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‘McDonaldizing’ Aerobics: Learning, Training and Productive Systems in Group Fitness Instruction Alan Felstead

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Presentation on theme: "‘McDonaldizing’ Aerobics: Learning, Training and Productive Systems in Group Fitness Instruction Alan Felstead"— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘McDonaldizing’ Aerobics: Learning, Training and Productive Systems in Group Fitness Instruction Alan Felstead

2 Structure of Talk 1. Summary of the Argument 2. Health and Fitness Sector 3. Methods 4. Results

3 The ‘Good’ Face of ‘Training’ Policy assumption: training & skills are the key levers to economic success Training teaches new skills & a thirst for learning Training enhances labour mobility & pay Training raises business performance

4 The Evidence Base The ‘good’ face is based on survey evidence (training defined by formal, structured events, often courses) What is learnt, by whom & why difficult to capture Events recorded largely context-free (some attempts but inevitably limited to workplace) Difficult to situate training in a ‘productive system’ linking stages in the process

5 Argument & Substantive Finding A fuller understanding of the role & function of training requires a case study approach which examines relations Training can stifle and prevent learning Sources of knowledge may be off-limits & out of reach (with script writers upstream in the ‘productive system’ & away from the point of delivery)


7 Treadmills Bikes Elliptical Cross Trainers Rowers Cardiovascular (CV)

8 Single Resistance Machines Bicep extensionsSeated leg curls

9 Free Weights Bicep/tricep extensions Bench press Dumbbells Barbells


11 Methods Stakeholder interviews (3) Operator-level interviews (11) Club-level management interviews (9) Observation of conventions – 2 day event Participant observation in 2 day event for ETM instructors Follow-up interviews & observations with fellow trainees 15 ETM interviews – most at evenings & weekends

12 Attendance gives 4 CPD points



15 Two Productive Systems 1.Freestyle (DIY). Began with Step in late 1980s with platforms being manufactured & sold for studio use, but little centralised instruction 2. Pre-choreography. Launched in NZ in 1990, entered UK in 1997 with 7 programmes, now in a fifth of UK venues – BTS is the dominant user of this system of delivery

16 BodyAttack (floor aerobics) BodyBalance (mind & body conditioning) BodyCombat (boxing & karate) BodyJam (dance) BodyPump (resistance training) RPM (indoor cycling) BodyStep (step aerobics)

17 Number of Operational Years June 1990 December 1991 March 1993 March 1997 March 1998 September 1998 June 1999

18 Number of Venues in England, 2006

19 Features of BTS Pre-packed product delivered by instructors Clubs licensed for 12 months to put BTS on timetable – fee paid Instructors need club-affiliation to access initial training + NVQ 2 Initial training (2-3 days) + assessment CPD (attendance at 3 out of 4 QWs when new release issued) Elements of ‘licence to practise’ but not allowed to freely roam

20 Contrasting Labour Process Regimes 1.Freestyle (instructor centre stage): - analysing & selecting music - choreographing the moves - presenting their image 2. Pre-choreography (instructor mimics another): - sounds selected & remixed - choreographers fit movement to music - image makers promote clothes selection & use of dialogue


22 Music segments Music phrasing – 32 count blocks Shorthand for moves Instructor dialogue Beats per minute absent






28 Trainees are Drilled to Conform Everything pre-packaged & easy Specialised knowledge & decision-rules in-built into artefacts (DVDs, notes, QWs) Repetitive viewing of DVD Compulsory attendance at QWs Mimicking of Master Trainers encouraged – clothing, language & even bodies!




32 Conclusion Music mapping, choreography & inventiveness are not ‘must have’ skills in a pre-choreographed world Standardization requires follow the scripts written by others! This formulaic solution cheapens labour & makes high labour turnover & absenteeism easier to cope with Contrary to popular belief training can deaden rather than awaken individual creativity

33 But this requires ‘on the ground’ research – close to the field – and a nesting of these findings in a system of relations linking stages in the productive system

34 Contact Details:

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