I passed :-)

On Saturday morning I took the last part of my assessment to become a Level 2 gym instructor and I’m very happy to say that I passed.

It’s something I’ve been working on since September, learning through books and online tutorials about anatomy and physiology, then the principles of fitness and planning a programme. I sat a couple of theory exams in November and presented a load of course work at the end of January, so the final element was to take someone into a gym environment and demonstrate a workout and to be assessed on that.

I was incredibly nervous. It felt way out of my comfort zone and I so wanted to do well. For the past couple of weeks people around me have been telling me I’d be fine, I’d breeze it, I’d put the work in, I’d be sure to pass. And that’s really nice to hear, especially from people whose opinions you trust and people who have themselves taken similar fitness qualifications.

But still, I couldn’t be sure. I’m very good at book learning, recalling facts and demonstrating that I understand the principles behind them. But I’m far less comfortable with practical tasks. And with so much of this course being conducted online, with no direct contact with the teachers, I hadn’t had the chance to see what they were expecting.

I knew I knew it, but could I show it? It was a bit like sitting an interview or taking your driving test. There are things you have to demonstrate safely, but also things you have to remember to show you are doing, like observing the client, getting feedback on the level of exercise, making sure they understand.

Luckily my client for the day, Erika was very understanding as we got to the assessment centre very early and sat waiting in the reception area. Nerves were absolutely on edge as I spotted other people going in for assessment and my time came and no one had been over.

But it was fine. They were just a little delayed and I got chance to look around the gym and check out a couple of the machines before the assessment proper.

The gym is just a regular community gym, rather a nice one actually, but we had to work around other people there using the equipment. That meant I didn’t do things in the order I’d planned in my head. But once I got going, I was fine. I got into the swing of demonstrating and instructing, moving around to watch from different positions and pick up on key posture and teaching points.

The time flew and a couple of times the assessor asked us to move onto the next exercise. As we came to the last set of weights, both machines I’d planned to use were busy, so he asked if I could substitute another one. I even managed to cope with that.

And suddenly we were stretching and it was done. A bit of feedback in a side room, a couple of questions for me to answer based on the session and then the good news that I’d passed. The assessor even asked if I’d thought about taking it on to the next level.

The qualification itself would allow me to go and work in a gym and create weight and cardio programmes for clients, show them how to do exercises safely. And now I have the basics, I could top it up with something like a 1 or 2 day course to teach spinning or an exercise class. But ultimately I’d like to go down the personal training route. So that’s something to focus on in future.

For now, it’s been my first step into seeing if I could do it. If I could manage the demands of working full time, studying under my own guidance and still keeping up with my own interests and training. And I have. And I’ve learned a lot along the way.

This is something I wouldn’t even have thought of doing a few years ago, but I have really enjoyed it and it’s tested me. I’ve had loads of support, particularly from Ian who first made me think about doing it, and Simon from the gym at work who gave up his time so I could run through a couple of practice sessions.

Erika was a brilliant test client, putting up with loads of form filling and getting hot and sweaty on a treadmill. She must have been sick of hearing me by the end of the assessment. And my running pal Diane gave me a big confidence boost when we managed to work out together at the gym. Needless to say, Gary has supported me too and seen first hand the frustrations at not getting things right first time, or my nervousness about taking the exams.

So, if you offered to help me out, sent me a good luck message or tweet, a massive thank you.

Back in the exam room

A couple of months ago I began a distance learning course with Absorb Fitness to get a fitness qualification. It’s basically the one I would need to go and work in a gym environment and devise cardio and resistance training for clients.

I’ve really enjoyed settling down to learn something. That’s no doubt helped by my interest in the subject, but it has reminded me that I was in the past, quite academically minded, and I actually do enjoy the process and discipline.

Sometimes it’s been hard to fit in time to study. I’ve mainly slotted it in over a weekend, hitting the books on Saturday and Sunday, or picking up the odd hour at lunchtime. And I went back to old learning tricks, like having prompts and key facts pinned up around my desk at home and at work. I’ve had a few comments about my muscles and skeletal diagrams!

Last weekend was finally the time to put it to the test as I was booked to take two exam papers – Anatomy and Physiology and Principles of Health and Fitness. And I was nervous. I worked out on the drive over to the sports centre where I would sit the test that it’s been 20 years since I last sat an exam.

But there it was, the room with the desks and well separated chairs. The invigilator giving out papers, writing the codes at the top and then the dead quiet as the exam began and we began to mark our answer sheets.

It was multiple choice and there were a few questions that I knew I hadn’t covered in the course materials and a couple where I thought all or none of the answers fit. But I worked my way through and was reasonably confident.

The second paper had a pass mark of 18/25 and as I went back through my answers I counted 8 I wasn’t sure of, so I thought it could be close. But I decided I’d done what I could and handed in my paper.

At least I didn’t have long to wait to get my result as they arrived by text later that evening (how many times did I check my phone on Sunday afternoon?). And I passed.
43/50 for anatomy and physiology
23/25 for principles of health and fitness ( the one I was worried I might fail)

I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve learned so far. It’s put a lot of my own training into context and helped me understand the theory behind it, so now I understand the good habits that I’ve learned. For example, I’d have instinctively done the kind of warm up that I normally do with my PT if I was planning a session for a client, but now I understand the different elements of that warm up and why they’re recommended. 

That’s basically the theory part of the course done and the next part will be a practical assessment where I’ll have to demonstrate how I plan and deliver an appropriate training session using cardio and resistance work with a ‘dummy’ client. I hope to do that early in the New Year and then I’ll be qualified.

The more I do, the more I’m convinced this is something I want to continue. I’ve got loads of satisfaction from volunteering at parkrun and encouraging friends in their fitness goals, so it would be nice to spread that a little wider. And I’m enjoying learning again, filling my brain with stuff, making connections and applying what I know to my own training.