Chasing Rx: A Spatial Ethnography of the CrossFit Gym

in Sociology of Sport Journal
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD $64.00

1 year subscription

USD $85.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD $121.00

2 year subscription

USD $158.00

CrossFit is a group fitness program that incorporates a variety of weightlifting and gymnastic movements performed at high intensities. While scholars have examined CrossFit’s physiological and behavioral outcomes, few studies have examined the program’s psychological and sociological characteristics. Drawing from Henning Eichberg’s work on spatial geography, this 5-month ethnographic study examined the space and place of two CrossFit gyms as an introduction to a broader discussion on CrossFit subculture and evolving discourses about the body, health, and fitness. Specifically, the gyms’ location, layout, and open arrangement of moving bodies revealed three major themes about CrossFit space: a place that blurs the line between exercise and menial labor in an otherwise sedentary and technologized society; a place that is inclusive specifically in terms of gender, age, and ability, yet exclusive socioeconomically; and a faux-elite sporting place that inadvertently produces wild and untamed bodily movements. Results of the study suggest that CrossFit’s popularity in recent years portends a dramatic shift in the social function of recreational fitness toward forms of exercise that are more inclusive, and yet at the same time are more socially competitive and hierarchical.

Crockett and Butryn are with the Department of Kinesiology, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA.

Address author correspondence to Matt C. Crockett at matt.crockett@sjsu.edu.
Sociology of Sport Journal
Article Sections
References
  • AndrewsG.J.SudwellM.I. & SparkesA.C. (2005). Towards a geography of fitness: An ethnographic case study of the gym in British bodybuilding culture. Social Science & Medicine 60877891. PubMed ID: 15571903 doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.06.029

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BaleJ. (2003). Sports geography (2nd ed.). New York, NY: E. & F. N. Spon.

  • BaleJ. & PhiloC. (1998). Introduction: Henning Eichberg, space, identity and body culture. In J. Bale & C. Philo (Eds.) Body cultures: Essays on sport space and identity by Henning Eichberg (pp. 321). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BaleJ. & VertinskyP. (2004). Introduction. In P. Vertinsky & J. Bale (Eds.) Sites of sport: Space place experience (pp. 17). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BoothD. (2004). Surf lifesavers and surfers: Cultural and spatial conflict on the Australian beach. In P. Vertinsky & J. Bale (Eds.) Sites of sport: Space place experience (pp. 115130). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brace-GovanJ. (2004). Weighty matters: Control of women’s access to physical strength. The Sociological Review 52(4) 503531. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2004.00493.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BrownellS. (1998). Thinking dangerously: The person and his ideas. In J. Bale & C. Philo (Eds.) Body cultures: Essays on sport space and identity by Henning Eichberg (pp. 2244). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ButrynT.M. & MasucciM.A. (2009). Traversing the matrix: Cyborg athletes, technology, and the environment. Journal of Sport & Social Issues 33(3) 285307. doi:10.1177/0193723509340000

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DawsonM.C. (2015). CrossFit: Fitness cult or reinventive institution? International Review for the Sociology of Sport 52(3) 361379. doi:10.1177/1012690215591793

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • de GarisL. (1999). Experiments in pro wrestling: Toward a performative and sensuous ethnography. Sociology of Sport Journal 16(1) 6574. doi:10.1123/ssj.16.1.65

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DrisselD. (2013). Skateboarding spaces of youth in Belfast: Negotiating boundaries, transforming identities. Spaces and Flows: An International Conference on Urban and ExtraUrban Studies 2(4) 115138.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DworkinS.L. (2001). ‘Holding back’: Negotiating a glass ceiling on women’s muscular strength. Sociological Perspectives 44(3) 333350. doi:10.1525/sop.2001.44.3.333

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EichbergH. (1982). Stopwatch, horizontal bar, gymnasium: The technologizing of sports in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 94359. doi:10.1080/00948705.1982.9714386

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EichbergH. (1990). Race-track and labyrinth: The space of physical culture in Berlin. Journal of Sport History 17(2) 245260.

  • EichbergH. (1998). Body cultures: Essays on sport space and identity by Henning Eichberg. In J. Bale & C. Philo (Eds.) New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EmersonR.M.FretzR.I. & ShawL.L. (2011). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fainaru-WadaM. (2014July 25). CrossFit’s big growth fuels concerns. ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.espn.go.com.

    • Export Citation
  • FoucaultM. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan Trans.). New York, NY: Random House.

  • FrancombeJ. (2013). Methods that move: A physical performative pedagogy of subjectivity. Sociology of Sport Journal 30256273. doi:10.1123/ssj.30.3.256

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FriedmanM. & van IngenC. (2011). Bodies in space: Spatializing physical cultural studies. Sociology of Sport Journal 28(1) 85105. doi:10.1123/ssj.28.1.85

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FuscoC. (2005). Cultural landscapes of purification: Sport spaces and discourses of whiteness. Sociology of Sport Journal 22282309. doi:10.1123/ssj.22.3.282

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FuscoC. (2009). Subjection, surveillance, and the place(s) of performance: The discursive productions of space in Canada’s national sport centre policy. Sport History Review 40(1) 129. doi:10.1123/shr.40.1.1

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FuscoC. (2017). Healthified spaces. In M.L. SilkD.L. Andrews & H. Thorpe (Eds.) Routledge handbook of physical culture studies (pp. 484494). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GaffneyC. & BaleJ. (2004). Sensing the stadium. In P. Vertinsky & J. Bale (Eds.) Sites of sport: Space place experience (pp. 2538). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GiardinaM.D. & NewmanJ.I. (2011). What is this “physical” in physical cultural studies? Sociology of Sport Journal 283663. doi:10.1123/ssj.28.1.36

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GlassmanG. (2007). Understanding crossfit. The CrossFit Journal 5612.

  • GlassmanG. (2012). The founder’s views part 3: The business of CrossFit [Video file]. Retrieved from http://journal.crossfit.com/2012/08/the-founders-views-part-3.tpl#featureArticleTitle

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GriggsG. (2009). ‘Just a sport made up in a car park?’: The ‘soft’ landscape of Ultimate Frisbee. Social & Cultural Geography 10(7) 757770. doi:10.1080/14649360903205124

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HakP.T.HodzovicE. & HickeyB. (2013). The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000318

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • JohnstonL. (1996). Flexing femininity: Female body-builders refiguring ‘the body’. Gender Place & Culture 3(3) 327340. doi:10.1080/09663699625595

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KidderJ.L. (2012). Parkour, the affective appropriation of urban space, and the real/virtual dialectic. City & Community 11(3) 229253. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6040.2012.01406.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KidderJ.L. (2013). Parkour, masculinity, and the city. Sociology of Sport Journal 30123. doi:10.1123/ssj.30.1.1

  • King-WhiteR. (2017). Ethnographic approaches. In M.L. SilkD.L. Andrews & H. Thorpe (Eds.) Routledge handbook of physical culture studies (pp. 484494). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KleinA. (1993). Little big men: Bodybuilding subculture and gender construction. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.

  • KnappB.A. (2015). Rx’d and shirtless: An examination of gender in a CrossFit box. Women in Sport and Physical Activity 234253. doi:10.1123/wspaj.2014-0021

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MarkulaP. (1995). Firm but shapely, fit but sexy, strong but thin: The postmodern aerobicizing female bodies. Sociology of Sport Journal 12(4) 424453. doi:10.1123/ssj.12.4.424

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MarkulaP. & PringleR. (2006). Foucault sport and exercise. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • NieriT. & HughesE. (2016). All about having fun: Women’s experience of fitness. Sociology of Sport Journal 33135145. doi:10.1123/ssj.2015-0071

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • NolanN. (2003). The ins and outs of skateboarding and transgression in public space in Newcastle, Australia. Australian Geographer 34(3) 311327. doi:10.1080/0004918032000152401

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ParryJ. (2006). The idea of the record. Sport in History 26(2) 197214. doi:10.1080/17460260600786864

  • PetersenD.PinskeK. & GreenerT. (2014). College coaches corner-CrossFit. Strength & Conditioning Journal 36(2) 5658. doi:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000037

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SassatelliR. (2017). Exercise and fitness spaces. In M.L. SilkD.L. Andrews & H. Thorpe (Eds.) Routledge handbook of physical culture studies (pp. 484494). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SchollS.Lahr-KurtenM. & RedepenningM. (2014). Considering the role of presence and absence in space constructions. Ethnography as methodology in human geography. Historical Social Research 39(2) 5167. doi:10.12759/hsr.39.2014.2.51-67

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SenA. & SilvermanL. (2014) Embodied placemaking: An important category of critical analysis. In A. Sen & I. Silverman (Eds.) 21st century studies: Making place: Space and embodiment in the city (pp. 118). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SilkM.L. (2004). A tale of two cities: The social production of sterile sporting space. Journal of Sport & Social Issues 28(4) 349378. doi:10.1177/0193723504268373

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SmithM.M.SommerA.J.StarkoffB.E. & DevorS.T. (2013). CrossFit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(11) 31593172. PubMed ID: 23439334 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318289e59f

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SpencerD.C. (2014). Sensing violence: An ethnography of mixed martial arts. Ethnography 15(2) 232254. doi:10.1177/1466138112471108

  • SpielvogelL. (2002). The discipline of space in a Japanese fitness club. Sociology of Sport Journal 19(2) 189205. doi:10.1123/ssj.19.2.189

  • TerretT. (2004). Educative pools: Water, school and space in twentieth-century France. In P. Vertinsky & J. Bale (Eds.) Sites of sport: Space place experience (pp. 3956). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • van IngenC. (2003). Geographies of gender, sexuality and race: Reframing the focus on space in sport sociology. International Review for the Sociology of Sport 38(2) 201216. doi:10.1177/1012690203038002004

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • van IngenC. (2004). Therapeutic landscapes and the regulated body in the Toronto front runners. Sociology of Sport Journal 21(3) 253269. doi:10.1123/ssj.21.3.253

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VertinskyP. (2004). Locating a ‘sense of place’: Space, place and gender in the gymnasium. In P. Vertinsky & J. Bale (Eds.) Sites of sport: Space place experience (pp. 824). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WacquantL. (2006). Body & soul: Notebooks of an apprentice boxer. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • WaittG. (2008). ‘Killing waves’: Surfing, space and gender. Social & Cultural Geography 9(1) 7594. doi:10.1080/14649360701789600

  • WeisenthalB.M.BeckC.A.MaloneyM.D.DeHavenK.E. & GiordanoB.D. (2014). Injury rate and patterns among CrossFit athletes. The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine 2(4) 17. doi:10.1177/2325967114531177

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Article Metrics
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 221 221 55
Full Text Views 41 41 21
PDF Downloads 24 24 13
Altmetric Badge
PubMed
Google Scholar
Cited By