1st Edition

Gym Bodies Exploring Fitness Cultures

By James Brighton, Ian Wellard, Amy Clark Copyright 2021
    220 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    220 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Drawing on empirical research, this fascinating new book explores the embodied experiences of ‘gym goers’ and the fitness cultures that are constructed within gyms and fitness spaces.

    Gym Bodies offers a personal, interactive, ethnographic account of the multiplicity of contemporary gym practices, spaces and cultures, including bodybuilding, CrossFit and Spinning. It argues that gym bodies are historically constructed, social, sensual, emotional and political; that experience intersects with multiple embodied identities; and that fitness cultures are profoundly important in shaping the body in wider contemporary culture.

    This is important reading for students, tutors and researchers working in sport and exercise studies, sociology of the body, health studies, leisure, cultural studies, gender and education. It is also a valuable resource for policy makers and practitioners within the fields of sport, leisure, health and education.

    Chapter 1: Introducing (Our) Gym Bodies and Fitness Cultures

    James Brighton, Ian Wellard and Amy Clark

    Chapter 2: Conceptualising Gym Bodies

    James Brighton, Ian Wellard and Amy Clark

    Chapter 3: A History of Gyms and the Evolvement of Contemporary Fitness

    James Brighton, Ian Wellard and Amy Clark

    Chapter 4: Embodied Methodological Considerations

    James Brighton

    Chapter 5: Gym Spaces

    James Brighton, Ian Wellard and Amy Clark

    Chapter 6: Being Personally Trained

    Ian Wellard

    Chapter 7: CrossFit

    James Brighton

    Chapter 8: Spinning

    Amy Clark

    Chapter 9: Reflections

    James Brighton, Ian Wellard and Amy Clark

    Appendix 1: Judgement Criteria employed

    Appendix 2: WOD Acronyms in CrossFit

    Appendix 3: The original ‘Girls’


    James Brighton is Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport and Exercise at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. His theoretical and empirical research interests lie in the social and cultural analysis of sport and fitness, the sociology of the body and disability studies. Methodologically, he is interested in interpretive forms of qualitative inquiry including ethnography, life history and narrative analyses. He is also a qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer.

    Ian Wellard is an independent writer based in Cornwall, UK. His main research interests relate to embodied practices, physical activity, gender and sport. Much of this research has been generated through ethnographic studies, which draw upon qualitative and reflexive approaches to the ways in which embodied identities are constructed and negotiated. Ian is also a qualified Level 2 CrossFit coach.

    Amy Clark is an independent scholar based in Kent, UK. Her doctoral research employed a feminist phenomenological framework to help reveal the embodied experiences of women within fitness cultures. Methodologically, she is interested in how sensuous forms of ethnography can be used to explore lived, fleshy corporeality of others who experience multiple forms of oppression as a result of their embodiment. She is also a qualified personal trainer and Spinning instructor.

    "This book is a must-read for all interested in the sociology of gyms and fitness cultures. Its novelty, readability and accessibility make it ideal for all, from undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers to policymakers and practitioners. It is truly a delight to read a book with such wide appeal. Overall, Gym Bodies: Exploring Fitness Cultures is an exemplary contribution to the field. What Brighton, Wellard and Clark put forward is a book that deepens insight and inspires thought. Whether you read it from start to finish or skim chapters or sections, I recommend for all interested in this broad area to have a look at it."- Joseph Mellors, Northumbria University, Leisure Studies