I had the idea to get certified a few years ago. It sounded like a good idea but I always felt “too busy” to make it happen. Finally, this past summer I said, I’m sick of making excuses. If I don’t just sign up and move forward, I’m never going to do this.
Why I Did It
As a fitness enthusiast (like that term?), I am interested in how the body works anyway. I’ve learned a bit over the years about why we do certain moves, how to use correct form and it’s super interesting to me.
Since starting CrossFit and strength training, I learned even more about form. I started to realize how much I enjoy understanding why we move certain ways. What better way to really get it than to become a personal trainer?
As someone who writes about fitness all the time, I also thought it would be good for my credibility. Now, I can write with a little more confidence and actually feel that way too.
To be honest, I didn’t put a ton of thought into it. I saw that some of my blogger fitness friends had chosen to do NASM and after reading some of their extensive reviews, I saw that it was a well-respected, well-organized program. I didn’t really consider any other certifications.
How Hard Was It?
It was kind of hard, I’m not going to lie — mostly because you have no idea what’s going to be on the test. You get a huge textbook (it had been awhile since college, my friends) and there’s SO much information. I was kind of overwhelmed but I just said, “you have to start somewhere.”
When I got my book, I just started from the beginning and read very slowly. The NASM kit comes with online instructional videos as well, which I found very helpful. I took my time reading through every page of the book, underlining, highlighting, taking notes, making a million flashcards. The key was not to think about the MASS overload of stuff you were supposed to remember all at the same time.
Not pressuring myself to memorize everything for one thing. Secondly, getting through the entire book with another 2 months to spare so I could go back over everything a second time. Flashcards of all the basic information were extremely helpful — and I wrote everything down about three times. On cards, and in notebooks. That’s just how my brain works.
I flagged the chapters that were hardest for me and went over them 2 or 3 extra times. I used my blogger friends as well! Many thanks to Heather, Brooke and Julie for their tips and tricks. I referenced their blog posts about NASM multiple times.
Special thanks to Heather for leading me to this forum on Bodybuilding.com, which is an endless thread of conversation, tips and tricks for the NASM exam. I read through the entire thing, made notes and made sure to look up questions people said were on their test.
The one thing people stressed was you need to truly understand why the muscles work they way they do, not just memorize. I found myself doing a lot of the basic moves and trying to feel which muscles were doing what, then understanding why.
How Much Studying?
It was really sporadic but I would say I studied 3-4 hours a week normally — with some weeks off. I also studied a bit more than that per week in the last two weeks. You have 6 months to take the test from the time you sign up — and I took it the very last day possible! That wasn’t my plan but I forgot to take the CPR/AED certification (don’t forget!) and had to reschedule — so I took that class one day before the actual test. Whew!
The test had 120 questions and it was all on the computer. There were a bunch of testing facilities in my area and the one I chose was only like 15 minutes away. The beginning of the test is all instructions that I found more confusing than anything. They overcomplicated it and it was easy to understand how it worked once I started.
I had trouble on Question #1! That was annoying — but I remembered reading on all of the forums — the questions are tricky and you have to read very closely.
The text allows you to mark what you are not sure about and come back to it. I went very slowly through all the questions. If I knew dwelling on an answer wouldn’t make me feel confident, I marked what I thought was best and moved on. I had marked about 8 questions at the end. Then I went back through every single question and ensured I was confident. I changed about 4 answers on my way back through.
After re-reading all the questions, I was sure I must have passed. I finished in about an hour and found out I passed within a minute of leaving the test room!
The test administrator said: “Is this your first time taking this test?” and I told him yes. Then he said, “I didn’t want to tell you this at first, but about 80% of people fail this the first time — because it’s usually guys who think they can just come in here and pass it without much studying.”
He told me that most girls pass it the first time, though. It’s guys that have the issue!
It was frustrating that things I spent a ton of time studying weren’t even on the test — but that’s the goal, I guess — learn everything. I feel so much more knowledgable now — about nutrition concepts as well. There’s a huge chapter on nutrition and though it’s basic, it helped me understand important stuff about protein, amino acids, etc.
I’m so glad I finally made the leap to become a CPT. I’m not sure what I will do with this certification. First, I’m doing a free program with a friend to get my feet wet. Maybe then, I will try to find a client or two to add to my busy schedule!
Like the graphic above, it’s feels good to help people change their lives. One reason I went for this was because people often ask me for advice in regards to fitness and nutrition. I love being able to provide that information!
Is personal training for you? Maybe! Check out NASM for more info.
Any questions for me about the test, studying or other reasons why I did it?