By now, I'm guessing you’ve seen the various clips of the Crystal Light National Aerobic Championships of the ‘80s. The intro video from 1988 is my personal favorite, as are the brilliant hosting duties performed by Alan Thicke. The energy these jazzercize experts give off is intoxicating. They’re physically fit, quirky, and seductively thin. This flashy kind of televised fitness dominated the ‘80s, and this aerobic trend speaks to an important era in our fitness fad history: thinness and defined muscularity were definitely in.
Then, seemingly all of a sudden, aerobics just died after the 1980s, and Richard Simmons didn’t look as beautiful anymore.
Fast forward three decades to 2015 and we have a new, beefy, show-off fitness sheriff in town: CrossFit, which has spread like wildfire to a hole-in-the-wall, abandoned warehouse near you. Just like the aerobics scene of the ‘80s, CrossFit is so ubiquitous in 2015 —to date, there are more than 6,500 gyms across the U.S. up from just a few in 2005, and it’s still trending consistently, according to Google and the WorldWide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2015—that we wonder if, like aerobics, CrossFit is also on pace to crash, burn and come back only as the fitness monster.
If you haven’t heard by now, CrossFit is a cultish-style fitness trend that takes place in a bare-bones gym (probably near you) called a “box.” Olympic-style weight lifting is fused with high-intensity fitness activities: jumping or plyometrics, handstands, sled pushing, pull-ups, and a lot of wall ball throwing by people born ready to throw balls on walls. I’ve tried CrossFit. It’s a challenging work-out and a safe one—that is, if you are athletic, in shape, have previous weight-lifting experience, know your limits, and have a CrossFit instructor who is well-versed in exercise science and coaching (not always the case). Lots of boxes to check-off to prevent injury, if you get my point.
My prediction is that CrossFit’s future, whether it will sail into the 2020s, hinges on whether we will continue to tolerate spornosexuality. It’s a term that connotes a powerful athletic body paired with that of a porn star, like any of these CrossFit guys. And the CrossFit crowd is spreading their spornosexualness one Instagram post at a time, slowly massaging into the fitness conscious this entirely new sense of hefty body-imagery.
Since we can Instagram our CrossFit deadlifts for the world to see, with it comes an obsession—perhaps subconscious—about pursuing this very particular, cumbersome, stocky body type. This perpetual feed of Instagram posts of CrossFitters doing CrossFit is the fundamental reason it’s not going to die anytime soon.
Does the set not count until shared to friends and strangers on Instagram and Facebook? Posting our CrossFit victories on social media is like forcing the congratulatory pat-on-the-back from a high-school classmate that let’s us know we’ve done well. The only difference, however, is that CrossFit enthusiasts are shirt-less, scantily clad, and big on grunting just like they are shooting a porn video—smile for the camera as you lift this heavy bar five times. My theory: CrossFit fills the nostalgic and competitive void of high-school sports for those average Joes and Janes trapped in the world of being a professional adult. After all, there is even a regional and national championship for CrossFit—just like high-school state football or volleyball.
What is so sexy about the spornosexual CrossFit body image in 2015, anyway? (And about not being able to touch your toes?)
As CrossFit continues forging into more American neighborhoods, the sporno-cult broadens, much like the spandex-clad 1980s. The CrossFit invasion will continue to fuel the shift in body-imagery towards that bulky, massive, and thick physique. To remind you of how thin we used to be, and see evidence of the difference between then and now, watch the first Back To the Future from 1985. Everyone is shockingly skinny, even the men.
All good things must come to an end. Like the Crystal Light National Aerobic Championships died out in the early ‘90s, so too will CrossFit in the 2020s. The question at hand, however, concerns the extent to which our spornosexual body-image will linger after CrossFit’s death and the ways it will influence new gym philosophies, like the recent rise of Alchemy in Minneapolis (yoga mixed with strength training and high-intensity training). Alas, will our muscles stay real burly or diffuse into a Richard Simmons’ style of thin?
Johnny Adamic is a nationally-certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM-CPT) and a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200, YogaWorks, YogaAlliance ) Johnny works in the field of fitness and health promotion across the U.S. He holds a Master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University and a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.