The contemporary United States fitness industry, in conjunction with the medical endorsement of exercise and the marketing of lifestyle consumption, has made possible the emergence and rapid growth of health and fitness services. This paper brings together the sociological fields of work, consumption, and physical culture, suggesting how the structure and organization of personal training impacts upon how fitness is sold. Drawing from interviews with personal trainers, the occupation is discussed as a combination of frontline service work, emotional labor, and flexible work strategies, resulting in a variety of job roles: the representation of the fitness club, the brokering of clients’ consumer relationships with the fitness industry, the motivation of clients through service relationships, and the entrepreneurial cultivation of a client base and semi-professional authority.
The author is in the Ph.D. Program in Sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY 10016. An earlier discussion of this research was presented at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport meeting in Las Vegas, November 1998.