CrossFit and Religious Studies?
Soon after I started CrossFit at CrossFit Hull, listened to people talk about CrossFit, started to talk with people more about CrossFit, and started watching the rich video material on CrossFit available on YouTube, my scholarly interest as religious studies and theology scholar kicked in. It became very obvious that people might start CrossFit in order to become fitter, but many do CrossFit because they thrive in the community CrossFit creates and the friendships that emerge.
As religion scholar, the fascination with this complex relationship between the sport, the intensity of the workouts, the sense of togetherness, and the narratives people create around their experience of CrossFit marked the start of my academic interest in CrossFit. In addition to what I call “CrossFit as meaningful and meaning making practice”, Christian communities have emerged within CrossFit, primarily in the USA but increasingly so also in Europe. I am currently working on a major research project and grant application in order to explore both, CrossFit as meaningful practice and the links between CrossFit and religion.
CrossFit Research Project
CrossFit is not just a sport, but describes a local and global community that values togetherness and aims to foster an encouraging and supportive environment. I am particularly interested in two aspects: CrossFit as meaningful practice and the link between CrossFit and religion.
CrossFit as Meaningful Practice
In this research project, I am exploring why people are so enthusiastic about CrossFit. I am interested in how people experience the CrossFit community and why they value both the community and the sport. I further want to explore how CrossFit coaches and CrossFitters talk about CrossFit, what role the sport and the community play in their (daily) lives, how individuals interact with the local and global CrossFit community, and what it means to the individual that they are a member of the local CrossFit box.
CrossFit and Religion
This research project is also interested in the relationship between CrossFit and religion. Some of the top level athletes, in particular in the US, are devout Christians, such as the four-times CrossFit Games winner Rich Froning. I am thus also interested what individual athletes – both religious and non-religious – think of this explicit presence of religion in parts of the CrossFit community, how Christians negotiate their faith and the sport, and what connections non-Christians see between the sport and their own faith tradition.
Findings from the research will be published as journal articles. They will also provide data for a research grant application. As a fellow CrossFitter, the aim of my research is to provide an insider perspective of what makes CrossFit so popular and why CrossFitters are so enthusiastic about their sport.
Publications, Talks and Presentations
I already have published on CrossFit and have more articles coming out later this year:
- Clothed with Strength: A Material Religion blog post.
I am also giving presentations on CrossFit:
- Faithful CrossFit Bodies, University of Strasbourg, 2015. The full version of the paper will be published later this year.
- “Jesus saves, bro”, York St. John University, August 2016.
I am more than happy to discuss CrossFit. If you want to talk about CrossFit and my research please get in touch.