What You Need to Know About Getting NASM CPT Certified

I am officially as Certified Personal Trainer! Starting with registering back in November, I've been navigating my way through human sciences, nutrition, and program design. If feels great to say I've accomplished this milestone! Are you also thinking of taking a route towards personal training? Here are some tips to help you know where to begin and how to prepare for the test properly:


What Do I Need to Begin?

You need a passion for sport sciences and a passion to apply your knowledge to help others. Mine came from years of being trained by others as a professional athlete. I learned so much through being trained, but realized when I wanted to explain what I learned to others, I didn't always have the answers. I personally don't plan on working at a gym, but this could aways change. My motivation was to provide more material for my awesome readers and subscribers of LuchaFIT, and to work one on one with people trying to reach their goals. Your end goal doesn't have to be working in a gym, your motivation for personal training can lead you to many opportunities. 


How Much Background in Sports Science is Needed?

The more you have, the better! My background boasts solely of what I have learned being a professional athlete, because my undergraduate degree is in business. Just realize that you may need to focus on science concepts a little longer while you are studying for your certification. It is not a deal breaker in any way if you lack any formal studying or training in human and sports science.


Which Package Should I Buy?

ALWAYS look for their 20% off packages. NASM is consistently running deals. Take advantage of paying in installments, they are interest free and helpful on your wallet. 

Asses where you are in your life and how much time you will be able to devote to studying. They currently offer 4 different packages, all with varying prices based on the materials you will be provided. I went with the most basic package, but I also knew I would have the time available to spend studying. Knowing that there is a lot of material to retain and knowing how well you study entirely on your own (this was my first "online" class), it can be beneficial to take advantage of a package with more resources. While you are in the thick of studying, you will never regret having more resources. It can be a long an arduous studying process, so if you think you will need it, spend the extra money. 


What Outside Resources Helped You?

Besides going through every video, activity, quiz, study guide, and test provided by NASM through their online portal, I spend time on as many free quiz websites and resources as I could find. Here's two that were my favorite:

FitnessMentors.com is a great website with a lot of options available to you. They have a free quiz, a free study guide, and some tough NASM test questions and answers that could be a part of your test. They also have tests you can pay for if you went with the most basic NASM package and find yourself needing more study materials.

The other favorite online resource was Quizlet.com. They have online flashcards of many of the chapter terms made by others, and you can make your own flashcards to study from. My favorite was the flashcards of over and under-active muscles. This was a harder area to memorize and I really benefited from finding it on Quizlet.

Besides the resources mentioned, there is a large thread of people discussing their NASM CPT testing experiences on bodybuilding.com, as well as others who have made study guides or areas to study. I had found a lot of these discussions when I first began researching, which were helpful, but later became overwhelming. There are so many opinions and thoughts about the test; whether its the hardest test they've ever taken, the easiest test they've ever taken, or about the million different areas you have to focus on. Reality is, if you have committed to taking this test, arm yourself with resources and dive in. You know what you are capable of, and only you can actually put in the work to retain the information. 




What Would You Change if You Had to do it Again?

One simple study tactic I would have done to save myself time would have been to begin writing out my flashcards while I read through the book. Flashcards are so important, don't neglect doing them! You need to know the terms throughout the book. 

Print out the study guide from NASM as soon as you are done reading. I did not get this resource until my last 2 months of studying, but I would have used it right away to help guide my study practices. 

Get through the NASM online chapter resources right away, there is no reason to have to cram that in at the end. They are helpful and get you step by step towards the mid-term and practice tests provided. I didn't realize the 50-100 question tests were hidden amongst the resources. I spent too long thinking the activities and quizzes were silly and time consuming until I realized how nicely it built into the tests. 


Just a Few of the Important Focus Areas to Spend Time On:

Terms, terms, terms! 

Over and under-active muscles, the recommended exercises and stretches that focus on these areas

Know the reps, sets, rest, tempo, 1 Rep Max %, and types of stretching recommended for all the levels of the OPT model: i.e acute variables

Know and understand the nervous, muscular, skeletal, endocrine, cardiorespiratory, and digestive systems

Know the calories in 1 gram of carbs, protein, and fat, as well as the daily caloric recommendations

Have your planes of motion down (sagittal, frontal, transverse) , and how they are applied to exercises

aerobic and anaerobic metabolism (ATP-PC, Glycolysis, Oxidative)

Understanding exercises and which level of the OPT model they belong to 

Subjective vs. objective information for assessments

Heart rate zones, when to use them, and the 

How to progress and regress exercises 

Hydration and dehydration concepts

Know your muscles, I used this book: https://www.amazon.com/Human-Body-Coloring-Book/dp/0756682347/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498584222&sr=1-1&keywords=the+human+body+coloring+book

Retake the quizzes, midterm, and tests from NASM. You will never regret it because its easy to think you understand a question after you see what the right answer is. Make sure you know this information! 

So many have said this and I will say the same thing, it's not about memorization, its about retaining and understanding how to apply what you are learning. If you don't understand a concept, make sure you do the research so you do. Having done the work to have a well rounded understanding of concepts helped me on the test when it asked something I felt I didn't know the exact answer. 


Best of luck!



High Level Training Myths

No matter what level you are on currently, reaching your next level or goal comes from introspection and learning how and where you can make improvements. However, as you start exploring where you can make changes as an athlete, it is important to not fall into the trap of what you expect the end results to be, or how you should look getting there. Here are my top 5 training myths for reaching a higher level. 

Hard work will always result in the better athlete

When it comes to winning or doing well in a competition, we are convinced that as long as we work hard, we will be guaranteeing ourselves a win. Especially at a higher level of competition, many factors that we cannot control will come into play. These factors create an environment where resiliency and mental strength will serve you well. Hard work does not not lead to immediate success, and it is so easy to fall into the trap that our hard work will prevent any of the outliers. No coach or sport performance specialist can guarantee that the hardest worker in the room is the one guaranteed success. It is important to focus on the things you can control, and then enjoy the journey. High level competition is a game a patience, consistency and dedication in your training, mental strength, goal setting, growing your confidence, asking for advice, and being a great teammate. 

Athletes are made up of multiple characteristics, often stronger in some areas than others. This means that at any given time we can have areas to improve upon, and blindly working hard will not help complete the whole athlete. The importance of finding and working on weaknesses help bridge the gap where you may be lacking, and others succeeding. Our hard work must come in the form of playful curiosity.  It is not about beating ourselves up because we are not strong in an area, but becoming inquisitive about how we can improve in our own way. 

The perfect eater always looks like a body builder

As we start honing in where we can make gains and improvements as an athlete eager to reach a higher level, nutrition starts becoming more and more important. You start to learn about how our bodies are awesome machines that react when we fuel it, and you start to learn what are the best ways achieve that. You implement those nutritional changes, and then start thinking, "am I doing this right? I feel different, but I don't look like a lean, mean, fighting machine like I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to look like. What I am I doing wrong?" Absolutely nothing. We all have this thing called genes, and for the most part, our genes control our body type. So that means that just because you adjust your nutrition, you are not guaranteed to lean out and look like a body builder. Many factors come into play, like the amount of estrogen and testosterone you have, which will contribute to the ease and ability to quickly create large, lean muscles. This is NOT saying that you cannot have the goal of looking more lean. It means that approaching that goal will look different for every person.

That is also not to say that because you don't look like a body builder, that you should just forget your nutritional changes. No way! If it is giving you more energy for your workouts and for your day to day life, then it shouldn't matter the way you look. Also, if you notice athlete body types on a high level, they typically don't look huge like body builders. Unless repetition in their sport causes big shoulders or legs, most high level athletes must work on quick reactions, speed, agility, strength, power, and stamina. This multitude of necessary characteristics makes it so the biggest athlete in the room isn't always the most successful. 

One of the best portrayals of this is the image below, featuring the body types of Olympic athletes by photographer Howard Schatz.

A muscular and athletic looking body means a great athlete 

Similar to the last topic, once again, the look and physique of an athlete guarantees nothing. For athletes at all levels, there are many key factors that go into creating a well rounded athlete. It would be false to think that if one of these key ingredients is most pronounced, that it guarantees success. I'm talking about all those awesomely muscular athletes out there! Having a naturally muscle-building physique doesn't always mean that they have been able to hone in the other key ingredients. We all have areas to continually work on, and so do that muscle-prone athletes. I have been witness to many athletes who look less "athletic" by body-type, but have strategy, mental toughness, and agility unlike the others. How many times have we been intimidated by the strong looking athlete we may have to compete against? Setting up our mentality with fear because they look stronger than us? I have seen so many amazing young athletes intimidated by the strong looking athlete, only to realize that they too bring advantages to the table. They just can't be seen by the naked eye. 

Monkey see, monkey do: Do exactly as I did and you will become a champion 

Quite a few years ago, I attended a talking engagement done by many Olympians across many different sports. One of the Olympians responded to a question about his process on his road to success. He said he was confused that more athletes didn't ask him EXACTLY what he did to create success, and then copy that word for word. He said, "Ask the best in your sport, and do exactly what they did."

Of course I have taken advantage of every chance I have had to speak with experts in my field about what they did, how they felt, how they approached road blocks. Now, here's my problem with this advice: The problem is that no two people are alike. There have been hundreds of books written on the Olympic process, and what it takes to become great. If it was as simple as following some else's recipe, we would be creating clone athletes left and right. Sports are above and beyond some sort of written formula. Your personality, ability to adjust and learn, and your resilience will play so many roles in forming your progression. What he should have really spoken about, was to ask, ask, ask. This is a lesson of asking and gaining knowledge, not copying a formula. By thinking that someone else's plan will guarantee you success, is truly a set up for failure. Nothing guarantees you 100% success. It is through gaining knowledge for others, creating a plan, and learning to adjust where you will give yourself the best chance to be successful. 

Today is your day and you deserve to win 

I understand completely the desire a coach has to instill great faith and determination in an athlete. They create an environment of trust and confidence that cannot be matched. However, I believe that as a coach, it is important to be well versed in sports psychology, as well as careful about your word choice. 

I had a coach who desperately wanted to see the greatness in myself that day. I understood that, but I also didn't have the close relationship it needed to blossom under tense circumstances. They wanted to give me something inspirational that they knew I would know to be true, and that advice was "You deserve to win today." 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with encouragement for an athlete to believe in yourself. However, rooting yourself to the belief that you will win because you deserve it, does not help you root yourself to your actual values of why you compete in the first place. Believing you deserve something does not guarantee that you will receive it. This is why it is so important for an athlete to create a system of values that give way to a need of being accepted, deserving, or loved only after they win or are successful. 

This took me many years to learn, and it is still an every day practice. I used to root myself in this deep, harbored need to prove to everyone that because I worked the hardest in the room, they would all see that I deserved to win, and then I would! If I'm going to be honest here, it was such a bitter feeling to have, and it never allowed be to compete freely. If I won, it was like proving to others about my hard work. If I lost, I was bitter and upset because I knew I deserved it. It was like being on a hamster wheel, and I couldn't get off because I clung so hard to pushing that wheel faster so no one could deny that I didn't deserve it. 

Once I learned that my values for competing where actually rooted in my family, independence, and my love for challenge, it didn't matter who was most deserving. It became about the embracing moment of competition, and being the best possible version of myself in that match. 


Your Guide to Warming-Up and Cooling-Down

Check out the video above to see National Team, World Team, and Olympic Team members doing their warm-ups and cool-downs! 

The warm up before competition is important and critical to have before you compete. As you go through the normal routine that is typically repeated from practice, we tend to forget that it doen't end there. For those athletes who have multiple rounds, or have to wait long periods of time after their warm up before their competition begins, it becomes even more crucial to make sure we are paying attention to our bodies, and what it needs in order to compete.

The Re-Warm Up

The re-warm up can come in different forms for different athletes and at all varying levels of sport. I always say simple is best. There have been studies that show that an athlete is better able to compete and react best when their heart rate is already a bit elevated before they begin. And that means more than just the intense beat of your heart from nerves. 

This can be achieved in the re-warm up with short twitch, dynamic movements in-between walking, pacing, or sitting. If you watch in the video, the ladies are in tune with their heart rate and how they want to feel before they walk out on the mat. They watch the competition happening in front of them, and give their bodies a moment to shake out or include dynamic movements. That helps remind your mind and body that it will be ready to perform extremely athletic feats.

The re-warm up that comes later in the day after you have already competed may need to contain a few more short bursts of movement that you did earlier in the morning. Your mind and body fatiguing as the competition day moves forward is going to be a factor of being a competitor, and everyone is in the same boat. It is much more important to be aware of the fatigue, rather than shy away or pretend it doesn't exist. In the video, you can see the ladies using the space available to add in short sprinting bursts. They always include walking in-between, because these sprints are not to improve our conditioning like it would in practice. This technique is used to wake up the body and mind, and get the blood coursing through the whole body. 

The Cool-Down

Your cool down after a match, event, or game is extremely important. Even if you don't have a series of competitions like other sports may have, it is still crucial. Not only is it a moment to bring your mind to a focused state, but it also critical for the functionality of your body to help bring your heart rate down after such an extreme adrenaline high. 

The cool down should contain similar movement and motions to your warm up, especially the parts of your warm up that allow you to become warm before you do dynamic work. It should include a lot of skipping, light jogging, arm circles, even tumbling if appropriate. 

Cooling down is often overlooked because it doesn't seem like the cool thing to do. It is hard to be the one athlete who is doing something that looks different from your teammates or from other athletes. But in reality, by ignoring the importance of a cool down, you are actually doing a disservice to your body and the longevity it will have in sport. Get in tune with your mind and body, this is also important as we have so many emotions and thoughts running through our heads during a competition. Can you take a moment without talking to coaches, parents, teammates and get in tune with what's going on inside? There are emotions and thoughts we are going to want to ignore, or have someone else tell us something that will make it go away. Sometimes, sitting with your own demons is the only way to move forward so you can refocus. Give yourself that time during your cool down to refocus your thoughts so you are ready for what comes next. 

The Competition Day Breakdown:

Follow coach, team, or personal guidelines for your pre-competition warm up. In the video, I show a very small snippet of some of the dynamic warm ups available in wrestling, as well as the importance of prepping your body with something like a foam roller. If you ever want to see a full morning warm-up and what it looks like for a wrestler, let me know in the comments! 

Typically, right after your first warm-up, many athletes will have the opportunity to rehydrate and get in some nutrition. If you want an idea of snacks to bring to your competition, check out that blog here.  

If you have a longer break in competition from your initial warm-up, it will be crucial to get in a quick re-warm up. This will never be as in-depth as your initial warm-up, unless you have many, many hours in between competitions. Typically, dynamic movements along with walking in-between will help raise your heart rate so you are ready to compete. 

As soon as you are done with your match, game, or first part of a competition, move directly into a cool down.

If you are preparing to compete again and your cool down is complete, rehydrate and get in nutrition. Sure, this may seem redundant, but this is actually called consistency. It's like providing your mind and body with a safe space, it always knows the next steps and what it needs to do. Eliminating the extra distractions and having a rhythm or routine for your competition day gets more important the more consistent you are working on becoming. 

If you are someone who uses a re-warm up and cool down, kudos! Leave me a comment about how your competition day looks! 



No Excuses Workout | HIIT Workout #3

Working out while injured

It can get very easy during an injury to focus on what you can't do and end up blinding yourself to what you can do. Being realistic in your fitness and workout goals post surgery or when you are completely off limits to an injured area is very important.

Your workouts will not look the same as they did before. Your pace and tempo should be slow and controlled. They are typically not meant to increase or improve your cardio. That has a time and a place when the injury is healed enough to handle a high intensity load. 

Being okay with the concept that these workouts will look different, will really be a life saver for yourself mentally. This is the time to tap into another kind of toughness. And this is being tough on the necessity of consistency. Creating a routine of workouts that keep you on track as you heal and build strength back to sport will the fundamental building blocks to prevent re-injury. 

Here's what you'll do:


Warm-Up (I chose a 10 minute bike ride)

For this workout, you will perform 6 different exercises. 

Set your timer for: 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest, 12 rounds
2 rounds of each exercise:

  1. Alternating Reverse Lunge
  2. Side plank
  3. Single Leg RDL (Romanian Dead Lift) Reach with Toe Kick
  4. Knees Wide Single Arm Push-Ups
  5. Pistol Squat with Chair Touch
  6. Leg Raises

GymBoss Interval Timer

Bottoms: Lululemon Run Inspire Crops
Top: Lululemon Tank
Shoes: Nike



Snow Day HIIT Workout #2 | At Home BodyWeight

Here in Denver, we've gotten 7.5 inches of snow today! Most people did not leave their homes for work, so I thought it would be the perfect day to post a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout! This is great for a snowy day when you are forced to be inside because it requires absolutely no equipment, (my fav) and it'll be quick! This workout is only 6 minutes long, and if you want to repeat a round to increase the challenge, GO FOR IT! 

Here's what you'll do:

For this workout, you will perform 3 different exercises. 

Set your timer for: 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest, 6 rounds
2 rounds of each exercise:

1. Jump Lung with Mountain Climber
2. Push-Up with Twisting Toe Touch
3. Bicycle Sit Up with Suitcases 

GymBoss Interval Timer
Yoga Mat

Bottoms: Lululemon Crops
Top: Old Navy Tank
Bra: Lululemon, Free to Be Wild Sports Bra
Shoes: Nike, Air Zoon Odyssey

Get to it!

*Side note: If you've been following the blog and are wondering how I am miraculously healed in this workout vid, then you should know this was filmed in advance to surgery :)