Essay: Public Qualitative Observation: Wow Fitness

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[. . .] The rooms were literally packed like sardines and there seemed to be little personal attention given to the different participants. Some participants seemed very confident about their moves and seemed equally if not more deft and fit than the instructor while others seemed obviously very lost and new to fitness. The rooms were large enough to require the instructor to use a microphone strapped to her head to communicate with everyone.

7:45am: I got on an elliptical machine behind two women. The women were going at a fairly slow pace, talking about their children and how difficult it was for them to find time to exercise. They seemed to be friends and to have worked out frequently together in the past. They compared the strength and duration of their workouts from previous sessions and complained about their lack of weight loss.

7:50am: I watched an older man with a weight belt move from one machine to the next. He evidently had a specific 'routine' that he likes to follow. I noted once again the predominance of women at the cardio equipment and men using the weight-lifting equipment. I wondered if this reflected an imbalance between the genders -- despite the rhetoric of the posters in the gym which stressed that fitness rather than weight loss was important, it seemed like women were more focused upon burning calories, while men were more interested in honing their physiques.

The posters which stressed the health and positive self-esteem-related aspects of working out were belied by some of the other posters, particularly those advertising fitness classes that stressed the 'calorie burning' potential of different workouts. Also, I noted that both men and women who used the cardio machines always looked at the calorie counts when they were using them before they got off.

7:55am: An unhappy college student reading a textbook was finishing up her work out on the stationary bike. She wiped off the machine with a paper towel and left quickly. She did not smile at all during her workout and her attempt at multitasking seemed extremely uncomfortable.

8:00am: My observation period was over, so I elect to workout myself and run on the treadmill for a short period of time. I notice that the exercise classes were coming to a conclusion and people were leaving the cavernous rooms, putting away their mats and weights as they left.

All the time in the world

I would have loved to have been able to have spoken with some of the participants, to determine which had regular gym-going habits and which did not. It would be interesting to observe people over the course of the week, to see who was a regular gym-goer and who was not; what types of people seemed committed to stick to their fitness regimes and why; and what types of gym-related behaviors encouraged people to adopt healthy habits.

The roles of bias, context and the researcher in qualitative research

This culture's prejudices and assumptions related to the human body made it very easy to judge people at the gym based upon their appearance. For example, a woman who does not seem to be working out very hard and is dressed in attractive workout clothes and is interested in keeping her makeup on than sweating, might be stereotyped as a 'typical wealthy housewife.' Similarly, a very 'buff' individual who can lift heavy weights might be stereotyped as having more brawn than brains. Because people at the gym are mainly defined by their bodies and what their bodies can do, making snap judgments based upon physical attributes seems inevitable. Also, the observer's own insecurities about his or her own fitness level can be projected onto people who seem very fit (who may be judged as exhibitionists if they wear tight clothing, even if this clothing is simply more comfortable to work out in) or who are not very fit (who may be judged as lazy or simply working out because they are forced to by their doctors). The limited interaction in the context of the gym also limits the researcher's ability to gain a three-dimensional portrait of the subjects.

Reference

Janesick, V. (2011). Stretching exercises for qualitative researchers. Sage. [END OF PREVIEW]

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Public Qualitative Observation: Wow Fitness.  (2013, October 3).  Retrieved April 18, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-qualitative-observation-wow/8493782

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