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Chasing Rx: A Spatial Ethnography of the Crossfit Gym

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.