October 22, 2013

Crabby Gets Schooled

As regular readers may recall, I am now in the process of studying for the ACE Health Coach Certification which I will take in about week's time.  According to the Trans-Theoretical Model of Change (which they are very big on at ACE), I seem to be moving from Stage II: Slothful Procrastination, to Stage III, Freak Out and Realize it's Time to Get Your Ass in Gear.

So, rather than attempt to scrounge up breaking news about an important health and fitness topic, I decided it might be a good time to put the "Cranky" back into Cranky Fitness! So how 'bout I slop together a quick post bitching about test-related matters? Gosh, doesn't that sound fun!

Yeah, ok, may it doesn't.  But here we go anyway. Perhaps you guys have something to complain about too and we can all grumble and commiserate for a bit.

Because while I may be a firm believer in taking control of your mindset and adopting helpful thoughts and all... well sometimes you gotta get the tantrums out of the way first.

Bitter Complaint # 1:

I am Not as Smart as I Thought I Was.

I think it's fair to say that I am not an overconfident person. If I am mediocre or crappy at something, I am usually pretty well aware of it.

But one thing I have never been crappy at is studying for and taking multiple choice standardized tests.  It is a useless skill in real life, but whatever--I'm one of those people who is way better at the hypothetical than the practical.

Yet I do not seem to be acing the practice tests leading up to the actual 3-hour examination.  WTF? This is distressing!  I should be better than this, never mind that "shoulds" and entitlement and resentment are not generally considered optimal performance enhancers.

So what's the freakin' deal?

Well, in my mind, the study manual and materials and testing procedures are partly to blame (see #3 below). But some of it seems to be MY fault.  I hate that.

Some possible reasons for this discouraging turn of events:

1. I'm older now and my memory sucks.

2. I seem to be even more opinionated than ever!

This means instead of spending most of my time memorizing, I have these long conversations in my head with the authors of the study materials.  I patiently point out out the inconsistencies and omissions and faulty logic and convince them that they are wrong, wrong, wrong about so many things! (Note: They eventually apologize contritely and are very grateful for my input).

Strangely enough, while very satisfying, these imaginary conversations do not seem helpful in obtaining more right answers.

3. I'm a less anxious person than I was when I was younger.  Which makes life much more pleasant! However, this means I totally skipped the pre-panic stage of test preparation, in which I usually convince myself I'm far, far behind long before it's actually true.  I kinda forgot that pre-panic is a pretty darn effective study strategy. Now I'm actually behind for real.  Crap.

4.  I've been an attorney and I've been a psychotherapist, but neither of those fields gives you much of a background in physiology or nutrition. (Though it's a great background for over-analyzing and arguing, as well as spotting discrepancies, subtext, and disordered thinking).

Somehow I figured having a half-assed health and fitness blog would help make up for my lack of formal education and I would know a lot of the material already. As it turns out: um, no. Google U is not as comprehensive as one might think.

Bitter Complaint # 2: Apparently I am Not as Fit as I Thought I Was

I learned there are all sorts of fitness assessments a health coach can do to find out where clients are starting off.  Some of them are quite fundamental.  Remember me prattling on about how important it is to have a basic level of stability and flexibility before tackling more challenging feats? 

Yeah.  Well, guess who did some assessments on herself, and flunked several postural screens as well as two different balance tests? And who would have probably also performed poorly on the relative muscular endurance ratios and movement tests, had she bothered to complete them?

That would be me.  Despite helpful post-hysterectomy physical therapy, I seem to have forgotten the basics of lumbar stabilization. Coupled with my structural quirks (who says legs should both be the same length, how boring!) this all adds up to a big heap o' dysfunctional posture and movement patterns.

So while I may yammer on about interval training and pull-ups and dips all kinds of stuff like that, theoretically I should be skipping all that in favor plopping my lopsided butt down on a mat and re-training my body to do basic shit like lifting my legs off the floor using the right freakin' muscles. Getting all fancy-pants with lousy form could probably get me injured, not that I actually plan to stop entirely.  But I'm being forced to think about taking some corrective measures.


Bitter Complaint # 3: Standardized Testing Sucks

Someday, in yet another hypothetical blog post that will probably never be written, I'd like to do a review of the whole Ace Health Coach certification just in case any readers or googlers are considering it. There are many great things about it!

However, there are some sucky things too, as there are with probably any study program one undertakes.  I just forgot how frustrating it is when you are pitting your own fragile defensive ego against a source that you need to think of as Right in order to Pass a Test.

The smart thing to do, of course, would be to take my ego out of it, and just suck it up and do my best.  So what if some of the information we have to memorize seems to be contradicted by other research I've seen, and is perhaps at times somewhat... old school?

Good times!

Or that some of the questions zero in on concepts that are not mentioned even once in the study materials? Or that different chapters will say contradictory things and you don't know which version you should memorize?

Of course my personal favorite is the "choose the BEST" answer" format when more than one option is right, or where they are all wrong.  Which choice is "more right?" Which is "less wrong?" Well, to evaluate that you have to climb out of your own brain into the brains of the test writers. And who knows what goes on in their brains?

I just wrote out and deleted an actual example question so I don't get sued by ACE for copyright infringement. But this is the sorta thing I mean:

Question 33.

Your client, Brittany, is a 20 year old college student who weighs 124 lbs and has a BMI of 22.7. She states that she'd like to lose 15 lbs in time for a New Years Eve party she's been invited to, so she can look extra hot and win back her boyfriend because some skinny skank in a catsuit flashed her boobs at him last night at a Halloween party and stole him away. She adds that her check to you will probably bounce because she needed to pay $1400 for a designer gown two sizes smaller than she wears now, which she plans to use for motivation.

You should:

a.  Tell her that since New Years is only about 2 months away from Halloween, she's going to have to reduce her caloric intake by 500 calories a day and expend an additional 500 calories a day on the elliptical to meet her weight loss goal so she better get moving!

b.  Model appropriate goal formation by telling her about your own plan to teach housecats to speak Italian, and emphasize the long-term and incremental nature of this task.

c.  Tell her you had sex with her boyfriend too and he was not all that well endowed anyway, so she'll be less inclined to use him for extrinsic motivation and find more intrinsic motivation to improve her health and drop the inappropriate weight loss goal.

d.  Make sure your facility has sufficient cellular coverage to reach 911, then hit her over the head with a 35 lb kettlebell.

Anyone else have any gripes to vent about or are you all feeling pretty perky today?

Tantrum girl: Lucille Pine; Trainer Handbook:  Joyce Cherrier; School Photo: I forget, but I'm pretty sure it's public domain.


  1. I hate how hard it is to get back on track after a set-back. Just got back from a week in the UK, where I had little opportunity to exercise and everyone kept throwing Cadbury chocolates and clotted cream scones and greasy, vinegar-covered chips at me. It was awesome! But now I'm weak and bloated and seem to have slid back several months in terms of strength. What happened to the punishment fitting the crime?

    That's my only complaint. Life is good, and you are hilarious. Good luck with the housecats!

    1. Trabb's Boy, I agree, the punishment always seems disproportionate. And never works in reverse... a week of good behavior does not result in dramatic improvements the way a week of slackitude and indulgence ends up in a train wreck.

      However, at least for me, the psychological smugness can return just as soon as good behavior resumes, even if the pants are still tight and the weights have somehow become twice as heavy. Sounds like it was worth it for a great time in the UK though, and good luck getting back to your usual routine and kickin' ass!

  2. When I first went to college, I had to take a test to see what I "knew" and what I needed additional course (curse) work in. Because I was so good at taking multiple choice tests, I aced out of basic chemistry and world history! It took a long time for me to catch my knowledge up in those subjects without the formal study that I really needed.

    Being an excellent health coach and studying to be a health coach are nowhere near the same!

    I'm sure you will pass your exams!

    1. Ugh! I had to take those darn things in both math and Spanish. Two courses I was pretty well in high school in. I don't test well, I had to go to remedial level on both. Waste of time. Although the UW got more money out of me that way.

    2. Funny, Dr. J and Q.D.-- sounds like those placement tests can screw you over whether you do well or not!

  3. You will do great!!!
    Last spring I felt the same way when I was studying for my Personal Trainer Certification (also through ACE). I think I completely bombed every practice test I took - not a good confidence booster but I passed the real deal so it worked out. You will, too!!!

  4. I have nothing but gripes lately, but don't want to take up your entire blog with my whines. I will say that as a student, I feel your pain. Good luck on your tests!!!

    1. Kimberley, that's what this blog is FOR! :) But sorry to hear you are having so many gripes. Do feel free to stop by and grumble and whine anytime. I feel better already about the stupid test having bitched about it.

  5. The memory and quickness leaving with age is a real betrayal!! I had an IT course I while back with recent university graduates. It was a sobering experience. I felt like having a temper tantrum because I was always the smartest and fastest in university and now I struggle. I guess my big ego finally needed to be deflated a bit. Reality hurts!!

    1. Even just reading "IT course" makes me shudder, you're a smarter woman than I. (Unless "IT" stands for Intermediate Thumbtwiddling, in which case it would be right up my alley!)

  6. This is the kind of stuff i got tired of in school, which is why i stopped when i did.

    Good luck! You can do this!

  7. You got this, Crabby! It's just a mental speed bump you have to go over. Just tell your brain, "This is completely derpy, but they want to see Answer X, so we shall memorize Answer X. Don't talk back to me!" And then you'll be good! That's how I got through grad school, true story.

    As for things to complain about, I don't have much at the moment. Work is pretty blah and there are a zillion other things I'd rather do, but dough is a good thing. I'll waft good vibes at you on your test day! :-)

    1. I'll have try that approach Heather! And glad your complaint bucket isn't too full at the moment. But sounds like you have one of those handy 'positive attitude' things. I gotta get me one of those.

  8. i felt like coming out of my quiet corner to cheer you on!!! of course you will ace this sh!t!!!
    im in the same situation currently. have my first two tests for ba psychology in march an am only reading here because i hate my statistics book so much! :)

    1. Thanks so much Puja, and I'm happy to provide a study break! Sounds like if you are already thinking ahead to March you are a better planner than most people. Good luck!

    2. I'm sitting here laughing like a moron. The mention of Psy. stat classes always remind me of my own hmmm unique experience. First year grad school, we had the nicest professor who was the most horrendous teacher! The grade curve on the final necessitated that scores in the 40s be a "B". You may wonder how I remember that....
      Anyway, we were all terrified of statistics, the following semester. First class, 8:00 AM on a Monday, was taught by one of the professors from the Social Psy. dept. He started the class by putting his Birkenstocked feet on the desk and telling us a joke whose punch-line was "how about a little head?". I miss the 70s.

  9. I love this post. Wonderful depiction of an "out of my comfort zone" situation. But you have so much credentials, intelligence and wisdom (I say this sincerely), I know you can only succeed! :-)

    1. Hey thanks HSH! And you're sweet to have so much faith in my abilities, I really appreciate that!

  10. Certainly I find myself learning slower and slower, to my great annoyance. And oh! the problem of arguing with the possible answers is even worse on multiple choice tests than online surveys. (Last night a survey offered me a list of choices for what company was supporting the NFL--"I don't have a clue" was not on there. Really!)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. Mary Anne, I'm totally with you on the survey thing, it seems like I can never pick a single answer and want to have a whole long discussion about why the question is hosed.

  11. ooooooh - I vote for the kettle ball 9-1-1 call strategy! Quick and satisfying :). Plus, there's probably an after-the-arrest-and-incarceration book deal that could be had after the fact, So - yes - C IS the BEST answer. Just too bad it can't be used for the folks who developed these tests............
    I mean, if you're going to venture to the dark side for a bit, let yourself imagine taking the exam, absolutely slamming it and then doing same with the test makers :). That's what I call a sense of accomplishment!

    More seriously - you will most definitely "ace" this thing!! :):):)

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence Anon!

      And while the above temper tantrum blog post was most satisfying, I think every multiple choice test I've ever taken has seemed rife with unfairness or illogic, so I suspect it has more to do with me than the test designers and it probably would be a bit harsh to actually clobber them. But I'm going to be damn glad when it's over!

  12. Oh dear lord, is it ok if I comment as I read the segments? I am jumping up and down, having read the first part, to say YES, THAT!!!! I argue and overanalyze everything. This made me the most horrendous multiple choice test taker E V E R!!!! I so feel for you and unfortunately, have no other feedback and definitely no advice. My solution was to freakin' graduate and stop taking additional tests. EVER! Yeah, I know, I took the mature way out.
    Next segment.

    1. You can leave as many comments as you like dlamb, always love your contributions! And yeah, we overthinkers are seriously challenged by multiple choice tests, because they contain all kinds of assumptions that we just can't take for granted. A sample question I flunked made you assume that ALL diabetics are overweight for the answer to make sense. I hate sh--t like that!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Well, so I've read the rest and I have absolutely nothing to add to Nr. 2 (what's a muscle, what's balance?) and I totally love you for Question 33. Good thing I am not taking the test, however, since I would probably request additional information to come up with the correct answer and then argue over the way in which it fits the scenario presented in the question.
    Like others, I also believe you will pass with flying colors, not only because you will know the material, but because you are so good at actually figuring out what goes on in the brains of well, people in general. I know that you will be able to leave BOTH logic and rationality behind for 3hrs. When it is over, put it all behind you and go have a good dinner and some fun!
    In addition to being the worst multiple test taker ever, I am also the worst at catching shit I leave dangling in a sentence after I change it. Random, unrelated words appear in my posted comments, to my utter frustration and resulting in the use of expletives I am fortunate nobody but I, can hear.

    1. You are not the only one who does that on occasion dlamb!

      to reassure you that

      don't worry


  15. Hi Crabby...I want to say that, first, I'm jealous that you've had the motivation & persistence to register for this certification; I can't tell you how many times I've been to the ACE site to mull it over (yes I can- a million times- I have it bookmarked!). But my own laziness aside, I want to encourage you to forge ahead. There is something about standardized tests within the fitness industry that makes them just plain wacky. It always seems that all of the answers could, potentially, be correct or none of them can! And then there are the "A and B," "A only," "A, B and C" choices where it could be any or none of them. But, despite the wackiness and the frustration, I have always succeeded in passing the tests that I have taken (group instructor, personal trainer), so maybe the secret is that there really are more than one answer to each question and they're just not revealing that (the practice tests intentionally being deceptive)? Whatever it is, I'm betting that you will pass the exam with flying colors! So stop thinking too much and just ingest and spit back...that's the method that always works, I'm ceratin!


  16. TODAY **I** am Crabby McCarla :) and totally not perky.
    And also supremely curious about the DEETS of the ACE certification now.

  17. Andrea is

    a.) dying laughing

    b.) feeling vaguely guilty about making Ms Crabby aware of the ACE exam in the first place

    c.) remembering how she did worse and worse on each subsequent NSCA-CPT practice test, such that one of her wiseass friends suggested that she "um, maybe stop studying NOW?"

    Correct answer: d.) all of the above

    (And the correct answer to ques 33 is *obviously* "refuse to give client any guidance until her check clears." Duh.)

  18. I think I cracked a rib laughing. I also am honored and so happy you used my book pic! :) Love that cover.

    I know you're going to ace this (see what I did there?) I personally have always sucked at test taking. Which is why surfing/windsurfing made so much more sense to me when making the choice between class and the surf. So never ever listen to anything I have to say on this subject. I'm an awful example!

    I wish they could just hook up electrodes to our temples and decide pass or fail. That would be a much more pleasant experience.

  19. Health Tips

    That is great information.It's really great post.

  20. I have faith that you will ACE this test! ;) I have always been bad at these tests - hate them & left me never wanting to do them again ! :) I pick D by the way! ;)

    You were a lawyer????

  21. For some reason, one of the memories that sticks with me (don't worry - it's nothing that came from a text book. Those memories are sparse and unreliable) is taking the sample SATs when I was about 16. No age excuses for memory; no cluttered mind (that was my father's reasoning for increasing difficulty in memorizing as the years passed), and, until I took those practice tests, no particular anxiety. I always seemed to be able to do fine on stupid multiple choice tests. But those samples- boy, were they hard! The scores they projected were ok, but not AT ALL what I expected of myself. Yikes. Then the real test came, and somehow made me a National Merit semi-finalist, helped me get the college I wanted, basically, made me wonder what on earth those sample test creators were trying to do with our sensitive little minds!

    Sounds like you're getting something similar. Don't worry, be happy...or something like that. Oh, yeah, and like Jody, I fastened in on the lawyer reference. You took the bar. You'll do great on this one!

  22. Hello! No gripes just straight up commiseration. I am taking the GRE again tomorrow. I’m excited to have another go and get the scores I want (or BETTER!). I FEEL so more confident in the Maths section. And that is AWESOME. However my feelings haven't fully translated to correct answers in my practice tests. How frustrating! The upside is that I understand why I got something wrong. Hmmmm.

    I will be thinking of you and sending you good vibes for the test. You've got this!! xo

  23. i have nothing to complain, im breathing and alive, all that matters are confronted head on!


  24. i have noting to say to this.. Find out four things you need to be doing as a mom, to reclaim your body
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  25. Just the thought of taking most any kind of test makes me nervous. I suspect that you'll do great though. We often tend to over think such things. Good luck.

  26. so how did you do on the Health Coach test from ACE? Thinking about getting certified myself.

    1. Thanks for asking Anon, I did indeed pass the test with a surprisingly high score despite feeling not so confident going in.

      Good luck if you decide to go for it!

  27. Hi Crabby,

    Love your writing style. Very cool blog BTW.
    I'm an RD and I want to take a health coach certification. I'm incline towards the ACE, since seems to be focus on weight management. My second choice is the NSCH. My point is, when I was reading your post and you were mentioning discrepancies and old school concepts, that makes me hesitate about it. My vision is towards coaching people to be intuitive eaters. I'm trying to move away from counting calories and diet mentality. Is this course heavy on the nutritional aspect? What are your thoughts now that you've been certified for couple of years? I really appreciate your input.


    1. Sorry Azzy for the delayed reply! So yeah, while I thought it was worthwhile and an efficient way to get certified, I have a feeling as an RD that you won't be learning much that's new or cutting edge about nutrition. There is SOME material about HAES etc, but limited. The behavioral part might be helpful; I had a background in psych and life coaching so knew most of it already, but the did a farily good job of putting it together. Don't know how it compares to NSCH though.

      GOod luck and sorry again for the delayed response!


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