Physique Attitudes and Self-Presentational Concerns: Exploratory Interviews with Female Group Aerobic Exercisers and Instructors Page: 194
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Greenleaf, McGreer, and Parham
Exercisers reported having heightened aware-
ness of their bodies during aerobics classes. Two is-
sues seemed to be most relevant to the exercisers
competence and social comparison. Five of the six ex-
ercisers said that appearing competent was more im-
portant than appearing super skinny. Mirrors and on-
lookers made the women more self-conscious about
their "performance." For example, one participant
said: "I just like to stand in back because I don't want
people to look at me because I don't do it really well"
(E4). Another said: "I try and find a spot where I'm
not anywhere near the mirrors. I guess it's because I
don't want to see how stupid I look doing the routine
or whatever" (E3). Some concern was also voiced re-
garding appearance-related concerns. For example,
one exerciser noted that "it kind of sucks having to
look at your fat when it kind of jiggles" (E4).
Four exercisers indicated that they were aware
of how other exercisers looked, which increased
their self-consciousness, and three indicated de-
creased enjoyment when they felt self-conscious.
These participants made several comments that re-
flected negative experiences of social comparison.
For example, participants made comments such as
"Now, if there's a girl in the aerobics class who has
a really, really good body, I sometimes feel like, oh
God, I look like a cow over here" (E5), and "You see
those people with the skimpy clothes on, you know,
and kind of feel self-conscious" (E3). One exerciser
commented about feeling jealous of other exercis-
ers by saying "It might be intimidating sometimes if
they look really good, just because of jealousy, just
wishing it were me" (E6). In addition, one exerciser
specifically commented that "... you're thinking ...
everybody is watching me ... and I'm bigger than
them ... so it definitely can curb your enjoyment"
(El). Along the same lines, Collins (2002) also found
decreased enjoyment among aerobic exercisers who
felt self-conscious about their bodies being on
Leary and Kowalski (1990) have suggested that
self-presentational concerns may be heightened in
situations where one's body and performance are on
display. As such, it is not surprising that exercisers
in the present study voiced self-presentational con-
cerns related to appearing incompetent and bigger
(i.e., fatter) than other exercisers. Further, similar to
the results of the present study, previous research
has demonstrated that women have both positive and
negative body-related experiences in aerobics set-
tings (Frederick & Shaw, 1995; Maguire & Mansfield,
1998). That is, although women reported that in some
ways they feel good about their bodies in relationship
to their participation in aerobics, there seems to be a
consistent underlying body dissatisfaction.
When instructors were asked how they felt
about their bodies while teaching group aerobic
classes, their responses varied. Three participants in-
dicated that they do not think about their appear-
ance while teaching, but the other two participants
indicated that they do feel self-conscious about their
bodies while teaching. One instructor said: "I can still
get up there and teach, but you don't feel as good
about yourself" (I2). Another stated: "You're star-
ing at yourself in the mirror the whole time, you just
kind of learn to say 'who cares about me?"' (I3).
Among these two instructors, there was a sense that,
although they may have increased body awareness
while teaching, they were able to focus their atten-
tion elsewhere, primarily on providing instruction to
Instructors were also asked if the exercisers in
their classes ever influence how they feel about their
own bodies. Three of the instructors said that exercis-
ers in their classes do not really influence them, but
two of the instructors did believe that the exercisers
influenced how they felt about their own bodies. One
of the instructors said:
Actually, in a way it kind of motivates me to like say
I'm going to lose the 10 pounds I want to lose be-
cause there are several girls in my classes-she's fit,
her muscles are defined, she's got a really cute fig-
ure, so its like hey I can do that too. And then there
are some that aren't in shape and are overweight and
I'm like, I don't want to end up like that. (15)
In addition, two of the instructors commented
on feeling some pressure to "look good." For exam-
ple, one instructor said: "I think the pressure [to be
thin] is definitely there ... to look good, because no-
body wants to go to a class and see an overweight
instructor" (14). Another instructor said that she felt
better about herself as instructor when she looked fit.
She stated: "I definitely think you feel better as an
instructor when you're presenting that [fit image] to
you students" (I2).
To cope with increased body consciousness
and body dissatisfaction, three exercisers mentioned
wearing (or not wearing) certain attire. For example,
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Greenleaf, Christy; McGreer, Rosemary & Parham, Heather. Physique Attitudes and Self-Presentational Concerns: Exploratory Interviews with Female Group Aerobic Exercisers and Instructors, article, February 2006; [New York, New York]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc31089/m1/6/: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Education.