CrossFit Del Mar provides free services to Wounded Warriors

By Kristina Houck

Izzy George suffered serious head trauma when a detainee in Afghanistan beat her in 2010. Although she retired from the military in the summer, her body is still healing from her injuries.

To improve her strength, she participates in a free class at CrossFit Del Mar in Carmel Valley.

“It doesn’t matter what’s wrong with you, everybody just does their best,” said 35-year-old George, who served in the Navy as a search and rescue swimmer for eight years.

George lost 70 percent vision in her left eye and 15 percent in her right eye. She suffers from balance and mobility problems. But with her dedication and the motivation she receives from the trainers at CrossFit Del Mar, her balance and mobility has significantly improved.

“It’s kind of like being in the military because everyone supports each other and motivates each other,” said George, who brings along her service dog, Dottie the Rottie. “We help each other.”

CrossFit Del Mar has offered free services to military and veterans on Warrior Wednesdays since the fitness facility opened in July 2011.

A veteran of the U.S. military, co-owner Mark Marek offered his company’s free services to the Wounded Warrior Battalion West, which is headquartered at Camp Pendleton with three detachments, including one at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

“These young men and women have sacrificed parts of their body for the rest of their lives, for this country,” said Marek, who co-owns CrossFit Del Mar with his wife, Esther Marek, and his friend and neighbor, Kim Bono. “They need to be taken care of. They have given. They did what their country asked of them. Now, we’re just trying to help them.”

Wounded Warriors from Naval Medical Center San Diego work out at the facility from 1-2 p.m. every Wednesday.

Although George, a Wounded Warrior, has transitioned out of the military, she and other veterans are welcome to participate in the class. CrossFit Del Mar also offers Wounded Warriors free membership to the center so they can participate in other classes, too.

“This is a result-driven program,” said co-owner Bono, who also works as the head trainer. In addition, retired Marine Theresa Larson works as a trainer with the Warriors.

“You’re going to come in and work hard, but you’re going to see results. I think people thrive on that.”

Warriors have to be medically cleared before they can participate in the program at CrossFit. It took George almost a year to get cleared for the program.

“The military is really fitness-oriented and team-oriented, and CrossFit helps create that unity,” said Maggie Hannon, program manager for the Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program. She estimated that about 150 warriors have utilized the free services at CrossFit Del Mar. “You workout as a group, you start as a group, you finish as a group.”

While the program helps participants heal and gain strength, it also helps them transition from the military.

“I think this is like a stepping stone for them to see that they can push themselves ever further, physically and mentally,” said co-owner Esther Marek, who also serves as manager of the center.

“They have to go through tremendous therapy before they get OK’d to come over. So when they come over here, it’s one of their very first exposures back into civilization with their new self,” Bono said. “There’s this whole journey you see.”

“It’s inspiring to see them,” Mark Marek added.

CrossFit Del Mar is located at 10447 Roselle St., Suite 1, San Diego, 92121.

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