Crossfit Fanaticism Explained

Researchers say the extreme workout gives its followers a sense of control in a chaotic world

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Question: What makes a normally levelheaded office jockey give up her daily walk-jog for this Crossfit workout of the day: 10 pull-ups; 20 push-ups; 30 squats; 15 pull-ups; 30 push-ups; 45 squats; 20 pull-ups; 40 push-ups; 60 squats; 25 pull-ups; 50 push-ups; 75 squats; 30 pull-ups; 60 push-ups; 90 squats.

Answer: The fleeting impression that she’s suddenly in control of her otherwise chaotic life.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Arizona have come up with an interesting take on the increasing appeal of extreme workout routines, a trend that’s exemplified by the uber-popularity of Crossfit, P90X and supercharged fitness competitions like ultramarathons and Tough Mudder. They concluded that extreme workout regimes are fanaticism-inducing because they offer people who feel powerless a feeling of control that’s absent from the rest of life.

“What we’re finding is that when people are feeling a loss of control, they’re particularly likely to go for these high-effort things like very intense workouts because it makes them feel empowered,” Keisha Cutright, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s co-author, told Time.

Faced with figuring out a way to pay off your credit card minus a raise, performing 60 pushups, etc, suddenly looks infinitely doable. Possibly even fun. Until you completely completely shatter your leg, anyway.