FML. My battle with NASM

So you all know that I’ve been studying for my NASM exam. What you don’t know is that I failed it once. And then guess what? Yesterday, I failed it again. Woo! Winner city over here!

NASMFailMy shiny badge of honor. I needed a 70 to pass

I’ve been really down on myself about it. It’s hard not to feel discouraged after studying for months and failing, and then studying even HARDER only to fail it again. I know confidence is key and you have to believe in yourself, but it’s sort of hard to not feel like a total loser.

After I cried my eyes out on the car ride home and had myself a nice little pity party yesterday afternoon (which included Real Housewives of BH and chocolate chip cookies, not on the GYST Detox) I knew I had to snap out of it. I took a step back and started to think about why I’m doing the NASM and why I can’t seem to get it down. Sidenote- this post is sort of hard for me to write because I’m admitting that, much to my dismay, I am not  perfect at everything. I figure that there are a lot of people out there who may be trying to pass this beast of a test as well so wanted to share my story and struggles. Hopefully I will have a post up soon about me PASSING the f-ing thing. Anyways, here’s what I’ve come up with:

I am a total right brainer. My whole life, I’ve been the artsy chick. Give me some Sharpies and charcoal and I am happier than a pig in shit. Algebra? Science? Equations? Logic? Not so much. Science and math just never made sense to me. I remember vividly in second grade arguing with my teacher about the < and > signs. I kept asking her “well, how do you know which number you’re looking at it from? How do you know I’m not looking at the RIGHT number, and it’s telling the LEFT number that it’s bigger than it?” It took me weeks to figure that concept out. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

I was able to drop math and science classes my senior year and took more art and history classes. When it came to applying to college, I either wanted to go for fitness or for design. Ultimately, I chose design not only because I loved it and was good at it, but because I was scared shitless of having to navigate through biology and anatomy if I got a degree in Exercise Science. I don’t regret my decision to go to art school for a second. I loved all of my classes, was challenged creatively and did really well.

When I made the choice to do fitness full time, several sources advised me to take the NASM because it would give me the most understanding of exercise science, kinesiology and anatomy. So, I figured, what the hell, this won’t be so bad. And then my brain was all like “Hey, Emily. You went to art school and haven’t taken a science class since you were 16. Have fun trying to get me to memorize this shit!! Jokes on you!” (how many time have I said shit in this post?) The bottom line is- it is REALLY HARD for me to wrap my head around this stuff. I have read the entire book, watched all of the videos, made a mega study guide, flashcards, you name it. After I failed for the second time, the test practitioner said “isn’t there a book or something you should have read?”. Thanks, wench. Thanks for that advice.

But, I need to keep stepping back and reminding myself that this is not my forte. This is a huge challenge for me, and I can’t just expect to “get” everything instantly. Just because I can’t pass, doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. I just have different strengths. No, NASM, I can’t tell you off the top of my head where my sternocleidomastoid muscle is, but I CAN tell you at one quick glance that the font on the front of your textbook is Gotham Medium. And while your musculature drawings are really intricate and sexy, I can tell you that you should have invested some more time and money in choosing your stock photography (ok, now I’m just bitter).

To finish up this brutally honest post, I’m not even sure if NASM is the right certification for me. I’m never going to think in terms of how they want trainers to think- it’s all very mathematical, which is not me. I’m human. When you’re doing squats, I will say “put the weight in that booty” not “Please, eccentrically decelerate your gluteus maximus down to the ground”. I will say “pick it up, pick it up, little harder, come on!” not “Ah, I see at this point, according to my calculations, you should be working at 85% of your max heart rate. Kindly, pick up your pace”.

At this point, I really just want to pass it because it’s pissing me off that I CAN’T pass it. I don’t like to be told “I can’t”. And also because I’m just pooping paychecks over to NASM. Seriously. But I’m going to give it one more shot. 3rd time is the charm..? And if I don’t pass it, I’m going to look into other certifications that are more up my alley and realistic. I shouldn’t stress about it- I already have a full time training job and am certified in the model in which I am training, but it’s just like GAH. This is a challenge. And I want to be able to say that I DID it, so I can show the left side of my brain some love. Even though it’s a betch.

Any NASM winners or losers out there? Would love to hear your experiences with the beast!

-Emily

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11 thoughts on “FML. My battle with NASM

  1. Aw, I’m so sorry to hear that! It is definitely true that people’s brains are different and that can be really difficult when you go into an industry that is more creative and more about perception than reciting graphs in books. Too bad that energetic, creative and expressive people are drawn to the fitness world but have to go through learning and testing that is anything but creative and perception based!

    I’m sorry you’re struggling!

    Good for you to keep trying!

  2. Can I offer some advice? You may have tried this method but if you’re good at art, why not try studying anatomy through drawing the body parts? Use an array or colors for it, especially with overlapping muscles and things? Or design your own free-standing body out of house hold things. Use what you’re REALLY good at to study what you’re REALLY passionate about 🙂

  3. They have coloring books of muscles and stuff. I know it’s a lot harder than just the muscles… OR pbfingers.com passed the NASM and had some study tips on there on one post.

  4. Sorry to hear about your frustrations with the exam!! That just plain stinks. 😦 I learn differently from the standard school way and a lot of times find that sometimes I just need things to sit in my brain for a while before they start really making sense. (Which is why I think that sometimes you need multiple tries at an exam. Definitely exhausting, frustrating, and annoying, but sometimes the truth.) I’m also one of those people that learns by doing, which is not a “conventional” way to learn or study. The advice above sounds pretty good. I’ve definitely gone and made models of things, drawn things out, and colored to study for stuff that I’m not naturally inclined to learn. I usually put stuff up on the wall so I can read it or glance at it when I walk by and sometimes even that sort of not hard studying “studying” helps get things into my brain.

    You’re pretty close to the passing mark, so I think that you’ll be able to pass once you figure out the best way to get the info into your brain. Good luck! Keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you.

  5. Sorry to hear about your experience with NASM. I took the exam in December and know what a freaken bitch that thing is, especially compared to the practice exam. I’m also a “right brained” person– recently graduated college with a BFA in theater and hadn’t taken a real science since sophomore year of high school.

    I highly recommend taking the practice test over, and over, and over again. It will give you different answers and ensure that if you see any of those questions on the real thing you will know them so well. There’s a few apps as well which are great to help you get used to the language and style of questions NASM uses.

    As far as learning the overhead model it is (sadly) crucial to passing the exam. I made up silly little mnemonic devices as a way to remember all the different aspects. Every day when I would sit down to study I would write down my silly mnemonic devices before I even cracked open the book.

    As far as anatomy goes google search all the movements. It sounds silly but once you can visualize what “elevate this, extend that” actually is, it makes memorizing the functions of all those muscles so much easier. I spent many hours in the library looking like a doofus acting out all the different muscle actions.

    When in doubt, make a song about it. I don’t remember a lot of specifics and probably couldn’t pass the test again, but I do still remember the essential amino acids because I made up a ridiculous song to memorize them…

    best of luck! this test is tricky and sadly only a reflection of what you can memorize, not whether or not you’ll be a great fitness professional. anyone can memorize some science-y facts, but not everyone can make a connection with people and motivate them.

  6. Sorry to hear about your experience with NASM. I took the exam in December and know what a freaken bitch that thing is, especially compared to the practice exam. I’m also a “right brained” person– recently graduated college with a BFA in theater and hadn’t taken a real science since sophomore year of high school.

    I highly recommend taking the practice test over, and over, and over again. It will give you different answers and ensure that if you see any of those questions on the real thing you will know them so well. There’s a few apps as well which are great to help you get used to the language and style of questions NASM uses.

    As far as learning the overhead model it is (sadly) crucial to passing the exam. I made up silly little mnemonic devices as a way to remember all the different aspects. Every day when I would sit down to study I would write down my silly mnemonic devices before I even cracked open the book.

    As far as anatomy goes google search all the movements. It sounds silly but once you can visualize what “elevate this, extend that” actually is, it makes memorizing the functions of all those muscles so much easier. I spent many hours in the library looking like a doofus acting out all the different muscle actions.

    When in doubt, make a song about it. I don’t remember a lot of specifics and probably couldn’t pass the test again, but I do still remember the essential amino acids because I made up a ridiculous song to memorize them…

    best of luck! this test is tricky and sadly only a reflection of what you can memorize, not whether or not you’ll be a great fitness professional. anyone can memorize some science-y facts, but not everyone can make a connection with people and motivate them.

  7. I have had to take a lot of standardized tests for my career, feel your pain. A few things:

    1) don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to take your ego out of it: it’s not a beast, you’re not the mayor loser city. At most, the test is a quality control measure. More likely it’s a racket. People fail these tests all the time, you’re not alone.
    2) do practice tests, practice tests, practice tests. When u get a question wrong go over the answer till u understand why u got it wrong. Go over the answers of the questions you get right. Do practice tests. If NASM offers testing materials buy them (racket!). If there’s a review book (with practice tests) buy it. Consider kaplan if they offer a review course. The course will prob be worthless but they’ll have, yup, practice tests.Can’t overstate the practice test thing enough. Really.
    3) set a study/ practice testschedule and stick to it.
    4) simulate the testing conditions as much as you can in the final weeks of studying. If its a 3 hr test make sure you’ve done a three hour practice test about 2 weeks before (any later than that you’ll get all angsty).

    Best of luck, I know you will pass it!

  8. Sorry to hear that! I’m taking the ACE test for the first time on May 22nd and I’ve gotta say; I’m TERRIFIED.

    I’m glad you’re back in the blogging world. I took some time off myself, and it occurred to me that there are very few bloggers I follow that are actually similar to me, and with you gone, I had almost no one! Haha.

    Keep your head up and I’m sure it’ll work itself out 🙂

  9. Miss you ladies… your blog was an inspiration through my early Paleo days. Recently started crossfit 🙂 Loving it, but again on the hunt of some crossfit relevant blogs to enjoy so I thought I’d pop in again to see if I’d missed anything… Hope you are both doing well 🙂

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