As I’ve previously mentioned, I obtained my Weight Loss Specialist certificate from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) this weekend. NASM contacted me a month or so ago about taking the course and reviewing it.
The WLS Course is a completely on-line course targeted for fitness-minded professionals. It’s about 15 hours of content (1.9 CEUs). All material is either online or in PDF (downloaded) material. The only prerequisite for taking this course is having a high school diploma/G.E.D. and you do NOT need to be a personal trainer. I checked and international folks CAN take this course and they will also received a WLS certificate upon completion of the exam (but keep in mind that the calculations, metrics, and statistics are relevant to the US audience). This course is intended to educate people on the benefits of exercise and how to integrate these techniques into weight loss.
The core reasoning behind this course is simple: Obesity is a national epidemic and we NEED to be more proactive. At the same time, obesity is a sensitive topic. It can be alienating and isolating. Health professionals need to motivate and encourage those who are obese to seek healthy lifestyle choices and point out that there ARE sensible and FUN ways to do it.
There are 5 objectives of this course – and yes, you do touch on every single one.
- Explain the physiological and psychological mechanisms involved in weight management
- Dispel common weight loss myths
- Become confident working with weight loss clients
- Construct individualized weight loss programs and know how to modify them appropriately during weight loss plateaus
- Know when a weight loss client must be referred out to a qualified medical professional
The course is broken down into 12 modules:
- The Obesity Epidemic
- Health Effects of Obesity and Exercise Guidelines for Comorbidities
- The Physiology of Weight Control
- The Psychology of Weight Control
- Fitness Assessment
- Nutrition Strategies for Weight Loss
- Basic Training Methodologies for Weight Loss
- Avoiding and Breaking Plateaus
- Weight Management Myths
- Weight Loss Programming Application
- Legal and Ethical Responsibilities
- Marketing Your Services
Each module has a supplemental chapter associated to it in the WLS Manual (which is downloadable by chapter AND as a complete PDF). The modules run from 12-35 minutes long in length and are narrated.
As an instructional designer (<–for everyone who thinks I am Chandler, here’s a description of my field), I am fairly critical when it comes to online instruction and I have to say that NASM does a great job keeping the navigation simple, and the content succinct and visually interesting. In fact, I really enjoyed that Module 10 is an instructional video on HOW to work with clients. Something just come across better in video verses as written.
One thing I really appreciated, was that they didn’t try to stuff every bit of information in the online modules (believe me, SO many training program do!). Given the diverse topics (and all of the statistics and calculations involved!), that would have been information overload for sure! The modules cover the main points. It’s up to you to study the details. After each module you have the opportunity to take a 10-question quiz on the content. I believe you must pass the quiz with a 70+ to move on to the next module. As an FYI – the quiz covers content in both the module AND the chapter. Make sure you study both!
Also included in the course package are several instructional exercise videos. These videos are broken down by muscle group AND by Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model level. Typically there was a stability and strength move for each targeted muscle group and, if applicable, a power move. I did not need to know the specifics on these exercises to pass the exam, but it was extremely helpful from a visual learning perspective to connect the dots.
As far the topics go, NASM did a great job covering a wide variety of topics that may come up when working with a client, particularly someone who is struggling with their weight. They recognize that a personal trainer has limitations on what should and shouldn’t be advised to clients (for example: they shouldn’t be diagnosing people with eating disorders or giving them advice a nutritionist/RD should be providing them). I really enjoyed the chapters on breaking plateaus and weight management myths. I have several friends who have plateaued during a (very successful) weight loss program and I think it is VERY, VERY frustrating. I now feel more confident in providing ideas on how to stay motivated and once again see progress.
After I completed the content and did a fair share of studying (I took about 3-4 hours to re-read through the material and watch the videos), I decided it was time to take the exam! The exam is 100 question long – and you have 90 minutes to complete it. I used almost every minute (make sure you leave a little time though – you can go back and review your answers if you want)! You have 3 attempts to pass the course – and you must get a 70 or higher to pass. Thankfully, I passed on the first time (I got an 89).
There are a few things that I would change — either take away or add, if I were designing this course:
- Remove the content on marketing. To me, this was very basic information that you should know before even pursuing the personal training career path! I DID like the material Program Manual provided — which consisted of all of the assessments and basic worksheets that you can use with your clients. But the related content about being a fitness professional was superficial, in my opinion.
- Add additional material about whole foods. There are a lot of details about being aware of fad diets and making sure your clients are eating enough nutrients – but there’s not much discussion on the types of food that have the nutrients. I think a lot of weight loss clients KNOW they are making wrong choices when it comes to eating, but they don’t know what their alternatives are. Now, I’m not suggesting they go as far as creating meal plans for clients or even telling them the “right” and “wrong” foods to eat – but instead providing a list of foods that have added health benefits and also helping them pinpoint the best time to eat (for example: Greek yogurt is high in protein and is a great post-workout snack). NASM does provide supplemental documents on Dietary Guidelines (there are some really awesome handouts included!), but it’s not part of the required reading/part of the exam.
- Add additional material on HOW to motivate clients. There’s a lot of (good) content about how motivation is KEY to weight loss and a few suggestions that the environment plays a big part but no real-life examples on how to enforce it. Maybe that’s part of being a personal trainer though… you don’t want to give away too many trade secrets!
These wouldn’t deter me from taking the course. They just popped into my head as I was reviewing it as content I felt was missing or lacking slightly.
Overall, I’m really happy I took the WLS course and GREATLY appreciate the opportunity! I highly recommend the course for all fitness-minded individuals who are already personal trainers or are considering getting their CPT certificate – or if you’re really just interested in weight loss (FYI – the course is $499 – and you can set up payment installments via phone with a downpayment of $99)!
And in case you were wondering, this is NOT the last I will see of NASM — since taking this course I have decided that I will definitely be signing up to take the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) course in the near future (I’m just trying to figure out the timing with this whole baby thing!).
I know this is a lot of information – so if you have any questions on the course or have any questions in general on my experience please either email me – or leave me a comment below. I will get back to you ASAP!
In full disclosure, they NASM paid for my course and the exam, but I am in no way being compensated to write this review. All opinions are my own!