It’s been quite a week. And there have been a lot of emotions. I’ve basically been a living, breathing (barely) stress-ball for the last few months- and it was definitely a lot worse at the beginning of this week. But, by Wednesday (a little after noon), I had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders…
That’s right- I took (and passed!) my Personal Trainer Certification exam!! I am really glad that you find out right after if you pass or fail- the waiting would have killed me. I get my “official” certification mailed to me soon.
Let me rewind to September of 2008 here for a minute…
(Back in my distance running days…I was 28. Ahhh… to be young… :)) I enrolled in a 12-week prep course to get my personal training certification through ACE. The class did not include the exam- it just prepared you for it.
My classes were on Monday evenings from 6-9:30, and that was after a full day of work, which started before 7:00 am. Needless to say, I was usually pretty tired and had a lot of trouble focusing. Since my background was in art, I felt a little bit lost in that class. Everything just seemed so overwhelming. By the end of it, I had definitely learned a lot, but just didn’t fully absorb or understand most of it because I just wasn’t fully able to dedicate myself to studying. Work was super stressful at that time and I was already wanting to find a way out. After the course ended, I vowed to study and learn the material and take the exam within a few months. That never happened and it went on the back burner.
Fast-forward to one year ago. After a year long hiatus, I returned to Bodypump. I used to take the classes regularly, but then just wanted to change things up and stopped for a while. When I went back, I remembered how much I loved that class, and how strong and powerful it made me feel. And one week later, I decided to get certified to become a Bodypump instructor. The training for it was one of the hardest (mentally and physically!) experiences of my life, but it was also one of the best.
After getting my Bodypump certification and having a few regular weekly classes (in addition to the Spinning classes I was already teaching), I was becoming more and more certain that this is what I was meant to do. I wasn’t feeling any passion for teaching high school anymore (which I had been doing for seven years), but I did have that passion for teaching group exercise. There’s just something about helping others get healthy and strong and learn to love (and look forward to) exercise…. I just can’t explain it. And then, of course, I made the decision to quit my job to pursue my dream of becoming a personal trainer.
The first step was choosing a certification. I already had the books and study materials for ACE, but they were four years old, and fitness trends are always changing. I heard a lot of other (already certified) trainers recommend NASM, which was supposed to be “the best.” Whenever I asked people why it was the best (and why any certification would be better than another), I was told “it’s the most recognized.” Well, I definitely wanted to choose a certification that would enable me to get a job, so I looked into it more. The only problem was, the study program (which I definitely needed) was incredibly expensive… much more money than I was really able to spend. ACE was also pretty expensive. It’s not that I was just looking for a cheap way out- but I had to stay within my reasonable budget.
I started asking around more, and my friend Annette told me about NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association). She had gotten a certification through them, and was very pleased with her experience. I definitely value Annette’s opinion a lot- so I looked into it further. They offered an intensive online study program with a package that included the certification exam. And once you purchase the program, you have 90 days to take the exam. I liked that option, because I definitely needed to have a deadline.
I thought back to what I had heard others say about a program that needs to be recognized, so I started doing my research. I found out that NESTA is fairly young but is most definitely a legitimate, nationally (NCCA) accredited organization. AND, their certification is valid for four years- most are only two. To help solidify my decision, I called around to several health club managers and asked about credentials for hiring personal trainers. Every single person gave me the same answer, which was “It doesn’t matter who you get your certification is through- you just need to have one.” Most told me to go with the least expensive option- because a trainer really becomes “strong” after the certification process, when they start working with clients. I also really enjoyed this post from Neil on Janetha’s blog- and when I asked him about getting certified (in the comments), he basically told me the same thing.
NESTA was affordable, legitimate, and the online study program sounded great- so I signed up on August 1st. I spent several hours every day studying the material- and really took my time to learn everything and retain the information. I asked my personal trainer friends a lot of questions. I borrowed books from the library and did a million Google searches to learn more. I really started to understand everything- and it was great.
I loved the format of the online study program, and the teachers were awesome! There was a lot of support whenever I needed it, and I never once doubted my decision to go with NESTA.
And that brings us up to speed. As I mentioned before, I took my exam on Wednesday, October 10th and passed.
What’s next? Who knows. I have about a million ideas running through my head, and need to choose a direction to go in for now. I’ve been training one (awesome) client on a regular basis for over a month now, and absolutely love it- but obviously I need to do more than that. My experience from being a group exercise instructor will most definitely help me to be a confident and effective personal trainer.
It feels so good to finally be able to say “I’m a certified personal trainer.” It took a long time to get here- but it was all worth it, and I can’t wait to see where this takes me.
Have you ever “started over” in a new career? What’s your dream job (and if you’re not doing it- what’s stopping you)?