Taking Chances Pt. 2: I Think That I Am Upside-Down

What goes on in your mind?
I think that I’m falling down.
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am upside down.
Baby, be good, do what you should, you know it will work alright.

The Velvet Underground “What Goes On” from The Velvet Underground (1969, Universal Records)

Lou Reed is in my ears early on this Sunday morning. It’s a bit cold out but my vantage point from the home office window, staring through the steam from my coffee, is lovely. It’s someting I’ve been missing. Just sitting in here with a plain text doc open, typing away about my strange life. It feels good.

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It’s been almost a full month to the day since I’ve updated the blog. I went through a bit of a rough patch personally and had some first-of-the-year catching up to do, but for the most part I only neglected this space because I’ve been in full-on study mode. Back in August I announced that I was starting my journey toward becoming a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer and I’ve spent the biggest part of the last five months neck deep in terms and concepts, rules and programming, muscles and rapport-building skills.

I wanted to ride this thing out until the bitter end and take as much time to study as I could. My test voucher was valid until January 31, so I set my test date as the last possible date before then — January 28. In the meantime, I got my CPR/AED certification, and went deeper into studying than I’ve been in nearly a decade. I took the 100-question practice exam, printed it off so I could make notes on what I got wrong and started studying it. I later found a 28-page study guide from NASM so I went through it as well, furiously making notes. Later, I’d find an exam blueprint describing what percentage of what material I could expect on the test, and turned it into a third study guide, full of notes. I’ve spent the last six weeks filling my lunch break with hour or more study periods at the office. I went back through all 16 chapters worth of lectures, practice quizzes and interactivity studies, making more notes and what could possibly be considered a fourth study guide.

In case it isn’t apparent yet, I was a nervous wreck and was doing all I could to over-prepare myself. While this certification isn’t as expensive as going back to school for a second undergrad or Masters, it still wasn’t cheap and the fear of failing this test was crushing me. So much information, a lot of which was way over my head and unlike anything else I’d ever had to learn before.

On Friday I read through everything one last time — every study guide I had. I was at the point where I figured if I didn’t know it by then, I wasn’t going to know it, so I just closed everything and got some rest.

When I got to the testing center on Saturday morning, the nerves came back to me. This was it. Moment of truth. Had I wasted the last five months of my time? When I sat down at the desk to take the test I looked at question one and decided that yes, indeed, I had wasted the last half year.

No kidding. I had to “mark” the very first question to come back to. I was not off to a great start. As I progressed through the 120 question test, the same thought popped into my head every few seconds…

Shit. This is not what I was expecting.

If you’re looking to certify with NASM and, like me, you’ve Googled other people’s experiences, you’ll have heard what I’m about to say a few times:

You can know the definitions of altered reciprocal inhibition, synergistic dominance and upper-crossed syndrome. You can be able to point to your humerus, identify the pectoralis major and foam roll your tensor fasciae latae. But that isn’t going to help you, really.

No, you’ll need to know why altered reciprocal inhibition happens, what muscles are affected based on the altered functionality in different parts of the body, and why, exactly, the knees may turn in during the overhead squat assessment. Terms and definitions are great, but if you don’t know the how or the why, you will likely not pass this test. This test is hard.

I fully believe that the notes, study guides, lectures, games and practice tests provided by NASM do not adequately prepare you for the exam. Not unless you pay for the most expensive program that comes with a “pass guarantee.” I did not.

I spent an hour in the testing center wondering how I was going to explain to Erin that I had wasted our money and half a year studying so hard for something I was going to fail miserably at, wondering why I had even thought I was cut out for such a profession, thinking about what I was going to say to my Title Boxing Club members that are eager for me to get my certification, how I’d get around the embarrassment of breaking the news to my friends and family that have been cheering me on.

I finished the questions, sighed in relief and hit the “end” button before getting my bag and leaving the room. I’d have to stare at the testing center employee while she looked up my results. She was an extremely heavyset middle-aged woman. She’d walk across the room like she was in a world of pain and then plop back down in her chair, giving those of us in attendance to take tests for various certifications a stern warning of the consequences of cheating or eating in the testing center in a tone like we were first graders. She was a very no-nonsense lady and was not only unafraid of kicking us out of the testing center but seemed to be looking forward to the opportunity.

I looked at her screen as she pulled up my test results and as I peered over her enormous shoulder I could see in tiny letters:

EXAMINATION RESULTS: PASS.

I didn’t want to make a scene, lest I disrupt the other test takers, thereby forfeiting my test results, but I definitely clapped my hands together, spun in a circle and felt the stress leave my body as a demon had been exercised. Even the crabby lady was forced to smile and even celebrated with me for a moment. In two days I had hit my goal weight, graduated from training at work, got my PT certification and made Mrs. Puff smile and be happy.

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I am a Certified Personal Trainer. Me. JTF. Expect a future post about why. Until then, someone tell Adrian I did it.

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