Publication Date

Fall 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Theodore Butryn


CrossFit, Eichberg, Ethnography, Exercise, Gym, Space

Subject Areas

Kinesiology; Sociology


CrossFit is a group fitness program that incorporates a variety of weightlifting and gymnastic movements performed at high intensities. Although there is growing research on CrossFit’s physiological and behavioral outcomes, few studies have qualitatively examined the program’s psychological and sociological characteristics. Drawing from Henning Eichberg’s (1998) work on spatial geography, this five-month ethnographic study examined the space and place of two San Francisco Bay Area CrossFit gyms as an introduction to a broader discussion on CrossFit subculture and evolving discourses about the body, health, and fitness. Specifically, three major themes about the CrossFit space emerged from the participant-observation data, including: a place to experience hard physical labor in an otherwise sedentary and technologized society; a place that encourages all genders, ages, and abilities to participate equally as long as one pays the premium membership; and a hyper-competitive place that inadvertently leads to wild and untamed bodily movements. Results of the study suggest that CrossFit’s popularity is related at least as much to psychosocial factors as it is to the physiological benefits derived from participation. The gym’s location, layout, and open arrangement of moving bodies reveal underlying social patterns that allow for a more complex interpretation of CrossFit space as a place that blurs the line between exercise and menial labor, and elite sport and recreational activity.