Physique Attitudes and Self-Presentational Concerns: Exploratory Interviews with Female Group Aerobic Exercisers and Instructors Page: 196
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Greenleaf, McGreer, and Parham
concerned about how exercisers might view her. She
I think I cheat because of the fact that I'm tiny ...
I'm afraid, especially when you're wearing spandex,
I'm afraid that my participants are going to come in
and see me as like 'she's skinny'... but they don't
know one thing about where I'm at. (13)
On the other hand, one instructor thought that
she was a particularly good role model because she
is not super thin. She stated: "feel I should be [a
role model] because I'm not skin and bones, I have
a healthy body and a muscular body" (I5). Another
instructor commented: "I feel I maintain a healthy
body weight and I can motivate others and get them
to follow... I think you can lead by example" (I1).
These instructors seemed to be aware that exercisers
may look to them as role models and are concerned
with how exercisers view their physiques.
All five of the instructors indicated that they
try to create a positive body environment for their
classes by focusing on instruction and providing pos-
itive feedback and encouragement. Two instructors
specifically commented that they want their exercis-
ers to have realistic expectations about body shape.
For example, one said: "Ideally-they should work
toward their own physique ... each person recog-
nizes that everyone has their own shape and figure"
(I3). As Collins (2002) suggested, aerobics instruc-
tors have the ability to create empowering envi-
ronments for their exercisers; the instructors in the
present study recognized the potential power they
have to create positive body image environments for
The physique attitudes and self-presentational
concerns of women involved in group aerobics
were explored using a self-presentational framework
(Leary, 1992). Consistent with previous research,
women in the present study had a constrained de-
scription of the "ideal body-lean, tight, toned, and
strong ... just not too toned or too strong" (Krane
et al., 2001; Markula, 1995). Being too muscular was
associated with being masculine and, thus, not ideal.
Choi (2003), in considering the social significance of
muscularity within the world of bodybuilding wrote
even the ordinary women who train with weights
and whose training practices will never result in any-
thing like the muscular development of the female
bodybuilder, feel compelled to restrict their training
in order not to break through, what Dworkin (2001)
calls the 'glass ceiling on musculature' (p. 78).
There was a similar sense among the aerobic ex-
ercisers and instructors in the present study. Partic-
ipants did not necessarily indicate that they would
restrict their aerobic exercise, but there was a pre-
vailing awareness of the importance of avoiding be-
coming "too muscular."
Participants had strong body control beliefs
they viewed their body size and shape as control-
lable; with enough effort and discipline, participants
thought that they could come close to achieving an
ideal body. This is not surprising given that women
are bombarded with cultural messages that tell them
that if they try hard enough, they can attain an
ideal body (Krane et al., 2001). Thus, any failure to
achieve an ideal body is viewed as the sole respon-
sibility of the individual (Blaine & Williams, 2004;
Lindeman, 1999) and representative of some internal
character flaw (Wade, Loyden, Renninger, & Tobey,
2003). It is no wonder that personal body weight con-
trol beliefs have been associated with body shame
and dissatisfaction (Chambliss, Finley, & Blair, 2004;
Klaczynski, Goold, & Mudry, 2004). It may be that
control beliefs play an important role in how women
understand the reality of socially mediated body
ideals. Additional research to examine control be-
liefs in relation to exercise participation and self-
presentational concerns is warranted.
A unique aspect of the present study was the
inclusion of both group aerobic exercisers and in-
structors. Both exercisers and instructors experi-
enced some level of the "culture of display" de-
scribed by Loland (2000, p. 121). The exercisers
noted that although participating in group aerobics
provided them with a sense of accomplishment (and,
in that sense, made them feel good about their bod-
ies), it also heightened their body awareness. Ac-
cording to Leary (1992), and Leary and Kowalski
(1990), self-presentational concerns and impression
monitoring (i.e., attending to the impression one is
making) are likely to occur in situations where one's
appearance and behaviors can be observed by oth-
ers. The group aerobics context, as described by the
participants in our study, fits this description. Con-
sistent with previous research, exercisers indicated
feeling self-conscious about appearing incompetent
and unable to follow the instructor and perform the
moves in class. Further, exercisers were concerned
with how their bodies compared to those of the other
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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/m1/8/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Education.