Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Constraint Negotiation in Serious Leisure: A Study of Amateur Triathletes

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Constraint Negotiation in Serious Leisure: A Study of Amateur Triathletes

Article excerpt

Regular physical activity is known to provide a vast array of benefits for participants, such as a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke, as well as improved mental well-being and quality of life (Bize, Johnson, & Plotnikoff, 2007; Warburton, Nicol, & Bredin, 2006). Consequently, encouraging the general population to become and stay physically active is now a strategy for reducing preventable lifestyle diseases worldwide (Harris & Harris, 2012; Marcus & Forsyth, 2003). Physical activity involves the expenditure of energy through bodily movement (Caspersen, Powell, & Christenson, 1985). Participation in amateur triathlon, the focus of this study, represents one form of physical activity that provides opportunities for the general population to become and stay physically active (Henderson, 2009).

Despite the known benefits of physical activity and the available opportunities to participate, previous studies have suggested that many people are not active enough for optimal health (e.g., Nelson et al, 2007; O'Donovan et al., 2010; Svender, Larsson, 8c Redelius, 2011). In response, research has sought to identify constraints to participation in physical activity (e.g., Alexandris 8c Carroll, 1997; Alexandris, Tsorbatzoudis, 8c Grouios, 2002). Within leisure studies, constraints are factors inhibiting individuals' preferences for and/or ability to participate in an activity (Crawford 8c Godbey, 1987; Jackson, 1988, 2000). Research into how individuals overcome constraints, known as constraint negotiation, has also emerged as an area of inquiry. Constraint negotiation research has made important contributions to leisure studies in revealing that constraints are not insurmountable barriers to participation (Jackson, 2000; McQuarrie 8c Jackson, 1996). Nonetheless, gaps are still evident in the constraint negotiation literature, prompting Hubbard and Mannell (2001) to call for further investigation into the range of factors that could influence negotiation outcomes.

This paper explores constraint negotiation in the context of triathlon. Triathlon combines swimming, cycling and running, with races varying in distance from short to long course events such as the Ironman (comprising a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle, and 42.2km run). The ongoing physical fitness and equipment requirements for competitive swimming, cycling, and running, make triathlon a resource-intensive physical activity (Lamont, Kennelly, 8c Wilson, 2012). McCarville (2007) described how triathlon can "virtually dominate the lives of participants and their families" (p. 160). Triathlon has experienced considerable growth since its inception in the mid-1970s (Thom, 2001). Despite this growth, there has been minimal research examining leisure experiences of amateur triathletes, specifically in relation to constraint negotiation.

This paper addresses this gap by drawing on Stebbins' (1992) concept of serious leisure to examine how committed amateur triathletes negotiate constraints to sustain their participation. The connection between serious leisure and constraint negotiation was identified by McQuarrie and Jackson (1996), who argued that those engaged in serious leisure provide "particularly pertinent examples of how some people encounter and negotiate constraints" (p. 460). They argued for further exploration of the linkages between these two subfields in leisure studies. Consequently, the aim of this paper is to identify and explore constraint negotiation strategies employed by amateur triathletes engaged in serious leisure.

Literature Review

Serious Leisure

For some individuals leisure activities can entail significant commitment and responsibility (Gillespie, Leffler, & Lemer, 2002; Green & Jones, 2005). This is recognized in Stebbins' (2007) concept of serious leisure, defined as:

the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer core activity that people find so substantial, interesting, and fulfilling that, in a typical case, they launch themselves on a (leisure) career centred on acquiring and expressing a combination of its special skills, knowledge, and experience (p. …

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