Colten Mertens : From Diagnosed with an Autoimmune disease to the Crossfit Games

At Paper St Coffee, we value the relentless pursuit of excellence through hard work and dedication. Everyone we work with embodies this and all our core principles. The month of February we are highlighting Colten Mertens and how he embodies our core principles!

Who is Colten Mertens ?

  • Most people know him as a 3 time individual CrossFit Games athlete. He trains mostly alone at a gym he built with his own two hands in the middle of Iowa.
  • Fun fact: his family has been farming there for over a hundred years. They raise pigs, cows, and grow soybeans and corn.
  • Coltens deep love for Dachshunds (wiener dogs) comes as no surprise when you learn he has 5 of his own, says 100 would be ideal and raises a few litters each year. 
  • Colten says he loves nothing more than to be gritty and pursue hard goals.

Picture #1: In the hospital diagnosed with an auto-immune disease unsure if his career was over.


Picture #2: 4 months later at semi-finals finding out he made the CrossFit Games.

Paper st coffee believes in being BOLD and UNCOMPROMISING. We have no doubt in our minds that  Colten Mertens is a prime example of both.

Colten Mertens story:

While training to prepare for Wodapalooza 2023, feeling stronger and fitter than ever - Colten’s body started to feel strange and off. Fatigue, a constant headache, and eye pain were not subsiding. Even with increased rest and lighter training Colten experienced INCREASE in pain and symptoms and brain fog set in.

Colten woke up on the day he was supposed to leave to compete at WZA with complete vision loss in his right eye and severe vision loss in the left eye. Slurring speech triggered him to finally decide to head to the hospital instead of the airport.

A week in the hospital, every test imaginable, and eventually some answers. The diagnosis? An auto-immune disease that attacks the nerves in the eye, brain, and spine. With the prognosis of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) antibody disease, severe nerve damage in his eyes, brain and spine and 20lbs of muscle gone, Colten got back to training. Where some might have given up, Colten did not even consider wavering in his dedication. Slowly but thankfully the symptoms started to decrease and subside. 

Colten accepted that he had no option besides doing his best. Never lay down! Not knowing if it’d be enough. 4 months later he was able to get back to the CrossFit Games and his story in the CrossFit space is far from over. Colten still has to monitor his symptoms and be proactive with flare ups that can happen at any time but Colten is not going anywhere but up with his hard work and perseverance.

There’s another community where working hard is mandatory, it isn’t an option. Taking days off isn’t an option. Quit isn’t in the vocabulary. True grit is a neccessity.



Colten Mertens family moved from Switzerland in 1903. They’ve been farming in Iowa ever since. They raise 7,500 pigs yearly and grow soybean and corn on 2000 acres.


Little known fact: they also raise cattle.


Colten and his brother have grown up working on the farm. They started by doing simple tasks on the farm like feeding the pigs and have since graduated to helping with every aspect of the farms daily operation.

Colten says since day 1 they have taken great pride in what they do, it’s part of the farming community. Influential in developing his work ethic and competitive nature, growing up on the farm has created a strong foundation for greatness yet to come. Colten mentioned that nothing bugs him more than seeing his dad or brother put in more hours of work at the farm than him. If his brother puts in 10 hours he goes 11, if his dad works 12hours, he goes 13. 


Success in CrossFit comes down to who can be more disciplined with training, recovery, and nutrition. Colten contributes his ability to stay consistent, disciplined, and put in the hours necessary completely to what farming has taught him throughout his life up until now.

Regardless of his situation Colten is BOLD and UNCOMPROMISING. " My best attribute is that I'm just really stubborn, alot of people when I graduated college and decided to farm and also wanted to compete in crossfit I would tell people that was the plan, they would look at me like , ok thats kind of crazy you're not going to make it doing that. It was hard for several years - I used to have to work a lot longer hours on the farm, in the summers when we were working in the fields there were days where it was 5am to 9 pm and then I would go home and train in the shed afterwords. I didn't quit because I'm just stubborn. It's been slowly bit by bit paying off " Colten Mertens on the CounterxCulture Podcast . The best is yet to come. At Paper St coffee we work to foster a culture that believes in reaching your full potential.


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