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Swiping through the CrossFit effect

The local dating pool and COVID risk grow with this week’s displays of strength.

Illustration: A sign advertising this year’s NOBULL Crossfit Games in front of the Edgewater Hotel. To the right is a graphic of a phone displaying the bicep emoji, peach emoji, eggplant emoji, and a question mark.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

Gird your loins and log out of those dating apps, Madison. For they’re temporarily inundated with CrossFitters from across the world—along with any viruses they may carry. These diehard exercisers are vying for the title of “Fittest on Earth.” Yeah. You’ll recognize the invading horde by their thicker-than-average necks, sleeveless shirts, negligent body fat, and the words “fit” and “active” in their profiles. The visiting FIBs and airline staff who typically shake up the local dating pool are getting a run for their money through Sunday.

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Madison’s convention- and event-destination status tends to saturate the myriad dating apps with correlating folks. The upcoming Great Taste of the Midwest attracts traveling boozehounds and beer aficionados. The early October World Dairy Expo brings a special breed of livestock and dairy people. WisCon, the feminist sci-fi convention, ushers in an interesting, intelligent folks. I might be biased on that last one.

Given a notoriously stagnant and homogeneous dating pool in Madison for people ages 35 and up—you know, past the Epic range—it’s refreshing to see some new profiles come down the line. 

Every so often, someone will hop on after a breakup or deciding to become ethically non-monogamous. Each semester, a few new grad students and professors join the ranks on the apps. (Note: This observation comes from a lifetime Tinder ban-ee of six months who’s fled to other apps. A white guy said he didn’t like entitlement and then ended his profile with “Who wants to pay my college loans?” I couldn’t help myself. He reported me for calling him out.) Still, there’s a recognizable set of regulars with whom I’m tempted to match solely in order to offer tips to spiff up their profiles. 

The 2021 NOBULL (awesome brand name) CrossFit Games offers the opportunity to connect with many a Chad on Bumble. I swiped right on a few CrossFit profiles, purely for research purposes a la comedian Lane Moore’s Tinder Live. The first word on his profile? You guessed it: “CrossFitter.” 

Yet it remains to be seen whether these athletes have time and interest to mingle with mere non-CrossFitting mortals of our realm. It’s possible that the hotels and Airbnbs surrounding the Alliant Energy Center are a veritable Olympic Village of sexy people slutting it up with other sexy people—not that there’s anything wrong with that! Sex positivity for all. In that case, we might only glimpse these visitors sauntering down the street in bicep-bearing athletic attire, ordering low-carb entrees and drinks, and on said apps. 

That might be for the better. I Googled “is crossfit a…” and “cult” was the first predictive option that popped up. The lot do exhibit a noticeable zealotry. At the same time, workout and meditation communities are stepping in to fill the void once held by religious institutions. But watch your bod. A study found that nearly 30 percent of CrossFitters were injured from participation in the exercises, though it was mostly newbies and people who worked out less than three times a week.

Fitness and activeness are common aspirational identities. Mine is backpacker, and I’m heavily under the influence of REI. But modern fitness is a little different. One author and historian connected the ever-burgeoning American fitness craze with neoliberalism. In the book, The Age Of Fitness: How The Body Came To Symbolize Success And Achievement, Jürgen Martschukat posits that our individualistic fitness trends are geared toward achieving idealized, often unattainable “fit” physiques. The ability to possess a “fit” body is seen as symbolic of one’s potential, success, and competence. In this context, our body is part of us we sell in various professional and personal markets.

Dane County COVID cases have risen more than 100 percent in the last two weeks. It’s only a 34-case increase, but those numbers are likely to climb after an influx of fitness enthusiasts and craft-beer seekers.

Swipe right at your own risk, Madisonians. The outsiders are already among us. 

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