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How the First Hour of the Day Can Transform Your Life

Success Habits for the First Hour of the Day

Ok, this post is a little bit different take on the “Change Your Life on Your Lunch Break” series, but this topic is super important.

What you do in that first hour upon waking will set the tone for the rest of the day.

Most of us wake up, snooze, wake up, snooze, finally get up, shower, coffee, off to work, meanwhile wondering exactly how you got to work because you can’t quite remember your drive in. Right?

That, my friends, is exactly what they mean by “life on autopilot.”

But you don’t actually want to live on autopilot, do you? You want to live with purpose!

What you could do instead is be more intentional about that first hour of your day to really transform then way you enter life day-by-day, over the course of a lifetime.

You can change your entire mood, your vibe, your drive, everything, if you do it correctly.

I did my first Facebook Livestream on this subject. Have a listen:



Success habits for the first hour of the day:

Light therapy or sun: I am drawn to the sun. I think we are wired to be drawn to light. There’s got to be a reason why light and mood are so interconnected. In the winter, I do at least 10 minutes of light therapy or sit in a sunny window to stay ahead of my anxiety and depression.

Daily devotions: God comes first, always. Instead of trying to fit God into my busy schedule, I need to build my schedule around God first. So, I try to make sure I get my nose in His Book every day with guidance from a daily devotion reading.

Workout: I work out 6 days a week religiously: 3 days of cardio, 3 days of strength training. Fridays are usually barre and Saturdays are a long run. Working out immediately in the morning wakes you up, pumps you full of endorphins, and makes you feel ready to take on the day. Working out improves everything about life.

Journaling: my “adult” type journaling consists of asking myself questions about what I need to work on, focusing on my goals, and really stretching myself. The repetitive nature of doing this every day is important so that goals don’t just get ignored like when they’re written on a note posted to my computer.

Water: We all wake up dehydrated, so getting water into your system first thing gets the motors all greased up and running.

Apple cider vinegar shots: I use Tone It Up’s Bombshell Spell from their nutrition plan. I’ve seen so much research about apple cider vinegar. And for some reason, even though acv is harsh, the way they make the spell is addicting.

Self Development: filling your mind with thoughts of potential and empowerment will make you a better person. This was a habit I picked up from my network marketing days. One of the three essential habits was personal development and I really felt like it was powerful. If you can make yourself just a tad bit better every day (read The Compound Effect), you will be amazed how far you can go after a year, or even a few months.


***Another thing I didn’t mention on the video is music. I have several playlists on Spotify that are meant to lift my spirits. They’re all songs that personally make me feel inspired and uplifted. My favorite thing to do right now is to listen to “Rebel Beat” by the Goo Goo Dolls while I journal. That song is like my theme song right now. I also like to listen to upbeat music while I’m working out. It changes everything! The difference between a silent workout and a music-ified one is drastic!


Most of these morning habits can be done simultaneously. For example, I’m usually listening to music and drinking water while I workout. Then, I use my light box while I’m getting ready or doing my devotions. Journaling takes about 10 minutes, while I’m listening to Rebel Beat. And then self development is typically ingrained in every part of my day. When I have my ear buds in at work, I’m typically listening to some type of personal development content.

If you layer your day this way, and remain intentional about what you’re doing with your body, what you’re feeding your mind, what you’re surrounding yourself with, how you’re feeling, you can see how this would elevate just about everything, right?

And I know when I’m starting to feel crummy about something, all I need to do is turn to this list to refocus and elevate my mood again.

Once all these things are out of the way in the morning, the feeling is euphoric! These habits put everything into perspective and give me a compass for the rest of my day that leads straight toward fulfillment.

Add value to your life by being intentional with the first hour of the day.


Let’s hear it…

Do you have specific morning habits that you do to start your day?

Does this inspire you to try being more intentional about your mornings?

Make Your Own Sunshine

make your own sunshine

Can we just put that in quotes and attach my name to it please? Haha! Cuz I just made that up, but it’s so true!

I have always has a strong connection to the light. The first time I remember coming to my own realization that sunshine is medicine was in high school. One day, we had a study hall out in the courtyard, and I just soaked up the sun for about 45 minutes. I remember going back into school and feeling…different. I can’t quite explain how it made me feel except to say I felt lighter and refreshed. I made a conscious connection then between the sunshine and the satisfying feelings I was having, long before people started talking about seasonal affective disorder.


sunshine peeking out trees

To the contrary, when I worked third shift in college, I started to feel the effects of sunlight deficiency. I never got used to third. Our bodies are not naturally in rhythm with that schedule. I had trouble sleeping during the day, I was morose about missing daylight, and I was so unhappy it made my teeth itch! To feel this opposite end of the spectrum was just as enlightening. I knew exactly how much the sun affected me and I knew that I never wanted to return to this darkness.

I’ve noticed too, that all my worst bouts of anxiety have happened in December, February, etc. So, at my last appointment, I asked my doctor what she thought about light boxes. She gave me an enthusiastic, “I love them!” She whipped the one she carried in her purse out to show me, and a few minutes later I had a script for one in my hands and am now the proud owner of a light box to remove the SAD from winter in Wisconsin, where exposure to sunshine is scarce. And my preliminary observations are that it’s working:

There’s a whole lot of science behind this. Here’s an enlightening article about the sun and health.

So, here I am with a therapeutic 10,000 lux sun maker. I really am making my own sunshine!! I love the sunshine and being in the light. I’m drawn to sunny windows like a cat (new poem about that to come). The sun’s energy just penetrates me in places that no other drug or uplifting tool or mood-boosting strategy could touch. And that, my friends, is a great metaphor for anyone who strives to make each day a little better…and brighter. Heh! Make your own sunshine!


Just thinking out loud, but now that I’m starting to make videos, I’m wondering if my new light box will make a good light box for shooting videos too. Haha!

Do you use a light box? If so, how has it affected you?

Surviving My Long Drive to Work

Our recent move to our country home took us far away from the city, from work, from my mom’s house, from stores, from everything. That’s what we wanted, of course! To be away from the frenzy of the city. But the drive is something that is taking some getting used to. I shouldn’t complain, but when you go from a 1 mile commute–walking distance–to a 25 mile one, you really have some adjusting to do.

While I’m not too keen on driving in general (I LOVE being a passenger) or paying the astounding extra gas costs, I’m trying to find the positive aspects of this long drive. Since I’ll be making this long drive for the foreseeable future, I might as well learn to love it, right?

Now, when I’m driving, I’m trying to really “see” what’s going past the windows. I’m trying to not take the passing scenery for granted and really notice the cool fog effects, the waking animals, the sunshine. Oh, the sunshine! One of the most pleasurable parts of my drive now is lifting my face toward the sun. Now, I am potentially getting 60 minutes of sunlight on my drive versus the quick flash of light when I was only going 2 miles and sitting inside the office all day.

Thinking and decompressing before walking in the door has been another benefit of a long drive. That 1 mile commute sometimes left me feeling bombarded. All the thoughts that I had rolling around in my mind at the end of a day weren’t processed in that short of time, and I had to shift focus within seconds to children and husband and pet, all converging on me. This new drive is a more gentle transition and leaves me time and space to process all the information of the day and leave what I don’t want behind me. I have been coming up with great ideas while driving now, and think I’m going to have to invest in a recorder soon:)

No haters please, but I’ve also been catching up with friends on the phone since I have 35 minutes of uninterrupted air time. I am a much better friend now because I have that time to chat without feeling guilty that I’m neglecting anyone at home. It’s hard to find that uninterrupted time to call long-distance friends, but my new drive has opened up chat time for me.

I have also been catching up on podcasts. At first, I was really excited because we have an old CD player in the car and I thought “great, now I can catch up on myriads of books on CD from the library.” I was so excited to catch up on all the classics and some self-development–it was really one of the only things I was looking forward to. Well, wouldn’t you know, right before we moved, the car CD player seized up and no longer works. Total bummer!!! Well, to make up for it, I found an FM tuner at Best Buy and I have been downloading podcasts with free Wifi at work to listen to with it, and it doesn’t cost me data on my phone either.

And finally, when I’m not listening to podcasts, I’ve been listening to uplifting or informational radio, like KLove and NPR, which satisfies my constant need for information and positivity. I never thought about it before, but there is not one single “downer” song on Christian radio, making it a great way to feed my mind good things.

What do you like to do on long drives alone? What other options might I have?

My Favorite Planner Notebook: Staples Arc System

Oh, the Arc System, how I love thee. I was first introduced to these notebooks when I was searching for a graduation gift for one of my interns. She was an uber-organized, Type-A person who I knew would appreciate what these had to offer. Once I found them and bought one for her, I knew I absolutely had to have one for myself. I used the notebook as a reward for myself for when I passed my NASM exam.
Meet the Arc System. I’m having a love affair with them. Don’t tell Hubster.
Check out this video to peek into my planner on YouTube.
Staples and Office Max both have their own versions of this notebook, as do Levenger, Rollabind and Martha Stewart. In fact, they’re all compatible with each other. What these notebooks consist of are circular disks (which come in various sizes) that the paper attaches to. But each page is entirely removable and then replaceable. What makes that so amazing is that its a perpetual notebook that works forever. You can continue tearing pages out and buying refills as needed. And you can combine all your notebooks for all your different projects in one so you don’t have to carry them all around separately.
You can also purchase all different kinds of fillers from graph paper to calendars to regular lined paper. Believe me, I stood in that aisle for a good half-hour weighing my options. Ok, probably more like an hour. Not only can you buy different fillers, but you can also buy file folders, page dividers, small list pads, sticky notes and other things that work with the disks too.

You can also use any of your own paper to refill the planner. To do that, you just need to pick up a compatible paper punch. The big hole punches cost upwards of $50, but you can get this “portable punch” from Levenger for just $16 like I did.
I only punch a sheet here and there so this works perfect for me. One such sheet is this page of scriptures that speak to my anxiety so I can reference it when I need it.
I like to use cute printables for my calendars instead of the ones that Arc puts out. Just do a quick search on Pinterest for calendar printables and you’ll find something in your style. Right now, I’m liking these.
I also have a small Rollabind version of the notebook that I found at work. I love the portable size! I use this notebook to record the workouts that I’ve been designing.

We had another sale at work where I found a few more Rollabinds and I snatched 3 up right away because I love them so much. They’re stashed away for a day where I decide I need another notebook for something. I’m a writer. It happens.
I encourage anyone that loves notebooks, planners, organizing, printables, etc to pick up one of these systems and choose a few inserts that suit your taste. Then, come back here and tell me how addicted you are. What are your favorite planners/notebooks?

The Best Parts of 2013

Sitting at home, thinking about my goals and ambitions for the upcoming year, I thought it would be nice to review 2013 for its strong points. It’s a good way to get perspective about accomplishments and abilities, as well as to remember travels and other memorable events.

The best parts of 2013:

  1. I entered my 30s.
  2. I studied for and passed the NASM personal training exam and became certified for my 30th birthday.
  3. I purchased my domain name and started setting up my personal training website.
  4. Traveled to our cabin getaway.
  5. Sewed my very first and second quilts.
  6. Designed five free workouts.
  7. Tried Crossfit for the first time.
  8. Took a few summer boat rides and even saw a bald eagle.
  9. Attended our annual Perseid Picnic.
  10. Traveled to Mackinac Island.
  11. Met a few celebs.
  12. Traveled to Door County, WI.
  13. Traveled to Chicago.
  14. Chaperoned my first field trip for Peanut to Sullivan’s Woods.
  15. Traveled to Elkhart Lake for a retreat weekend.
  16. Bought and conquered my new moped.
  17. Ran a 5k in April and Peanut even raced too.
  18. Became a manager at work.
I know 2014 will hold even more surprises. We’re already gearing up for our next trip to Florida in March, and I have a whole lot of things in the works for this blog. I can’t wait to see what else is in store!
Celebrate with me this week as we enter a new year. Jot down a few of your best moments for 2014, what you learned, where you traveled, what you crossed off your bucket list. Take a moment to remember how far you’ve come and how strong you are to galvanize you for the future. I’d like to hear what you favorite parts of the year was. Leave a comment here on the blog or tag me on Twitter so I can see what you accomplished too.
Happy New Year!

10 Ways to Get a Head-Start on your New Year’s Resolutions

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again: if you have a goal, start it today! If you want to lose weight, start with your next meal–don’t wait until Monday or New Year’s. I myself started South Beach right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, knowing full well what a treat hell I would be facing. Right now is the perfect time to get a head-start on your New Year’s resolutions. Here’s how:

1. Start Small: Break your big goals down into the smallest parts. For example, if you’d like to get out of debt, you need to make a checklist of all the strategies you need to try to do so such as cancelling credit cards you don’t use, paying $5 extra per month on your highest loan, shopping for lower interest rates, etc. Start with just one piece of the goal at a time. Just check off one item per week until you’re well on your way to financial freedom. It’s easier to stick with small changes you incorporate over time versus implementing a whole bunch at once.


2. Practice your New Year’s Resolution: Testing out some of the habits that you want to change will give you a feel for what types of obstacles you’ll be facing. And if you know what obstacles you’ll be facing, you can make a better action plan, helping you to solidify your final plans. Test the waters in the next two weeks. Maybe you’ll find that outdoor workouts this time of year just aren’t going to work for you. Good thing you found that out now, not mid-January! Maybe you’ll find that you need to gather a few more resources. Maybe you’re going to start a weight loss plan on Jan 1, but you don’t know how to lose that weight. Check some healthy cookbooks and fitness magazines out from the library this week! Start listening to weight loss podcasts while you work. Plan out your workout schedule for the entire month of January in your Google calendar. This goes for any type of goal you wish to set for the new year. Gather all your supplies and test out your plans. Tweak from there so you are fully prepared once January 1 rolls around.

3. Establish SMART Goals: that SMART acronym is such a foolproof way to set goals. Your goals should always be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. For a refresher on what these all mean, look here. Your goals must be written and understood in a way that is trackable, has a time limit, and isn’t beyond your realistic capabilities. Make sure every resolution you make follows the SMART guidelines.

4. Reward System: Put a reward system in place as soon as you reach those measurable goals. Knowing you’re going to treat yourself to a massage or your new favorite book after losing 5 lbs just might give you that extra push you need. Just like in school, you deserve a tangible way to tell yourself “way to go!” Rewards also make the process of achieving your goals much more fun. Would you rather run 4 days a week for a month just to increase your speed or to increase your speed AND enjoy a massage? See what a difference that little reward makes?

5. Make your Goal Emotional: Emotional goals are much more compelling than more shallow, vain ones. Find a way to make your goal hit straight to the heart. For example, instead of losing weight to fit in a bikini, how about reframing your thought process? What will it feel like to be healthy? Will you feel light and carefree? Will you feel capable and strong? Use those emotions to propel you toward your goals. Run your miles for cancer survivors. Beat a medical condition before it even starts. Create a family bonding time with nightly walking rituals. Whatever you do, connect to your goal on an emotional level to make it that much more meaningful.

6. Start Over: Most resolutions fail by after about one month. In fact, only 64% of resolution makers even make it to the one month mark. Don’t be one of those people! If you fall off, get back on. Start over. What I want you to do is to set your start-over dates right now. Start over on January 15, then on February 1, then on February 15 and so on. All-or-nothing thinking will only make you frustrated. Slip-ups are allowed, as long as you keep the forward momentum. If you allow yourself a little wiggle room and a few extra chances, you leave more room for goal achievement. Plus, tackling your goals in 15-day chunks seems much more do-able, right?

7. Join a Challenge: Find a challenge that begins on January 1 right now that coincides with your goal. Plenty of Diet Bets (with monetary rewards) and money challenges will be beginning in the new year. Find one now and get psyched to start!

8. Put it in Writing, in Public: Social support is one of the key factors to goal adherence. Make sure you post your intentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever else you’d like. Once it’s out there, in writing, you are less likely to falter. You can’t fly under the radar anymore, and that’s a good thing! Simply posting your resolutions will give you another extra push to make sure they happen.

9. Join Forces: Does someone else close to you have a similar goal? Try doing the tasks with them, or at least check in with one another. Find a Twitter buddy–Twitter is teeming with fitness and money buffs that you can make easy friends with. At the very least, follow some of your favorite fitness, money or other related personalities. Checking their tweets every day will be a source of constant motivation. It’s amazing what healthy pictures on Instagram and motivating quotes on Twitter can do for a person when they’re running low on fuel!

10. Research: Wanting to save more money? Research your investment options beforehand. Lose weight? Read articles on fitness and nutrition in your free time. The more you know, the easier it will be to implement your plan, the more competent you’ll feel, and the more pumped you’ll be! Just don’t get too overwhelmed with the details that you never start to begin with. Just start! You’ll find that over time you start to absorb the information, so don’t try to memorize every little thing. Just cultivate an awareness and understanding of what you’re doing before you start so you can start strong! Sign up for a few newsletters and check a few headlines every morning to stay in-the-know.

I wish you the best of luck with your New Year’s resolutions and have a wonderful holiday. Report back if any of these tips helped you create a resolution that stuck. I’d love to hear about it.

P.S. I’m really loving this list of resolutions from Huff Post. I think all of our resolutions should look more like this:)

How to Pass The NASM Exam

First of all, let me just clarify that this post doesn’t guarantee that you will pass the exam. This is just a friendly, helpful post with the best tips and tricks that I myself used to successfully pass the exam, one of the most challenging in the industry. What worked for me might not work for you and you have to do the necessary work and take this seriously enough to pass; I can’t do that for you.

With that being said, I want to offer as much help as I can to anyone out there thinking about or just about ready to take the NASM exam. It’s tough, but it’s so rewarding to be able to walk out of that testing center with a “Congratulations, You Passed” letter in your hands and a ginormous smile on your face.

I had wished there was a comprehensive post like this out there, but only came across bits and pieces through extensive searching. So, I decided to write exactly that for you:

Study Plan

1. Read through the textbook at least twice. The first time, I took diligent notes like I learned and always did in school. I take down important notes in a notebook with highlighted, clearly-designated headlines and subheadlines. I write and underline all terms from the book in the notebook. For one, the act of writing helps cement ideas in the brain. For another, putting things into your own words–just the act of thinking about how you want to explain it to yourself–helps you understand the concepts so much more clearly. For even another, it’s much easier to study out of a succinct, organized notebook than the entire textbook.

NASM study spread photo P2231287_zps4a599612.jpg

2. Go back and read the book again. This time, take extra time to study the things you’re struggling with. I also made my flashcards during my second reading of the book. By now, I had written and rewritten so many terms that they were becoming quite familiar by repetition. Also, follow along with your study guide and make sure you understand the concepts outlined in there and have them written in your notebook or flashcards.

3. Use every online resource offered to you. The textbook comes with login information for thePoint software. Test yourself with the questions there after each chapter. Your NASM login will take you to a whole different set of helpful information and video modules. Play all the videos, try all the self-tests. Go back later and playback the ones you’re struggling with. The quizzes on the NASM website and thePoint website are quite unlike what you’ll find on the actual test, but do them anyway. I think they’re actually harder since they’re application-style questions, which will only help you in the long run.

4. Now, actually use those flashcards and notes. I had a stack of flashcards that consisted of at least two packages of index cards. Every time we went visiting family or sat in a car, I had my notebook and flashcards with me. I didn’t have to lug the whole textbook with me because my notebook offered a much more condensed, digestible source of all the critical information. Instead of playing Farmville, use your work breaks to shuffle through your flash cards. Make sure they’re not in any specific order so you don’t memorize things based on their location in the book.

5. Start right away! There is no way you will be able to complete all of the above things in your last month or week. You have 180 days from when you register until test day. Crack that spine the day you receive the textbook. I used my entire 6 months to prepare, and I suggest you do so as well. Pace yourself. However, you don’t want to forget everything you read in month 1 by month 6, so make sure you’re continually reviewing older content as you go. That’s why flashcards and notes are so great!

6. If you can, attend a workshop: I think I intended to take the exam prep workshop, but signed up for the training workshop instead. No worries! The workshop I attended really helped me to understand how to put what I learned into real-life context. And the instructor used only terminology and concepts true to NASM text, so you’re never left trying to sort out and apply what they’re teaching to what you’re learning about in the book–it all coalesces. We also talked so much about reps, sets, progressions/regressions, tempos and that sort of thing that I was easily able to remember it for the test. I don’t think you necessarily need a workshop to pass the exam, but it’s a cool way to meet other new trainers and increase your understanding. Plus, if you’ve never trained a soul before, you get hands-on practice to make you less unsure of yourself.

7. Get excited! I love the world of health and fitness, so it was easy for me to be excited about becoming a certified personal trainer. That also made me into quite the information sponge. I love this stuff! I love learning about every aspect of it. And that excitement and passion were the reasons why I could digest all of that information. I simply wanted to!

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Have a little fun and draw hearts when studying the heart.
What to Study

Off the top of my head, I’m going to spout off what I remember to be pertinent for the exam (i.e. this is NOT an exhaustive list and this is only based on the version of the exam that I was given):

  • You are really going to need to understand flexion/extension, concentric/eccentric phases, planes of motion, etc. If you understand these and can clearly picture what’s happening during various exercises, a lot of things will be much clearer. You will have application questions related to these that you’ll be able to answer if you have a solid understanding of what’s going on with these.
  • Related to that, you’ll need to memorize the eccentric/concentric and agonist/synergist/stabilizer/antagonist contractions during the specific examples given: squats and overhead presses.
  • You will have one question from the Code of Professional Conduct. How many years should you keep files (four)? How many CEUs do you need within how many years to recertify? That sort of thing.
  • You will need to know how to progress and regress the various exercises in the book. For example, you need to know how to progress and regress with stable/unstable surfaces and two feet/one foot.
  • You should definitely understand the parts of the heart and their functions, including but not limited to:
    • Sinoatrial node is the “pacemaker of the heart.”
    • Understand the functions of the left/right aorta/ventricles
    • The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and heart
  • The structure of skeletal muscle: you might even want to make a copy of the picture of this and tape it in your notebook. You’ll need to know about all the various parts like the epimysium, endomysium, sarcolemma, and all the rest. You’ll have to understand these, know their location, know their function, etc.
  • Golgi tendon organ: understand function and how it works. Know the difference between autogenic inhibition and reciprocal inhibition and how it relates to stretching. This is a great article for understanding the difference. I had a hard time with this concept and this resource finally helped me make sense of it.
  • Understand flexibility exercises and the stage of the OPT model they are associated with: static (phase I), active (phase II), dynamic (phase III).
  • You’ll have to know the various strength, core and SAQ exercises and which Phase of the OPT model they are appropriate for. Notice that many of the stabilization exercises are on a stability ball and many of the power exercises involve throwing a medicine ball. Recognize those patterns to help you remember those. Endurance exercise have more reps than strength. Hypertrophy has fewer reps. You shouldn’t need to know rest periods, etc, just a good solid knowledge of reps, sets and tempos.
  • Core: what are the parts of the local stabilization system and what are the global stabilization?
  • Be pretty darn familiar with the processes of ATP-PC, glycolysis, and oxidative systems and at which point in exercise they kick in.
  • Have a clear understanding about how the sarcomere works and the function of myosin/actin.
  • Memorize how fast-twitch (Type II) and slow-twitch (Type I) muscle fibers work.
  • Familiarize yourself with the general adaptation system: from alarm reaction to resistance to exhaustion.
  • Resistance training systems (supersets, pyramids, etc): know the difference between them and when they’re appropriate to use.
  • Memorize the number of and types of essential, nonessential and semi-essential amino acids.
  • Know the carb, protein and fat recommendations as well as their calories per gram.
  • What are the water recommendations for various populations?
  • Understand the stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. 
  • Know your acronyms, such as SMART goals: what’s the difference between Attainable and Realistic?
  • I think I had a CPR question on my test. Not sure if it was a research question or not, but you should have a pretty good idea what the answer is because it’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • Know how to identify and know what muscles are lengthened and tight in upper crossed, lower crossed and pronation distortion syndromes.
  • You must know the stretches that should be performed for different compensations on the overhead squat assessment table. You will have lots of questions pertaining to these corrective-type exercise. In fact, you should pretty much know the overhead squat assessment table by heart.
  • Know how to perform and understand what you’re testing with the various assessments: Shark Skills, Davies, Rockport Walk Test YMCA step test, etc. Know how to perform them and what you’re actually testing.
  • What is the different objective vs. subjective information you’ll be getting from clients?

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This list is by no means comprehensive, these are just the things that are fresh in my mind and were covered on my specific exam. Make sure you don’t hone in on only these specific things to the detriment of other important concepts.

Some amazing resources:

1. Yahoo Body Maps I didn’t actually find this amazing tool until after my exam, but I’m pretty sure that this would’ve helped me immensely. I printed off muscle maps online (Anatomy Man), but this Yahoo one is interactive and 3-dimensional and explains muscles in laymen’s terms. You almost feel like you could play doctor after looking at all the bones, tendons, nerves, muscles, etc.

2. NASM Trainer Exam App (by Upward Mobility): the NASM app is the same price but offers only a fraction of the questions that this one does. The Upward Mobility app is really great at making you aware if you understand certain concepts or not, since they kind of go in order by chapter. It’s great to pull out when you’re stuck by a train or waiting for your kids to get out of school. Not that I know anything about that!

3. This Bodybuilding forum: This forum is extremely helpful with what to study and what to pass over. Take this guy’s advice and learn the muscles as “groups.” For example, the muscular system appendix groups muscles by location in the body. The hamstring complex concentrically accelerates knee flexion and the various muscles of the quadriceps concentrically accelerate knee extension. Group your muscles and know which muscles are part of each group. It will save you so much time and overwhelm. Many of the questions mentioned in the forum also seemed to be on my test, so add them to your flashcards. (The only caveat is I think the page numbers mentioned in the forum are for a previous version of the textbook.)

4. Use some learning strategies from Holistic Learning: This is kind of abstract to explain, but I visualized and made up pictures in my head about certain concepts. For example, the right side of the heart receives blood low in oxygen and high in CO2 and pumps it to the lungs to be oxygenated. The left side pumps blood high in oxygen and low in CO2 to the rest of the body. So, I visualized two rooms in my heart, a right room and left room, with a bunch of smokers in the right “room” and healthy runners in the “left” room. The right room is filled with carbon dioxide (cigarettes), and the left side brings oxygen (from strong lungs) to the body. Get it? Visualization and metaphor-type learning is very powerful. I betcha you won’t forget the smoking/non-smoking one.

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5. Kim at Fittin Pretty has generously offered a FREE download of her entire document of notes. It’s over 100 pages, but it looks similar to my own handwritten notes in my basic college-ruled notebook. I still think (and it’s proven that) there’s great value in taking your own handwritten notes, but Kim has done all the work for you.

One more piece of advice: the night before the test, give your mind a break. Don’t study into the night. Just allow all the information that you know just synergize in your brain as you sleep. Get your 8 hours of sleep and do the test in the morning, or whenever your brain is the sharpest. Set out your ID and CPR card the night before so you don’t worry about or forget them. Then, decide on what you’ll reward yourself with when you successfully pass the exam. It really is worth celebrating–you deserve it! I’ll share what I rewarded myself with in a post soon, because they’re paying themselves off in dividends (business cards, a domain name and an Arc notebook).

I wish you all the best of luck with your exam! If you are on the fence about becoming a personal trainer, I say go for it, if you have the resources to do so. NASM is always running sales, so don’t ever pay the full price. Sign up for their emails and you’ll soon get incentives in your inbox. Although I haven’t taken on any “official” clients yet, I have absolutely no regrets for diving right in and getting certified. I could’ve gotten bogged down in the details about the PT job market in my area and wondering about liability insurance and on and on. But the best thing you can do is just go for it and worry about those details later.

Let me know if you have any other specific questions, and I’ll see if I can answer them. If these tips helped you pass your exam, I’d be more than honored to hear about it! Leave a comment to let me know how it goes.

Yo Yo Dieting Versus Challenge Seeking

Definition of YO-YO DIETING

: the practice of repeatedly losing weight by dieting and subsequently regaining it

If you haven’t noticed, since I publish all my workouts publicly, I enjoy a good workout challenge. So far I’ve tried Supreme 90 Day, LiveFit Trainer, and 12WBT. I’ve also worked out with the Insanity, Turbo Jam and Turbo Fire series workouts. I really enjoy finding these types of regimented plans to challenge myself and change up my fitness routine.

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But a comment in the 12WBT forum gave me cause to pause a moment between plan hopping recently to think about whether or not what I was doing was on the level of yo-yo dieting. Isn’t that what I was doing jumping right from one plan to the next? With a little reflection, it’s easy to see the difference between this type of challenge-seeking and yo-yo dieting. But what exactly is the difference between what I’m doing and yo-yo dieting?

1. I do not give up three days into the plan.

We all know people who start new diets and go hard the first few weeks and then peter off. They pay all that money for weight loss memberships, they sound super diligent about how “this time will be different” and then, after about two weeks, they just can’t keep going for one reason or another. That’s the biggest sign of a yo-yo dieter. A challenge-seeker on the other hand does not give up unless something is really wrong or unbalanced with the plan. I have been known to go off of a plan or adjust them to my own needs when I feel like something isn’t working for me. For example, I couldn’t follow S90Day completely, because the intensity was literally making me sick–my immune system was suffering. And on the 12WBT system, I know that 1200 calories are not enough for me, so I’m adding a little extra lean protein and greens to fill out the plan. However, most of the time, I complete what I start–mostly because I don’t start anything that’s just a fad or a short-term solution.

2. I am consistent. 

Not only am I a consistent exerciser and have been for over 11 years straight now, but I am also a pretty consistent eater. I don’t try any diet tricks or crazy supplements. I don’t go on and off diets. I eat almost the same type of thing every day. I love to try new recipes and such, but I consistently eat pretty clean. And I try to keep my calorie range pretty consistent–no crazy variations or fasts for me. A yo-yo dieter on the other hand will try diet after diet after diet. They might undulate calories, restrict calories, make crazy diet shakes, etc. And when they’re off the plan, they’re really off the plan, often binging or returning to their old ways of unhealthy eating. They rarely truly learn what it means to have a healthy sustainable diet.

3. I follow sound medical advice.

My alarms go off when I hear about diets that restrict you to 500 calories a day or require shots of some special serum. I’ve never tried a “detox” or “cleanse,” because those are just hype. And in many cases, those types of diet plans are detrimental. I even shy away from swallowing anything other than a multivitamin and an Omega-3 supplement (because I don’t eat fish). You have to convince me with sound scientific proof before I’ll put anything else like that in my body. Sound medical advice states that fitness is healthy. It states that eating foods closest to how God made them is healthy. Medical advice doesn’t say carbs or gluten are bad. Those are the guidelines that inform my choices.

Yo-yo dieters are often the victims of marketing hype. I mean, those late-night infomercials can be pretty tempting if you listen long enough. And if Dr. Oz says it, then it must be true, right? Even the great and powerful Oz has been known to be wrong. These people and programs have major money and marketing teams behind them, so it pays to do a little of your own research. If WebMd says that there’s no real benefit from drinking apple cider vinegar, then don’t drink it!

Yo Yo Diet

4. My weight doesn’t fluctuate that much.

I’ve had some episodes of unexpected weight gain for reasons other than the yo-yo effect, purely medical. Other than that, my weight stays pretty much within a 2-3lb range. I can tell each day what I should weigh when I get up in the morning. Yo-yo dieters typically lose a bunch of weight when they go all gung-ho over a diet plan, but the second they stop the plan, they often gain all the weight back and then some. I’ve never fallen into this pattern, so I’ve never had to experience those fluctuations.

5. I’m not obsessive.

Ok, I admit, I’m obsessed with the health and fitness industry, but that’s a whole different subject. It’s my passion, so I love to live and breathe it. However, I don’t get obsessive about food, working out or tracking my progress in a way that’s unhealthy. I follow judicious exercise guidelines and only track my food if there’s a reason to (a few extra pounds, an upcoming meeting with a nutritionist, etc). Since my weight and diet don’t fluctuate that much, I don’t obsess about standing on the scale. If I miss a workout–most often because I’m listening to my body–I don’t worry too much about it or try to make up for it. Yo-yo dieters and other disordered eaters, on the other hand, can become quite obsessive about what they’re eating and are often constantly thinking about food.

6. My intentions are different.

I like to try new recipes. The 12WBT is by far the best when it comes to clean recipes. I gobbled this stuff up. I also join these plans not as much for weight loss as for a challenge. As a trainer, I know that my body will just adapt to whatever I put it through, so these types of challenges help keep my body guessing. My intentions are never to drop a bunch of weight and then consider myself happy. I am happy. I am not intent on getting to a crazy end result, I’m intent on changing and challenging my body in new ways.

7. I don’t consider a “healthy diet” to be synonymous with “being on a diet.”

When people talk about “diet,” they may be referring either to what they eat normally or what they eat temporarily. That “diet” word is pretty troublesome and wrought with conflicting meaning. As stated, I am pretty consistent with what I eat and consider how I eat to be how I will eat for the rest of my life. I will never go back to eating rows of Oreos at a time or downing a Mt. Dew with every single lunch. Nor will I ever eat cabbage soup every day for a week. I eat a pretty normal, balanced diet. I hardly ever consider myself to be “on a diet.” Yo-yo dieting is very much a temporary solution. You have six weeks to change your body or three weeks of this soup and two weeks of that. A dieter will often put themselves on a diet for a specified amount of time, after which they revert to not being on a diet. They never really establish a lifelong, sustainable healthy diet.

Regaining even a few pounds of lost weight is more than frustrating—it could be unhealthy. Stop Yo-Yo Dieting for Good

8. I don’t believe in quick fixes.

There is no magic diet pill that will strip away layers of fat overnight, as we’re all aware. Losing weight takes effort. I know exactly how hard that is, because I’ve lived it! In order to lose weight, you must do work. Yo-yo dieters often look for simple solutions or someone to do the dirty work for them. The mindset of a challenge-seeker is quite the opposite of a yo-yo dieter. They’re seeking challenge, not seeking the path of least resistance, so to speak. I enjoy new challenges because they push me in a way that I sometimes can’t push myself. They’re motivating to me, not like fad diets that sound a little more like torture.

What do you think?