The first time I attempted the NASM material, I took the eTeach online course, but I was completely and utterly unprepared for what was ahead of me. I had no frame of reference and no idea of what to expect. I just assumed it would be relatively easy. After all, I'd been "studying" health and fitness for twenty years (i.e. reading books, magazines and blogs. ha ha). I was pretty sure that I already knew a lot of what would be taught. I'd thought it would be fairly easy. I was wrong. I had no idea it would be so science-y. That just shows you how naïve and unprepared I was. In retrospect, of course it would be science-y.
I remember thinking "What I am doing, studying to become a doctor?" (I am kidding, I realize it is a billion times harder to become a medical doctor than to get a personal trainer certification.) I was knocked out of it about half way through because I was completely overwhelmed with the material. I thought I would be able to study for an hour a night and succeed. I wasn't mentally prepared for more of a commitment than that. I didn't even make it to the midterms before I made excuses and concessions to allowed myself to quietly quit.
Fast forward nine months and I just couldn't let it go. I really wanted to do this. I felt bad about giving up. I wanted the knowledge and expertise. I thought it would help me grow as a person and elevate this blog. I wanted to do this because I am passionate about health and fitness and I love to write about it. This was a goal and a dream that I wasn't going to let die.
I did much better the second time around. I was mastering those muscle concentric actions, learning how to access and correct muscle imbalances and generally kicking butt with learning. I struggled a little with the weekly quizzes in eTeach, I always felt the questions were tricky, but they were preparing me for the exam. I surprised myself when I did well on the mid-term. I started to build confidence. I finished the course and printed out the study guide. I was scheduled to study for two weeks then take the exam. Within those two weeks I got a new job offer in my current field. A new job was a great opportunity and a huge relief from the nightmare I was living in my old job.
Then my new job was a challenge in the beginning and it took most of my physical and mental energy. I was working longer hours and traveling. The personal trainer certification goal fell to the wayside. My husband's friend was visiting us during this time and he encouraged me to take the test. What's the worst thing that can happen? You fail? Well, if you don't take the test, you failed it anyway. I knew he was right, but I think the fear of failing stopped me from attempting it when I didn't feel prepared. I just needed more time to study, I told myself. Then it slowly became less of a priority and before I knew it, I wasn't even thinking about it anymore.
Third time's a charm, right? I always say you never really fail until you stop trying. I settled down nicely at work, moved into yet another position and things calmed down a lot. Here we are a year later (time flies!) I finally felt ready to put in the time and energy required. I decided not to tell anyone except really close friends about my third attempt at studying because frankly, I was sick of hearing myself talk about it. It was time for action, not talk.
I started from scratch and opened the text book to page one. I pretty much forgot everything that I had memorized last year, but I was surprised at how much general knowledge I retained. It took me about a month to get through the material this time. I read each chapter, took the online chapter quiz from the text book and watched the videos on the NASM site. I did this chapter by chapter until I finished the text. I recruited a friend to be my practice client. Then I buckled down to really study. I lived and breathed this stuff morning, noon and night. I studied while I walked on the treadmill for an hour every night, I studied on my lunch break at work, I studied in-between sets when I worked out. By the time I was ready to take my test, I was so sick of looking at those index cards...but I really knew them.
I took the exam this morning. I've read horror stories about how hard the test would be. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. I felt pretty confident in most of my answers. I didn't mark any questions for review or go back and change answers after I entered them. I just chose the best answer I could at the moment and moved on. My mantra for the test was "The correct answer is staring you in the face, you just have to recognize it." It worked for me, after about 40 minutes I completed the test and passed!
My mother told me that when I was in elementary school I would open my text book on the first day of school, turn to the last chapter and cry because I was sure that I would never be able to learn the hard material at the end of the book. I initially approached the personal training text the same way as I would have as a young girl. I got overwhelmed by the vast amount of information without realizing that by taking it one chapter at a time, one day a time, with a little hard work, all the pieces would come together in the end.
It amazes me now that something that seemed so hard and overwhelming, became very possible after a few short weeks of work and dedication. I look back now and it wasn't at all as hard as I made it out to be in my head.
Part of me wishes that I wouldn't have dragged this out for so long. I have been talking about this for years, but once I buckled down and really committed, it only took me about eight to nine weeks to pass the test. But you can't wish away the past, you can only work for the future.
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