Sunday, May 5, 2013

My AFAA Primary Group Fitness Experience

In the days before my AFAA Primary Group Fitness Exam, a few main thoughts swirled through my head:

1. I don't want to do this! I'm scared!
2. I hope I have a big group so I blend in and the people scoring us don't notice me during the practical.
3. I'm so passing the written portion - I studied like crazy!
4. I better wake up early so I get there and sign in on time.

Pretty much, none of these were valid.

In response to point 1, there was nothing to be afraid all. Believe it or not, I had a lot of fun. The day begins with a quick, easy sign in, followed by the instructor introducing him or herself. Then, we introduce ourselves, which makes us feel at ease. Contrary to what I was told, the class portion of the AFAA certification is not grueling, and AFAA does not hate Zumba instructors. So if you hear either of those, they're wrong, at least in my opinion.

For point 2, now that AFAA's over, I'm so glad I had a small group. Because my group was small, we were able to ask questions comfortably and get a lot of individual attention. For example, during the muscle group review for the practical, I was able to get pointers, and each of us were able to demonstrate different moves for the muscle groups and get advised on our form. Also, when we did our individual presentations, we only had to sit through a few because there were so few of us. I can't imagine doing 50 squats and pushups because everyone had to demo their own!

On the third point, I think I did well on the written portion, but a lot of that was due to the instructor going over the main points in class. She did an excellent job of this. The one area where I felt I was lacking was knowledge of the muscles. I'm not talking about the main muscles, like the glutes and pecs, but the smaller muscles. You will need to know these muscles - and what they do - for the written exam. So study those! I'm not sure exactly how many questions there were relating to the muscles, but there were at least 10, and because you need 80 out of 100 questions right to pass, you're going to want to know those.

As far as point 4, getting there early, I didn't need to do that. So if you know where you're going for your AFAA, get there 10 - 15 minutes in advance. My 35 minute early arrival was completely unnecessary.

Below are the things you should bring to your AFAA exam:

Pencils. You'll need them for the 100 question written exam and instructor evaluation.
Water. You're going to get thirsty. Bring at least two regular-sized bottles.
Lunch and snacks. While we didn't get snack breaks, I did steal a moment to eat a cheese stick. And there may not be food local to where you are (all the places around us were closed) so be prepared on your own.
Your CPR card. You can't be officially AFAA certified without CPR. Bring your card if you have it, or you'll have to get it and mail it later.
A hoodie. When you're doing bookwork, you'll want to stay warm...and the facility can get cold!
Your study guide. You'll be taking lots of notes in the margins, so you'll need this.

Now, as far as the AFAA Primary Group Certification day, here's how it all went down:

The day began with intros, including the instructor introducing herself, the instructor introducing AFAA and AFAA opportunities (like becoming someone who teaches the classes or judges the exams), and our own introductions. Next, we cracked open our study guides and learned what we'd need to know for the test. While we learned more than just test stuff, our instructor made sure to let us know when something should be specifically memorized, noting that we'd see it later. We essentially went page by page through the book and made notes by the important parts.

Next, we reviewed the group warm-up, cardio and cool down portions of the practical exam. Note: stretches are no longer a required part of this. Before 2010, they were. Now, they're not. You're required to do an example warm-up, cardio portion and cool down for a fitness class. The whole thing lasts maybe 5 minutes. The idea behind this is that you show the beginning of a warm up, a slightly higher impact warm up, the cardio portion, the beginning of a cool down and the end of a cool down. You're showing the bell curve of an exercise class, only this time it's packed into a 5 minute routine. Your instructor will show you this and you'll exercise along with her. If this makes you nervous, relax. It was super easy. You can do more than three exercises, but no less. Think simple: marching, v-steps, toe got this. Also, the instructor advised us to stick to formats that we know. She said Zumba instuctors should do Zumba, kickboxing instructors should do kickboxing, etc.

Next we went over the muscle groups and exercises for each group. You should study this in advance, but keep an open mind. Also, know that lunges and squats can be used for glutes, front legs and back legs. You can repeat exercises for more than one group. For each group, you need two exercises and one stretch. You do both exercises back-to-back (keep alternating because you won't be cued) and the stretch when cued after the exercises. Below are the muscle groups:

  • Pectorals
  • Upper back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps and triceps (you can do all triceps or biceps - you don't have to show both)
  • Hip abductors and adductors
  • Glutes (squats and lunges are a safe bet for this & other leg stuff!)
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Abs / obliques
  • Erector Spinae

Following this, we were shown an example of the individual presentation. You can literally take what the teacher shows you and use it yourself. There's no reason not to! I chose to do a move I'd prepared instead, but someone in my class did use the instructor's example, and she rocked it.

Before I knew it, it was time for the tests. The only part that I found scary were the muscle exercises because I kept mixing them up in my head...I was nervous! Fortunately, there are others standing near you, so you can take a glance at them and share the move they're doing. Just make sure they're right before you take their move! Our instructor said everyone once copied someone who was doing a wrong move! I'm sure that doesn't happen often, though, so there's nothing to worry about.

Finally, we took the written test. This consisted of 100 questions. Most were multiple choice while some involved choosing an answer from a list. The list-type questions were like:

1. Bone
2. Muscle

a (Definition of bone)
b (Random definition)
c (Definition of muscle)
d (Random definition)

Also, there were some questions (the tricky ones!) that required you to look at a muscle map of the human body, identify the muscle and identify what it does. (Those certainly didn't help the headache I mentioned earlier!)

And that was it! Once I finished my written exam, I left...and now I wait 4-6 weeks for my results!

Some helpful hints:

Read Jackie Damp's account of her AFAA experience. It helped me a lot to prepare for the muscle group portion of the exam.

Learn the muscle groups. I can't emphasize this enough.

Order and watch the AFAA DVD. You'll feel much more confident if you do.

Visit and take the AFAA practice tests. While a lot of that stuff wasn't on the exam, some was, and it's worth learning this stuff!

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