I recently (like yesterday morning) passed my examination to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). If you've read about where I started from, you know what a huge deal this is to me! When I shared this on my Instagram account, I got so many messages from people curious about what the process was like and what went into obtaining the certification. In this post, I am sharing the steps I took and exactly how I became a certified personal trainer with NASM (National Association of Sports Medicine).
I first began working toward better health in 2012. Never in a million years did I think I would end up pursuing a personal trainer certification. Like EVER. My workout routine has definitely evolved over the years. I used to hate lifting weights. Now you can't keep me away from the weight rack! After few years of losing weight and learning many new lessons, I decided I wanted to educate myself even further by pursuing my personal trainer certification. I thought about this for a while and something always held me back. One of my main concerns was feeling like I wasn't worthy of the title. Partly because I don't look like your typical personal trainer. I still have weight to lose and I don't consider myself an pro by any means. I felt like a fraud in a weird way signing up for something like this. I know that type of thinking is flawed and I was only hindering my own success but it was the reality of my mental struggle.
After a few weeks of toying around with the idea I had a sudden burst of insight. I am coming into this with a different background and unique experience. I remember being the person in the gym who was embarrassed to workout in front of other people. The person who could not maintain even a slow jog for more 15 seconds. The person who at the very beginning of their weight loss journey, felt so overwhelmed and had no clue where to start. I may not be the type of trainer that an aspiring bikini competitor or a power lifter is going to come to for guidance, but that really isn't my focus or where my passion lies. My heart is in working with the population that is starting where I was and is feeling like there is an impossible mountain to climb. I want to motivate others and inspire hope that change is possible. Being able to actually empathize with and understand the same frustrations and emotions is a unique ability that will help me relate to the people I work with that much more. I know I definitely could have used someone like that when I started! I am doing this not only because I truly love learning about health and fitness, but also because I love supporting and connecting with others. This path seemed like a win-win.
Going Through NASM
The stars aligned in late November when I saw an Instagram post from the National Association of Sports Medicine indicating a sale on their CPT certification course and exam. I talked to my friend who is currently a personal trainer to get her opinion and she gave me her seal of approval for NASM (thanks Lauren!). I ordered the course and 2 days later a textbook was delivered to my house and suddenly I had a 6 month deadline looming over my head.
NASM offers 4 options to become a CPT. There is the Self-Study (the cheapest option), the Premium Self-Study (which comes with a few more features), the Guided-Study (includes access to a coach and live workshops) and the All-Inclusive (which also includes a retest voucher and a business accelerator program). You can read more about the options here. I chose the Self-Study option. With this, I was given access to online materials including the course textbook, informational PDF's, videos and practice quizzes. In total there are 21 Modules. My goal when I started studying in December was to tackle one module a week to meet the deadline. You have 180 days from the date of purchase to take your exam. For the most part I stuck with that schedule depending on the breadth of what was being covered. Some modules were shorter and I could get through more while others were much more complex and required more of my time and brain power.
When it came to fitness assessments, nutrition, program design and things of that nature, I ate it up. LOVED it! Where I struggled was with the inner workings of muscle structure and things like ligaments, tendons and the details of the cardio respiratory system. I mean, I was reading about the aorta and the chambers of the heart and capillaries and arterioles and veins-oh my! I was just kind of like (insert wide eyed look here). I don't know what I was really expecting but I wasn't prepared for that for some reason. Learning all the proper names for muscles (oh hey there gastrocnemius!) was challenging too. One of my biggest surprises was how much I enjoyed learning about muscle compensations and what needs to be worked on for overactive or underactive muscles. It gave me so much insight into my own training and answered a lot of questions I had about reoccurring injuries I was experiencing.
I took the practice quizzes at the end of each module and that helped me determine which areas I needed to spend more time on. I learned quickly that I could retake quizzes and get different practice questions each time so I often did that for more exposure to sample test questions. As the deadline moved closer, I decided to make flashcards. I used the quiz questions as my guide and I ended up with over 200 flash cards to study. My husband is super supportive and helped me study the week before the test by quizzing me on the flashcards and I committed them to memory. I also used him as my ginuea pig and performed several fitness assessments on him. He's a good sport! 🙂
The weekend before the test I took the practice exam about 3 times. I also recorded myself reciting the muscle compensations so I could listen to them in the car which helped out quite a bit. There are s0 many to remember! It's something I did when I studied for my administrative credential for my job with the school district and I felt like it helped a TON.
The day of the test I was nervous but I felt ready. There are 120 multiple choice questions and you are allowed 2 hours to complete the exam. You are tested using a computer at a designated testing center. The experience was a lot like other credential or certification tests I have taken. Leave all your things in a locker, no notes, no jewelry-that kind of thing. I started my exam and as I went through the first 10 questions or so, I felt a wave of panic. The questions were worded SO differently than everything I had seen on the practice exam. There were the obvious outliers in the answer choices and I found myself often stuck between 2 that both seemed like they could be right. It felt like a lot of the questions were more like choose the BEST answer because there were often two choices that were both "right". They let you mark questions to refer back to but when I was on question 56 and had marked 30 questions, I began to get a little worried. I just decided to stop stressing and answer the questions with the knowledge I had and a little common sense. Luckily, it all paid off and I passed!
I haven't quite mapped out exactly what I will be doing with my certification just yet but I do know I want to start sharing more workouts both here and on my Instagram account. I'm exploring a few different things but for now, I am going to be sharing more of what I have learned in hopes of connecting with more people. NASM also offers a few other certifications that I am definitely interested in such as Nutrition, Weight Loss and Corrective Exercise. This is my first step into what I hope becomes an even bigger part of my life. Isn't it funny how your goals can change and life can look so different?! This is definitely a new non-scale victory for me!
I hope sharing this experience about how I became a Certified Personal Trainer with NASM was helpful! Feel free to leave any other questions below!