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It has been 3 months since my first day starting on my fitness journey and while I am not yet at my ideal weight/body fat percentage, I am ready to set a new goal for myself to hit so that I stay on course even after reaching my first short term goal. I have developed a strong interest in learning about health and fitness, and at the encouragement of some friends, I have decided that I would like to formalize my study by getting certified as a personal trainer.
Yes, plenty of people are fit and healthy without becoming a personal trainer and this will require some committment on my already busy schedule but I think that this will be fun and make me more capable in instilling fitness into the life of my children and to helping other moms like me. When I think back to how I used to be, how I would have benefited from knowing what I know now and applying them earlier, this just makes so much sense to me. As someone who has had injury which prevented me from working out for a long time, I like the idea of learning how to exercise as well. Since I am not yet back into the corporate world, I feel like I might as well take advantage of the place where I am at in life to get this done.
The first thing in looking at getting certified is to look at certification institutions… and there are many. I needed to narrow down the number of certification institutions to evaluate so I did this by asking around. I asked people who worked at gyms, or are in the fitness business. I also looked at articles (like this one written by Tom Venuto, and this very large comparison table of CPT schools) and forums on the internet for information. I was able to quickly narrow down to the following certification institutions:
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) — This is supposed to be a very well-respected “gold standard” certification organization. The cost of the exam and study materials are not too bad, but the test is more rigorous and requires more live workshops or webinars, which is not as compatible with my lifestyle. The general consensus of ACSM is that it is the “more clinical” certification as it is gear toward the medical setting.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) — NSCA certifications are very highly respected, though the total cost of exam and study materials is on the high end of the spectrum.
American Council on Exercise(ACE) — ACE is one of the more popular organizations out there and many of the people I have come to admire in that are in the fitness industry are certified with ACE. The cost of the exam and study materials are pretty reasonable and the exam voucher expires within one year of purchasing the course package, which should give someone like me plenty of time to complete the studying portion. There were some criticisms of ACE course materials before 2009 as being a bit out of step with current information and then there was also some talk about how their updated information (Integrated Fitness Training) copies NASM’s model. From what I have seen, they are pretty good with social media and blogs, though they do not have any mobile apps as of like NASM does yet.
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) — NASM seems to be the popular choice for gyms and according to the NASM their certified personal trainers have the highest starting salaries. I was pretty impressed by their website and learning management system, and I found it was much easier to get a sense of their courses through the samples that they offer compared to the sites for other institutions. They also had iPhone apps (plural) that helps you to study for the exam, which I find very impressive as well as compelling considering my lifestyle (I do live by my iPhone!). However, the cost is on the higher side, especially when there is no promotion or sale going on (the cost of the certification exam itself is $599, which was the cost of the most expensive bundle offered by ACE). Their most expensive course bundle costs $999 (on sale at $799) and offers an impressive selection of learning tools. According to the conversations on the forums, NASM seems to be more focused on strength conditioning and a popular choice for athletes. The exam voucher expires after 180 days (approx. 6 months) after purchasing the course. One of the bundles actually has a 90-day employment guarantee, which is pretty impressive.
International Sports Science Association (ISSA) — I briefly considered ISSA based on what good things I have heard but because of the research I did on the net I decided against pursuing certification with ISSA based on the direction where I wanted to go. ISSA is not accredited by National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) so it would be difficult for me to get more CEUs. The ISSA courses are updated often and very comprehensive, plus certification is completely home based AND online, which is a nice fit with my mommy lifestyle, but it is not as well accepted as some other certifications so I did not look at this deeper than the initial phone and email contact with one of their reps for basic info.
I ended up grappling with deciding between ACE, NASM, and ACSM for about 10 days. I even put together my own comparison chart of the big 4 NCAA-accredited organizations before deciding on going with ACE. ACE is a good certification for beginners, and it also has the Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach certification that I want to work toward. Since it is not uncommon for people to get multiple certifications once they start working in a gym (which I am not quite sure that I am interested in doing), if I decide I want to get other certifications, other options are always open to me.
My next step is to start studying and take a Red Cross CPR/AED certification course! I am so excited!