Hello there, and welcome back to another edition of Casey talking about stuff. I am stoked to announce that I have obtained another credential as of today. I am now an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM CPT). Eeek! This is super exciting.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the “why” and the “how” surrounding my efforts toward getting this certification. Today I’d like to explain a bit of what I learned along the journey of obtaining this relatively challenging certification, and why I did it.
- I felt it was necessary to add an exercise component to my expertise in nutrition in order to truly guide people to better health. I will still stand firm behind the fact that about 90% of weight loss happens as a result of the food you consume; but exercise is a critical part of strengthening your body, improving your metabolism, and making you a healthier person overall.
- I tend to thrive on a good challenge. Studying for the ACSM CPT exam was no easy feat. I lost track of the hours upon hours I studied some surprisingly complex exercise physiology dynamics and guidelines. I spent about 5-10 hours a week for 2 months prepping for this beast. This exam apparently has about a 50% fail rate, and during the exam that cold, hard reality sunk in big time. It was pretty hard, and I like to think I’m decently strong in this [health and wellness] area.
- I wanted to determine firsthand what exactly makes the personal trainers I’ve encountered feel as though they are somehow qualified to spew out nutrition advice. Guess what? Not shockingly, the ACSM consistently emphasizes that a CPT’s scope is to inform the client of the importance of proper nutrition in a healthy lifestyle and training program. The ACSM further emphasizes that a CPT is not qualified to give anything beyond basic advice, nor are they qualified to provide “diet plans” for anyone, especially in the setting of specific health conditions. Isn’t that funny…every single personal trainer I’ve ever known seems to crap out “diet plans” for everyone…interesting, and not ok…OH! And also very important: the ACSM stresses that the ACSM CPT is not—I repeat, NOT—qualified to recommend supplements…seriously, it’s explicitly repeated throughout their own literature. Shocked? I’m not.
- Something that was pretty disappointing is that a decent amount of the nutrition component of the ACSM guidelines was completely inaccurate. I actually tried to contact them because it was THAT big of a deal (no response yet). I had to learn quickly that I needed to “study to the test” rather than answer the questions like I know them to be true based on current peer-reviewed literature. One example is that corn oil is a “healthy fat.” There were plenty of other snippets that were jaw-droppers for me, but I did not keep a log unfortunately (or fortunately?). The point is, not only does an ACSM CPT not at all have any authority to be giving you advice on ANYTHING nutrition except for super-basic stuff, the little teensy bit that is taught by ACSM is not current nor accurate. Please just be aware of that, because it’s kind of a big deal.
I do not feel confident that I will ever succeed at stopping the illegitimate nutrition-advice vomit that happens in the general public from well-meaning people who are probably trying to help. However, this is my small effort at trying.
If you’re a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who is reading this, I hope you are at least a tiny bit inspired to achieve an exercise credential to add some dimension to your career also. Yes, it is expensive, especially the study materials + the cost of the exam itself; no, you will likely not get a raise in your “regular” RDN job. But you will expand your knowledge significantly with regard to exercise dynamics, and this is a really good thing for your practice and your clientele.
To end on a positive note, I hope that I can help one or many of you with your health-improving adventure one day. It won’t be free, but if you’re nice to me I might offer a reduced rate 🙂