CrossFit bestrides the world of urban exercise like a colossus – one with especially great abs. The reach of its ever-expanding empire is writ large on the company’s own website, where the number of affiliated “boxes” – CrossFit-speak for gyms – is charted on a global map. When you’ve cracked the French Polynesian market, you’re probably entitled to regard yourself as an international success story.
More than 13,000 “boxes” have been established since CrossFit was founded 16 years ago by Greg Glassman in Santa Cruz, California. The company and its clients are routinely accorded “cult” status; a tag bestowed by critics and welcomed by adherents.
CrossFitters are notoriously committed to the gruelling workouts and fierce competition that characterise the movement, and it’s often remarked that the first rule of CrossFit is to never stop talking about CrossFit.
Naturally, such unconfined zeal invites derision and perhaps even suspicion. Some common and potentially awkward questions have already been posed: why is the regime so addictive? And for what – or for whom – are CrossFitters actually training?
By common consent, the main explanation of CrossFit’s popularity lies in its collective and competitive nature. There’s nothing outlandishly novel about this; the unifying power of physically intense activity has been appreciated for centuries. From the agōgē to aerobics, from Sparta to spandex, shared endeavour has proved an effective means of forging bonds and bringing people together.
Though the austerity and ferocity of the CrossFit ethos is nearer to ancient Greece than to Jane Fonda in her 1980s heyday, the underlying principle is much the same. You can subject yourself to assorted agonies in the company of fellow sufferers and emerge joyous and triumphant; or you can subject yourself to assorted agonies in grim isolation.
Even so, the pleasure of overcoming adversity as a group may not be enough to explain why CrossFitters are training with such relentless fervour. This puzzle has prompted several theories – though none is clearly correct.
One idea is that our lives have become so bleak, so empty, so aimless, that we’re forced to look for something – anything – that gives us at least an impression of control. We realise self-care and self-love are all we have. We obsessively render our bodies temples, conceding we can do nothing to reshape the endless wasteland that surrounds them. In effect, we give up on the wider world but take enormous comfort whenever we’re told: “Wow, you look uh–mazing!”
But as Carl Cederström and André Spicer argue in The Wellness Syndrome, this nihilistic determination to strive for individual well-being tends to come at the expense of communal engagement. And this seems to be the opposite of the CrossFit philosophy.
Another school of thought is that exercise has become little more than an extension of work. We touched on this phenomenon in research that examined a propensity among City workers to reflect and conform to professional ideals – competitiveness, motivation, success – through gym membership and the development of a “professional body”. In such circumstances, health and fitness become expressions of occupational control: “lifestyle” is supplanted by “workstyle”.
CrossFit undoubtedly lends itself to the blurring of these boundaries. For one thing, it has become a huge business and conducts itself as such. The assertion that Glassman ranks as “the first person in history to define fitness in a meaningful, measurable way” – as if no-one else since the dawn of civilisation has made a connection between, say, feeling completely knackered and calling it quits for the day – sounds rather like unabashed corporate bombast.
Even more overtly, the company’s wholesale appropriation of the language of organisations – monitoring, metrics, data and strategy – underlines another key claim to emerge from our previous research, which is that work-life balance is a myth.
As we’ve written before, these two supposedly separate domains are constantly colliding with each other, frequently to an overwhelming degree, rather than surrendering to neat division. You don’t have to be a disciple of lung-bursting exertion to recognise this: even a mid-jog peek at your inbox proves our point.
The main story so far depicts CrossFit and work as looking a lot alike. But our newest research project suggests that something different is happening. Despite its work-like jargon, targets and feedback, some CrossFitters have told us that in the battle over what gets their attention, CrossFit is winning. Instead of staying behind at the office to finish off that report, they are logging off at five to get to the WOD (workout of the day).
Having bought into the workplace promise of fulfilment and found it lacking, CrossFitters are seeking their high intensity thrills, bond-building experiences and feelings of control inside the box. While working out, both male and female CrossFitters challenge mainstream ideas about femininity and masculinity, which have proven to be so robust over the years.
So, based on our initial research, it sounds to us like CrossFit might also be a form of resistance against the corporate world. We’ll continue to investigate this possibility, but for now, we can only say that few people anywhere in the world – whether in Santa Cruz or Tahiti – would risk a sneaky glance at their smartphone while attempting to flip a tractor tyre. And that alone, all things considered, may be no bad thing.
Amanda Crompton, Assistant Professor in Public Policy and Management, University of Nottingham; Laurie Cohen, Professor of Work and Organisation, University of Nottingham, and Sareh Pouryousefi, Assistant Professor in Business Ethics, University of Nottingham
US planning to slash troops in Germany: report
US President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to slash the number of troops it maintains in Germany by more than a quarter in the coming months, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The newspaper said the Defense Department would cut the number of military personnel by 9,500 from the current 34,500 permanently assigned to Germany postings.
The Journal also said a cap of 25,000 would be set on how many US troops could be inside German at any one time, whether in permanent postings or temporary rotations, half of the current allowance.
The move would significantly reduce the US commitment to European defense under the NATO umbrella, though it could also impact Pentagon operations related to Africa and the Middle East.
Manhattan DA announces protesters arrested by NYPD will not be charged: ‘Our office has a moral imperative’
The Manhattan District Attorney announced on Friday that his office would not be prosecuting protesters arrested for low-level crimes.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. announced that Unlawful Assembly and Disorderly Conduct would not be prosecuted during the demonstrations over police violence.
"“The prosecution of protestors charged with these low-level offenses undermines critical bonds between law enforcement and the communities we serve. Days after the killing of George Floyd, our nation and our city are at a crossroads in our continuing endeavor to confront racism and systemic injustice wherever it exists. Our office has a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime. We commend the thousands of our fellow New Yorkers who have peacefully assembled to demand these achievable aims, and our door is open to any New Yorker who wishes to be heard," Vance said in a statement.
Chicago Police Board president files complaint alleging he was struck 5 times by cops at George Floyd protest
On Friday, WTTW reported that Ghian Foreman, the president of the Chicago Police Board, has filed a complaint alleging he was beaten in the legs five times by police officers at a protest against the killing of George Floyd last Sunday.
The Chicago Police Board is an independent civilian commission that has power over police disciplinary cases.
"Foreman filed a complaint with the Citizens Office of Police Accountability alleging that he was struck by at least one officer during a protest sparked by the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, said Ephraim Eaddy, a spokesperson for the agency," said the report. "Foreman’s complaint, which identifies the officer Foreman said struck him, is one of 344 complaints of police misconduct filed with COPA between midnight May 29 and 7 a.m. Friday, Eaddy said. The complaint itself is confidential."