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Ellen Penn Berry
Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Health Sciences
Dr. Michelle Hesse
Dr. Melissa Aleman
Dr. Jennifer Walsh
While research on personal trainers’ emotional (controlling the portrayal of own emotions to produce an emotional response in another person) and aesthetic ("looking the part") labor has been conducted, no research currently exists on personal trainer body image. Research demonstrates that body image concerns of athletes and exercising populations may differ from that of the general population. This is an important area to examine due to the personal trainer’s “quasi-professional” role as “cultural intermediaries” between healthcare and exercise science professionals and the average consumer and their provision of “expert service work” to clients, combining emotional labor through service work and provision of expert information. This position and rapport that personal trainers develop with clients creates the potential to be a major influencer on client body image. This project examines personal trainer body image in terms of the effects of emotional and aesthetic labor on perceived job performance and aspects of job satisfaction through individual interviews. Interviews were conducted in the summer and fall of 2017. Personal trainers were recruited through announcements by the primary researcher at personal trainer staff meetings from one upscale health club in Central Virginia. Interviews lasted between 45 and 100 minutes. A total of three male and three female personal trainers were interviewed. Interviews were transcribed and coded by the primary researcher using a Grounded Theory framework. Results suggest that personal trainers’ body image was shaped by previous experiences with their own behavior change process, particularly through their ability to identify distorted or disordered views or behaviors. Further, these experiences have influenced how personal trainers perceive and perform emotional and aesthetic labor in their jobs and how these factors have also shaped their client training philosophies, including a focus on health and body function as opposed to weight. Philosophies and training style were also influenced by unique factors of the personal trainers’ personality and qualities of their work environment. Personal trainers also shared experiences of job satisfaction although it does not appear from this research that there is a relational connection between personal trainer body image and job satisfaction. The results of this study reflect the narrative of six personal trainers from one upscale health club located in Central Virginia, so caution should be considered when generalizing results.
Berry, Ellen Penn, "“But you still have the same insecurities”—Navigating Personal Trainer and Client Body Image through Emotional and Aesthetic Labor" (2018). Masters Theses. 570.
Available for download on Friday, April 24, 2020