TOOLS: Fitness experimentation

See Anthropocene Back Loop: Chapter 5: Use of the Body

This video short made by Stephanie Wakefield in July 2018 documents fitness experiences of working-class residents of Ridgewood, Queens at Crossfit Breed. The video is part of a longer video series coming soon.

The transformational possibilities open in the back loop are not limited to the practical skills and tools needed to survive. In the face of the reduction of human and nonhuman aspirations to such survival, it is vital to insist that there are many other valences to existence emerging within the contours of back loop upheaval and reconfiguration. Consider popular phenomena emerging in the last decade within the domain of health and fitness such as Crossfit, natural movement or mindfulness. In each of these, people of diverse backgrounds – veterans, bus drivers, company execs, skater teens—seek to hone the human body and mind, in the process both discovering what are considered inherent capabilities and redefining the limits of their potential. Amidst an epidemic of chronic disease, as Crossfit founder and “fitness renegade” Greg Glassman says, a lot of people want and need to become more than chair-sitters. Through the “looting of practical and theoretical stores across fitness and sport,” new fitness movements are being created with experimental bodily regimens amidst repurposed, formerly disused industrial architectures. At any given moment, thousands if not tens of thousands of people worldwide are engaged in challenges such as the 21 day Better Human Challenge organized by End of Three, a fitness site and podcast, in which new practices like memorization, mental awareness, and cold showers are engaged as means of obtaining better mindfulness and mental equilibrium. As Ido Portal, world famous movement practitioner puts it, when we engage in these practices, “we go into this place, where what seemed impossible becomes possible, break through the fear of mind.”

These practices do not fall within the traditional domain of what one normally imagines as ‘Anthropocene experiments,’ if by the latter we continue to index only ‘sustainability’ designs and management. Yet this physical fitness-focused wave is perhaps one of the most widespread, and transformative, amongst current human efforts to recreate themselves using the flotsam and jetsam of their environments. The forms of fitness being tested out and developed are a response to multiple perceived problems –sedentary wage work that destroys bodies and minds, the tsunami of chronic disease fostered by sugar and junk food industries, and the need to get in shape, change or improve one’s life. At the same time they instantiate cultures and new kinds of human bodies. 

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Glaciers are melting, seas rising, and climates changing. Civilizational baselines are also shifting, including what is true, what being human means, as well as who gets to answer those questions and in what ways. Safe operating space is unraveling as we enter the Anthropocene back loop, a time of chaotic fracture and confusion, experimentation and potential. As observed in ecological systems, a…

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