By Pete Williams
I’ve long been envious of people in the fitness world with a lot of acronyms after their names. I write fitness-related books and articles and when I interview people with certain credentials, I know I’m going to get a wealth of insight and wisdom.
But I’ve always wanted to earn a respected fitness credential to further my knowledge and bring more credibility to my work as a journalist. Not a physical therapy degree or masters in exercise science. Those are rigorous degree programs that take years. Certifications, however, can take as little as six months.
Not that they’re easy to obtain, as I’ve discovered over the last three months studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer by NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine). For those who have graduated with degrees in exercise science, kinesiology, or athletic training, passing a test to become a NASM CPT probably is no more difficult than a law school graduate tackling the bar exam.
For the rest of us, it’s more challenging to get up to speed on exercise science, anatomy, and human movement, to say nothing of learning all of the key concepts behind every aspect of training: balance, speed, core, plyometrics, agility, quickness, resistance, and cardiorespiratory. The study guide for the NASM CPT program is a whopping 623-page book called NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. It comes with a handy, interactive chapter-by-chapter online study guide.
I’ve been relieved to find a lot of the material familiar, having had the honor of writing five Core Performance books with Mark Verstegen and his staff at Athletes’ Performance. Mark, perhaps more than anyone, popularized the idea of core training.
Since starting work on that book nearly 10 years ago, I’ve learned a second language, the same tongue used in the NASM training guide. I know terms like proprioception and reciprocal inhibition. I already could identify the three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, transverse) the importance of active isolated stretching, and how to define three heartrate zones. I know the difference between abductors and adductors, why the transverse abdominis is so important, and why I have to work so hard on eliminating muscle imbalances throughout my kinetic chain because of an ankle I jacked in high school basketball.
Still, I might have been hard pressed three months ago to explain the difference between the gastrocnemius and the soleus or how upper crossed syndrome is different than lower crossed syndrome. I knew my gluteus medius from my gluteus maximus, but might not have been able to point out my biceps femoris and piriformis, even though I must work tight hamstrings and hips constantly.
So my education is a work in progress, taking about an hour a day. Thankfully I have six months to learn the material, obtain an emergency cardiac care (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification, and pass the NASM exam.
Once I do that, I’ll hold one of the industry’s most prestigious certifications and be qualified to pursue a career as a fitness professional. I don’t plan to work as a personal trainer, though it’s nice to know that I could. More importantly, I’ll bring more insight to my work as a professional fitness journalist.
The clock is ticking.