patience, grit, sales and customer service. You’re constantly interacting with people, on their tough days or yours. I brought that mindset with me to the gym.” Helping people incorporate a healthy lifestyle is difficult. “People don’t see it as something worth paying for but when you demonstrate the value, they show up.” This is especially true when you consider all the services Meddy and her team provide. Black Collar Crossfit offers group crossfit classes starting at 5:15AM, along with personal training, 30-minute skill sessions, and personalized nutrition guidance. Coaches have extensive experience and often have backgrounds in kinesiology and sports medicine. Meddy and her partners select coaches based on a variety of factors, creating a team that can work with all abilities and practice their belief that fitness isn’t just for the elite or athletic, but rather a critical part of living an active life every day. 

Merenciana “Meddy” Paulus is the principal owner of Black Collar Crossfit

Meddy’s own fitness journey started with running. Within the running community she met people who incorporated weightlifting and when she tried it, she liked the results she saw in her running. Today, while she no longer runs like she used to, Meddy spends nearly twelve hours a day dedicated to fitness in various forms. A typical day begins at 3AM with coffee and preparing her meal and supplies for a full day at the gym. She coaches the 5:15AM and 6:15AM classes. During a class she focuses on teaching her members how to perform the movements without injury and encourages them throughout the workout. After the morning classes, she has breakfast, takes care of administrative responsibilities, and does one-on-one personal training. Later in the day she finds time for lunch; answers emails; pays bills; takes care of marketing and social media for the gym; has staff meetings and works on programming for upcoming classes. She often picks up her ten-year-old son from school and then finishes the afternoon at the gym, subbing as coach for evening classes and seeing more personal training clients. She tries to be home by 6PM to enjoy dinner with her family and be in bed by 8:30PM. It’s a hectic schedule. “My goal for 2020 is to be more present in the moment. I don’t have a lot of time at home or with friends and family so when I am not at the gym, I want to be more in the moment and less thinking about work.” 

As the only Latina crossfit gym owner in the city, Meddy places a lot of responsibility on herself to be involved in her community. She participates in events like the Women’s Barbell Classic, a nonprofit that educates women and provides them with opportunities to see what it means to be physically strong, and how that positively impacts their life. The group also sponsors the Barbell Club that brings fitness to female students at East High School. The program builds confidence in the participants, something Meddy works to build in herself on a regular basis. She does this by relying on a circle of female friends for motivation, advice, and support. “I have a great group of women who have been influential in my personal and professional life. They give me phenomenal advice and viewpoints from different angles. Along with my business partners, Nate and Thomas, they have guided me towards calculated risks with my business that have helped me grow as a person and business owner. Looking back on how far I’ve come is a great confidence booster.”

When she needs an additional dose of confidence, she turns to her members. Black Collar Crossfit attracts members from all over the Des Moines area, all at different fitness levels. “In moments of doubt, I have had amazing reminders from my members of why I do this, and it re-focuses my energy so I can move past my challenges. I am grateful for those reminders. I never want to live with the what-ifs,” she says of tackling her challenges, many of which she feels come from within. “I was the biggest obstacle to getting further in my business. I allowed outside influences to affect my confidence and it created a lot of self-doubt. It has taken a lot of reflection and time to realize all I have accomplished. I strive to celebrate positive outcomes and learn from the negative ones.”


With the guidance of her business partners, members who motivate her, a formidable circle of inspirational women and a supportive husband who takes on a lot of extra duties so Meddy can pursue success in her business, she is well on her way to being a force to be reckoned with when it comes to health and fitness leaders in the Latinx community. 


Black Collar Crossfit is located at 417 SW 8th St. on the southside of downtown Des Moines and are open Monday through Friday from 5AM to 8PM with limited hours on Saturday. For more information about the gym or to contact Meddy, visit


About the writer:

Christina Fernandez Morrow is a published writer, sought-after speaker and educator in Des Moines, IA. She is the host of Christina Speaks, a podcast produced by Prime Time media group DSM.




See Meddy’s full interview with Christina Speaks:

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