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For my peer-editing workshop, my partner was Gretel Maya. She looked over my
report and showed me some things to fix because I was confused. She said I had
good field notes and that my report looked good after I fixed the things I was
confused about. I only had a little bit of my paper done but she read it and said that
my thesis statement was really good. I did have a few grammar mistakes she also
pointed out that I fixed.

Cassidy Davis
Professor Knudson
UWRT 1101-06
19 April 2016
Being in a gym is something I have always loved, but this was the first time I visited one
without a goal to work out. I spent two hours observing, listening, and generally trying to capture
the vibe of the patrons in Jet Fitness in my home town of Mooresville on a Saturday afternoon
for my ethnography research project. Jet Fitness is a local 24 hour gym. The gym is staffed until
7:30 p.m. during week days and until noon on Saturday, but members can scan their membership
card for entry anytime. After getting situated in a good location to observe, the time flew as it
was quite interesting observing the various people that were using the facility. The facility has a
smoothie bar, and when staffed you can get a variety of smoothies and enhance them with
protein powders. The side of the bar has a section with the computer scan in for members. When
there is no staff, that scanning happens at the front door which allows it to unlock for entry. It
was at the smoothie bar that I began my first observation of a patron chatting with the worker
while waiting for what smelled like a delicious strawberry smoothie. I located myself along a
back wall on a bench in the free weight area as I could see most of the gym from there.
From that post I observed 14 people over the course of two hours with one of them being
a gym attendant. They varied in age from high school age to older adults. A young man maybe in
mid twenties was running at a good pace for quite some time on the treadmill. An older lady

was also on a tread mill and she was walking on an incline and was covered in sweat. There was
a group of three boys that appeared to be high school age. One of the three appeared to be fit and
focused on lifting weights. The other two were using the equipment but were joking around as
much as lifting. There was the smoothie lady who did a lot of stretching and not much
sweating, as well as two ladies that appeared to be friends who did the elliptical and abdominal
work. They were getting a good workout and chatting and laughing a lot as well. There was a
male and female using the weight machines in a routine with a small journal in which they seem
to follow a plan. Two gentlemen entered at the same time and went their separate ways. People
were considerate, cleaned their equipment after use and were pleasant. My observations made
me question why they would opt to come to a smaller 24/7 gym rather than a larger YMCA, or
work out at home, or even run outside. Many of them spoke to each other as if they recognized
and were familiar with each other even though they were all focused on their own routines. This
led me to my theory as to why frequented this environment at Jet Fitness.
After analyzing the details in my observation notes of what they did, how they acted, and
any comments I overheard, I decided that the biggest reason that people join a gym is to be a part
of the gym environment. From my observations of Jet Fitness that day, I saw people who were
there training hard on a treadmill all the way to people who were walking around glancing in the
mirror and not even breaking a sweat. Several were working out socially and the other end of the
spectrum; several had ear buds in and were very focused just on themselves and their task. All of
them could have gotten their workout somewhere other than a gym. But they were there and
paying for a membership that allowed them to be a part of the environment you get in a gym.
You get motivation from this environment; you get convenience; you get social interaction.
When you are a gym member you get to be a part of a culture of fitness, and you feel more fit

just by having gone through the doors, and having that membership card. Being a gym person
is now part of their identity. My theory is that of all of the reasons that people join gyms, there is
an overriding reason of wanting to be a member of the gym culture.
For many, exercising at the gym versus at home is motivational. In an article of Healthy
Living, Teresa Bergin (2016) states At the gym, the emphasis is clearly on exercise and fitness,
and the presence of other exercisers helps to validate your own goals. I totally agree that being
in the presence of people with a similar value on fitness makes you more likely to push yourself
or keep going. I observed this behavior at Jet Fitness, with the couple rotating on the weight
machines. He was encouraging his workout partner, and adjusting the weights for her. This same
couple recognized another exerciser who stopped by to speak. The gym is a way to meet people
and be around people with the same value on fitness.
Consequently I found many articles on the internet written for gym owners that explain
the importance of creating a positive gym culture. One such article by Ben Johnson of Roman
Fitness systems (2015) states Gyms can have the same equipment, and individuals have
equipment at home, but they will come to your gym for the culture that they want to feel a part of
and the motivation that gives them. Evidence of this at Jet Fitness was the older lady that I
observed walking at a slow pace on the treadmill and then went to the weight machines. She
spoke very kindly to me on her exit, and seemed very happy to be in the gym. People of all
fitness levels appreciate being a part of something bigger and greater than them. It is validating
the positive health steps one has made and can be fun.
One comment I received when I mentioned my research to a friend was that they felt like
they were part of a tribe when they go to their gym. You are surrounded by people that have

similar interests, and being in the atmosphere with others who lift, run, stretch draws you in
when you are trying to accomplish similar goals. Gym goers often feel that the time they spend
there is their me time. It is the time they focus on regenerating mind and body and dates back
to the ancient Greeks (Sassatelli, 2014). When I ask my friends and acquaintance if they go to a
gym or fitness center to work out, 9 out of 10 answer yes. Making gym time for yourself is
validation of your self-worth. Many people feel that having time to focus on themselves keeps
them balanced and centered. My workouts have become a meditative way to connect my
body with my mind (James, 2016). Many people who have busy and stressful work find the
gym as a place to relax the mind and work the body. T he fitness center has not only to be

good for the body, but also to provide an opportunity for authentic expression of the individual,
and above all a way of having fun, relaxing, taking your mind off things, being revitalized
(Sassatelli, 2014).
The social network in your gym creates a community of like-minded individuals who can
celebrate your successes and motivate you to try harder (Barr, 2005). During my observations I
saw people working out with others, and people working out alone. In both scenarios, I believe
they have a fitness goal, but also an overriding goal to achieve that fitness in an environment that
encourages fitness. There were several that I observed that were not working out very hard such
as the smoothie bar lady in the cute workout clothes, and the two high school boys that were
hanging out and obviously a distraction to the third boy that wanted to focus on the weights. In
both of these cases, fitness appeared not be primary reason for being at the gym, but being in the
environment of the gym for the interaction appeared to be even more important. Again it is the
environment that draws them there.

Being a gym member provides an identity, and a place to be with people of like interests.
Whether it is the group or individual experience, being in a place that is branded and focused on
fitness, supports and motivates you to use your time there. Of all of the people I observed at the
gym, everyone seemed pleasant and happy to be there. I have yet to walk into a fitness center or
gym and not feel welcome. You put aside your differences, your jobs, your responsibilities and
become one in a collective unit to reach your personal best (Barr, 2005). It was a choice to be
there on a Saturday afternoon, and regardless of the motivation it took the Jet Fitness patrons that
I observed to get in there, everyone that came in stayed at least 40 minutes and accomplished
some type of activity before they left. All of them seemed pleasant, and not stressed.
In doing research to support my theory on the reasons people join fitness centers such as
the one I observed, I found a sufficient number of articles that supported the conclusion of my
ethnographic study of Jet Fitness, 24/7 gym. People go to the gym because they want the focused
and supportive culture that a gym environment provides. It is true that they may find the
equipment, the classes, or the convenience to be a benefit, but that can be found in many places.
What can only be found in the gym, is your tribe. You can find yourself as part of a group of
individuals focused on achieving a better level of fitness. That energy and environment improves
focus, motivates you to do more, allows for interaction if you want it, gives you a place that you
belong, and an identity. You are immediately accepted and there is no status. All gym members
are equal and accepted. Being a gym member gives you a membership in a society and the
chance to be part of a culture. That is the hook of fitness centers and my conclusion from my
ethnographic study. People go to gyms more for the culture and environment than the equipment
and facility.

Work Cited