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Observation Assignment

Site Location: Harris Family YMCA

Brittany McIntosh
Observation Assignment 1
Description of the Location: The Harris YMCA is an extremely large building that has many
different areas in it such as a ballet studio, gymnastics gym, four basketball courts, four pools
and six different workout studios. I choose to observe the fitness classes which are located in the
multipurpose studio on the second level. When you walk into the YMCA you are directed from
the main lobby down a long hallway leading to the different areas to workout. On the left there is
a large workout equipment room and straight ahead is the entrance to the indoor pool. In order to
get to the multipurpose studio you must swing a right down another long hallway with locker
rooms along the left side and entrances to the basketball courts on the right. When you finally
make it to the end of this hallway there are stairs on the right leading to the indoor track that is
suspended above the basketball courts. At the top of the stairs before you get to the edge of the
track there is a multipurpose exercise studio on the left. There are several chairs outside the
doors for people waiting to attend the classes. The studio has 4 large windows so you can see in
and out of the room. Two large glass doors open into a massive hardwood dance floor. The entire
room is surrounded by mirrors so you can see yourself and instructors during the classes. When
you look at the side walls you notice a ballet bare along the wall and big buckets filled with
various workout equipment. There are also speakers and a sound system in the corner of the
room where the instructors plug in their iPod or other music devices for different classes.
Figured World: Figured worlds are places made up of actors and artifacts. It is a world
made from a community where people play certain rolls based on that world (actors), and
different artifacts possess a specific importance or meaning to the community. In a figured
world people are expected to act and communicate in ways specific to the environment.
The figured world I will be observing is group exercise classes at the Harris YMCA, located at
5900 Quail Hollow Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210. This is a place people come to exercise. There are
many different rooms where people can work out on machines, free weights, cycle class, swim
laps in the pool, run on the track outside and play basketball indoors. The YMCA is a nonprofit
Christian organization and is considered a business where the people in the exercise classes pay
for a membership in order to participate. When a class in going on there will not be any other
activities going on in the space because there is only room enough for the class. The people
taking the class are expected to follow the teacher's instructions. Acceptable behavior would
include listening to the teacher, copying their moves, using equipment the teacher gives you such
as weights or resistance bands. The people in this figured world are expected to wear tennis
shoes and workout clothes to this class. You would also be expected to bring a water bottle to set
along the outside of the room if you are in a dance class, but on your bike in a cycle class. Loud
music would be expected for all the classes I will be observing specifically because two of them
are dance classes. As for inappropriate behavior, that would include wearing flip flops to class,
bringing a beer to class, wearing a business suit, eating lunch in the middle of the class, and
talking in the middle of class. It is also not acceptable behavior to leave early in the class, it is
considered rude and you are supposed to stay for the entire class so you can get the full benefit of
the workout. I expect to find a discourse community including people who believe physical
health and looking good. Some people will be in the classes to lose weight, and others will be in
a group focused on maintaining their physical condition. Some people may be in the classes to
relieve stress along with trying to stay physically fit. I think I will have a lot to observe at the
YMCA and it is right across from my house so it will be easy to get to and I already have a
membership and vested interest in the exercise classes.
Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh
Actors: An actor is a part of the community in a figured world, they develop and "grow
into such worlds overtime". The role a person chooses to play or the figured world they
inhabit can have to do with their history or social standing. The actor fills certain duties,
and literary practices based on the figured world they are a part of.
Class Instructor: The class instructor in the presumably most knowledgeable person in
the figured world of the exercise class. They have to get certified by the YMCA in the
class they are to teach. The instructor is expected to be energetic and motivating to the
students in the class. They communicate with the students using a headset microphone.
You can tell who the teacher is by this microphone and their YMCA name tag.
Students: The students are people of all ages who are members or guest of members to
the YMCA. They are probably of the Christian religion, since the YMCA is a Christian
organization. They communicate with each other before and after the class the most since
it is not acceptable behavior to be speaking while the instructor is giving instruction. The
music is so loud no one would be able to hear each other anyway.
Myself: Since I am a member of the YMCA I have decided to observe and be an actor in
the figured world to incorporate an inside perspective. I am keeping a notebook handy to
jot observations down during water breaks and breaks in the music.
Alex White: This is the girl I interviewed about group fitness classes. She was an actor in
the figured world of the fitness classes.
Brian: A guy I interviewed from recognizing him in different group exercise classes.

Artifacts: The artifacts are ideas, emotions, or objects that hold a specific importance to the
community in the figured world. They can be specific to certain actors or to the entire
exercise class.
YMCA Card: The membership card is an important artifact for the entire class because
you cannot get into the class without it.
Microphone: The microphone headset is specific to the class instructor and it is a way
new students know who to identify as the teacher.
Motivation: An emotion all the actors share in a group exercise class. They are voluntary
classes and actors all share at least some motivation to work out and get pumped up.
Equipment: The yoga mats and weights in baskets along the walls are artifacts that are
important for certain classes. Actors in yoga class need yoga mats.
Instructors Commands: The instructors commands are important because they are
what make the class. Without the instructor telling the class what to do there would be no
class or class participation.
Music: Important for the mood of the class because it pumps people up and especially in
the Cardio Funk class, music is needed for the different dances.
Resistance Bands: These are needed for the High and Tight class for the floor exercises
specifically. They are important for maximum muscle toning of the buttocks.
Bicycles: these are artifacts important for cycle class. Without the bicycles there simply
could not be a cycle class unless it was outside on regular not stationary bikes.

Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh
Discourse Communities: The groups within the figured world that share the same ideas
and communicate the same with each other. They are like cliques you can recognize by
The Committed Students: This is the group who knows every move almost as well as
the teacher. They seem to stay up front and center in the class. They are confident in their
moves and it is clear by their body language they are comfortable in the class. These are
the students who do not miss class.
The Moms: This group is easy to spot because they will have a diaper bag from dropping
the kids off at the kid zone. They stay by the door and rush out presumably to pick up
their kids on time. They also talk to each other and walk in at the last minute before class
First Timers/Newbies: These people are in the back and stay in their own personal
space. They are not familiar with all the moves and get tripped up when the tempo picks
Men: The men in the class are very easy to spot because there are hardly any of them.
Old people: You can tell these people apart because of their appearance. They are
another minority in the classes along with the men. Although there is a silver sneaker
class at the YMCA for senior citizens that I did not observe. So that class is probably
very different!
Literary Practices: These are the ways in which actors within different discourse
communities communicate to each other.
Moms arriving together: The moms arriving together walking close and putting their
baby bags beside each other. In the beginning of class they will be talking to each other
about the kids or what time they have to pick them up after class.
Teacher dancing around and yelling out moves: The teacher yells out orders to the
students to communicate what they are supposed to be doing. She will yell out questions
to the students to try and get them involved. Hows everybody feeling? Can I get a
WHOOP WHOOP? Only the teacher communicates with the microphone and such
exaggerated movements.
Committed Students: These students have an air about them of seriousness. They are
decked out in fancy workout gear and they arrive to class early or exactly on time to get
their spots in the front. They communicate to each other in the beginning of class but not
during. During the class they are serious and focused on the teacher, which is the only
person they are communicating with.
Friends: You can tell the people who come to class together and are friends because of
the way they communicate to each other. During the class if there is a hard move they
will glance at each other and give a look of ahhhhh this is hard or do you understand
this move. They talk to each other while they are walking into class and they usually sit
beside each other and converse during the water breaks.

Observation 1: Cardio Funk
Tuesday 28, 2014 6pm-7pm

Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh
6:00 PM: People are standing around all over the multipurpose room facing the front
mirrors. I notice the teacher putting on her microphone headset and setting up the iPod
over at the speakers. There are people spread all over the room it looks like about 34
bodies so far. And then starts the music bumping some Kesha through the speakers. The
teacher yells, Hey everybody, welcome to Cardio Funk! Im Nyree and I hope yall
came ready to sweat! A few people in the front yell back at her as they start copying her
side step movement.

6:10: Everyone has been warming up and getting pumped up with Nyrees excitement
and the energetic music she is playing. She tells everyone they should be warmed up after
the moves she just had us doing like the side step and a basic grape vine that progressed
from only using your feet to using arms and hoping. Next she says we are going to start
into some more progressive dance moves that will get our heart rates up.

6:15: Nyree continues to show us moves while she breaks them down and gives easy,
moderate, and expert ways of doing the moves. I notice a group of people at the front
center who are all doing the expert dance moves with ease as if they have been to the
class before. The further back in the class you go the more chaotic the dancing is. It
seems obvious who has been to class before by the way people are picking up on the

6:30: It is a water break and Nyree tells everyone to grab their water bottles and stay
hydrated. There are immediately different groups of people who become obvious to me.
The people who know each other have their bags and water bottles beside each other
along the walls. One girl in the front of the room grabbed her water bottle and her
friends water bottle from the wall. The break is very quick because Nyree yells to keep
moving so our heart rates do not go down. And on comes another tune I think it is

6:30-6:45: We drop it low as Nyree says and do an extremely long set of squats and
lunges to the music. I notice people looking to one another with faces of pain and looking
at the clock to see when this set is over. Two girls in the back of the classroom dont even
look like they are trying to squat anymore. They are pretending but I can tell they are
barely bending down.

6:45-6:55: This is cool down and stretching accompanied with much slower and soothing
music. We do some yoga breathing and lower to the floor for deep stretching. Nyrees
voice gets softer and she is telling people about the next class on Thursday. She thanks
everyone for coming to the class. There are about 8 people who dont even stretch they
grab their stuff and try to sneak out the door as if no one notices they didnt really finish
the full workout. Other people group up together and talk while they are grabbing their
things. I heard one lady tell her friend she would see her Thursday and also something
about her daughter being here next time.

6:55: I dont know anyone in the class so I grab my stuff and head out the door. People
are already lined up at the double doors with yoga mats on their backs trying to pile in for
Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh
the next class. I guess Nyree is teaching it too because she didnt take off her microphone
she is laying out a mat when I glanced back into the room.

Observation 2: Thursday 4:00 PM- 4:50 PM
Class: High and Tight

4:00PM- I walk into the multipurpose studio at the Harris YMCA right on time to start
the class. There are only 12 people in this class probably because it is before most people
get off work. Everyone has put down their yoga mats so I lay mine down as well. I
recognize the teacher from the pool this summer, her name is Kate. She waved at me
because she taught my boyfriends daughter swim lessons this summer. Kate tells
everyone to start stretching and if you havent already to go grab yellow bands or green
bands out of the baskets. The yellow bands are the easier and the green bands are tighter.
Everyone lays the bands beside the mat and stands behind it with their feet apart.

4:05 PM- Kate introduces herself to everyone again and she starts the class. We all do
side steps with the bands on our feet. Next she instructs us to do leg lifts to the side with
the bands on and then to the back. So far everyone is being quiet and looking forward at
the instructor. Next we have to do a 1, 2, 3 step thats sort of like a dance and it really
burns the side of your thighs.

4:20 PM- Kate tells everyone to lay down on the mat and put the bands on like pants
stopping at your knees. No one talks all I can hear is the music she has playing and the
squeaking rubber of the bands against the yoga mat and tennis shoes. When she says we
are doing the clam shell a few ladies give out a yelp, they must know what we are in
for. After that we do the clam shell shorts, extended clamshell, and finally the cork
screw. All of which burn terribly. I can tell the group of 4 ladies on the front right are
experienced in this class because they dont seem to be hurting as bad as the rest of us.
Also that group of ladies has the green bands on.

4:35 PM- Everyone sighs when Kate tells us to pull our knees to our chest and take our
bands off. She instructs us to put one knee over our chest to stretch the gluts and then
switch legs.

4:40 PM- Kate has the class lay on our stomachs and come up to our fore arms to do leg
lifts on each leg. The ladies in the front with the green bands hurry over to the equipment
rack to get ankle weights. The girl next to me laughed and mumbled that she couldnt
believe they were going to put themselves through that.

4:50 PM- After the final stretch we all got up and returned our equipment to the bins. I
could tell the four ladies who used the green bands knew each other because they started
talking. I stopped to say hey to Kate and I told her what Id been writing down. I figured
shed been wondering what I was doing.

Observation 3: Cycle Class
Friday, January 31, 2014
Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh

Location Description: The cycle studio is on the bottom floor of the YMCA directly
beside the entrance to the indoor pool. It is a small circular room filled with 30 stationary
bicycles. The room is dark and has Christmas lights along the top. There are also fans
surrounding the top of the room.
Artifacts: Cycle can be added because you need it to be in the class. There are also only
30 bikes so that is important because no more people can be in the room. You have to go
to the front desk to get a cycle pass up to 30 minutes before class during the busy classes
if you want a spot.

4:30 PM- Most people are already in the class and sitting on their bikes. Everyone has a
water bottle in the slot in between your legs on the bike. The instructor was walking
around and having people get of their bikes to change their position if she thought they
should. She went to the front of the room and asked if anyone needed help so I raised my
hand. The instructor had me get off and measure my bike seat to the height of my hip
bone. Then she had me get on the bike to adjust the handle bars. After she made sure
everyone was adjusted she went and got on her bike.

4:35 PM- The instructor introduced herself as Melissa when she turned on her
microphone headset. She asked if anyone needed an extra water bottle but no one
answered. She told everyone to turn their bike resistance to a number in between 8 and 9
where it is comfortable and easy. Melissa asked if she had any new people in the class
and 3 people raised their hands on bikes beside each other on the other side from me.

4:45 PM- The intensity of this class is felt in the air, mainly because everyone is huffing
and puffing along with the high speed fans on the wall. Melissa must know the older man
in the front of the room because she called him by his name. She told us all if he was still
pushing on up this imaginary resistance hill at 64 years old we can do it.

4:50 PM- It is acceptable to take a water break in this class because I have seen almost
everyone in the class do it when the teacher didnt a lot time. Also the music is very
upbeat and loud. Since the room is so dark and cool its easier to push yourself because
people cannot see you making funny faces. Although I did notice the man in front of me
grunting when we were just going just that last incline.

5:00 PM- Melissa announces to the class that this is our last hill before cool down and
people let out a yell. I couldnt see who because it is so dim in the room. You can hear
everyone breathing really heavy. Melissa asks if everyone is ok and when she gets a few
answers we start uphill. She tells everyone to up their intensity and RPM.

5:05-5:15 PM- Cool down starts when Melissa has everyone slow down and take their
hands off the handle bars. She instructs us to reach up to the ceiling and then stretch to
the left and right. Next we all get off our bikes to stretch our legs and backs. I noticed
some people in the class have special foot wear specifically for the bike. I figure they
must be avid cyclers. When I look around everyone is covered in sweat. People are lined
up to use the sanitizer bottles to clean off our sweaty bicycles. Everyone seems extra tired
Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh
and is being quiet now that the music is turned off. Melissa dismisses the class and stood
outside the room to collect cycle tags we got from the front desk.

Interview: Alex White (Actor I know from the YMCA)
1. How do you communicate with people in group exercise classes?
Alex: Honestly I just come to work out. I get so nasty and sweaty that I dont want
to run in and out. I sometimes will small talk with people if I get to a class early.
2. What do you think is important to bring to an exercise class?
Alex: I would say a good attitude, water, and maybe a towel and or weights.
3. How important is fitness to you?
Alex: Fitness is super important thats the reason I joined the Y. I want to live a long
time and look good while I am doing it ha ha.
4. Why choose group fitness classes instead of individual workouts?
I am pretty competitive and that helps me push myself in the classes. If I see an older
lady beside me killin it, I know Ive got to push through. You cant slack in front of a
whole group of people you know.
5. What overall attitude do people in these classes share, if any?
Alex: Oh for sure its a positive attitude. Generally if you are joining a group class
that means you share the want to get in shape or stay in shape. We are all working
towards a common goal. No one signs up for an hour class if they dont want to work

Interview: Brian
1. How do you communicate with people in group exercise classes?
Brian: I talk to the person directly beside me if they seem like they want to talk and I
might talk to the teacher if I have a question. Other than that I just keep involved in
the class and what the instructor is telling me to do.
2. What do you think is important to bring to an exercise class?
Brian: Definitely a water bottle or two, and whatever you need equipment wise.
3. How important is fitness to you?
Brian: Its extremely important to me because I want to look good for the ladies at
the pool this summer.
4. Why choose group fitness classes instead of individual workouts?
Brian: The overall moral of the room is excitement and it makes me more energetic
and enthusiastic to work out my very best.
5. What overall attitude do people in these classes share, if any?
Brian: They have a good attitude of lets work out super hard and get this thing
done. It is an encouraging atmosphere for sure.

Interview: Nyree/Instructor
1. How do you benefit from teaching these exercise classes?
Nyree: I get a good workout while I am getting paid. And I get a good feeling
about helping other people work out to their best ability and have fun while doing
2. How do you communicate with people in group exercise classes?
Observation Assignment
Site Location: Harris Family YMCA
Brittany McIntosh
Nyree: I use a microphone headset to yell out dance moves and motivation.
Usually I am talking at all the people and trying to keep everyone together and
3. What do you think is important to bring to exercise class?
Nyree: First of all you need water, then you should probably bring a sweat towel,
your YMCA card, and maybe a change of clothes because we get you extra
4. How important is fitness to you?
Nyree: Its one of the most important parts of my day. I feel better physically and
mentally after Ive had a good work out. Without fitness I would be a chubby and
grumpy woman haha.
5. Why choose group fitness classes instead of individual workouts?
Nyree: I like to work out alone every once in a while just like I enjoy group
workouts. But with the group workouts I always get more done because
motivation is contagious as well as competition in a workout setting.
6. What overall attitude do people in these classes share, if any?
Nyree: They all want to be healthy and lose weight.