Doing military fitness: physical culture, civilian leisure and militarism

Kevin Joseph McSorley

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Drawing explicitly upon the bodily techniques of military basic training and the corporeal competencies of ex-military personnel, military-themed fitness classes and physical challenges have become an increasingly popular civilian leisure pursuit in the UK over the last two decades. This paper explores the embodied regimes, experiences and interactions between civilians and ex-military personnel that occur in these emergent hybrid leisure spaces. Drawing on ethnographic data, I argue that commercial military fitness involves a repurposing and rearticulation of collective military discipline within a late modern physical culture that emphasizes the individual body as a site of self-discovery and personal responsibility. Military fitness is thus a site of a particular biopolitics, of feeling alive in a very specific way. The intensities and feelings of physical achievement and togetherness that are generated emerge filtered through a particular military lens, circulating around and clinging to the totem of the repurposed ex-martial body. In the commercial logic of the fitness market, being ‘military’ and the ex-soldier’s body have thus become particularly trusted and affectively resonant brands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-119
JournalCritical Military Studies
Issue number1-2
Early online date23 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • military fitness
  • physical culture
  • embodiment
  • militarism
  • ex-military


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