Fitness Gyms and the Local Organization of Experience
AbstractOne of the peculiarities of fitness gyms is the succession of people who try and follow a training programme and are not able to stick to it. Based on ethnographic research I try to account for this phenomenon. For regular participants, fitness training is not only important for the kind of body it will hopefully produce in the long run, but also for how it is lived in the present. I will try to show that the way gyms are locally organized - spatiality and interaction rules during training - is as important for exercise adherence as the culturally shaped ideals which sustain fitness culture. In particular, gyms need to provide not only for the substantial body objectives pursued by clients but also for their expressive demands. They need to offer not only competent trainers, but also training spaces where clients may feel secure enjoying a measure of discretion and sober informality. Still, the correct attitude towards fitness work-out is not a passive lack of desire. Fitness work-out asks for the demonstration of a particular kind of desire: each client can and must learn to concentrate only on him or herself in the attempt to improve his or her own exercise performance. Elaborating on my fieldwork, I propose that the more participants in fitness measure themselves against each other and a fantasized body ideal the less will be their capacity to continue attending the gym regularly. The more the desired objectives are perceived as vital, the more participants will feel inadequate, and the more difficult will be for them to concentrate on performing each and all movements and, consequently, to construct and continue a fitness programme. The possibility of filtering body ideals while pursuing an activity which is aimed at their achievement is decisive in protecting individuals from the dangerous exposure of their inadequacies. I conclude on the nature, importance and consequences of this paradoxical construction of experience.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Sociological Research Online in its journal Sociological Research Online.
Volume (Year): 4 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
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Body Projects; Fitness; Interaction; Involvement; Leisure; Pleasure.;
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