Becoming a certified personal trainer: my experience so far

As most of you know, I'm on my way to becoming a certified personal trainer and I am so excited about it! This has been something I've wanted to do for over a year now and I can't believe how close I am to achieving this goal.

Over the last several months, I've spent hours reading the material from my book and putting it into practice at the gym under the direction of a master trainer. I have honestly loved every minute of it and can't believe how much I've learned. 

In this post, I'm sharing a bit more of my journey, including info on the program I chose to do and what I've learned so far. Many of you have asked about it and if you're even slightly thinking about getting certified, this will give you a good feel for what it's like. 

If you didn't read my first post on why I chose to become certified, give that a read first so you can understand what I'm talking about.

When I decided to become certified, I knew that I wanted to take a class that would be flexible, yet give me plenty of time in the gym so that I could learn from experienced trainers. I didn't have to take a class to become certified, but I honestly didn't feel comfortable training others if I didn't have hands-on experience as part of my education. 

Considering I work full-time, I was worried about finding a program that would fit into my busy schedule. After doing some research, I quickly found Life Time Academy, which offered a Premier class that offered everything I was looking for. It was a 16-week program that was both online and in-person. 

The online class had a portal that contained all of my assignments, handouts, and allowed me to message my instructors and fellow classmates. Each week there was a one-hour online lecture that was taught by a personal trainer. She would present a powerpoint and go over the key topics from our reading assignments that week. At the end, she would always leave time to answer any questions we had. 

For the most part, the online portion was self-paced. I was expected to do the reading before the lecture and then had to answer a forum question in the portal about a topic covered in the lecture. I really enjoyed this because it made it easy to study and do the assignment on my own time, without having to worry about fitting it into my work schedule. 

My favorite part of the program, however, were the in-person lab days. We had 4 lab days throughout the 16 weeks that occurred about once a month on Saturdays. On those days, I went to my local Life Time gym along with the other Denver-based students in my program to put everything into practice. 

Throughout my next few blog posts, I'll be talking about what I did in each lab. Here's an overview of the very first one: 

After about 3 weeks of the program, I finally had my first lab day. I was so excited to get started, but I was also so nervous. My lab instructor Alex, a master trainer at Life Time, had sent us all an email a few days before telling us that we would start the day with a quiz. 

Great.

Of course, I hadn't completed all the reading, so I stayed up late the night before to finish and cram, not wanting to fail my first real assignment. 

When I arrived at the gym the next day, I met the other 3 students, who all happened to be women. They were all friendly and so passionate about fitness, just like me. 

Our instructor, Alex, was full of energy and I could tell he really loved teaching others about health and fitness. He was so knowledgeable and had a strong background in the industry. Of course, we didn't end up actually having a quiz, which made me sigh of relief. 

The focus for this lab was on learning how to assess new clients and determine their current level of fitness. At first, we reviewed the material from the book, and then we started assessing each other, as if we were actual trainers and clients. 

To start, we evaluated each other's posture and moving patterns. This is important because it helps a trainer learn if the client has any muscle imbalances that need to be corrected. Muscle imbalances occur when opposite muscles have an unequal relationship, meaning that one is too tight and the other is too weak. Muscle imbalances cause you to have bad form when moving or exercising, which can lead to injury. 

One of the main assessments a trainer can do to check for muscle imbalances is to have the client do an overhead squat, which is a squat while keeping their hands straight above their head. As a trainer, you have to watch the client perform the squat and mark down any areas where the form is incorrect. 

If a client's knees go in when they squat or if their feet turn out, those are just two signs that she might have some muscle imbalances. Interestingly enough, most people have some sort of muscle imbalance, but they can easily be corrected with a corrective exercise program. 

We each had to practice assessing each other, which helped me better understand the concept and made everything "click." I quickly learned that it's hard to learn about some of these topics just by reading out of a textbook. Having the chance to practice them on a real client made al the difference. 

Next, we learned how to calculate body fat percentages by measuring each other using calipers. if you don't know what that is, it's basically a tool (similar to a protractor in a way) that you use to measure the folds of fat in various places of your body. Having to pinch a stranger's body fat was definitely an interesting way to get to know someone, but it was cool to learn how to do that. 

We recorded our body fat percentages so we could test them again in several weeks to see how our percentage would change after several weeks of workouts. 

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After that fun exercise, we practiced 2 cardio assessments: the YMCA 3-minute step test and the Rockport walk test. These are two tests that you could have a new client perform so you can determine their level of cardiovascular fitness. 

Half of us did one test and the other half did the other. I volunteered to perform the Rockport Walk Test, which meant I had to walk a mile as fast as I could on a treadmill. Hello shin splints...

Before walking, my classmate measured my heart rate and then again immediately after finishing the walk. She then put those measurements into a formula to determine my oxygen consumption score. 

Overall, it was a great day learning about how to initially assess clients. All of these assessments help trainers have a better understanding of where clients start and give data that can be measured again overtime to see if clients improve. 

The day was long, but it made me feel 100% assured that I made the right decision to become certified. I'll be sharing the rest of my journey soon in upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned. 

If you're thinking about becoming certified or want to learn more about the LifeTime program, feel free to ask me about it!