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Running head: LAS VEGAS GYM ETHNOGRAPHY 1

Las Vegas Gym Ethnography

Lucas Rydalch

Salt Lake Community College


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Las Vegas Gym Ethnography

Introduction

When we think of culture we don’t often think of subcultural groups, but this

ethnography is meant to cover a small subculture found in just about every town in North

America. This subculture is the gym. The gym is not highly researched when it comes to

anthropology.

Review of Research

Through some research, I was able to find a couple of resources that pertain to the gym

and its culture. In an article written by Lavanya Ramanathan, she discusses the lack of diversity

in spin classes and specialty gyms. She writes that these gyms only cater to white middle-class

women who are in good shape or already exercising. The language that these gyms are using in

their advertising doesn’t encourage people who need exercise to attend. Instead, it does the

opposite by making it seem as though the unfit individual isn’t welcome. Another article that was

published by Ceren Doğan discusses the effects that the gym has on individuals and how the gym

has helped those individuals feel better about themselves.

Why did I select this Group?

I selected this group because it is something that is a part of my weekly activities, and I

wanted to see what connections the gym had with anthropology. I also enjoy people watching

and the gym is the perfect place to do it. However, this ethnography gave me a purpose behind

my people watching.

Expectations
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I didn’t really know what to expect going into this assignment. Through some guidelines,

I knew what to look for, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. However, I did expect to

notice some new things that I have never noticed about the gym before such as what different

races and genders were most prevalent at the gym.

Culture Shock

I didn’t expect to have much culture shock coming to Las Vegas, but there definitely has

been some. In Utah, it is a predominately white community, and Las Vegas is quite the opposite.

The gyms that I attended in Utah were mostly all white and with me being white I was a part of

the majority. However, at the gyms I have attended here in Las Vegas I have been a part of the

minority. This is mainly due to the fact that I live in a lower income neighborhood and it is close

to UNLV which is among the most diverse universities in the United States.

Methods

Location of Research
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The locations of my research were EOS Fitness gyms located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While I didn’t limit myself to just one gym, I did mainly visit one gym that is located a couple of

miles from my apartment. I mainly attended this gym due to the fact that during my research I

was working a full-time job while also attending school full-time. This gym is located at 3325 E

Russell Rd in Las Vegas, NV and is a part of a strip mall surrounded by other businesses.

Description

The methods that I used for my research were mainly fieldwork and direct observation. I

would go to the gym and ride a bike or an elliptical and just observe what was going on around

me. I tried to get involved in all the different classes as well, but it was hard at times because of

my work and school schedule.

Number of Visits

On average, I attended the gym about once or twice a week for an hour or more. There

were some circumstances that made my weekly visits impossible, but I would usually try and

make up that missed time during another week.

Body

Language

Language and communication at the gym are constant. People talk about all kinds of

different topics at the gym. These topics vary from talking about their day at work to talking

about the exercises that they are performing. Swearing and cussing are also commonplace at the

gym. There are also people who don’t talk to anyone at all. They just come into the gym, do their

exercises, and just leave as if there was nobody else around them.

Patterns of Subsistence
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People who attend the gym, if they bring their own, bring healthy food options. The foods

that I saw were protein shakes, pre-workout drinks, and protein bars. The gym also had food

options available for purchase. These options were consistent with the foods that gym patrons

would bring themselves. However, the options provided at the gym were usually overpriced

when compared to buying the same products at the grocery store such as the local Walmart. An

example of this is a protein cookie that I would usually buy at Walmart at around $2 per cookie

was priced at $3 per cookie at the gym.

Marriage

It is hard to tell who is married at the gym, but you can tell who is in a relationship

because it is not uncommon to see couples working out together. Outside of the gym most

married couples wear a ring on their left ring finger to show that they are married but wearing a

ring at the gym can be dangerous. So while most people chose to go without a ring, there are also

some people who wear rubber rings that can easily break. With a regular metal ring on you could

easily badly injure your finger.

Groups

The groups at the gym usually had something to do with the workouts that each person

enjoyed doing. For females, you would normally see them doing cardio or one of the classes

provided by the gym, but there were some who would lift olympic weights. For males, you

would normally see them doing Olympic lifts or in the free weight area, but you would also see

them at times in the cardio areas and in the classes. The cardio group had a good mix of both

men and women.


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Politics, Power, War, and Peace

Politics isn’t one of the main topics and doesn’t really have a place at the gym since most

people use the gym as a way to get away from their everyday lives. However, there are people of

power at the gym. These people are the ones who let people in depending on if they pay for a

pass or not. They usually work at the front desk. There are also people that lead group workouts

for the classes at the gym. But the person with the most power at the gym is the manager of the

facility. They oversee the people at the front desk, the leaders of the classes, and also all of the

people who attend the gym.

Art

You do not walk into the gym and see fine works of art hanging on the walls, but there

are some who consider their bodies to be a work of art and they use the gym to perfect their work

of art. There are also many who attend the gym who have tattoos and piercings. People also use

there clothes to express themselves.

Conclusion

Overall It was a great experience to look outside of myself while I attended the gym. This

study helped me get a good understanding of my fellow gym patrons. However, I would have

liked to spend more time there. I also would have liked to attend at different times of the day to

see if there was a difference in who attended. I also wish I would have gotten out of my shell a

little more and maybe interview a manager or an employee who works there.
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References

Ramanathan, Lavanya. “Is Your Spin Class Too Young, Too Thin and Too White?” The
Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Mar. 2018,
www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/is-your-spin-class-too-young-too-thin-and-too-
white/2018/03/16/ca2fa406-1282-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_story.html?utm_term=.daffc9
7cb89d​.

Doğan, Ceren. “Training at the Gym, Training for Life: Creating Better Versions of the Self
Through Exercise.” Europe's Journal of Psychology, PsychOpen, 20 Aug. 2015,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4873055/​.

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