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.

Recovering and reviewing plans

I’m happy to say that after a couple of days of treating my ankle with ice and wearing a compression bandage, the swelling has almost gone and I’ve been able to walk around on it quite easily, although I’ve done my best to keep of it as much as I can.

But managing to get from my car to my desk and from my desk to where I need to be at work without too much of a limp is a long way from the kind of active lifestyle I normally enjoy. So it’s been a bit of a week off from training.

And that’s been hard at times, particularly on Thursday morning when I had to cancel my regular PT session. It’s been part of my life for so long and I so enjoy doing it, that I felt a bit bereft without my usual dose of exercise induced endorphins and encouragement from Ian. I’m afraid I was a bit sulky and low that day.

I am trying to be sensible and not make the mistake of rushing back into my usual activities too quickly and risking compounding an injury that I hope will clear up in a couple of weeks. But it feels like a waste of these splendid autumn days, and so I’m looking at things I can do.

I tried walking on the treadmill at the gym and a short swim on Wednesday night, not really enough effort to raise my heart rate, but I felt the effect enough to know that I shouldn’t push it to do any more.

Even swimming put a bit of a pull on my ankle, so when I went back to the pool on Friday morning, I took my pull buoy with me so I could eliminate my legs and swim mainly with my arms. A pull buoy is just a kind of float. In this case I stuck it sort of between my knees to keep my legs up without the need to kick with them. It’s a good tool to use to help you concentrate on parts of your swim technique, so I used it to focus on my head position in the water.

As I can’t run so much at the moment, it will be good to work on my swimming for the next triathlon season. A very good swimmer on Fetch Everyone has sent me some ideas for exercises I can practise in the pool to improve my stroke.

It may sound strange, but I am missing the hot sweaty buzz that I get from a good cardio session such as a fast paced interval run. Particularly as before I hurt my ankle I was just starting a new programme with a lot of this kind of activity in it. And if I want to keep my fitness up, I need to do something that will get my heart rate up. So I’m going to go back to doing some sessions on the indoor rowing machine and bike. They should also fit in well with next year’s triathlon plans.

Today I volunteered at parkrun and enjoyed meeting up with my friends, shouting encouragement and taking photos of the runners on Newcastle’s Town Moor. It’s such a friendly and social event and today was simply a lovely day to be outdoors.

I also picked up an exercise that I haven’t done since the beginning of the year, trying out a pilates class at my gym. It was a good test of my flexibility and core strength, so I’ll try to make time to continue some of those exercises at home too.

I’ve been making progress with my Level 2 gym qualification too. I’ve now worked my way through all the anatomy and physiology sections and am starting to learn about working with clients. It’s really interesting stuff. Luckily I’ve had such great experience with my PT, Ian from Inspire Fitness that a lot of it seems like second nature or common sense to me and it would just be the way I’d do things. But I want to take my time to take it all in and not take anything for granted.

I need to do a bit of revising, but I hope to take my first assessment in anatomy and physiology in the next few weeks.

All this is helping me keep a positive note on my injury as it’s really not the end of the world and people have far worse to deal with. But when you love what you do, like I do, you miss it when things change. Reading the notes on changing behaviours and setting goals for clients as part of my studying today made me realise I need to do a few of these things myself . And actually changing the way I do things could be good in the long term, as working on my cycling and swimming skills will really help me improve my performance during next year’s triathlon season.