I’m a huge fitness fan and lead a very healthy and active vegan lifestyle. I first started working out after the birth of my daughter eight years ago as I desperately wanted to shift my baby weight and regain my pre-pregnancy body. I found daily exercise not only helped me to lose fat but also improved my energy, strength and stamina and had such a positive effect on my attitude as well which is why I want to use it to help others. Fast forward to the age of 28 and I’m a single parent to my two children Millisent 8yrs and Gabriele 3yrs using fitness to build muscle rather than lose weight as my fitness goals have changed entirely since my second pregnancy. Seeing as my son is due to start school soon I thought I’d take my love for fitness to the next level and train with Origym to become a personal trainer so that I can work around the children and make a positive, motivational difference to my life and others around me.
Being on my own with two little ones means that finding childcare to attend college of an evening is near on impossible let alone the added costs of driving to and from the classroom, paying for parking and ferrying the children to and from an expensive child minder; which is why home studying is ideal for me because it can fit into my existing lifestyle rather than me throwing my schedule onto its head. As you may have already from the home workouts that I review I love finding cost-effective, simple methods to improve my quality of life and look and feel good about myself. I’ve since gone on to review health and fitness products from brands across the world covering everything from nutrition to clothing, equipment and venues and am frequently asked by my readers if I can give them help and advice to achieve their fitness goals too. Unfortunately as I have no prior qualifications in fitness I can only say “I’m afraid I’m not a personal trainer so I can’t give you advice however this is what worked well for me.” But we are all individuals with our own health issues, goals and needs and there isn’t a single miracle cure or routine that we can all follow to achieve the body of our dreams, although I wish there was! Fitness is very much an individual journey, our bodies respond in different ways to different exercise techniques and whilst years ago I only wanted to lose weight by working out today I maintain my muscle strength and stability and have no desire to step on the scales at all.
I really want to be the person who can say “Sure I can help you!” Fitness has changed my life incredibly and given me so much confidence, to have a career in such a positive, uplifting and health-orientated industry is the epitome of happiness in my books which is why I’m so excited to begin my studies with Origym. So where did I begin when looking for a personal training course and how do I know which is the right one for me? Well as simple as it sounds I started by googling ‘personal training courses’ and Origym was on the first page of results which gave me faith in its credibility and status as a professional body. I then took a look around their website to see their standard of service, read customer testimonials and check out their blog which is pretty impressive. Former UK BMX athlete and fitness model Dan Harper says: “When I joined Origym I started my course straight away and received my own personal, friendly mentor who guided me every step of the way at times convenient to me and definitely helped me prepare for the reality of working in the fitness industry by allowing me to shadow and conduct real training sessions. Service is important to me and I could not recommend them highly enough! Thanks Guys”
Something as immediate as clear branding, a functional and interactive site and no page errors ticked my boxes as a social influencer as any fault, spelling mistake or oversight can indicate a lack of attention to detail and cutting corners. It’s clear to see that this is an established company that takes pride in its status and invests in the delivery of its content as with its courses. Next I noted that they are partnered with several leading fitness establishments including David Lloyd, Fitness First, Pure Gym, The Gym, Virgin Active and Nuffield Health to provide guaranteed interviews for their students which reassures me that their students are trained to the highest of standards to achieve a comfortable salary in the fitness industry. It also provides me with the flexibility, please excuse the pun, to work in a gym, a private studio or from home as a fully qualified and industry-recognised personal trainer to meet my families needs and desired income.
After some more digging I was pleased to see that every Origym employee regardless of their position has completed their personal training qualifications from the directors’ to the career advisers and accounts team which shows me that this is something that I too can achieve. They are the only UK course provider to employ mentors who have sports related degrees, personal training and assessing qualifications, and in partnering with Active IQ they have created an enhanced e-learning platform that will allow me to study at a pace that perfectly suits my lifestyle. Every student is assigned a dedicated E-tutor that can be contacted at any time for support as well as weekly online webinars and a 12 month timeframe to complete the course although the national average is just four months which is ideal for me as I hope to make the leap into my new career as soon as possible.
Origym also provide flexible learning by assigning a personal mentor for quality 1-2-1 time locally. I’m not afraid of a good text book or two but it’s essential for me to be able to speak to a real person, to be able to ask questions, understand the correct pronunciation of anatomical terms and explain the things that it might take hours to try to research and find an answer for online. Origym’s mentor meetings take place at least once each fortnight and cater to an individuals requirements as well as having the opportunity to shadow a real personal training session which covers inductions, health checks, diet planning and class instruction and is priceless for gaining experience in the field.
So today I began my personal training course and I’ve been so hyped to start this. I’ve been given a whole host of information and tools from Origym including training manuals, schedules and contact details. My course is split into two main sections which is the Level 2 Gym Instructors Course and the Level 3 Personal Training Course. The gym instructors course is split into six units comprising of anatomy and physiology, safety in the fitness environment, principles of exercise fitness and health, program planning for the practical assessment and the practical assessment itself along with a learner achievement portfolio, multiple choice theory papers and comprehension questions. The gym manual is brightly coloured, interesting and informative and not a black and white boring text-book that I was expecting. With clear diagrams, key points and bold titles it’s quick and convenient to navigate through the sections for keeping on top of my schedule.
Following the successful completion of this I can progress to my Level 3 Personal Training Course which has four units covering anatomy and physiology, applying the principles of nutrition, program planning for the practical assessment and the practical assessment itself. All exams and assessments are sat in nationwide training centres and I aim to be a fully qualified Personal Trainer in four months time. Here I will keep a blog of my progress, the ups and downs and how I’m getting on in that hope that sharing this with you all will mean that I can’t quit or lose momentum and hopefully I might inspire you too to take up a home study, change your life and achieve the career of your dreams!
UPDATE: 23/02/16 Day 1
Today was my first day of studying and I spent the entire day, aside from tending to the children of course, with my nose in the manual as I made notes on the first 30 pages, yes 30/316! My right hand kills from writing as I haven’t used a biro for such a prolonged period of time since I was at college and I’m pretty sure I’m getting a hard lump on the side of my finger where it’s been pressed in place. I’m shattered now, despite only sitting at the table studying my brain feels burnt out and I know that I’ve hit my limit of concentration, I think I’ve managed about six hours of study once you cut out the stops and starts and distractions.
There are a lot of new terms, words and meanings to take on board and I worry a little that it may go in one ear and out of the other. I have such bad Mummy-brain as I call it where I’ll be doing something, watching, talking or reading something and have to start all over again once I realise that I’ve zoned out and took absolutely nothing on board. That’s why I find it helpful to take notes because I’m including my functions rather than just skimming a page with my eyes, my hands are writing the words, I’m thinking about it and putting it into a context that I understand.
How confident do I feel about completing this course right now? I’d say 40% because of how new and overwhelming all of this information is to me. I thought I knew the basics of human anatomy when it came to muscles and bones but it turns out I barely know anything at all. But I guess it’s a good place to start from the bottom because the only way is up!
UPDATE: 24/02/16 Day 2
I wasn’t planning on writing an update today because I didn’t think I’d have anything to say. I emailed Origym this morning and asked if I had to memorise precisely all of the bones, muscles and bodily functions for my exam or if I just had to show knowledge of them and be able to talk about each and point them out on a chart. Unsurprisingly I was told that it is imperative to know them inside out and I felt a little deflated because I never thought in a million years that I’d remember them all when I still point at my TV screen and say “What is that actors name, it’s on the tip of my tongue!” But do you know what? I only went and memorised the entire skeleton today, every bone in the body and the weird and wonderful names that are inexplicably given to them. I started much like I would when singing heads, shoulders, knees and toes with my son but instead I used cranium, scapula, patella and metatarsals and it worked.
This is my first step into understanding the human body and something that I have never done before, I feel inspired and proud of myself for making progress; next step memorising the muscles! I had great fun learning about children’s growth spurs, ageing and pre and post-natal exercise today and I could relate my own health and abilities directly on what I was reading. I found myself agreeing and nodding along as I reminisced about pregnancy weight and pelvic floor muscles. Despite not progressing as far today into the manual with eight pagesadded to my total, I’m now on page 38/316 in the manual, I have revisited what I learned yesterday and properly assembled my notes into a folder with the diagrams and keynotes to help me to familiarise myself with the correct terms. I should be introduced to my tutor sometime this week and I’m very much looking forward to discussing my progress.
UPDATE: 25/02/16 Day 3
So it looks like I’m updating daily so far as I’m having great fun and just have so much to tell you. Today I studied the heart and respiratory system and I was relieved to recognise the terms that I’d previously learnt at school but obviously looking at in more depth now. It kind of gave me a foot-hold to learning and proved to me that my forgetful mummy-brain isn’t as feeble as I thought because if I can recall a science lesson from twelve years ago then there’s hope for me retaining everything I’ve learnt for my exam in a few months.
This afternoon I completed a further nine pages taking me up to page 47 in the manual and I feel like I’m making comfortable progress and no longer overwhelming myself. I did a spot of yoga after dinner and it really helped to clear my mind and take a step out of my hectic lifestyle. To start with everything on the course was so new and unknown and now the pieces are gradually coming together and it’s making so much more sense, I’m recognising the proper terms and relating it to my own body and it’s a total confidence boost to grasp a new concept; anything is possible!
UPDATE: 26/02/16 Day 4
Despite the fact I didn’t have time to study today because I had friends and family visit this evening and I did the weekly food shop straight after school so rushed home after to make dinner and bath the children before bed time, I did however manage to memorise all of the muscles of the body and can now proudly heads-shoulders-knees-and-toes my upper trapezius to my soleus! I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.
UPDATE: 27/02/16 Day 5
Today I completed 37 pages of my manual which takes me up to page 88/316 and I’m actually grinning from ear to ear because I really wasn’t expecting to complete all of that and it happened so quickly without realising. It’s Saturday and it’s freezing cold outside, my children love using the line “Mum I’m bored!” on me and I’ve been rushing about making breakfast, lunch and dinner, doing the laundry and tidying the house after my littlest decided to spontaneously throw cheerio’s all over the lounge carpet and take every wheeled vehicle he owns out of his toy box. So instead of chasing the children around I set up my work station at the kitchen table and invited them to join me. My daughter did her homework for school and then made some beautiful felt roses for Mother’s Day and my son played preschool games on his iPad.
I made up some snack pots of fruit and nuts for us all to nibble on and a jug of water so that we had everything we needed to sit and concentrate; peace and quiet, everything where we could see it and all in the same room to make sure that the children were safe and looked after. I scribbled away making my notes and before I knew it I’d finished Unit 1 in the morning and moved on to Unit 2 just after lunch. It’s really motivated me to progress onto the next step and to mark my triumph I have switched my yellow highlighter for a pink one in honour of a new unit which is all about forming effective working relationships with clients.
This unit has been a lot easier to digest and understand because it’s not as technical as all of the medical terms and functions of the body, there’s a bit more common sense applied and as such my note taking is more bullet points than full blown descriptions. My qualification structure indicates that I should use my e-learning platform to revise for my Unit 1 exam and complete my Learner Achievement Portfolio (LAP) after but before finishing Unit 6. Unit’s 2 & 3 that I’m on now are also to be completed in my LAP. I think I’ll take a well earned rest now and get on with some housework ready to hit the books again next week. Just four days ago I only had 40% in my ability to complete this course but today I’d say that’s risen to a very healthy 55%! Every word written, page turned and new term learned is one step closer to achieving my qualification as a personal trainer, and if I can do it then so can you!
UPDATE: 28/02/16 Day 6
Today I completed another 9 pages taking me up to page 97/316 in the manual and I’m chipping away at the Health, Safety & Welfare In A Fitness Environment chapter at the moment. It’s certainly helpful to understand body language and tone when dealing with customers, as despite having worked in sales and marketing all of my life I’ve never had a job in fitness. So when the manual advises providing periods of silence with uncrossed arms so that a customer can elaborate on their concerns I would have naturally began by giving extensive information and then asking questions after; I can see how this may be daunting for a novice and technical terminology could frighten and confuse them.
UPDATE: 01/03/16 Day 8
After a hectic weekend I’ve had a few days off of my studies to paint my garden fence and go for dinner with friends as well as making up some meals in bulk for the freezer so that I don’t have to spend as much time cooking each day of the week. Before starting this course I’d imagined I would dot in a few hours of revision each evening when I’d put the children to bed and it’s quiet but it actually seems that I’m hitting the books during the day instead after the children get home from school as I have friends and family visiting in the evening and my phone is constantly pinging to life with messages. I find after a hectic day all that I want to do is switch off and unwind in the evening so as not to exhaust my concentration and forget everything that I’ve learnt as there’s a lot to take in. Taking study days where possible has really helped because it gives me a block of time to really knuckle down which is predominantly at the weekend, it just means I can’t be as social for a while but it’s well worth the sacrifice.
So today I had a total recap of everything I have covered so far and was a little surprised at how much of it I had actually forgotten and had to guess at; which is where the end of session learning checks really come in handy because I can answer questions at each landmark and identify which areas are my weakest and in turn work on these. Now I’m pretty competent in the bones and muscles of the body as well as the movements of the joints, but with everything in life you can only get better with practise so the more times that I go over it the more it will sink in – you can totally teach an old dog new tricks!
Following this I then checked my QCF Learner Achievement Portfolio (LAP) at the back of my manual to see if there was anything that I could complete for my Active IQ Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing (Gym) and I was delighted to discover the ‘Know how to support clients who take part in exercise and physical activity‘ worksheet for which I completed page 6/42. It gave me such confidence and belief in myself to be able to answer the questions without hesitation and I realise how much I have taken on board, even if I have forgotten some bits in between, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day. One thing I need to watch is the spacing of my handwritten words as the text boxes are rather small and I like to answer questions fully by going into detail so I have written outside of the lines for some of the boxes which I hope is allowed by the assessor. There are eight questions in total covering both sides of the page which total 8 marks towards the unit. The next part of my LAP is a client interview task which I haven’t started yet as I am continuing with my manual until I feel that I have learned enough to progress with this. I’m feeling really positive about my course and it’s gradually becoming a part of my daily routine that I very much look forward to.
UPDATE: 03/03/16 Day 10
Today I completed my end of section learning check for Health, Safety & Welfare on page 116/316 and I’m up to page 12/42 in my LAP about risk assessments too. I also did my first ever client interview with a friend of mine and presented a plan to address and support his short, medium and long term fitness goals and I felt pretty proud of myself to be able to talk it through with him based on the new terminology and skills that I’ve learnt so far. He said I actually sounded like a real personal trainer and gave him some really good advice that was perfect for his lifestyle and it put the biggest smile on my face. Sure I’m not qualified yet and this was just a training exercise to build my portfolio for my exams but I really enjoyed it and it makes me all the more willing and able to follow my dreams. It’s been just over a week since I started my course and I’ve already learned so much. This is certainly my mountain moment where I stop and look back at how far I have come and look up to see the tip of the mountain on the horizon. Wahoo!
UPDATE: 04/03/16 Day 11
As you can see I’m making a nice dent into my manual now and I’m marking my progress with two colours. The yellow divider marks my position in my studies for which I’m just about to begin Principles Of Exercise, Fitness & Health on page 138/316 and so I’m very nearly at the half way point! Hoorah!
The red divider marks my progress in my LAP where I was able to complete three more pages today taking me up to 15/42. This section has marked the completion of risk assessments and focused on spotting the signs of and acting upon sexual, emotional and physical abuse and bullying as well as hazards around the fitness environment and correct procedures to take. Some of it may seem pretty brutal and far-fetched but it’s important to be aware of our surroundings and ensure that actions and signs don’t go unnoticed. As a mother it really hits home to me and I feel reassured that working in the fitness industry is a safe environment now that I know which essential procedures and laws are in place.
UPDATE: 05/03/16 Day 12
Today is day 12 already and I’m edging ever closer to finishing my second week of studies. I’m a little bit gutted because I have such a busy week coming up that will leave me unable to touch my manual for four days which will totally kill my momentum. But hey ho, that’s life and it’s all about time management and going at your own pace. I guess I have a year to complete my course worst case scenario but the national average is 4 months. It will be interesting to see how long it takes me because I’m so OCD when it comes to progress, goals and time limits. Today I completed another 43 pages of my manual taking me up to 181/316 which completed the Effects Of Exercise On The Body. I’m now moving onto Health Benefits Of Physical Activity and I’m finding these sections so much easier to grasp as I recognise the majority of the terminology now and for every description I’m picturing the movement, the muscle, joint and processes involved in my mind. Let’s just hope I can retain all of the information I’ve learned in order to pass the exam!
UPDATE: 11/03/16 Day 18
It’s been six days since my last update and I’ve had the most hectic week filming for three television shows and staying in hotels with 10hr days in the studio which has greatly impacted my progress in my studies. But like a trooper I took my gym manual with me to sneak in some hours on the train, in the hotel and between breaks to keep the momentum going.
In three days time I’ll have been doing my course for three weeks and at present I am on page 224/316 of my gym manual having completed the section on Principles Of Exercise, Fitness & Health and now beginning Planning Gym-Based Exercise which will allow me to complete the next section of my LAP soon. Although I’m only two thirds of the way into my manual I’ve already learned so much and it became incredibly evident when visiting my family for Mother’s Day and discussing my relatives back condition. I identified her bad posture as scoliosis and kyphosis and was able to talk about measures she could take to ease her aching by recommending she stop carrying a shoulder bag that puts excess weight on her left side and listed the muscles around her shoulders and arms that would be affected and more tense because of it and the actions needed to relieve them. Naturally I told her I wasn’t qualified to give advice yet so it was just an observation but she was thrilled that I’d given her the same information as her GP and picked up on all of her symptoms and problems.
I’m gaining confidence day by day and the more I read the more I want to learn. It’s been an absolutely hectic week but I’m fitting in my studies as and when I can around the children and social commitments and that’s the beauty of home study, it becomes part of my daily life just like fitness.
UPDATE: 12/03/16 Day 19
Another day in the studio filming for a TV show and I took my studies along with me to catch a couple of hours on the train and in the green room. I love how the pages are getting lower and lower as I reach the back of my manual now as I’m well over the half way point and the finish line is in sight. I’m still pretty paranoid about my ability to retain the information I have learned like the correct blood pressure levels, ideal BMI figures and time and duration of exercise for the different ability groups. I’m not sure how much I need to know by heart for my exam, whether it’s statistical or focused more on concept but I guess I’ll find out soon enough and I can share my experience with you to give you a heads up if you’re thinking of taking the same course.
I’d love for somebody to say to me “You need to know your muscles by heart but don’t worry about the figures because they’re listed!” or vice versa. At the moment I’m learning everything, going over it twice and trying my best to get it to sink in and make sense. It’s such an interesting course to study and I’m really enjoying it and learning so much, I can just feel that little sense of dread building at the thought of trying to bring everything I know to the questions asked of me in the exam. It’s been a decade since I last sat formal exams and in that time I had a year to prepare for each, I know I have a year to complete this course but I think if I left it that long I’d be more in danger of forgetting things that I’m not using on a daily basis which is why I want to commit to completing this as immediately as possible but without rushing it. If you’ve got any revision tips that work well for you please feel free to share them! I’m finding my highlighter to pick out key points in my manual and using the end of session test questions really helps.
So now I’m up to page 250/316 and the finish line is in sight! I’m yet to start the next section of my LAP which is about Planning Gym Based Exercise as this is the section I’m still learning so once I’m done I can fill it in and move on. Eek!
UPDATE: 13/03/16 Day 20
Whoop I’ve just completed the section on Planning Gym Based Exercise and now I can begin Instruction Gym Based Exercise on page 266/316. I also completed four more pages in my LAP taking me up to 19/42 and I’m getting slightly paranoid about how I’m answering the questions. I have flashbacks to when I was at school and my maths teacher would always tell me that I over-complicate equations and try to make them harder than they are when my basic first approach was all that is needed. So when I see a question in my LAP has one mark I answer it in a few words but then start to ponder whether an explanation is needed to expand on the answer and fully complete the question. Do they want a simple answer from me or a detailed understanding to earn the mark? Should my answer be “yes/no” or “yes/no because…”? Either way I’m erring on the side of caution and filling up every space available to answer each question as fully as I can. I have just one section to go until I find out! Eek!
UPDATE 16/03/16 Day 23
I received my mock exam papers yesterday and after rushing around like a headless chicken I finally sat down to do them this morning. These past few days have been so hectic for me I haven’t been able to touch my books at all since the weekend and so I’m adamant to carve out some time to progress today but I always have to play catchup at the start of each week before I can get ahead of myself again and allocate time to study.
I’ve been feeling apprehensive about my exams recently because as of yet I’ve had no feedback on my progress and I’ve been working my way through my gym manual which I’m close to finishing now but I’ve had no way to test myself to see if the information has sunk in. The mock papers are exam papers that are very similar to what I’ll be taking when I complete my LAP. I chose not to revise for the mock papers because I didn’t want to have the information fresh in my head like I would my real exam, I wanted to see if I could successfully recall what I had learned on the spur of the moment as an indication of my memory and understanding rather than parrot-fashion recollection of something I’ve just re-read. The two papers cover 20 questions on the Principles Of Exercise Fitness & Health and 30 questions on Anatomy & Physiology for Exercise for which I scored 15/20 and 24/30 respectively to pass both of my mock exams.
I’m absolutely over the moon now and can’t stop smiling because it’s given me the assurance in myself that I needed. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken an exam and I wasn’t sure of what to expect but it’s helped to quash my nerves and highlight the areas that I need more work on which I am taking extra notes on now. On a few of the questions I was tied between two answers and changed my mind back and forth but had identified the correct answer just not always chosen it. It helps that it’s multiple choice but at the same time if you don’t recognise the terminology then it may as well be in another language so revision really is key and I will undoubtedly be brushing up on my notes prior to the real exam. I wanted today to be an informal tester of the information that I have taken onboard thus far and I’ve exceeded my exceptions by passing both exams. Obviously a 100% score would be an improvement on the questions that I failed but with my revision I’m confident that I can cut myself some slack on stressing and achieve a solid pass when the big day comes!
UPDATE 24/03/16 Day 31
I’ve done it! I’ve finished my LAP and completed my manual. I’ve had the most hectic week and everything seems to have taken me twice as long to do as my daughter was ill with stomach pains and burning skin and I was rushing around fetching her drinks and medicine as she rested upstairs in bed and just as she got better my son went down with a temperature and terrible cough too so I’ve been a headless chicken of late. The children also had school trips, a dance performance, parents evening and Easter afternoons which have literally swallowed up all of my spare time and I’ve been squeezing in some personal training sessions at the gym a couple of mornings in the week to firstly get my body summer ready and secondly learn everything that I can about teaching techniques and form.
I’ve also been in touch with a wonderful lady called Steph from Origym who I called to have a chat about my coursework and ask any questions. Being the worry-pot that I am it was a great chance for me to clarify some points and understand exactly what was needed to score each point and I was relieved to hear that plenty of notes and information is preferred as I’ve literally filled and overflowed each answer box and panicked that I’d over-complicated the questions, but apparently more is more so I’m on the right track. It has also helped me to be able to email Steph whenever I need something, and whilst I try not to bombard her over every query it’s been extremely helpful to be able to snap a picture of my work and email it across as an attachment to ask if I’m doing it right as it takes the guess work and misinterpretation out of the process. Although she can’t give me the answers or do the work for me she has made certain sticking points easier to understand and I think without her advice I would have answered an entire section missing the major points required.
I usually workout from home because of a lack of childcare and travel times during school hours but it’s proving incredibly worthwhile to squeeze out my spare time, reshuffle my calendar and commit to a gym routine for an hour directly after the morning school run a couple of mornings a week as I can get accustomed to the equipment and professional setting and think about all of the key points, hazards and muscle groups. I’m noticing how my mindset to fitness is far more informed, I start off my session with 20mins of cardio to warm up with 5km on the cross trainer followed by alternating resistance machines and as I’m lifting 2 sets of 10 I’m thinking biceps, triceps, deltoids, hamstrings, quads, abs, pecs to cover my entire body evenly. As I don’t go everyday I can have a total body workout each session with time to rest and recover at home in-between but if I’m ever able to go three or more days a week I would split my workouts into alternate muscle groups to avoid muscle fatigue. I’ve added mixed nuts and seeds to my diet to up my protein and despite it being Easter I haven’t had any chocolate or sweets because I’m vegan so my diet and fitness are on track and I’m feeling pretty excited about my training and studies!
Now I’m waiting to hear back on a date for my exams and practical assessment so in the mean time I’m going over all of the exercises, revising teaching points and having my daughter test me on the muscles, bones and joints of the body. I’m so relieved to have completed my LAP and manual, now I just need to fine tune my skills for the big day!
UPDATE 02/04/16 Day 40 My Level 2 Exams
Today I travelled to London for my exams and it’s safe to say that I was a little nervous. Despite finishing my LAP and manual and going over my training techniques and plan with my children as clients I still have very little experience of being in a gym, pronouncing the terms and actions or even putting my theoretical skills to use in a professional environment. But I took a deep breath, slipped on some lycra, trainers and a hoodie and headed off to discover my fate. The day began at 10:30am and consisted of classroom tuition, one-on-one LAP sessions, a lunch break, sitting my two theory papers and then finally a practical exam which finished just after 6pm, a cool eight or so hours of fitness and my brain is frazzled to say the least. There were two tutors and several students, all from wide and afar, some down for the day to complete their level two, others for the whole weekend and a guy doing his level 3. Speaking to the other students they all seemed so positive and upbeat and I suddenly thought that I wasn’t as confident, I believed in myself but when it comes to the crunch would I be capable of passing an exam just a few weeks after starting my course?
It really helped to have the tutors looking over my LAP, discussing my answers, asking me to elaborate where necessary and steering me back on track if ever I strayed. Seeing as I had my entire course exam in one day my LAP was marked first and deemed a pass which was a great weight off of my shoulders as I had put so much time and effort into it. I was then asked if I still wanted to do my theory and practical which I agreed I was ready for and happy to proceed. The theory exam came in two sections just like the mock papers I’d revised with, only this time with different questions and dare I say more harder! Being multiple choice I found the wording of some questions a little cheeky as it could be perceived in a couple of ways and I deliberated over a few answers for a few minutes before whizzing through others. It just shows how you have to know your manual inside and out to be able to sit the theory because it’ll come back to bite you if you’re unfamiliar with percentages, positioning or the structure and mobility of the body. I had 90mins to complete my exam and I finish in quarter of an hour and passed both papers which went a little way to drying out my clammy hands, I haven’t felt so nervous in a long time.
Finally it was onto the practical exam which involved taking my lesson plan into the gym with a client and walking them through an entire session from start to finish with my assessor waiting in the wings with a clipboard scribbling notes and ticking boxes as I swallowed hard and tried my best to remember my key points, demonstrations and techniques and it was the most daunting experience of all. Much like a driving test you don’t know how you’re doing until the end so all you can do is throw yourself into it, have fun and take constant note of how the client is responding to the advice and instruction that you give. I started off my greeting my client and asking how he was, questioning him of having his PAR-Q up to date, pointing out fire exists, first aid information and then talking him through the lesson plan. I explained that we’d start off with a cardiovascular warm-up followed by some dynamic stretches, a main cardio vascular workout, resistance machines, free-weights, body weight exercises, a cardiovascular cool down and finally some static stretches.
And I literally disappeared into my own little bubble and forgot what was going on. I feel pleasantly at ease and chatty with my client, asking him how his day was, introducing the equipment and machinery, explaining which muscles we would be focusing on, demonstrating how to use it, assessing and correcting his posture and technique and taking him through a curve of intensity to warm up, heighten and lower his heart rate at a safe pace. I watched his breathing throughout, asked him how the weight and resistance was, encouraged him to go for several more repetitions, talked him through the next steps and finally cooled him down. Despite writing out my lesson plan in great detail I conducted my practical from memory, and without memorising it at all somehow because I thought that I could work from it on the day but discovered that I couldn’t so I had to rely solely on what had learned in theory and put it into practise. I kept a watchful eye throughout, reacted to my clients body language and felt that I’d covered as many points as humanly possible within the time limit for the session. But that’s the thing about practical exams, you never know how it’s gone until the end and one small slip-up or mistake can cause an instant fail. My heart was literally in my hands as I awaited the examiners results and when she said I’d passed I didn’t know whether to hug her, squeal or take a cold shower for how clammy I’d felt fretting.
In hindsight I needn’t have worried about my exam it as much as I did, I wouldn’t say I was stressed out but I didn’t believe that I could pass so soon. I’d completed all of my work but felt that I could still be more sure of myself, more controlled and more expert I suppose, yet expertise comes with time and experience and this will only build from here on, I’m literally over the moon to have passed and I can’t wipe the biggest smile from off of my face! So now I am officially a level 2 gym instructor and it feels so good to say that. I’m now ready to begin my revision for level 3 personal training and I’m hopeful to achieve my qualifications with continued hard work and dedication. I’m not sure how long it will take for the second half of my course to arrive by post but I’ll use this spare time to relax and unwind, catch-up on some chores and see some friends ready to become a book-work again once it arrives.
For everybody currently studying for their level 2 I wish you all the best of luck. My advice is to revise, revise, revise, take the words from the manual and connect them to your body, when you look at diagrams think of them in situ on yourself, when you’re talking about limbs don’t be afraid to move your arms, touch your muscles, think of how they connect, contract, relax and support one another because the more hands-on that you are with your work the more it will make sense and sink in. Turn fitness into a part of your everyday life, get a gym membership, familiarise yourself with equipment, routines and set yourself goals. You can be your own guinea-pig and lay the foundations of your new knowledge. I hope one day in the not too distant future I’ll be celebrating my personal training qualification with you and inviting you all to join me for a workout or two!
UPDATE 06/04/16 Day 44 My Level 3 Personal Training Manual Has Arrived
It’s been just 4 days since I passed my Level 2 exams and my Level 3 manual arrived on my doorstep this morning, I’m so excited! Seeing as it’s the second week of the easter holidays the children are both running circles around me, they’re having a friend over for a sleepover today and as such I’m playing catch-up with work whilst child minding and being the entertainer, chef and general butler to three very excitable children! I had hoped to get straight into my studies but I need to pace myself, catch up with my day and perhaps spend an hour or so this evening reading in bed.
Studying is all about making information manageable, the best way to do is it when everything is in order, when my home is tidy, the children in bed and I’m not stressing or worrying about everything I have to finish. After all there’s not much point in reading pages and pages of information only to forget it all because I’m more concerned with if I put the recycling bin out for the morning or what I’ll be making everyone for breakfast. Little study sessions when I’m rested and ready to absorb what I learn are the best approach and if my Level 2 exams are anything to go by then my method of home studying with children is working. Slowly slowly catch a monkey!
UPDATE 07/04/16 Day 45
My first day of studying Level 3 and I am up to page 22/284 of my manual and page 0/33 of my LAP. I’m pleased to think that I am almost 10% of the way into this course already and it’s clear that there is a markable difference between Level 2 and Level 3. Gone are the many bright and cheery pictures, page borders and bold headings and instead there is page upon page of tightly packed text to contend with. The terms are more scientific, in-depth and purposeful and whilst I’m again out of my comfort zone for new knowledge I realise how my Level 2 has helped me to build a foundation for Level 3. I already know about muscles, how they’re formed, how they work and how they’re fuelled but now I’m understanding why, when, where and to what extent.
I don’t have to learn something alien to me completely from scratch, but instead expand on what I’ve already picked up which helps it to make more sense. Sure there are a whole dictionary of new terms and odd sounding names to remember but the more I read about them the more I will pick up and they’ll no doubt sink in. I’m very much enjoying this course, even in all of it’s seriousness as it’s taking me back to my time at college when textbooks were walls of words with the odd diagram thrown in for good measure. I’m very much looking forward to progressing and taking my studies one manageable step at a time. I have a feeling Level 3 will take me longer to complete than Level 2 but I have a year to do it so there’s no need to clock watch. The children are enjoying having a sleepover today, although none of us have had much sleep but during half term it’s allowed. I’ve been busy making pancakes, tidying up after excited tots and preparing drinks, nibbles and entertainment whilst dipping my nose in and out of my manual. A mothers work is never done!
UPDATE 11/04/16 Day 49
It’s been a hectic weekend to say the least, not only have the children been full of Easter holiday excitement but we’ve been busy out and about on day trips, visiting family and had the entire house turned upside down for two days when the whole ground floor was refitted which meant sleeping amongst dining tables and tea towels as you do. So today has been the first opportunity that I’ve had time to sit down and study and I clocked up a further 32 pages this afternoon to take me up to 54/284 of my level 3 manual.
I’ve got another hectic day tomorrow but will be taking my manual on the train with me to catch a couple hours of studying en route. I’m keen to keep up the pace that I’m learning at in order for everything to stick in my mind and make sense rather than put it down for several days or weeks and forget what I’d last read. At the moment I’m going over the energy systems, heart, lungs and nervous systems in more depth and it’s reassuring to know that I’m already 80% familiar with the terms and concepts. I just hope I can retain all of the new terms and abbreviations for my level 3 theory papers.
UPDATE 12/04/16 Day 50
After taking my manual on the train with me to London today I’ve banked another 26 pages taking me to 80/284 as I begin the section on nutrition. I’m still slightly bowled over by abbreviations but I’m planning a revision session after I complete my manual where my 8yr old daughter can delightfully quiz me over keywords and meanings much to her amusement as I’ve no doubt she’ll arrange an appropriate reward or punishment for my failure or success – I much prefer hugs and kisses to having to do star jumps and bark like a dog pretending to be her puppy; the things us mothers do hey! 🙂
UPDATE 16/04/16 Day 54
Page 99/284 of my Level 3 manual and I’m onto the chapter on digestion and supplements. I feel like I’ve been hit by a wall of information, E-numbers, enzymes and proteins and literally every new word that I’m introduced too sounds suspiciously similar to the word just before and directly after it, from phenylalanine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine and lysine. I have no idea how to pronounce let alone memorise all of this new information and it’s safe to say that I’m hitting a wall with my studies for the first time. I’m having a moment when I just think woah and need to take a step back.
So I thought assessing my progress this far might help with my motivation, and although I’m just under half way through my level 3 manual I’ve already read through the section on Anatomy & Physiology so decided to do the corresponding mock paper to see how I fare. With 25 questions I needed 18 correct answers to pass and sadly got a measly score of 9. There were several questions where I umm’d and ahh’d over the answers and switched my original right choice for the wrong one which I was previously warned not to do – I really should stick to my gut instinct. But on other questions I was absolutely stumped and had no recollection of the terms involved, it made me think I’d accidentally missed some pages in my manual or suffered concussion over the past week to be so clueless.
I should have scored a lot higher and I’m disappointed with my mock results. But I won’t let it ruin my progress and if anything this serves to show me that a second read through – which I also did with my level 2 manual – will really help the new information to stick in. Perhaps a later section in my manual will address the terms that I am unsure of and I need to wait until I’ve completed everything before trying my mock papers again. You can’t fail if you keep trying! Back to my books I go…
UPDATE 19/04/16 Day 57
Another hectic weekend and I’m finally getting some time to sit and read. I’ve devised a plan to get through my level 3 manual and that’s to read it all and then go back and read it again after! Hopefully whatever falls out of my head the first time around will fall into place for round two! So I’ve tucked the children into bed, I’ve got a snack pot of nuts and seeds to keep me fuelled and I’m going for an evening study session for as long as I can stay focused. I’m now on page 118/284 and finding this section on weight loss and body fat totally eye-opening!
UPDATE 20/04/16 Day 58
Well I’m a total doughnut! I realise what I’ve been doing differently with my level 3 to my level 2 and that’s the revision technique of note-taking, this time around I’ve totally forgot it! Of course such expansive new terms will stick in if I have nothing to refer back to. I can use my gym manual of course to re-read as I plan to once I reach the final page, but to have bullet pointed stats, techniques and diagrams just as I did in level 2 is basically essential to my studies. I have no idea how I managed to forget note taking completely this time around, in fairness I have been super busy and my routine is all over the show.
The level 3 manual is far more intense, formal and fact-packed than level 2 and as a result there aren’t as many diagrams and photos to stimulate my visual learning which is possibly why I didn’t think to take notes. Or it could just be my Mummy-brain kicking in and a sign that I’m losing my marbles as I’m redecorating the house and my sons fourth birthday is fast approaching. I’m basically a plate-spinner at the moment with a million and one things to do and only one pair of hands. But anything in life worth having is 100% worth working for and I’m determined to achieve my level 3 qualifications this year, so my note-taking will commence and I’ll play catchup on the sections I’ve already covered during my re-read. I’m now on page 150/284 which has tipped me over the half way mark with my 32 page study session today and the end is in sight. I’m currently learning about keeping an accurate food diary and the importance and stages of sleep for rest and recovery which I’m recalling from my years at college studying psychology. It spurred me to order black out blinds for the bedrooms to help the children and I to get to bed during daylight hours now that the evenings are light! In todays technology and time led existence it’s all too easy to overlook the importance of our basic bodily functions and how sleep depravity can negatively affect our health; a valuable learning point taken that will now positively influence my family’s life!
UPDATE 02/05/16 Day 70
Sadly I lost my grandmother last week and it’s something that has really thrown me. She was such a happy and positive woman and seemed so full of life jus a few days before she passed when we spoke about her forthcoming 60th wedding anniversary and how she’d chosen a beautiful cake and all of the family were coming together to celebrate this summer. It was something she was very much looking forward to and it seems unbelievable that she’s gone and I’ll never see her again nor hear her voice.
At the age of 83 my grandmother was a jolly lady, not even five feet tall but as round and rosey as an apple. Having had six children I always remember her as being soft and cuddly throughout my childhood but over the past ten or so years her weight really got the better of her and her mobility became a problem. She suffered terribly from high blood pressure, always had swollen legs and switched her walking stick for a mobility scooter rarely leaving her home for fear of falling over or fainting. I would always tell her to get up and come outside and we’d take peaceful walks with the children along the seafront, stopping frequently to sit on benches or for a spot of tea. She knew that her weight was a danger to her health but she’d gotten into the mindset that she was too old and tired to do anything about it. She piled salt onto her dinner, ate biscuits and chips like there was no tomorrow and loved a nice treat and nibble. I know that age affects the body, motivation and outlook and towards the end she was happier enjoying the things she loved most which unfortunately made her health decline.
She’d say to me what’s the point in dieting when I’m so old? And I’d tell her that she’d feel so much better and live longer with a real quality of life but it just wasn’t for her, she was too afraid of change. She was set in her ways and understood and accepted the path she had chosen. Losing her has taken a part of my heart and I will forever cherish the memories we made together. The pain I am feeling inside, this loss and sadness has strengthened my desire to complete my course and become a personal trainer because if I could turn back the clock several years and know then what I know now then maybe I could have saved her, maybe I would have had the knowledge to guide her back on track with her health and weight before it was too late. But one thing I can be certain of is my ability to help others, my parents, my children, friends, family and everybody in this world that I can reach from now until forever. I want to promote a healthy happy lifestyle to the world to prolong these memories, to give loved ones more time and diminish poor health and illness caused by obesity. My grandmother means the absolute world to me and I will always have her within my heart as my guiding light.
At present I am on page 250/284 in my manual and have completed page 15/33 of my LAP. I am so close to finishing now and I’m determined to reach my goal of taking my level 3 exam this month as I am having surgery in 5 weeks which will render me immobile for a month. I have the teaching points to revise for exercises and stretches and a programme card for my LAP and then I’ll re-read the section on physiology to re-take my mock paper before committing to my exam. I can and will do this, for you Nan x
UPDATE 04/05/16 Day 72
So curiosity got the better of me and I know I said that I wouldn’t take my mocks until after my revision but I wanted to know if anything has actually sunk in. This time I took the other mock paper which is based on Nutrition -after perviously failing my Anatomy & Physiology- and needed a score of 18/25 to pass. Sadly I got 17/25 and missed it by one point which is pretty gutting but it shows that nutrition has sunk in more than physiology and it highlights what I need to focus on.
I also spoke to Steph about my LAP and how to write the overview for my training programme which is poles apart from the Level 2 criteria. It brings into play training systems and zones and is far more in depth and precise as it’s a complete snapshot of an entire programme that any trainer could potentially pick up and know everything about a client they’ve only just met. My mind is boggled just looking at it but I know that the more time I give it the more familiar it will become and once I’ve done it once the next time will be easier and so on until it’s eventually second nature.
I’ve completed my manual so I’m ready to re-read units one and two to retake my mock and prepare for my theory. I’ve got a little more tweaking of my LAP overview and training programmes and then I’m good to go. The next exam date is now in July because and right now I’d say I’m about 66% ready and confident that my second read through will make a world of difference. There’s nothing quite like an approaching deadline to keep you motivated!
UPDATE: 17/07/16 Exam Day – Day 146
Today I took the train to London for my theory and practical exams as this was the soonest date available in my area. I’ve spent the past few weeks totally re-reading my manual, starting from scratch and taking my studies into the gym with me. It’s really helped me to focus to be able to walk into the gym, lift a weight and work over the training points in my head “wide stance, soft knees, abs engaged, elbows to side” etc. to then watch my posture in the mirror and correct my alignment, to feel what it’s like to lift the reps, to watch my muscles growing week by week and to see progress in my own fitness, it puts it all into perspective and brings my course alive. It’s one thing to read a book and gain knowledge and another to build experience in the gym setting.
So I’d taken my mock exams prior to attending the exam day and for that I passed my nutrition and failed by A&P by just one point which showed me that a little extra revision across the days leading up to my exam would keep everything fresh in my mind. As far as note taking I printed up 4 key pages of notes so that I could glance at stats, figures and facts in order to have a snapshot of what I needed to know. I broke the 4 pages into ‘bones/joints’ ‘muscles/actions’ ‘nutrition advice’ and keynotes from the questions I’d failed in my mock papers as for every questions that I got wrong I looked up the answer and made sure that I understood how and why.
Next up I booked a session with my tutor Naomi who came to my house two days before my exam and together we were able to walk through the procedure for my practical exam as I wasn’t able to make the training day which is part of the exam weekend where a class of students are taken through studies and routines prior to assessment. This proved invaluable for me because I could ask any questions I needed and have an immediate response. She was wonderfully patient with me, even when I forgot the terms and words on the tip of my tongue, and as she said the more I use it, say it and do it the more natural it will become. I’ve emailed her a few times to ask for mock papers and queries for training systems and it was nice to finally put a face to a name.
On the morning of the exam I made sure I’d slept well the night before, I had a nice healthy breakfast of quinoa and vegetables as I’m vegan, and the night before I meal prepped two portions of brown rice which I added a couple of apples and bottle of water to bring with me as the exam day can be several hours with travel included as its a 3hr return trip for me. On the train I carefully read through my keynotes I’d printed out so that everything was fresh in my mind and when I arrived I was calm and collected.
I think it’s incredibly important not to panic on exam days because nerves can cause you to do some very silly things, to miss things, bumble and ruin your opportunity to be yourself. I sat both my Anatomy & Physiology and Nutrition papers in a room with several others which took place in silence with an adjudicator present. I think each paper had a 90min completion time and I finished both in half an hour much to the surprise of myself and others as I don’t think anybody had finished their first paper when I handed in my second. I’ve always been quick at exams, especially because it’s multiple choice and you either know the answer or you don’t, but in the A&P exam there were some very naughty questions that you have to read twice to understand what they’re asking of you. They throw a few curve balls in and make it seem possible that there are multiple answers which is really down to interpretation. My advice is to look at the words, break them down and associate them to what you already know. A lot is common sense yet I wouldn’t say any on the A&P was easy and I frowned my way through most of it.
Fortunately I was able to have my exam results the same day for which I was thrilled to hear that I passed both with 70% required for a pass I got precisely 70% on my A&P and 93% on my Nutrition. I changed around five answers on my A&P when I had doubt over two possibilities and the adjudicator said afterwards that the majority of people who change their answers – scribble out the box and choose a different one if they’ve made a mistake – were typically correct with their first answer and should go with their instinct. I don’t know if this would have improved my score or cost me the paper if I stayed with my initial answers but I’m over the moon to know that I’ve passed and won’t have to sit anymore papers.
So where do I go from here? Well I’ve completed and handed in my LAP which I left with the assessor and hope to receive my official certificate for level 3 Personal Training in a few weeks time. With it now being the summer holidays it makes childcare pretty non-existent for me so unfortunately I can’t go headfirst into signing up clients until September when the children go back to school. In the meantime I’m looking into all of the things that I need to do now such as setting up insurance, purchasing equipment, creating programmes, perhaps some Youtube demos and tutorials, Skype consultations with clients worldwide, contacting local gyms and designing a t-shirt range! It’s all go-go-go and I couldn’t be happier.
Whoever would have thought that in just five months I could go from being an ordinary single parent to studying and qualifying my level 2 and level 3 exams! What a difference this will make to our future and it’s such a family friendly way to have a career. I’ve had my highs and lows, triumphs and stumbling blocks fitting studying into my busy schedule and it was worth every minute. The knowledge, ability and understanding I now have is priceless to me.
UPDATE: 09/09/16 My Level 3 Certificate Has Arrived!
Finally my Level 3 Personal Training Certificate has arrived and I felt so excited to open it when it arrived by post today. Despite passing my exams back in the summer it doesn’t seem real until the paperwork arrives and I’ve proudly hung it on my toilet wall now as a trophy of my hard work and dedication. Since passing my exams I’ve been a busy bunny building up my fitness empire starting with a clothing range which I’ve branded as #teamkiss and is available to purchase online here.
I’ve stuck primarily to a monochrome scheme with a bold #teamkiss logo for men and women alike and a few statement pieces that are available in a range of colours and sizes for individual preference. I’m hoping my followers and soon-to-be clients will get involved by purchasing some vests, leggings, caps, bags and drink bottles to rock in the gym and on our sessions and it could also be a good incentive to give away freebies to longterm clients.
I’m also developing an eight-week home workout programme #fitwithteamkiss for busy single parents, office workers and deconditioned adults who have little time or no time, no gym membership and zero equipment but wish to get fit from home or on the road. I’m hoping to release it as an online training series to introduce men and women to fitness and set about a healthy active lifestyle. So far I’ve filmed 18 workouts in and around my home and I’m currently editing the footage to create the videos which I hope to have finished by the end of September. My children are now back at school and have completed their first week with my 4yr old son doing full days which is so strange! I’m so used to having children around my ankles every minute, pulling on my t-shirt, calling my name and making a mess or asking for food; to have a suddenly empty house leaves me with golden time to work on my fitness empire and it’s proving incredibly valuable.
I’ve also managed to put together around ten pages of an introduction pack, healthy eating tips, motivation, training logs, progress reports and advice for my future clients all with my new TKPT logo that I designed with my initials – it stands for Tracy Kiss Personal Training. I want to be able to email or print off material to welcome new clients and keep their training on track and for my own records. My next step once my training programme is up and running is to start training clients 1-on-1 so I’ll be approaching local gyms, putting the word out and tying up all the formalities of tax and insurance which I’ll document my progress here so you can see everything that’s involved. I’m so excited about what’s to come, I just wish I had an extra pair of hands so that I could get there sooner!
Are you thinking of becoming a personal trainer too? Are you already one? Have you taken a home study course like this and do you have any advice, encouragement, questions or comments for me? Please feel free to leave them all in the comment box below and remember to check back soon to see how I’m getting on!