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Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer

When I made the decision to get my NASM personal trainer certification, I was very excited but I was unaware of what the process would actually entail. While I am so glad I went through the process, I do wish I had a bit more background on what it would actually be like. Hopefully this can help others go into the process a bit more prepared than I was and with clear expectations!

Timing is key!


I highly recommend waiting until you are not in a chaotic place to begin this process. If you know the holidays are insane, or there’s another event happening that will take a lot of your time, it’s best to wait. You only have 6 months to complete your certification or you’ll have to pay $200 for an extension. Of course if you know your life is always insane, and you don’t want to put this off, just go into it knowing you’ll have to really plan ahead.


Pick the course option that works for your way of learning


There’s a lot of different options for taking the course. There’s a completely self guided option, one that’s self guided but with access to a portal to talk to other students and professionals, and options that are full courses with regular online classes to attend and regular access to other students, professionals and a physical book sent to you. I decided to do the self-guided option as I knew this was the best way for me to learn. I learn better outside the classroom and setting things up at my own pace and studying in the way that works best for retaining information.


Be prepared to spend more time on this than you think


When I first opened my online course and saw the 20 or so chapters, I completely underestimated how long I’d need to study. While some chapters contain light info that can be learned quickly and are more common sense, most of the chapters are not like that. Many chapters dive deep into individual muscles. You’ll need to know from memory what all these main muscles are, what their function is and the muscles that work as a team with them. Without learning the in-depth structure of the body, you won’t be able to fully grasp how to structure a workout for someone with muscle imbalances. There are many key components like this that will take a lot of time, practice and patience to learn, but once you put in that time, you’ll feel so much more prepared to design a workout plan for your client that will truly benefit them.


Create a study schedule


Create a schedule in advance to make sure you’re always building in time to study. While you may just want to study in your downtime, you need to prioritize studying as much as you can to ensure you have enough time should a specific topic take longer to remember.

You’ll learn a broader array of topics than you think


Personal training is not just about making a client exercise to lose weight or meet a strength goal. It’s so much more than that, and your study topics will reflect that. You’ll learn how to assess if someone is ready to begin a training goal, or if they should seek medical help first. You’ll learn about doing movement assessments to see how the body moves and if specific muscles are overactive or underactive. From there you will learn about the specific stretch, foam rolling and warm-ups to benefit those muscle that are not working 100%. After that you can decide what type of goals you are aiming for and can begin your training in the safest way possible. You’ll also learn how many exercises, reps and sets are best for each client.


The only downside is that while there are images and videos for exercises and warm-ups, you need to make sure you really understand the movements and perhaps work with your own trainer to ensure you are properly educated. I learned that the course would not have given me enough info to execute exercises properly without additional assistance. A lot of people become certified but still have issues with making sure clients are performing exercises correctly. This is more common for new trainers.

Build in a buffer


Even if you set a schedule for yourself, give yourself a LARGE buffer. The worst thing that happens is that you retain information quickly and can certify earlier than you planned. The last thing you want to happen is to hit multiple roadblocks and then have to cram before the final exam. It’s important to remember that unlike school where you may study for a calculus test thinking you’ll never need the information again and you learn it quickly, and often forget it, personal training is different. If you are planning to stay in the fitness career, you need to commit this information to memory, as this is information you’ll continue needing to reference with every client.


Listening to the recorded podcasts/seminars are actually very helpful!


Depending on what type of course you sign up for, you may not have recorded seminars as part of your weekly course. I did the completely self-guided course and at the end there was a lot of prerecorded seminars to listen to. I thought about skipping them as I’d already gone through all the chapters and took a lot of notes, and these recordings were at least an hour each. I am glad I took the time to listen to them, as they broke down some of the larger topics into some easily digestible content, and I felt it helped to cement the information I’d already been learning.


Be prepared to take the practice exam multiple times


Taking the practice exam is not just about making sure you can pass the test and know the information, but that you enter your exam knowing you are comfortable taking the test and will not feel panicked or overwhelmed when you sit down to take the actual exam. While the practice exam did help guide me in learning what topics I needed to still improve on, it is not the end all for studying. The practice exam did help me narrow down what I was still struggling with, but the practice exam is much easier than the actual exam. If you are continually getting around 70% on the practice exam, you are probably not ready for the final, even though technically you’ve been passing the practice. I waited until I was scoring consistently in the 90% or above mark. Even then I still felt very challenged by the actual final.


Pick an exam time that makes sense for when you are most alert and pick it far in advance


It’s important to know what time you function best at for scheduling. If you spend most early mornings feeling groggy and not at your best, then it’s not a good time to take it. Also, schedule around your meal times. I made sure to eat before the exam but not so close to my exam time that I felt groggy from the meal. So pick a time that you know you’ll be the most alert and ready to pass with flying colors.

I really hope these tips can help make this process a bit easier for you! If you have any questions, you can reach out directly. It’s quite the exciting process and I really did enjoy learning through the course.


Until next time… and remember learning is for all!



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